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Welcome to Indianapolis Motor Speedway! July 22, 2009

Posted by claireblang in 2009 Season, Trackside.
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INDIANAPOLIS - MAY 23:  An Indianapolis Motor ...
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I’m one of the first to arrive for broadcast coverage of this weekends Brickyard race at IMS as I’ve been in the Midwest since Chicagoland. I’ll be on the air tonight on Sirius NASCAR Radio in the Safety Clean Suite in Gasoline Alley from 7-10 EST tonight (Wednesday, July 22). There’s something special about being on the air late at night before or after the races at tracks all across the country. It’s when the memories of past races circle around the track like the warm breeze and with every clang of a flag pole, or grounds keepers moving through the night working on the infield, even the stillness creates an aura of spectacular battles in year’s gone by. At some tracks, with a long-rich history the feeling of being at a track when the track is empty of fans and competitors and is often times dark except for the track lights is overwhelming. I can almost feel the races of years gone by come alive in the sounds of the wind at an empty track that awaits fans. It’s really something special each week.

Broadcast Schedule for “Dialed In” with Claire B Lang:

Wednesday, July 22
“Dialed In”- 7-10 EST from IMS

Thursday, July 23
“Dialed In” 7-10 EST from IMS

Friday, July 24
“Dialed In” 7-7:30 p.m. EST from IMS
Leading into the start of the AAA Insurance 200 Camping World Truck Series Race at O’Reilly Raceway Park

Saturday, July 25
“Dialed In” 3-6 p.m. EST from IMS

Sunday July 26
10-12 p.m. EST CBL in the booth for the SIRIUS NASCAR Radio Pre Race Show
CBL in Victory Lane post race for the SIRIUS NASCAR Radio Post Race Show
“Dialed In” after the Sirius NASCAR Radio Post Race Show until 10 p.m. EST

Indianapolis Motor Speedway
How Crucial Is This Weekend’s Race in NASCAR’s Big Picture?

As we head into this race weekend at Indianapolis motor speedway there’s a good question to ask the race fans. How important to you think this particular race in NASCAR’s big picture? NASCAR has always said that this sport is bigger than any one driver. Certainly history has proved that to be true over the years. That given, then the sport is much bigger than any one particular track. Some say that NASCAR can say that but they don’t believe it to be true. As always with NASCAR fans there are two sides to the issue depending on where you live, and what glasses you are seeing things through.

It would be safe to say that some bloggers and columnists are acting like the NASCAR world will fall apart if there are any issues at Indy this weekend because, well Indianapolis is sacred ground. I interview drivers all the time and in their minds, this track is special. But the question is not how special the track is — it’s – it’s how crucial is this race?

NASCAR did not have a huge Midwest presence before Indy. Before there was a Kansas or Chicago race … there was Indy. The Brickyard is unique and it’s not just like every race.

Stock cars racing at the home of open wheel racing gave NASCAR some form of legitimacy within open wheel ranks and the legions of casual race fans that understood the history of racing at Indy.

Jeff Gordon should know – he’s both a student of the sport, a team owner and has a rich history himself at Indianapolis.

Ask Gordon what the damage was, when last year’s race was ruined by tire issues….. whether the damage can be overcome and does NASCAR still need to be at that racetrack? Here’s how Gordon responds

Gordon on Indy repairing the issues from last year:

JEFF GORDON: Well, I mean, I’m certainly biased because, you know, as a kid growing up, I always dreamed about racing at Indy and thought those dreams had gone away when I was moving down south and starting my NASCAR career.

I love the fact that the Brickyard 400 happens every August or July. And it’s just a spectacular event.

I think it’s. I don’t know the financials and everything that go along with Indianapolis Motor Speedway. But, you know, to have two successful races there a year, I think, seems to make more sense than just one. But, you know, the history of the Indianapolis 500 has kept that place alive and doing so well for so many years that maybe it can sustain just one race. And I think that certainly had a lot to do with prestige and history of not only that event but as to the meaning of the Brickyard 400 when it came along.

Since then, you’ve had to Formula 1 race and now MotoGP. So there’s certainly decisions that go beyond my capabilities and depth, but I think it’s an important race. I think that you’re going to see us come out of what happened last year with the tires, you’re going to see a whole different type of race. And the issues with tires are not going to be from wearing them down to cords in eight or ten laps like last year. I’m very confident in the tires. I did the last test there and was very pleased.

