At the Field Filler Fairgrounds racers young, old, famous and dangerous all get the chance to get back to doing what they love. There is no “Sprint Cup” girls in Victory Lane or big sponsor names written on the walls around here.. :nope: simply a checkerboard stage, a Get-Well banner for one of their injured racer friends, a bottle of $7 champagne and a hand-made, wooden, “Dale” trophy..:that I believe BeverDragon made in shop class.: Driver’s meeting was conducted just off of turn four next to a 76 ball from the old NASCAR Winston Cup days and opening race ceremonies included a prayer, the pledge of allegiance and the National Anthem which was sung by everyone in attendance.
Events like these are special to people like me for several reasons.. Around this time of year I begin to re-evaluate why I moved here and if I am still happy. Recently, my passion for the sport is less vibrant and home-life seems more endearing. After a Sunday at the Sandlot I quickly remember why myself and every one else is in this city. Each one of us, at one point in our lives, would have given our right arm to be at a race track with our best friends, racing to win a wooden Dale Earnhardt trophy. :Tho: those days are behind me now, I felt privileged to spend my Sunday with the boys who still invest their time and effort into the sport we all love.
The reporters of NASCAR seem to always be looking for a story to write. I must say that the best story in racing, at this current time, isn’t at Lowes Motor Speedway..it’s about 5 miles down the road at a little place called the Field Fillers Fairgrounds or in my eyes The Sandlot.
Here is some video. Check out the crowd at this place..
Gateway International Raceway, just down the street from the beautiful city of St. Louis. My new job as a sales and technical rep. has given my the opportunity to travel the circuit, hone my skills as a brake specialist and most importantly zoom-out from the race car and just look around.
My weekend in St. Louis was great. It was fantastic to be back in the garage with all of the Harrys. But this weekend was different for me. I got to “zoom-out” and look around at what we all get to do for a living. I spent a lot of time just taking it all in. Most of my time was spent on pit road, monitoring brake temperatures. I caught myself in a daze. I stood and watched the cars scream off turn four. I have been doing this for eight years now and it all seemed new to me. Its exciting. Its breath-taking. I am in love with the sport again.
When final practice concluded I picked my things up and headed back to the garage. As I walked past the infield fence there was a little girl with her Dad, she was probably 10 years old. She looked at me and gave me a shy wave. Emotions rushed through my chest. I waved back and gave her a smile. I hope that she was thinking the same thinking that I was thinking15 years ago, “Girls do this? Can I do this? Dad, Can I do this?” For all I know, she probably thought I was Danica Patrick (just 2 feet taller, and 30lbs heavier)
The time I spent away from my career as a mechanic may have been the best learning experience of my life. I had grown spoiled. My transition into the world of NASCAR was not a hard fought battle. Everything kind of just came to me. Fast forward eight years later and I was a bitching, angry, nothings fair, no one knows what they are doing, mechanic. I didn’t even realize it at the time. I was writing a blog about the sport that I said I loved and then bitching about it.
I believe as mechanics we get tunnel vision. The long stretch of race weekends run together and the romanticism of the sport we once loved, begins to wear thin. Sadly, we begin to just go through the motions: tech, practice, qualify, load-up, go home. Everything seems to zoom in. The love for the sport fades fast, frustrations run high and then it’s “on to the next one.”
For the past two months I have been on the outside looking in, begging for an opportunity to get back on the other side of the fence. I remember now why I love it. And I also know why I began to hate it. It is safe to say that my career and I took a break from one another. During that break I realized that I love this life, I love the stress, I love my career. I just need to take more time to “Zoom-Out”
Dose of life. it’s a term I use to explain short comings, realizations and lessons learned. I mostly use this term when curse words are frowned upon. ex: blogging and lunch with my Nana. It’s also the time that I put my pity-party hat and kazoo away and stand back and look at the situation for what it really is….Life.
On Sunday evening I sat somber at the beautifully decorated dinner table and starred at the ham and scalloped potatoes my Nana had just prepared with a sudden loss of an appetite. I was still digesting what just happened. I made a valiant attempt to pay attention to the conversation that was taking place at the family dinner. Unfortunitly, the thoughts in my head were much louder and seemed much more important than the conversation that was taking place at the table. I excused myself from the gathering and climbed into my truck to head home. My emotions were like a pinball machine: Silent, beat-up, jealous, relieved, excited and happy. I arrived at home, laid my head down on the concrete patio, and stared at the sky. Watson sat down beside me. We sat. We listened. We tried to grasp reality. Did I make a mistake? Four years and I was only two weeks too short. Never a win. Seven f’n years! Never a win! What do you think Watson?
My last blog was about my new adventure. My new life. Starting fresh. Leaving RAB Racing. Well on Sunday, prior to my family dinner, RAB Racing :deep breath: well they won. They won in Montreal. Not a half ass race either, not the “all the good guys stayed home” race, they won the NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Montreal.
Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, as the Canadians call it, is a beautiful road course on an island of its own in Canada. It’s one of my favorite tracks and none other than Boris Said, the best driver I’ve ever worked with, was behind the wheel. Boris flew through the gears, corner after corner, gas, brake, gas, brake, left-turn, right-turn, gas, brake. He made every move perfectly, the stars aligned, no one wrecked him and they won the race.
I began that Sunday with invisible pom-poms in the air for Boris Said and every 09 crew-member, the Harrys, my Harrys. As I watched, what seemed to be the longest race ever, my heart began to sink a little more each lap. The thought of the young, struggling team gathering up a win was beyond exciting. It was David vs Goliath. And the Harry’s took down the Giant.
