Trip Day 4 Sonoma NASCAR, a set on Flickr.
The word epic gets overused a lot. But I don’t think epic is a strong enough word to describe today.
First thing’s first- didn’t get much sleep, and being surrounded by people who work in NASCAR, the baby elephant walk around the hotel at 5:00am had me awake way too early.
Subsequently got to the track at about 6:30am, then had a small kip in the car before heading into the pits.
First up I went to the Tweetup, I’ve always read about them, but quite obviously never had a chance to attend. Met two of my favourite all-time journalists, Jeff Gluck and Dustin Long. Had a good long chat, which was especially cool. Wound up winning a Jimmie Johnson hat from Old 5 Time’s spotter for correctly answering a trivia question- winner!
Met up with Marcos’s friends from Tassie Duane and Adam, and with number nine spotter Tim as our chaperone, we were smuggled into the driver’s briefing.
This thing was an utter circus. The rather large tent was filled with drivers, spotters, crew chiefs, celebrities, journalists, sponsors, it was the Ben Hurr of briefings.
The run down was 5 minutes of dignitary introductions, a 5 minute video (all custom animated to show the points of the track, much slicker than any actual TV production we have in Australia), a quick mention of the restart zones, two questions from Jeff Gordon, and a prayer.
Upon exiting, there was a police/security guard of honour restraining a mass of punters. I duly waved to the perplexed folk. That was cool.
Cruised around until the driver introductions, when Marcos said he would get us on the back of his pickup truck for the parade lap.
The standard deal is that each truck had an auction winner- the lady to go with Marcos paid $1,000.
With the four of us, there wouldn’t have been much room for pole sitter Jamie McMurray, so he was told to get his own truck.
Massively cool to do a lap of the track, awesome layout, huge crowd, and we Oi Oi Oied the Aussie Aussie Aussies coming at us.
Took in the pre race ceremonies from on the grid, another rad experience.
With the race start delayed by drizzle, we picked up some scanners and headed up to turn two.
In another rain delay, we went further up the mountain to the lookout where all of the spotters stand. Needless to say, the view was incredible, and it was brilliant to listen in on Tim and seeing exactly what he could see. He’s very pro.
After that, we headed back to the pits to watch the last couple of pit stops. Took these in from on top of the pit cart… that doesn’t happen everyday!
Marcos didn’t get the result he deserved, but that’s racing. Still, a day I’ll never forget.
Being told horror stories on how difficult it is to get out of the track, it appears they blocked off all exits bar the paddock car park, so I managed to get home in record time. Did not see that one coming…
Also, I found out today from a local regarding the all-stop sign intersection, you should “yield” to your left. I used this new-found info to my advantage driving home.
Tomorrow- head on down to San Francisco. They’ve forecast record rain for June. Since it’s never rained here in June, the actual forecast is for a 60% chance of showers. Wait and see… might be a fun bike ride!
Trip Day 3- Sonoma/Napa, a set on Flickr.
My burning question of the moment- where should I have my heart attack, in terms of who offers the best health care? USA, UK or Germany?
The reason is that I have had the best race track catering ever today.
Since the team is sponsored by bacon, we had bacon for breakfast, and bacon wrapped sausages for lunch. Brilliant.
Another question- what’s the deal with those four way intersections with stop signs in all directions? Everyone sits there awkwardly, before edging forward.
Blow that, I’m taking the initiative, and going for it.
Final question- what’s the deal with the red rear indicators??
So today was qualifying day at Sonoma, a lot of effort for everyone to lob up for only a single lap of action!
I was going to go up to the top of the mountain with Tim the spotter, but he took off while I was chatting in the hauler. So I spent the session on the pit lane, still pretty cool.
Marcos put it on P2 after an engine drama coming to the green flag… what could have been.
Watched the first 15 laps of the K&N Pro Series West race- there were four cautions in that time, so I left.
Perfect weather, a Mustang, California- so I just started driving, not really knowing where I was going.
Wound up in Napa, which is like Movie Scene USA. Everything is manicured to within an inch of its life.
Got lost further and wound up at an outlet shopping centre. Bad news, credit card copped a bashing.
Wound up using my male internal compass to drive back east, and stumbled upon Sonoma.
Stopped off at the Kunde winery- amazing place. Terrific wine, and a brilliant facility.
Home earlyish so I can get everything together to depart tomorrow morning- off to the track for race day, then back to the hotel over the road for one last night in the area prior to moving south to SF on Monday.
Sonoma Raceway- if it were in Australia, it would be right in the guts of the Barossa Valley. The place is unreal.
The thing that gets you is the sheer scale of the joint, it’s massive. It’s built into the side of a mountain, and they built another mountain on the other side, so it sits in an artificial valley.
As a punter, it’s excellent, there are great sight lines of much of the track from pretty much anywhere, but sometimes hard to get around due to aforementioned mountains. TV really dwarfs the place- they say there will be 90K people there on Sunday, and I believe it.
NASCAR also is massive. We might think V8 Supercars is pretty special, but we have nothing.
On NASCAR, and it also being a small world, I signed in at registration to get my pass (dur). Because the girl behind the counter was a Kiwi who used to live in Surfers Paradise with family in Gympie, I was issued with a paddock car pass. Epic victory!
Got to hang out a bit today with Marcos Ambrose. It was a pretty full on day, with very little spare time to catch your breath.
Starting with a media conference, Marcos was ferried to the top of a nearby hill to film the TV intros for the V8s to be shown in USA, then another TV bit in the pits.
Practice one was next, and Marcos set the quickest time with a mock qualifying run. It’s important because it means he goes out to qualify tomorrow with the four other quickest cars of the session.
The achievement was also honoured with a massive trophy. That’s right, for being good in practice, Barbie and her two daughters presented Marcos with a huge silver cup. Everyone’s a winner!
Got to meet Carl Edwards, who stopped by the trailer to chat to Marcos. He’s the same top bloke from the TV, and also outrageously funny…
Drove out through Sonoma, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen a more picturesque wine region. Light brown grass, bushy dark green vines, magic.
Found my way back onto the expressway, but the traffic was awful, so I took a detour out to Bodega Bay. The bay itself was pretty nice, but the outside where the Pacific hits the coast was amazing.
Stopped by the Boat House in Bodega Bay for Fish Tacos on the way home. Magic.
Nearly hit some deer on the side of the road, but I managed not to use them as an apex marker. Also on wildlife, a snake nearly slithered into me on the way out of the track. It was yellow and black, so I hope it’s good luck!
Finished the night by purchasing a six pack of 500ml beer for $5.99. I’m well ahead on the transaction.
Trip Day 2- Sonoma/Bodega, a set on Flickr.