This weekend the good folks at Crown Royal invited TSS to take on uncharted territory: covering a NASCAR event. After going into the whole trip totally blind, I can honestly say that my weekend in Indianapolis was one of the absolute most fun experiences of my whole life.
Upon arriving to Indianapolis the bloggers in attendance (12 of us total) were informed that we'd be breaking into four teams and taking part in a weekend-long Amazing Race-like scavenger hunt through the Brickyard to get acquainted with the area, people and NASCAR traditions. The winning team would win an iPad and a TBD trip somewhere in the country. And with that, we were off to the races.
What follows is a recap of all the sights, sounds and a few things I noticed as I took in the Crown Royal Presents: Curtiss Shaver 400 At The Brickyard.
The Event -- Okay, I totally get it. Prior to this weekend, I'd always heard that you just have to go to a NASCAR event live to truly enjoy it. And that's absolutely correct. The Brickyard was an event. Roughly 200,000 people packed the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, enjoying concerts, games and drinks for the whole weekend leading up to the race. Honestly, other than the Super Bowl, I can't think of a bigger sporting event.
NASCAR has managed to figure out a way to give fans something none of the other sports can provide: accessibility. If you get what they call a "Hot Pass" - which isn't much more expensive than the affordable general admission ticket - you can literally hang around the track right up until the race starts. Basically, you can pow-wow with the drivers mere minutes before they get into their cars. Also, during the race, you can stand right behind the pit crew and watch drivers pit the whole time. This is the equivalent of hanging out in the locker room with the players before the Super Bowl. I was completely surprised by how easy it was to just walk up to all the inner workings of the race. Basically, if you attend a race, you'll meet a driver. This creates connections to fans and at least partly explains why so many people feel so passionate about their favorite drivers. Kudos to NASCAR for being ahead of the curve in that aspect.
The Race - Cars are loud. Really loud. Even with ear plugs, the race did to my ears what SXSW does to my feet. In order to enjoy a race, you have to understand that watching it live is different than watching a basketball or football game live. For a race you stick around for the beginning (I have to admit I was pumped when the engines started), move around the IMS, grab drinks and hang around, then move back to the track to check things out intermittently before being glued to your seats for the last 10-20 laps. The race is like a music festival in that way. The time goes by fast, you're taking part in an overall experience more than just a sporting event.
It was cool as hell to see the cars zipping by in person - we were also taken on a pace car ride around the track at 120 mph and I may have sharted a bit - with Jimmie Johnson taking home first place. By the last few laps, I was captivated and rooting along.
The Heroes - Crown Royal made sure to dedicate the entire weekend to heroes and people that lay their lives on the line. As I mentioned last week, they held a contest where they'd pick a hero to name the whole race after. Curtiss Shaver, an incredibly nice and humble guy that explained to us how he never even considered himself a hero, lost his leg in high school then still went on to become a firefighter after being rescued by one. He won the contest and had his name plastered on every flyer, piece of merchandise and flag at the Speedway. Imagine having the Super Bowl or All-Star game named after you. Crown Royal also had members of the military, firefighters, EMTs and all kinds of servicemen an women honored throughout the weekend. They all deserved it and got treated like royalty the whole time from NASCAR and fans alike.
The Good Folks At Crown Royal - On a personal note, I can't explain enough how much they rolled out the
red purple carpet for us. We stayed in the Conrad (FLAT SCREENS IN THE BATHROOM, SON!), one of the most elite, exclusive hotels in the world for three nights. We also got to watch the race from the Crown Royal VIP suite which included a Whisky tasting and a chance to sample all of the Crown Royal flavors. FYI: Reserve is still my favorite but the Xtra Rare packaging looks so damn crisp that I want a bottle just for show. I can't thank Crown Royal enough for the way they treated us this weekend.
Also, I can't go without acknowledging the Taylor Gang aka the group from Taylor Strategy whose job it was to ensure that we had the smoothest weekend possible. They organized everything and worked incredibly hard the whole time. They're the unsung saints of the whole process that get as much credit as anyone for being professional, down-to-earth, organized and cool as hell.
#TeamWin - My team comprised Chris from ManJr., Nick from Strait Pinkie and myself. And we won that mofo! After two days of running around the speedway, acquiring nice farmer's tans and embarrassing ourselves, we managed to finish the scavenger hunt and are going to be taking home some iPads. We also got personalized bricks from the Brickyard. TSS definitely represented and the Fresh Was Respected in Victory.
Another major shout out goes to our team Crew Chief, Brittany from Taylor who is a southern spark plug that went all out to get us as much access as possible to complete our mission. I want to name my goldfish or something after her for everything she did for us.
-- Shoe recap: I wore the LG +4s for the day of the race and they performed really well. My feet had the potential to be dead by the end of the day, but they held up fine and didn't get hot on my feet.
-- They also had a Whisky called Bulleit Bourbon that made my heart sing the songs I wanted to sing. The drink is relatively new, smooth and perfect for mixing with Coke. Highly recommended.
-- NASCAR drivers dress like normal guys. That's probably another reason people feel so connected to them. I swear, they all are millionaires but they looked like they were wearing Wranglers and polos like regular people.
-- I listened to a lot of country music this weekend. More than I've heard in my entire life. Secret: The Band Perry has a few joints. Just saying.