In my four years with them, they taught me mostly everything I know about life and race cars. We seemed to face more days of anguish, disgust and frustration then days of jubilation. In fact every year we would have a Christmas party to celebrate the hurdles we leaped over to survive our season. I would make a tribute video for them every year to reflect back on it all. This was when we had finally gotten over the disappointment enough to sit back and belly laugh at all of the madness that had taken place that summer. Last winter the tribute video began with the words “There were times we felt we were in hell, but we were there together.”
I saw everyone of those Harrys through their first day of work at RAB Racing. They are all like brothers to me and watching them in victory lane on Sunday was bitter sweet. The bitterness came from the magical box that we call a television, that separated me from them. I saw all of their faces. Sheer joy and tears of happiness. I absolutely hated not being there with them. I was profoundly jealous. I hated the fact that I wasn’t able to join in on their victory lane “hat dance” and the bragging rights that come along with such a prestigious win. Suddenly I felt like the prodigal son who left home.
However, I do not regret my departure from the team. Wish I had waited a few weeks, Hell Yeah! But, I am ready for a new chapter to begin. It was the correct move for me and my career. What absolutely frustrates me is I wasn’t there to hug their necks in their moment of victory. Cry with them and exhale the frustrations that four years can pile on a weathered ship.
So yes. A dose of life. Ode to a dose of life. What the AP Organization learned on Sunday was…to never take any moment of this fore granted. Don’t ever spend too much time in the “woe is me” mindset on the flight home from a race track. Fact is, one day…not maybe but one day your “glory day” that this sport promises you will arrive and every trial you endured to get there will make the effort worth while. I am not sure a win would matter all that much if it wasn’t such a struggle to receive.
I will lay my head down tonight completely envious of the celebration that happened without me. But I will do it with the utmost pride that I worked beside every mechanic and fabricator who stood in victory lane on Sunday. Those guys are my heroes. They saw the perfect storm build up in front of them, they rode out the waves and found themselves covered in champagne and confetti.
Congratulations to the RAB Racing Crew Members, The Harry’s.
As I sit across the desk from him, there is an awkward silence. I loathe any kind of silence. Especially, strategically placed silence. Silence, inserted into an interview by design, to cause me to say more than I originally intended. I believe they call these “stress cues.” I stare at the red flashing light on his recorder and wait for the next question, the next interrogation, the next awkward silence that is sure to come. Ok, I’m exaggerating a little, but to me interviews are nerve racking, especially this one. I am being interviewed by, in my opinion one of the toughest reporters on pit road. He is here to do a story on our team and out of the blue he requested to get some insight from me about our team, our plans and how I fit in to it all. I have done interviews with reporters for the past 12 years so this one shouldn’t be any different. But, it is. In the time frame leading up to the interview, I managed to transform the interview into a “Godzilla-like” creature in my mind. Here’s why..like I have mentioned in my other blogs, I lack a “filter”. Sitting across from a good reporter who will get whatever information he needs to make his story worth reading is a deadly combination for a “call it like ya see it” kinda girl, like myself. Especially with this interview, framed around our company. There’s a lot on the line with an interview like this. It’s far different from the “Tell me what it’s like to be a mechanic” interview. The last thing I wanted was to shed any negative light on a company that I have invested and helped build for the past 4 years. Imagine, Jim Carrey in Liar Liar … “The pen is blue” scenario kept replaying in my head. Every company has its bumps and bruises but smarter folks leave that out of an interview :survey says: this girl will find a way to add some spice to the story. I got to answer questions about our team, the Harry’s (or crew as the reporter called them) and my future in NASCAR. It went well. I believe, my damage was minimal :hmmm: I think. :facepalm: I guess we will see when it’s in print. :yikes:
Anywho, on a few recent occasions I have found myself cornered in interviews, back-peddling and taking a more “sugar-coated” route. Completely out of character for the AP Organization (me)… I’ve been asked by several reporters, “What advice would you give to other women trying to find a career in the NASCAR garage” This is the tricky question. This is the bear trap. This is the moment where I’ve had to make a valiant attempt to be less blunt and more candid. I have been asked, tricked and lured into saying things I don’t whole-heartedly believe. I have even had reporters turn off cameras and persuade me to answer the question differently. I find myself struggling to keep my answers PG during interviews, as it is. And now they ask me to manipulate my answers? :f: This is like asking me to plug the BP leak. I live it and I believe it’s fair for me to state my feelings on it. So I chose to write this blog.
There is no easy answer to that question. Every reporter wants the “go to NASCAR Tech, meet with crew chiefs, etc.” Answer. This sport can be very tough, not just for women, but for everyone. It forces you to become callused. You will come in with big dreams, bright eyes and confidence and in the middle of July, on some idle Tuesday, you will realize that you are worn out, running low on self esteem and the only parting gift is the bags under your eyes. Sounds dreadful huh? Well it’s not, that’s what we live for. The point of exhaustion. The end of ourselves. The very last ounce of fight we can muster up until that one random Saturday night at the racetrack. The stars align and the hubs spin freer than they ever have before, that’s the night, that you have the perfect race.
The point I am trying to make is 99% of this sport is agony and while you’re waiting for your owed 1% of glory to show up, the only thing that can keep you going is the love and passion you have for racing. NOT what some 27 year old, chick, mechanic from Maryland “spewed out” as advice during some interview. That pep talk won’t last you through the first day at Daytona. There’s a fire in the belly of everyone in that garage. And if there isn’t, you most likely won’t see that person next season. What makes you survive is the passion to play. Unfortunately I don’t believe that passion can be taught. So, if asked for an honest answer, the advice I would give is, “Do what you love and do it with determination. Don’t work in NASCAR to say you work in NASCAR or I am sad to say you won’t make it through boot camp. If you’re determined to be here you don’t need advice, you just need to get your ass to work.”
Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.