So I think certainly a lot of damage was done. It might not take one race. It might take more than one race. I hope it happens and we get a chance for that to happen because the fans are supporting the event and, you know, knowing it could take more than one race to repair that. But I believe it can happen.

Q. Following up on that, Jeff, the reports are that ticket sales are pretty sluggish for Sunday. I’m sure some of that is due to the economic downturn, but I’m sure some of it is due to fans staying away because of last year’s race. I don’t think anybody would question that you guys and Goodyear have done a lot of work to try to fix the problem. Do you think the problem was remedied a little bit too late and it was only a month ago you guys declared it had been solved? Do you think there might be a little bit of lag time for fans to sort of react to realizing that, hey, this race may not be that bad and we should get tickets?

JEFF GORDON: I think some of that will build as we get closer to the race. We have seen a lot of that this year in general with the economy. I think, you know, a lot of fans are waiting it out for it could be a number of reasons. It could be their own finance issues that they’re dealing with, like so many others, basically everybody that’s dealing with something with the economy and holding off on that. It could be, you know, waiting for less expensive ticket prices and seeing if that happens later leading up to the race.

And I think, also, with Indianapolis, it’s a lot of it is what happened last year. So it might that’s why I say it might take a couple of races, at least one I’m hoping, to really kind of win back those fans that were very disappointed. And they should have been. I think we were all pretty disappointed in what happened there.

But we all had to come together to work it out, and I think Goodyear took the brunt of it. And it is not just all their responsibility. I mean, those tires were wearing out for a number of reasons and, yet, they took it and ran with it. And it took a long time, I think a lot longer to figure out what tire and what compound was going to work there.

But it took longer than I think they expected, all of us did, but they did get it. That’s what I’m happy about, is that they have found it.

Q. when Formula 1 had its tire debacle a few years ago, everybody sort of returned from that series very contrite. When they were at Indy next year, the drivers went out of their way to do autograph sessions. I know Michelin did a lot, too. Does NASCAR have a responsibility, drivers, series and sponsors as a whole, to maybe welcome Indy back into the fold this year and try to do more to reach out?

JEFF GORDON: Absolutely. Absolutely. I feel like, you know, we already have a series that’s built around that. We do so much for the fans, whether it be autograph sessions and different types of meets and greets at the track or away from the track during the week for our sponsors.

I mean, I don’t think any sport is more accessible than ours is. I think just this year in general the economy the way it is and really trying to show our appreciation for how much we do appreciate our fans and how loyal they are and avid they are and we are still getting great crowds.

Kyle Busch represents the younger drivers –and his thoughts on Indy include having watched Gordon master the rack:

Q: Do you remember when you first heard the words Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Indy 500, Brickyard 400? Kyle Busch: “Probably the first time I knew of Indianapolis Motor Speedway, or the Indy 500, was back in the ’80s – probably ’89, maybe even 1990. Of course, the first time I knew of the Brickyard 400 was ’94, being a big Jeff Gordon fan and following him growing up in Las Vegas. When he came into the sport a few years earlier and won the Coca-Cola 600, and then carried that into the Brickyard 400, and then won that race right off the bat, that was quite an accomplishment, for sure.”
Is the Indianapolis Motor Speedway a difficult track to master? Do you personally like driving there? Kyle Busch: “It’s a very difficult track to master. I’m not even sure that I’ve done it. Just racing the races that I’ve run there, I’ve finished well a couple of times. I think I’ve had a seventh and a 10th, and a fourth. To me, it has been one of those racetracks that is very unforgiving. It’s narrow, tight, not a lot of passing goes on there. It’s tough to get your car set up perfectly there, so you have to do what you can to make it the best you can. All four corners being so different, remembering exactly how to drive all four of them, and just trying to be able to be able to qualify up front and to race up front is so important there.”
What is it about Indianapolis Motor Speedway that makes it unique compared to other tracks that the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series visits? Kyle Busch: “It’s very tight down the straightaways. You roll through (turn) one and (turn) two, and there are people on the inside, there are people on the outside, there are people in the grass, just sitting along the back straightaway on the inside. You’ve got the golf course there, and fans sitting on the hills underneath the trees. You start back up into turn three, with the grandstands going around (turn) three and (turn) four, and then down the frontstretch and, again, there are two tunnels. There’s a tunnel at the (turns) one and two side, and on the (turns) three and four side. There’s a center road that runs all the way through, and then coming down the frontstretch again, looking on both sides of you, you’ve got the pit road, which is really narrow and really tight, and the grandstands on the inside and the outside, so you’re going down a V of just people – a sea of people. Coming to the Pagoda and the media center, the way it is, and of course the scoring pylon being as tall as it is, you come down there and, if you’re leading the race, sometimes you can’t see that high, so you’re kind of wondering who is second and third, or who is behind you. It stinks when you’re running in the back because you can see yourself right there.”

