(Editor’s Note: Yesterday longtime BadGroove reader Kevin M. Boots shared his experience at Watkins Glen on Friday and Saturday. As promised yesterday here is the conclusion- all about Sunday. Again I just want to thank Kevin for sharing his experiences and his pictures from the track at Watkins Glen! – Amy)
Sunday, I drove up to the track earlier than I did Saturday. I didn’t park in the infield. I drove to my usually spot near Gate 5. I took my little secret route, “the back way” to the track. There is never any traffic on this road, there is never any traffic getting to this road after you get off the hill. There is a barn on a 90 degree corner along this back way in that says “Bat Cave this way” It makes me laugh every time I see it.
I got out of my car and right away I was glad I did. My nephew spotted me. Talked with him and his family for a bit and walked through the gate with them. We parted ways as they went over the Pedestrian Bridge to the infield and I stepped out on the track. I was on the part of the track where Tony spun later and where Brad and Marcos slid on that last lap- right after turn 11 and right before the bridge. I walked to the inside and down towards pit road. It was mostly media right now, taking laps in the pace cars. As I walked up Jeff Gluck got out after his trip around. I introduced myself and we chatted for a bit. He was nice. We talked about how bad Indy had gotten and a few other things. I almost got a ride in the pace car but alas, I did not. I walked down pit road and was not harassed about staying behind the yellow line. I even took a minute to indulge in my little hobby photo of the day right there at the start/finish line. I took pictures of the pit signs hang in and war wagons being prepared for battle. As I walk back behind the pit wall and war wagons I felt normal for the first time doing this. I stopped and shook the hands of several US service men. I thanked them for defending our country and told them I hope they enjoy the race.
I headed for the garage area. I took pictures of the cars going through their final inspection and final prep work. I did the loop around and came back to the #14 stall. I watched them work on the #14. All this time I was tweeting as well. I was finally let out of “Tweet Photo Lock Down” and wanted to share what I was seeing.
I headed over to the media center again and that out of place feeling returned. It was getting close to Tweet up time so I headed to Victory Lane for the meet-up.
Victory Lane is behind the Media Center. People had already started to gather and Jeff Gluck was there. The crowd was good sized and that was important. Elmira, NY had been hit by and EF1 Tornado in July and WGI’s President, Michael Printup (@theglenprez on Twitter) had said he and WGI would donate $10 for every person who showed up. Bob Pockrass showed up and so did Brian Vickers. Everyone had fun and people took photos of themselves in Victory Lane. With the tweet up over I headed back out to my car to get something to drink and eat.
When I got to my car I struck up a conversation with a family. They had come from Iowa to see the race. We talked about Indy and how Chicagoland won’t let you take anything in and how Pocono had had some great races and the disaster at Kentucky and how they hoped Iowa Speedway wouldn’t mess up if they got Sprint Cup race. It was great chatting with them. One of them gave me a complement as I headed back in, “I could tell after talking to you for the first minute you are a NASCAR fan and not some media type who had to come cover the race.” I laughed and thanked him.
I headed back in because it was getting close to the start by now. Went to the upper deck overlooking Victory lane and waited. Saw the Color Guard practice and then saw something very cool. Two Boy Scouts had earned their Eagle Scout and WGI let them hold the ceremony in Victory Lane. I learned later that the new Eagle Scouts also helped with the large American flag during pre-race. Driver started to come out of the Motor Coach area and head to Driver intros. I think I saw almost every one.
The pre-race and great. A C-130 did the fly over and then Green, Green, Green! I’m sure most of you watched the race on TV, so I am not going to bore you with details. I saw the start and parks do their thing. I saw Jaime McMurray’s wrecked car come into the Garage. I took a picture of Kurt Busch’s #51 missing a wheel and Denny’s chargrilled #11.
Tony had worked his way through a drive through penalty up to second. I was pumped. Keselowski and Smoke were racing for first. How perfect would it be to be in Victory Lane with Tony Stewart? Wait! What? Is that Smoke at the entrance of Pit Road? OH NO! Not Stewart! My heart sunk.
I had been texting Amy to get updates about what was going on since someone forgot to pack his scanner. “Who wrecked him,” I asked. “He wrecked himself,” was her reply. I’ll be honest, I really wanted to leave. Yeah, there was still a race going on and I was having one of the best race experiences I have ever had but it just took the wind out of my sails when my driver wrecked. We joked about how maybe this would be an epic comeback victory in a wrecked car. It didn’t happen.
I stayed and watch what I could of the race unfold. White flag, you’ve all saw what happened, an epic battle back to the finish line that will be played for all of time. Here is what I experienced. White flag dropped for Kyle Busch, he had a good lead on the front stretch and then they went out of view. They crowd gasped then cheered. The crowd cheered, the crowd screamed, they gasped. I heard the engines coming back around. Saw the #9 and #2 but no #18. The #9 had the lead and got to the checkers first. Every one cheered. He came back around and got out at the start/finish got the flag did a great burn out and another. Then he rolled up to Victory Lane. Brad Keselowski came and congratulated him along with Edwards and Almirola. Jack Roush and then the King himself. It was awesome to see close up. The hat dance was nearly over and I went down to the room where they were interviewing Keselowski just in time to hear this. “This is what I think racing in NASCAR is supposed to be, hard-nosed, going for the win, bumping and rubbing without any of that intentional wrecking nonsense. Marcos gets that.”
I had saw a little of that last lap on a TV in the Media Center but I still had no idea what really happened. In fact, I didn’t know what really happen until about 9:00PM that night. You could feel the excitement in the air as I walked to my car after the race. My friends from Iowa told me about the last lap. I needed to see it. I waited a bit for traffic to lessen a bit in the parking lot which is always the worst. Headed down the hill and went the opposite direction of traffic. Headed out my back way and was home within 40 minutes. I started to go through stuff and like I said it was 9:00PM before I got to see the whole final 3 laps unfold. My word was that awesome. I just hope Bruton Smith doesn’t get any crazy ideas about oil and Bristol.
I’ll always remember this weekend as the weekend I got to live out a bit of a dream. I really owe WGI a lot of thanks for having me. They had signs all over the track that said “The fans are always 1ST” and they mean it. They go out of their way to make sure you enjoy your race weekend there. So I hope you all enjoyed me sharing this with you all.
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