02 June 2009

The Race That Wasn't: Part II

Okay, I know this is a one long-ass post, but stick with it. The end is pretty good. :)

Sunday: We got to the track shortly after 10:00 a.m. Mom was psyched that we got to park between the drag strip and the dirt track. She isn’t much for the dragsters, but she LOVES her some dirt track racing. Since the gates opened at 11:00 a.m., and they were handing out grab bags to the first 50,000 in the gates, I campaigned for walking straight to the gates and waiting in line, then checking out Souvenir Alley and the hospitality village. We decided to leave some of the stuff in the car (scanners, headsets, evening clothing such as jackets, etc.), which we would pick up later when we dropped off our buys and free samples.

We got to the gates and only had to wait about 20 minutes for them to open. We got our bags, then hit Souvenir Alley. People bought things. I’m sure you’ll be SHOCKED to hear that I bought something at Robby’s trailer and at James’ trailer. Sara was kind enough to buy me something at Kyle’s trailer. I bought Mom for Christmas a Mikey hooded sweatshirt that she picked out. I told her she could wear it that night, but then it had to go home to get wrapped for Christmas [cue more foreshadowing music].

As per usual, while strolling through Souvenir Alley, we saw the notices for the autograph sessions: Robby Gordon at 2:00 p.m., Scott Speed at 2:00 p.m., Toast at 2:00 p.m., David Ragan from 2:25-2:45. I planned my course of action: Scott Speed at 2:00 p.m., then a mad dash to Robby. Much as a I adore David, I only had my hat for him to sign, and he’d already signed it last year. And I didn’t feel like buying something at his trailer just for him to sign. Mom and Sara had exhausted Souvenir Alley, so I sent them on ahead to Hospitality Village and we agreed to meet up later after I was done being an autograph hound.

While I was in line for Scott, Sara texted me that Kyle was making an appearance at the Toyota exhibit at 3:00 p.m. By this time, the guy in front of me in Scott’s line and I were fast friends. Taz explained to me that his 14-year-old’s favourite driver is Scott, his favourite driver is Junior, and my favourite driver is KyleCarlJamesRobbyToddScott. So when Sara texted me, I called Mom, we came up with new meet-up plans, and I told Taz about Kyle’s appearance. He and I planned to sprint over to the Toyota exhibit together, but he later got a call from his wife, and he had to go somewhere else. Clearly, his wife is not as dedicated of a Kyle fan as I am! :P

I got Scott autograph on my hat and on a hero card. Taz took a pic of the two of us, and Scott was gracious enough to stand up and lean over the tall counter as much as possible to get both of us in the same shot. I thanked Taz, grabbed my camera from him, and literally ran to the street to cross to Hospitality Village. As I was crossing the street, I had my hat in my hand (no time to put it in the bag!) and several people commented on “what a busy girl [I’d] been.” Ha!

I got to the Toyota exhibit at 2:18 (sorry, Robby - sacrifices have to be made!). I asked Lisa, the nice exhibit lady where Kyle would be and if he would be signing autographs or if this was just a photo op. She said he MIGHT sign some stuff on the way in/out, but it wasn’t an autograph session. She also told me where to camp out to wait for him. Unfortunately, I had to wait through Denny Hamlin’s appearance, but it was relatively painless as he used the race simulators to race against fans - and he only won one of the two heats. *snicker*

Finally, Kyle’s timeslot arrived and we waited... and waited... and waited. (Note: next time Toyota people tell you Kyle may appear a few minutes early, remember the key word “MAY.”) Unfortunately, instead of Kyle, we got the rain. So the place I had painstakingly staked out for over 45 minutes was useless as they decided to move where Kyle would speak. The woman standing next to me and I got Lisa’s attention and made a big to-do about how we’d been there for over an hour waiting. She went to see what she could do for us, but came back and said that he wouldn’t be signing any autographs for anyone.

At that point, I decided to abandon the “And what about pictures since the people who have been dutifully waiting here in the back of the exhibit area to see him are now the furthest away from the staging area in the front” argument in lieu of using my petite size to wiggle my way into the audience. As several of you have seen from my Picasa album, I managed to get nearly 20 pics of him. It’s also nice to know that when you’re short and you’re literally doing the “if I jump and click at just the right moment, maybe I’ll get a decent shot” thing, people around you will offer to take pics for you. Yay for friendly, nice, tall, Kyle fans!