——————

So how important is Indianapolis and the Brickyard race to NASCAR? The Midwest is suffering the downturn in the economy as much as any part of the country. Attendance will be affected.

Do you really think that with all the testing at Indy that fans will stay away because of last year or do you think that they will go if they want to see stock cars at Indy the one time of year that stock car racing visits the prestigious IMS.

Isn’t it possible also that fans will go to the race, even after last year’s mess to see what unfolds…to find out whether there will be more drama? We’ll see walkups – and like every track attendance will depend on the weather.

I think that Indianapolis is a key race, that stock cars racing at Indy gave NASCAR a bump in prestige and that this is an important race. Drivers feel that this one is special – because they love racing where Indy Car racing laid down so much rich history.

But how important in the scheme of a 36 race schedule – when compared to tracks in other venues? Especially now that open wheel racing has had its challenges and is smaller than it used to be.

I say that in this economy every single race is important, extremely important competition is on the line here and must be presented at the level of a national sport – at every track, every race, every venue.

That’s a question for the fans to answer. The ones who buy the tickets.

And remember – I love Indianapolis Motor Speedway as much as anyone.

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On Wisconsin! July 15, 2009

Posted by claireblang in 2009 Season, Drivers, Sponsors.
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Shot by The Daredevil at Daytona during Speedw...
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The Chicagoland, Madison, Green Bay, Indy Tour!

I’m taking a few days off in Wisconsin – as my sister is getting married in Green Bay this coming weekend. There’s a flurry of activity here – but it won’t involve the radio. For the first time since I can remember I am not doing “Dialed In” and will be off Wed., Thurs, and Friday of this week.

I am headed to Indy early and staying in the Midwest since Chicago so I will return to “Dialed In” next Wednesday, LIVE from Indianapolis Motor Speedway. I always love covering the Brickyard – it’s something special so I’m looking forward to that. Right now though being spoiled by my mom and having meals made for me instead of coming home from a trip to an empty refrigerator. Can we ever get enough of our mom’s home cooking?

The weather is so beautiful here – and it’s great for the soul to be home after so much traveling. I’ll tell you all about the wedding when I return…it’s turned into a huge affair with family and friends I haven’t seen for years and I’m so lucky that out of the blue, not knowing the race schedule, my sister picked an off weekend for her wedding, which makes it easier for my schedule. (IE: No leaving the reception to check out the race on TV lol) My sister has invited some of my friends from high school and so I’ll get to see friends that I have not seen in forever. I’m looking forward to it.

Enjoy the weekend and I’ll catch you Wednesday 7-10 EST from Indy on the Midwestern tour!

Claire B

RACING NOTES:

Danica Patrick

I still think that Danica Patrick is not coming to NASCAR. We’ll see her show up here and there. It will rouse suspicion and plant seeds but in the end, I think she knows what it would take to move into NASCAR and it’s a gamble for her. Almost everyone who knows the sport says that it would require starting out in the Nationwide or Truck series for a while….and I just don’t see her doing this at this stage of her career after what she’s accomplished in open wheel. However, stranger things have happened and it’s weird economic times in both NASCAR and Indycar. She’s a smart cookie. She knows what it would take. I know she visited Stewart Haas racing for a tour, something that was NOT kept hush hush. If she was thinking about it seriously don’t you think that it would have been a closed door visit – kept secret? I think she’s in the mix and wants to be just that- it’s smart for her at this stage-but as far as actually moving into NASCAR. I do not see it. Unless she gets an offer that she can’t refuse.

