NASCAR at Watkins Glen
Months ago, Jeff Weil at Arai mentioned that there might be an opportunity this year for me to attend a NASCAR Nationwide and Sprint Cup event with him. This weekend it all came together with a trip to Watkins Glen as the guest of Justin Allgaier #31 in the BRANDT Chevrolet Impala for Turner Motoorsports who is also an Arai Americas driver. It was an amazing experience and I don’t even know where to start in describing it. Friday I spent the day in Justin’s tiny garage area. I was stunned by how little space they are given to work on the cars. We were constantly tripping over Paul Menard's crew pitted next to them and vice versa as everyone struggled on what set up to use as it was pouring rain for practice, but the weather for qualifying and race day looked clear. He was satisfied with an 8th place start because he is typically better on ovals than on road courses.
Saturday we got to sit in Justin’s pit box to watch the Sprint cars qualify and then watch the Nationwide race. I even got to go on pit lane and stand with Justin prior to the singing of the national anthems! Watching the race from the pit area was an eye opener. Oddly, we ended up watching it on the TV screens mounted on the pit box as you can’t see a lot from pit lane.
While at the Glen, I also chatted with Ron Fellows for a while until he was dragged away by an official who was taking issue with his racing gloves as they had outside seaming instead of inside. Apparently this happens to him a lot! Later I saw him on pit lane and I did find out that his gloves were deemed legal – again.
A highlight of the trip was Jeff arranging an introduction to Juan Pablo Montoya who also is an Arai driver. I have followed his career since Formula 1 and it was so cool to finally meet him and have a chance to talk to him about racing while hanging out in his hauler along with Jamie McMurray. Later that afternoon Juan set a track record and was on pole for the race the next day – I think it had something to do with the cake with massive amounts of blue icing on it that he and his crew were eating in the hauler! It should be noted that Jamie wasn’t eating the cake and he qualified only 10th.
Attending a Nationwide/NASCAR race was an amazing, unforgettable experience since before I had only attended open-wheel races. It was a completely different atmosphere and a different fan experience as the town embraces its racing heritage like nothing I’ve seen before.