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Race 17: Sonoma Race Diary

Posted by Amy in General | NASCAR

I have been looking forward to  Sonoma Race weekend for so many reasons this year, but mostly because I have been JONESING hardcore for a race (in person).  In general NASCAR fans in the west kind of get the short end of the stick race wise.  There is Phoenix, Las Vegas, and Fontana- which unfortunately for fans (and fortunately for race teams no doubt) are all kind of close together.  Then we have a long wait until late June for Sonoma (and then again another long wait until Fall Phoenix).

Sonoma Raceway (Photo Credit: Amy K. Marbach)

Misty and I arrived at Sonoma Raceway on Friday fairly early to pick up our media credentials and get settled into the media center (unfortunately Misty and I were sitting in nearly two different zip codes in the media center, but Valli kindly agreed to  swap seats with me so we could sit next to each other).

Misty (and I tagged along as photographer) had a 10:45 interview with Jeff Gordon scheduled so we pretty much just meandered around the garage until then.  I don’t know how she wasn’t nervous- because I got so nervous when I interviewed Tony Stewart the first time way back when that I nearly fled the scene before it could even happen. Luckily Misty wouldn’t let me and I was fully prepared to return the favor- but she was totally calm and collected (and the interview went off AWESOMELY- be sure to check it out).

Friday morning garage at Sonoma from the Media Center (Photo Credit: Misty Bethany)

After the interview with Jeff Gordon we meandered about a bit more and watched the cars zoom in and out or the garage before driver media availability.  I always like the media sessions that are in the media center the best because I can almost always find myself a place where I can see well.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. in the media center on Friday at Sonoma Raceway. (Photo Credit: Amy K. Marbach)

After watching a few of the media sessions we went back to the garage to wait for Tony to come in from practice to his session at the back of his hauler.  At the time we hadn’t really been up in the media center much that morning so we didn’t know how any of the drivers were doing. He did look a little grumpy as he made his way to his transporter to do his media session so I figured the car was not handling the way he had hoped:

Tony Stewart (l) making the short trek between his garage stall and his transporter on Friday between practices, with his PR handler Mike Arning (r). (Photo Credit: Amy K. Marbach)

Basically when the media sessions are at the back of the transporters all the media people huddle around with their recorders, cameras, and whatnot and try to get Tony’s attention to ask their question, get their picture or video.  I am short and not very pushy- so this is my wondrous view of Tony’s media session:

My view of Tony Stewart's Friday media session- being short stinks. (Photo Credit: Amy K. Marbach)

And since Tony is a soft talker (and we are in a noisy garage) I couldn’t hear a damn thing.  But luckily for me,  Misty is taller than I and was able to get a picture-  one that made me think that he might not have been in a bad mood after all:

Tony Stewart during his media on Friday (photo credit: Misty Bethany).

Then the drivers were off to practice more. Between Friday’s practices and Saturday’s practices and qualifying I was able to get some pretty good pictures:

Car chief Ron Malec helps push the 48 out of the garage. (Photo Credit: Misty Bethany)

Jeff Gordon's tires at Sonoma Raceway. (Photo Credit: Amy K. Marbach)

Tony Stewart's tires in the garage. The scuffs are on the left and the stickers are on the right. (Photo Credit: Amy K. Marbach)

14 crew member works (Aaron Kuehn) works on the tires at Sonoma. (Photo Credit: Amy K. Marbach)

Have you figured out that I have thing for taking pictures of tires yet?

Anyway- on Sunday we WANTED to get to the track kind of early.  Well we left for the track a little after 7:00. Our hotel was about 15 minutes from the track.  It took us until well after 9:30 to get to Sonoma.  I can totally see why David Gilliland was late for the driver’s meeting.

The best part about watching the race in the media center is that you can see the national broadcast and during commercials? You still get to see track feeds- so that you are always seeing racing action.  I have to say I was QUITE impressed with Tony’s run.  After seeing him qualify 24th I admit that I was a bit disappointed and worried that Tony wouldn’t have that great of a run on Sunday.  Oh how wrong I was.  He passed four cars on the first lap alone.  I was tickled pink (but remained stoic as I WAS in the media center and didn’t want to cause a kerfuffle) when he broke the top 10.  When he worked his way up to 5th? Well let’s just say I was ecstatic.

By this point the race up front was heating up and I was watching Kurt Busch and Clint Bowyer race each other HARD for that position.  A late race caution threatened to change it all. It was really Tony’s only chance to take over the lead. He never got to.  But what he did get was an AWESOME, hard fought 2nd place finish.  This made Amy happy on many levels:

1. Tony went up to 5th in the points. YA-Freaking-Hoo!

2. Tony finished in the top 3 which meant….yep: Post race media in the media center. My chance to redeem myself and get a decent picture of Tony:

Tony talks about his second place finish at Sonoma Raceway. (Photo Credit: Amy K. Marbach)

Because of where I was standing in the media center to take pictures during his post race, Tony had to walk right past me to leave the room. I have a HUGE regret of not patting his arm as he walked by and saying “Great race Tony.”  So yeah, trust me, that saying is true…you definitely regret what you didn’t do more than what you did do.

I have uploaded my BEST pictures from Sonoma To both a Flickr set and a Facebook photo album for those interested.

Notes about Sonoma:

1. It was heartbreaking to see Jeff Gordon foiled AGAIN by bad luck (running out of gas right before his pit stop).  He did recover well- but after running so strong and leading laps- it still had to be heartbreaking.

2. Speaking of Jeff Gordon- thanks to Misty’s interview with him I can now identify what a transmission looks like without the car wrapped around it, as Jeff’s transmission passed me in the narrow hallway of the transporter on Friday! I then spent much of my time in the garage playing “spot the transmission.”

3. After Tony’s post race media- he and Kurt Busch spent a couple minutes talking to each other and congratulating each other on their races at Sonoma.  Unfortunately because Tony is kind of a low talker I couldn’t hear most of what was being said but it was very friendly and congratulatory.

4. Don’t you want all the fixings for an awesome summer tailgate party including the grill, tools, and fixings? Then enter our How Do You Take Your Race Day To The MAX contest now!

Next Race? Night racing in Kentucky!

Now the torturous wait for Fall Phoenix, sigh.

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