I like Danica. I went to Chicago to interview her when she announced her “Go Daddy.com” Indycar sponsorship. She was really a lot of fun and I asked her all the tough questions, like was she really the ice princess that some said she was. She laughed and the interview was easy, as she answered everything I threw her way openly and fairly. She was actually very easy to hang out with. I met her mom and dad and husband and interviewed her folks as well. She’s really a pretty amazing woman. She knows what she wants and she is not afraid to go for it – for that she gets the reputation for being cold. I didn’t see her that way. I still don’t think she’s coming to NASCAR but whatever she chooses she’s talented and extremely marketable and whatever she decides to do she’ll be front and center.

Brad Keselowski Full Time Nationwide:

Brad K. would rather race and not spend his time worrying about where he’ll go next but he’s in a good position. I talked to him about his next move at Chicagoland.

CBL: Are you still working on next year? Everyone’s watching you

Keselowski: “Yea, You know I am working on it. Don’t have any answers on it – making progress. Things look good, they look very good for me to be back driving this #88 Nationwide car full time which is just as important to me as running the Cup series. So that’s all coming together nicely, not there but it’s coming together and I’m looking forward to it.

NAPA- A Sponsor’s View of Michael Waltrip, Martin Truex Junior and NASCAR Sponsorships:

I spoke with Bob Susor, who is the president of NAPA about their continued sponsorship at MWR

CBL: What pushed you over the top as far as sticking around?

Bob Susor: “Oh I think it’s just the overall good job that Michael has done for us. The fact that he had good, what appeared to be good technical support and have been able to recruit some high quality people.”

CBL: What about selecting Martin Truex Junior…how heavily did you recruit him? Did you interview him? What was the role NAPA played in selecting him?

Bob Susor: “Well we did interview him and wanted to make certain that he had a personality that fit our customer demographic and our internal organization as well. We think he’s kind of our kind of guy. We think we’ve got the opportunity to help him develop a personal brand maybe beyond where he’s gone to this point as well.”

CBL: What makes him your kind of guy?

Bob Susor: “Very low key. Just kind of a guy next door, son of a hard working entrepreneur and that’s pretty much our customer base.”

CBL: But Michael’s not that low key.
Bob Susor: “Well Michael’s Michael. You know there’s only one Michael and we like Michael because of how shameless he can be. (laughter). They are different personalities but we think having the combination of both….of course and obviously we think there’s the opportunity for improved performance as well.”

CBL: Did you look at video tape, study driving performance records etc?

Bob Susor: “We really didn’t look at video tape. We had seen him do interviews before because when we were with DEI previously we had been exposed to him so we had a little prior exposure to him. You know the fact that he’s stayed out of trouble off the track. That’s a big plus for us as well..”

CBL:And how to you see the landscape for sponsors?

Bob Susor: “Ahhh I understand it’s pretty tough out there. For our business, it’s an ideal demographic. It kind of matches up very nicely with what we do. So I’m not certain how others are viewing it but for us we think it’s still a good investment.”

—————

I hope everyone is enjoying the post July 4th summer fun! It won’t be long before we’ll be at Indy racing the Brickyard.

I’m excited to return for the weekend to Green Bay where I have not been for so long I think I will need a road map to find my way around.

Enjoy the day!

Claire B

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Raining at Chicagoland: Weather Dampens NASCAR Again! July 10, 2009

Posted by claireblang in 2009 Season, Trackside.
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It’s raining at Chicagoland Speedway (2:25 p.m. EST) – Jet dryers are on the track but it’s iffy but possible we’ll sneak the Nationwide race in here. Everyone’s hoping that mother nature cooperates.

Here’s my broadcast schedule –

“Dialed In” – is scheduled to be on the air from 7:00-7:30 p.m. EST tonight (Friday July 10) leading up to the start of the Dollar General 300 powered by Coca Cola. If the rain halts the race or the start of the race and MRN Radio throws it back to affiliates – then “Dialed In” will be on from 7-10 p.m. EST. I’m broadcasting from the Safety Clean Trailer in the garage here at Chicagoland Speedway.

