I was gonna try to fit the entire Infineon post into one…but it was just too large and I couldn’t do that to you. I hope you will enjoy part one. Stay tuned for part 2).
After checking into our hotel, Misty and I went to Infineon Raceway Thursday for like 10 minutes- just to pick up our credentials and remind ourselves how to get there because it had been a couple years (2009 to be exact- where the first time we were there we got misguided and ended up in Petaluma). We returned bright and early Friday morning got ourselves situated in the media center- grabbed something to drink and headed out to get some pictures before things filled in. We even wandered through the area of concessions behind the grandstands at the Start/Finish line – which was kinda creepy actually since most if not all of them were still closed. We got a good look at the Infineon Hall of Fame…which honestly should be called the Wall of Fame…but that’s just semantics I guess.
After a while we headed back to the media center and got ourselves a handy dandy driver availability schedule and sat down and mapped our day according to driver availability. We didn’t have anything solid planned- so we were just going to drift from driver press conference to driver press conference until the action started.
We started off by catching the tail end of Marcos Ambrose’s driver conference:
We then moved on to Kurt Busch who let us know in no uncertain terms that he was still upset with Jeff Gordon about last year because Jeff Gordon didn’t apologize to him:
That made Misty nervous for Jeff all weekend I can tell you that! Little did we all know that Kurt wouldn’t be the one we would have to worry about (we all know how this story is going to end but more on that in Part 2). Then Jimmie Johnson talked about his Helmet of Hope program and took media questions:
Weird thing about these two press conferences is someone asked both Kurt and Jimmie about Kyle Busch. I understand asking Kurt…they are brothers after all but not Jimmie. That was just bizarre to me. Now after Jimmie I believe practice was about to get underway. So we went out into the garage to see what we could see…and ran into Valli from the Fast and the Fabulous (which we always appreciate because we always end up asking for her guidence about something and she is always nice enough to help) and Valli introduced us to Kristen from TheHotPass (whom I might add had a very good weekend considering Kurt ended up winning the race…you can read her fun perspective here).
It was fun watching the cars get lined up in the garage and get ready to go out. I got some cool shots:
When I am in the garage like this I always worry about being in someones way. It’s a little unnerving sometimes but I just try to keep an eye or ear open and between Misty and I, we can usually warn the other if we think we are going to be in somebody’s way. I thought we did pretty good staying out of the way of crew guys because let me tell you, a hot garage is a busy busy place. When the cars were rushing in and out of the garage, there was actually a nice place to stand that we scoped out that was kind of between the Jimmie and Carl Edward’s hauler areas by some tires. We were WELL out of the way from the garage stalls which where right across from each hauler. We were standing there between Jimmie and Carl Edwards hauler areas trying to decide what to do next and chatting and I was, of course, snapping pictures here and there…like of this one of Junior coming in for some adjustments:
Anyway- Misty grabs my arm and is like “LOOK OUT” and kind of pulled me back away even further towards the haulers. Why? Because Jimmie Johnson decided to swing way wide to get into his stall. He hadn’t swung that wide before. I think personally he was trying to get a rise out of Misty and I (we were the only two there at the moment) but we just hustled back a bit and adjusted our location a little. (Jr apparently did the same thing to Valli and Kristen on Saturday). Maybe Misty and I looked too engrossed in our conversation and weren’t paying Jimmie’s comings and goings enough attention? Either way it didn’t help my complex about being in the way in the garage- thanks Jimmie.
While Misty and I had been in the media center in Las Vegas in March and witnessed the press conferences before our turn at Infineon, we hadn’t really tried our hand at a hauler press conference before. We decided we would start with the first one of the day, which happened to be none other than Dale Jr (now I am backing up a bit here because now that I think about it I am pretty sure Dale’s was pre-practice and Tony Stewart and Jeff Gordon’s were post practice). Talk about a crazy noisy mess. What am I talking about? Well I am kinda short so at Junior’s press availability this was my view:
I was kind of excited to be able to get that close because I know I have a couple of Junior fans that read BadGroove so I wanted to get some pictures and sound bytes. That was until I got caught up in this mess. I really am not a push/shove, wiggle my way in kinda girl. I am a more reserved, stay out of every one’s way kinda girl, so between the throng of media and Junior’s staff making sure multiple times that we were indeed suppose to be there- this was mayhem at it’s finest to me (not to mention daunting). And Junior is apparently pretty soft spoken because I couldn’t, from my vantage point, hear a darn thing that was said. I did however manage to get one semi reasonable picture of Dale on Friday:
After that experience I was a little gunshy to get to Tony Stewart’s after practice hauler press conference. And honestly I don’t have a reason to be that gunshy around Tony, having interviewed the man three times now and him being totally gracious and nice each and every time. But interviewing Tony at an Office Depot event away from the track is a different (and much much preferred) than interviewing Tony at the hauler because it frankly went fairly similar to the Jr one. I couldn’t really see Tony, couldn’t really hear him when he was talking, and I was again, stuck in the back and not feeling right or comfortable about needling in between people just to get closer. The only difference was I didn’t get asked repeatedly if I was media. Having experienced what a GOOD interview experience (or three) with Tony is like – this kinda disheartened me and honestly I kinda gave up after awhile. But I am glad I did (whot? Keep reading, I will explain).
Jeff Gordon happened to be not only the next hauler press conference, but his hauler was right next to Tony’s. Figuring that Jeff was going to be just as crazy as Junior and Tony, Misty and I thought if we moved over to Jeff’s early maybe we would get a better vantage when it came to the final hauler press conference of the day. So that is exactly what we did- moved over to Jeff Gordon’s hauler before Tony was done and I was glad we did because I got a couple of awesome shots of Tony from afar after the throngs of press yearning for that perfect Tony quip started thinning out:
Of course I can’t think too hard about it because then I start regretting not staying and actually talking to Tony for a second. After the whole deal was over Misty had the same regret. Because I think as the crowd of media started to thin out, we would have been able ask him a question or two (although would worry that he would have been repeating himself because like I said it is noisy as heck in the garage and I couldn’t really hear him). But hindsight is always 20/20 right?
So then we waited and waited. Jeff Gordon’s press conference thingy was actually like 30 or 40 minutes after Tony’s and Misty and I were standing our ground to get a good shot. Only a couple of TV crews (ESPN) kinda shoved past us- so pretty much we were golden for the Jeff press conference:
Interesting things about Jeff’s hauler press conference compared to Tony and Jr.’s. First off- they hung a backdrop to cover the reflective doors. That was nice from a photography standpoint because less glare. Thank you. Also? I know Jeff is a little shorter than a lot of the drivers (but still taller than me…but who isn’t) and he stood on the first step going up into his hauler. This made him more visible to us shorties who might be stuck in the back, so thank you again. Also? Thank you for taking your sunglasses off to talk to us. I always like that. I know why drivers tend to wear them but I always like when they think to take them off before talking to people (whether those people be press or fans).
After the garage excitement of the day we went back up to the media center to watch qualifying. Then we left.
Stay tuned for Part 2 .
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