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Race 3: Viva Las “#Winning” Vegas (or the HOW I MISSED TONY’s BURNOUT..AGAIN)

Posted by Amy in General | NASCAR

(Yes I know this is late- but I wanted to make sure I gave this entry the attention it deserved. I hope you find it worth the wait-Amy)

The sights of the Kobalt 400 in Las Vegas 2012. Click collage to be taken to Flickr photo set from the race. (Photo Credit: All photos in collage taken by me- Amy K. Marbach)

The NASCAR race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway holds a special place in my heart- it was the first NASCAR race I ever attended (and the first oval track race I ever attended). Las Vegas Motor Speedway was also the first Speedway I ever held a media credential at- so it is a track of firsts for me.

We had lots of fun all weekend at the track. As you know we started off the weekend interviewing Tony Stewart on Thursday.  As always Tony was gracious with his time and thoughtful with his answers and we always really appreciate that.  After our interview with Tony, we dashed up to the Speedway to pick up our media credentials but that only took like 5 minutes and it was the only time we were actually at the track on Thursday.

My favorite part of having media credentials is sitting in on the driver’s media sessions- and Friday was jammed with them. During practices we were out in the Neon Garage though taking pictures and when there wasn’t practice? We were up in the media center watching / listening to the media pressers for each of the drivers. Including Tony. Don’t believe me? Here’s a picture from his presser on Friday:

Tony Stewart

Tony Stewart Friday Media Session (Photo Credit: Amy Marbach)

On Friday night Misty and I went to dinner at the MGM Grand and spied Tony Stewart and Ryan Newman in the charity poker tourney that benefited the Ryan Newman Foundation. Sad thing is? Neither Misty nor myself thought to bring a camera although we had to wait so darn long for our dinner that we probably would have ended up eating it.

We also checked out Jamie McMurray signing autographs for fans at a Bass Pro Shop’s Outdoor World. Jamie was kind and friendly:

Jamie McMurray

Jamie McMurray Autograph Appearance (Photo Credit: Amy Marbach)

On Saturday we spent most of our time in the Neon Garage watching the goings on and only caught a couple of the pressers from Saturday- we were too busy watching the garage work- I find it immensely fascinating to watch even if I don’t necessarily know what they are doing all the time.

Then came Sunday. Now we had places to sit in the media center- but basically that is like watching the race on TV- so we spent the morning in the garage and on pitroad with our media passes and then watched the race from our seats in the stands (I bought two seats in the stands for Sunday anyway- just in case our media access fell through- it never has but I always worry).  We watched from the stands and cheered for our drivers. And wouldn’t you know it- when Tony passed for the lead I was in line for the restroom (it was a LONG LONG line).

Now last year when we interviewed Tony before the race we asked him what a mean at Las Vegas would mean to him since he hadn’t won at that track before- and then to see him come so close to winning but NOT- it was really heartbreaking. This year when we interviewed him before the race we made damn sure NOT to ask him about what a win at Vegas would mean. I didn’t want to jinx the man- plus I had already asked it and I didn’t want to be redundant girl. Anyway you can just imagine the angst I felt watching him lead at the end of the race because I soooo wanted Tony to win.  I believe many of my tweets for the last several laps were things like:

I didn’t even stand up until the last lap- I was that nervous for Tony.  When he took the white flag I had to stand up because that is THE WHITE FLAG!!!  And I watched Tony Stewart WIN LAS VEGAS for the first time.  But did I get even one shot of him doing his burn out? NO!

(Here is some back story for my newer readers- after watching Tony win at Auto Club Speedway for the first time in 2010 I was soo excited that I forgot how to work my camera and got only one really blurry picture of part of his car during the burnout- you can read about in my post entitled Fontana: The Best Worst Picture I Ever Took).

