This past weekend has been one that I will never forget: I spent the entire weekend at Dover International Speedway. I didn't stay in a hotel; I stayed in a motor home in the infield in Turn Three, which means I saw everything that happened all weekend.
Let's start off with Thursday. At eight o'clock in the morning, we were on our way to the track and by eleven thirty, we were there. Once there, we got settled in the motor home, we strolled around the infield, and looked at the Truck Series haulers in the garage. After that, we watched the Truck Series practices. Thursday night, the Nationwide and Sprint Cup Series haulers entered the track and I was able to sit on top of the motor home and watch them all come into the track. Let me just say Dover looks extremely cool at night!
Friday was a very exciting day; it was the day of the Truck Series race. Being the intern for CollegeComplete.com, Justin Lofton's sponsor, I was able to see everything that goes on before, during, and after the race. The morning of the race, on our way to the credential office to get our Hot Passes, we walked past the Dover Downs hotel; I spotted Krista Voda (also known as one of my reporting idols) and got a picture with her. In the midst of freaking out, I blurted out, "You're one of my favorite reporters…ever!" She then thanked me and went on her way to the track. After that, we went to the credential office and headed back to the infield. By the time we arrived in the infield, Truck qualifying was almost over - Kevin Harvick was on-track and proceeded to set down the fastest qualifying lap the track had
ever seen; setting a new track record. Supposedly I got a shout-out on Trackside when they were talking about Justin Lofton because Krista Voda noticed that I was decked out in my CollegeComplete.com gear and proceeded to tell all of the viewers that "Ashley's favorite driver is Justin Lofton." When it was time for driver introductions, I was able to stand on Pit Road and watch, and maybe I just-so-happened to get a picture next to Justin's truck near Ray Dunlap, then again, that may have just been a coincidence…maybe. For the opening ceremonies, I was able to stand next to Justin Lofton and his team; and then I watched the race from on top of Lofton's pit box. Honestly, it's amazing to see how much goes into planning a pit stop; not to mention their insane weather forecasting! With only fifty-three laps to go, the skies opened and the race was called; Todd Bodine won and Justin Lofton finished tenth, still holding onto the points lead.
Saturday morning, I was able to watch the Nationwide Series and Sprint Cup Series qualifying from the top of our motor home. Saying I took a few pictures would be an understatement; saying my camera was glued to my hand was more accurate. During the race, I stood on Pit Road behind Ty Dillon's (who made his Nationwide Series debut filling in for Brendan Gaughan in the No. 33) pit stall. Dominating for most of the two hundred lap race, Joey Logano, piloting the No. 18 for Joe Gibbs Racing, took the checkered flag. After only two short hours of standing on Pit Road, I returned to the motor home looking like a lobster - saying I had sunburn was like saying the sky was blue - extremely obvious. That, however, didn’t stop security guards and random people from telling me I was sun burnt. My response, "Really? You don't say!"
On Sunday, my final day at Dover, it was definitely bittersweet; on one hand, I was happy that I was able to be there all weekend, but on the other hand, I was upset that my amazing weekend was coming to a close. Around ten o'clock in the morning, we decided to walk around the garage area and Pit Road, and let me tell you, it's amazing the amount of drivers riding around in golf carts at that time! After walking on Pit Road and on the track, which was open to a limited number of people, we walked around the garage and, like a sponge, I was absorbing everything that was going on: the line for tech inspection, the crews cleaning the cars, the drivers walking around, and the reporters scurrying trying to get interviews with the meandering drivers. We had a few minutes to kill before the drivers' meeting so we walked back to the motor home to get a drink and, of course, me being the lucky person that I am, Tony Stewart drives by…let's just say very closely to where I was walking - thankfully, I didn’t become road kill. After that little adventure, I got my bottle of water and we headed back to the drivers' meeting. I'm not quite sure what I thought the drivers' meeting was going to be like; I guess I thought it was going to be an hour or so long, with a bunch of questions being asked. Instead, it was maybe fifteen minutes long - there was a brief video of the rules of the track and where the entrance for Pit Road was and the safety crews were located. They all prayed and then they were on their merry way to wherever they had to be. Let's fast-forward to driver introductions. I, again, was behind the stage where there the assembly of drivers and reporters were. Kenny Wallace did the introductions and at one point he was standing in front of me reporting for SPEED and judging by the multiple tweets that I received, I was seen on TV! *insert happy dance* After the introductions were over, we went and talked to Samantha Busch, Kyle Busch's wife, who was extremely nice! She noticed my sunburn and asked me if I wanted some sun tan lotion to prevent me from burning even more, to which I politely declined because I didn't think I would burn anymore since I was already a lobster. LIES I TELL YOU. It is, in fact possible to burn on top of sunburn. Not pleasant, not pleasant at all. Anyway, I digress. During the opening ceremonies, I was able to stand next to Tony Stewart's crew - which was awesome! I watched the race from top of the motor home, inside the motor home (when I thought my arms were going to combust because of being overly-sun burned), and from Pit Road. After starting second, Jimmie Johnson was the one to beat during all four hundred laps but no one was able to catch him. Maybe it was the rainbow wig and Madagascar characters on the side of the car that made him faster than the rest of the field…yeah, that's what it was.
I'm sure you're all sitting there wondering when I'm going to stop talking, er, writing. I'm almost done, I swear! See, this is why I want to be a race reporter, I can just go on and on about the sport I love. Yes, it has been decided - after seeing all the behind scenes SPEED TV and FOX Sports action this weekend, it made me realize that I no longer want to go into Public Relations, but Broadcast Journalism is what I really love. You know what that means? One day you may turn on your television and see me interviewing drivers….a scary thought, I know, hopefully your TVs don’t break - sorry in advance!
Now I'm really done. I just wanted to say a massive thank you to College Complete, Michelle, and Dan for allowing me to come with you this weekend and for your hospitality! It truly was an unforgettable weekend - I had the most amazing time!
If you're interested in seeing all of the pictures from this weekend, they're posted on my Facebook click here.
Thank you all very much for reading this and I hope to be able to do many more of these diaries throughout the season!
* All pictures are property of Ashley Schindler *