I wasn’t feeling well when we left for Michigan on Saturday morning. I had a headache and a mildly queasy tummy. After we stopped at the Port Huron Cracker Barrel, where I had a bland breakfast of plain oatmeal with raisins, the queasiness turned into full-blown nausea. I spent an hour of the trip with my seat reclined, under a blanket. If only I had taken that as a sign of what was to come!
The journey took at least an hour longer than normal because of ridiculous amounts of road-work and far too many drivers who put their need for speed ahead of anyone else’s safety and jumped past orange cones and ignored line-ups of cars in the proper formation. Finally we arrived at Michigan International Speedway where this weekend’s NASCAR events were taking place. Yay!
We checked in at the Credential office and it just seemed really weird that they appeared to know my name. I even mentioned it to Derek. He agreed that they were using my name in an odd way. We passed it off as a fluke. Next stop, the Media Center where we were supposed to ask for Sammy. We met and she very quickly opened a can of whoop-ass on me. It all became crystal clear. They knew my name because I had used the word “stalk” in the same sentence as Carl Edwards on a flip and meant-to-be-funny quip on Twitter and his people at NASCAR were not amused! They gave the Speedway grief for letting me in and now Sammy was passing it onto me.
My intentions were called into question. Did I intend to stalk a star driver? Was I really in media? (HA!) Did I always use judgement this poor? Frankly, they should have been flattered that I used their client’s name. But they were so unhappy I was at risk of not getting into anywhere interesting and Derek would have been in the same boat. There was no changing a mind from believing I could have actually been identifying myself as a threat to a NASCAR star. All they would have had to do is click on my name and see some of the ridiculous things I’ve tweeted and who I am. But they didn’t look beyond face value.
And this is where it really went to hell.
As this woman screamed at me in front of other media, I started to cry. And once I start to cry, I can’t stop. She just wouldn’t let up. Really, she was an awful human being. She gave us our passes and we went out to the truck so I could get my face together. It was humiliating and as a representative of a radio station sponsoring some of the weekend’s events, completely unnecessary. But she didn’t want to verify. She wanted to yell.
We were allowed on pit road to talk to crew members but once they were “hot” – meaning drivers were out and work was going on – we weren’t allowed. That was our agreement and had nothing to do with the “incident”. We got some cool shots, Derek did his live radio reports and we have lots of stuff to talk about this week.
It has occurred to me that #99’s people are overly sensitive because they may have had to deal with a real, live weirdo who meant their client harm. Regardless, they should spend their time trying to find more weirdos and one quick click of a mouse would have shown I’m not one of them. I can only conclude that the person who first overreacted was a) extremely inexperienced or b) humourless.
MIS has 136,000 seats. It is huge by any standard. And once the gates are open it certainly feels it.
Saturday’s Nationwide race was popular but the Sprint Cup race on Sunday is the main event. People, people everywhere. Thousands and thousands of campers, smart people who will stay long past the time the parking lots will empty. State Troopers blanketing the site, managing traffic and maintaining the rules. Track security, who were very friendly and polite, threatening to confiscate super-soakers in the campground and staying vigilant about safety. And then the rain came.
It started to spit when we took the long walk to the festival-like market where some T-shirts were selling at 2 for $5. Then the heavens opened up and it poured. It lasted past the planned start of the race which was delayed almost 2 hours. We decided it might be better to watch from the couch and after the long drive home, that’s what we did.
As a production, both on television and in person, a NASCAR Sprint Cup race is an organizational marvel. This one racetrack can and does seat more people every week than go to the Superbowl once a year. There are also thousands of media, crew, advertisers and others. Moving all of those people, getting them fed, watered, seated, parked and a place to pee and camp – it’s a big deal I couldn’t count the number of TV crews on site. Besides the network and local coverage there is NASCAR’s own crew doing slick coverage for the web. It was cool to see how they make it all happen.
On TV you get to see everything and there’s commentary about what you miss. In person, you get a view of a fraction of the track and then wait for the cars to come back around. Everything considered it was a pretty disappointing weekend but I know one day we’ll laugh about it. That day hasn’t arrived yet though. I’m scratching ever interviewing Carl Edwards off my bucket list and never setting foot at MIS again.