"That's Just Bristol"
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August memorable moments; from behind-the-scenes
How is it possible that a month has already passed since our August Night Races?
It’s such an amazing week that caps a spectacular racing season at Bristol Motor Speedway each year, that we’re all a little lost when it’s over. Believe me, the adrenaline hits an all-time high when you know thousands and thousands of your friends are coming to visit. And when they leave, you start missing them immediately.
Lots of little things happen throughout the weekend that you don’t really get to think much about until it’s all over… so I thought I’d share with you just a few of my memorable moments from the weekend…
- The look in Tony Stewart’s eyes when he had to meet with the media directly after “The Helmet Toss.” Trust me, it was way intense. All he wanted to do was get back in the car and get back to racing, but he had his media obligations to contend with first. Had I been one of those guys, not sure I would have asked much more than one question. He can be a bit… intimidating.
- Pat Summitt’s visit on Friday before the Food City 250. Summitt, the winningest coach in NCAA basketball history, was here to give the command to start the race and also support Trevor Bayne in the Tennessee-themed “We Back Pat” car in support of Summitt’s Alzheimer’s foundation. She had never been to a race and had two requests: she wanted to meet Danica Patrick and Dale Earnhardt Jr. Both drivers couldn’t have been more gracious. Patrick embraced Summitt in the driver’s meeting and told her how much she had meant to women, not just in sports, but all women who strived to make their place in the world. Summitt told her it was an honor to meet her and Patrick brushed it off, saying “Are you kidding me? I get to meet Pat Summitt! I’m the one who is honored.” Dale Junior invited Summitt to his hauler – not something a lot of folks get to experience. Sitting with Steve LeTarte, he immediately jumped up when he saw Summitt and gave her a big hug. He told her he was very honored that she wanted to meet him and that it was really cool to meet the coach with more wins than anybody in history in college basketball. They chatted and posed for pictures and as she walked away he said “You couldn’t have picked a better place to see your first race – this track is awesome.”
- Brad Keselowski VOLUNTARILY coming into the media center Saturday night after his on-track incident and conducting interviews. Trust me, for most drivers the last thing they want to do is talk to the media in that situation, yet Brad came in and did extensive interviews with national and local media folks. He’s definitely one of a kind.
- The emotion in Rusty Wallace’s voice when he was surprised on Thursday with the throw-back paint scheme on Brad Keselowski’s car. Wallace knew nothing about it and in the midst of a pack of media standing in victory lane, got a bit emotional when the car entered the track and took a few laps. At the same time, a video played on the Jumbotron, featuring Wallace’s top Bristol moments. His voice shaking a bit, he told the crowd “There’s no place like Bristol. It’s such a special, special track for me. I tell ya, if they’d let me, I’d get in that car right now and be ready to race Saturday.”
- Clint Bowyer’s concern for the Food City family, who lost Bill Starnes, a valued friend and one of their helicopter pilots in a crash after Friday night’s race. Just prior to driver introductions on Saturday, Bowyer walked up and asked how the folks at Food City were and talked about how horrible he felt for them. Then he said “You know, it’s so scary. We ride around in those things all the time and don’t give it a thought. And then something like this happens… it sure makes you think. I hope they all know we’re thinking about them.”
- And a second Bowyer shout-out… at the last minute he decided he wanted to attend the BMS tweet-up prior to the IRWIN Tools Night Race. Believe me, drivers don’t often volunteer to do that kind of thing. Ol’ Clint…he’s a good ‘un.
- Denny Hamlin’s nervousness at making sure he had The Wobble down pat before driver intros on Saturday. He went over it and over it with his PR guy, who went over and over with me. He had to hit the microphone at the EXACT right moment and then perform the dance. It went off without a hitch and he won the Sprint fan vote for best intro, which earned him $10,000 for his foundation.
- Marcus Smith, CEO and president of SMI and the president and general manager of Charlotte Motor Speedway, made at least three fans’ weekend. He met them in the parking lot, picked them up on a golf cart and asked if they’d ever been to the pits. The astounded trio told him no so Marcus fixed them up with hot passes for the day. You should have seen the joy on their faces. It was priceless.
- The drivers and their kids during the national anthem on Saturday are beyond precious. Matt Kenseth and his wife Katie came to see three-year-old Kaylin sing while holding one-year-old Grace. Kaylin, as any three-year-old would be was antsy and didn’t like being way from her parents, who were standing in a group about 10 feet way. Kenseth kept making faces at Kaylin, trying to make her laugh. Then he mouthed the words with her to encourage her to sing. It was a cute moment from a driver who has been called “robotic” during his career.