Why? Because as soon as Tony crossed the Start/Finishline at Las Vegas Motor Speedway- Misty and I were flying out of the stands and to the media center.  That in itself is no easy feat because it required getting out of our seats in the grandstands down onto the concourse, down the concourse to the pedestrian tunnel, down an escalator, across the (very crowded) pedestrian tunnel, up the next escalator, into the neon garage and then up into the media center. The pedestrian tunnel alone was very much like a sardine trying to swim in the opposite direction of it’s school at this point since it seems most people in the Neon Garage are leaving coming the opposite way through the pedestrian tunnel.  This was something I hadn’t considered.  I actually lost sight of Misty before I had even reached the pedestrian tunnel (she was smart and took the stairs instead of the escalator) but I wasn’t worried- I knew where she was going to eventually end up.

About halfway down the escalator I felt my phone (set to vibrate because I wouldn’t be able to hear it ring anyway- I was at a flipping race for goodness sakes) totally blow up with texts and tweets.  If I didn’t already have a huge maniacal grin on my face I definitely did then!  While I was on a mission to get to the media center- I was also stuck on an escalator so I had to peek at my phone- I glance down and the first thing I see is a text message from my mom that read:

HOLY SHIT- He Won- so cool.--text from my mother Elaine.

Now that alone cracked me up because my mom is anti-cussing! Also YEY mom for using text messaging! I didn’t have much time to contemplate it though because soon I was on the ground of the pedestrian tunnel trying to get to the infield- but felt my phone vibrate the whole rest of the way to the media center.

When I got to the garage I couldn’t decide- do I attempt to get within  picture-snapping distance of victory lane? Or do I just head to the media center. I looked in the direction of victory lane and had my mind made up for me since they were about 5 deep at the railing that overlooked victory lane! Media center it was. It would be awhile before Tony Stewart go to the media center- so we listened to the media for the second and third place drivers (Greg Biffle and Jimmie Johnson) and I checked my phone.  I had tons of tweets but I think my favorite one was this one from Kevin M. Boots:

He tweeted that because he remembered that the first time I saw Tony win where I was actually at the race was when Tony Stewart won at Autoclub in Fontana for the first time.  Then the second time I see Tony Stewart win …well he got his first win at Las Vegas. Maybe there IS something to that..Misty and I are good luck charms!!!!  (Of course it might be my cute pink checker-flagged socks that I wear every race day without fail…who knows).

It took a lot longer than I expected for Tony Stewart to come into media after his Victory Lane celebration and hat dance.  Misty and I happened to have a great view of the grandstands from our seats in the media center and we watched the rest of the people file out of the stands and wondered briefly why there were some small groups of hold outs staying in the stands until we remembered there was a Legends race being run after the Sprint Cup race.  I wonder how that went?

Anyway Steve Addington and Gene Haas were first to appear in the media center, followed shortly by Tony Stewart. I was pleased to find out that, like me sitting in the stands at the time, Tony Stewart said he cringed every time there was  restart for that race.  I wanted to raise my hand and tell him he was preaching to the choir on that one…but that would have been a big no-no (there are rules for the media center and that would have probably got me kicked out for life).  I was, however, almost brave enough to raise my hand and ask a question…I tried to goad Misty into doing it (I don’t even remember the question at the time but it was a good one- even Misty thought so) but in the end we were just content to listen (and take pictures):

Tony Stewart and Steve Addington

Tony Stewart and Steve Addington post race and post win at Las Vegas Motor Speedway (Photo Credit: Amy Marbach)

Misty and I left not long after Tony’s post-race media session- it was kinda eerie but cool walking through the all-but empty Neon Garage.  A band did play and there were some people still watching said band but for the most part the garage was empty. As I left I couldn’t resist peeking down into the garage bay number one where race winner Tony Stewart was stalled throughout the weekend only to find it mostly empty- but with lots of confetti on the floor.

Oh and speaking of confetti- while we were leaving Misty was able to rescue me a piece of Tony’s confetti…and I tucked it into my credential holder- a cool souvenir from an AWESOME Sunday.

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