After that, we headed in to the track area to eat. We then found our seats (well, first we found someone else’s seat), which happened to seat me next to two people from Philly! And the woman’s family is from Wichita, Kansas! Small world, eh? I also met two nice people behind us from Mississippi. It’s one of the things I adore about NASCAR events - you meet all these wonderful people. True, you’ll probably NEVER see them again, but who cares.

We then sat through nearly TWO HOURS of pre-race festivities, exhibiting military... things. Mom and I were not happy that LMS ganked part of their stuff from last fall’s Kansas race, such as the aircraft carrier delivering the pace car, but whatev. And, as the NASCAR fans know, that was all we got to see. We never saw pace laps, we never saw a green flag, and we certainly saw no pit stops.

At 8:30 p.m. EDT, the race was called with a noon start on Monday. Mom and I both flew out on Monday. We talked and decided to go ahead and go home and file the event insurance claim to try to recoup some our money, rather than spend more money to change our flights. Getting money back trumps spending more money, see?

But the day ended with the discovery that the car keys had been lost along the way. When we got to the car, Mom called AAA, and they sent someone out to rekey Sara’s car. Locksmith got there at 2:00 a.m. Now, scroll back up to see what time they called the race. Go ahead; I’ll wait. Yep, that’s right - from the time the race was called to the time we got in a car - 5.5 hours.

In the interim, we sought shelter in a small hallway leading to a women’s restroom. Mostly we entertained ourselves, but we also inherited the duty of telling people, “Sorry, the bathroom’s locked,” which was generally followed by “Yes, we’re serious.”

Those of you who know me or who have spoken on the phone with me since then know I’ve spent some time crying about this trip. If it could go wrong, it did. Awesome Mother’s Day present, Min; well done.

Mom and I did get to sit in the airport together for awhile after we both checked in (different airlines, different terminals). And we concocted The Plan (with apologies to Brook and Alex). Mom even called Dale (her husband) to explain The Plan. (Small bit of background before I tell you about The Plan - once I told Mom her Mother’s Day present from me was a ticket to the Coca-Cola 600, Dale paid for her flight down and back as her birthday present.)

Mom called Dale and got the answering machine.
Mom to machine: Hi Dale, it’s me. Just wanted to make sure you’re coming to get me tonight. We didn’t change our flight so I’ll be at the airport tonight at 11:15 p.m. But Min and I have a plan for next year. We think you should take us to the All-Star Race and the 600 next year and we’ll spend the week in between going to the garages and touring the area, since I got robbed of my birthday present AND my Mother’s Day present this year..
Me whispering to Mom: And your daughter won’t stop crying
Mom to machine: And my daughter won’t stop crying. And you probably won’t even get this message until you’re home from the airport with me, so BYE!

Here’s where the story gets even better. I get to work on Tuesday, and my boss wants to know what’s wrong. I start to cry and she has me come in her office, close the door, and tell her the story of the Worst Mother’s Day Gift ever. She hugs me, tells me that as a mom, she knows that it meant more to my mom to see me for a few days than whether she got to see the race. She asks me when I’ll see my mom again. I tell her, “In October, for the Kansas race.” Boss gets weird look on her face. I say, “What?”

Well, it seems that because the nurses’ and techs’ contracts expire at the end of September, the hospital is planning for the event of a strike. Therefore, NO vacation days are being granted between 15 September and somewhere in the middle of November. If the unions approve new contracts before then, people can take vacation. I explained to the boss that I already had plane tickets, and she said that should be okay. SHOULD be okay. I explain to my boss that if I get screwed out of ALL THREE races in one year, I’m going to be one unhappy camper.

Then I pulled it together, explained The Plan for next year, and asked for a week and a half off to go to Charlotte. And she approved it. WIN!!!!

Next blog post: The more colourful people I met at LMS.


  1. Well,hell. Yay for next year??

  2. Jealous for next year!! trust me, I'm a mom currently freaking out inside my head because a month from now, my baby will be in a different hemisphere! and knowing that at the end of next summer I'll be helping her move in a dorm somewhere and it won't be long before she's on her own. Trust me - spending a couple days with you was better than any perfect sunny race could ever be!