Saturday- Dialed In is on from 2:00-4:15 p.m. EST -leading up to the start of the SIRIUS NASCAR Radio pre race show at 4:15 p.m EST. The MRN start of the Lifelock.com 400 is at 7:15 p.m. EST.

After the race I’ll be LIVE in Victory Lane and on the SIRIUS NASCAR Post Race Show until 1:00 a.m. EST.

More coming from the media center as it happens.

Next Week’s Schedule:

My sister is getting married in Green Bay Wisconsin on the off weekend between Chicagoland and Indy races. “Dialed In” will be off next Wed, Thurs, and Friday so that I can attend the Wedding. I will be LIVE from Indy on Wednesday, July 23rd

I’ll be back with more during the rain delay and practice.

Still raining here at Chicagoland.

Claire B

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Happy 4th of July – God Bless Our Troops: July 4, 2009

Posted by claireblang in 2009 Season, Trackside.
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Looking across the Daytona International Speedway
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Broadcast Schedule:

“Dialed in”— 2-4:15 p.m. EST today
Sirius NASCAR Radio Pre Race Show 4:15 p.m. EST
POST Race: LIVE in Victory Lane immediately following the race

Happy 4th of July – God Bless Our Troops:

Since I travel a great deal I seem to spend nearly every other day either getting on or getting off of a shuttle at an airport.

So I’m getting on the shuttle at the airport at Charlotte and we were all wedged in the bus like sardines. As the bus pulled to a stop a young man began to literally unload the bags off the buss for several of us who were without help. We sure did not expect, nor ask for the assistance. “You are so kind,” I said to him, as I had a huge broadcast box a rolling bag and suitcase which would have required three trips off the shuttle and some massive lugging. “You must have been brought up by great parents,” I said to the man. “Thank you so much.”

“Ma’am,” he said, “I’m a US soldier,” he said. “I’ve learned a lot since I’ve been in.” I stopped, looked the young man in the eyes and said “Well God Bless you.” I was stopped in my tracks by his kindness and pride.

Today we stop and we thank the patriots, and young men and women who are the cream of the crop and who today, are representing us and keeping us secure around the world, or in past conflicts.

I won’t forget that young man. It sticks in my mind. I hope God keeps him safe.

Happy 4th of July!

Race Day- Daytona
Blog Thoughts – Daytona Site of Major Story Lines Over the Years

Daytona International Speedway has been the site of so many story lines over the years. Set up your computer, microphone, broadcast unit or photographers at DIS for NASCAR events and you’re sure to have cars that don’t pass inspection, penalties issued, “big one” crashes, comments from the sports owners that send reporters running to feed, a few celebrities and plenty to talk about. Think about all the major story lines that have broken while we’ve been here covering stories at Daytona. The list is long.

This weekend we’ve been on the Jeremy Mayfield watch. We’ve all heard that he’s coming to the race track – that he’ll make an appearance but we’ve not seen him. Perhaps today – and if he shows – it’s sure to be the story of the day pre race.

Here are some comments from drivers here in the garage and media center at Daytona to tune you up for the running of today’s Coke Zero 400 Sprint Cup Series race:

To Kyle Busch:

Was the bottom lane the place to be tonight (after Nationwide race)? “It was and I expected it to be that way tonight. The inside lane I figured was going to be the way to go because these cars are wide open the whole time almost. I think tomorrow it will be the top. The outside lane carrying the momentum is definitely going to be the better lane.”

To Jeff Gordon:

How is the rubber that the Grand AM cars are going to put down on the track before your race tomorrow night going to affect the race?
“I haven’t really thought about it a lot to be honest with you. It’s a good question but we won’t know until tomorrow. You know this track is always pretty hot and slick and those guys run pretty much around the bottom and I don’t know, I don’t think they are going to lay a ton of rubber down. So, I don’t think it’s going to be a big issue but we’ll find out once we get out there. You know this place is kind of strange for putting rubber down on the track anyway it’s not like most tracks because the radius of the corners is so big and its fairly abrasive and what wears tires, I can’t really say that it lays a lot of rubber down and if it does, it won’t take us long to get the Goodyear rubber laid in there.”

To Juan Pablo Montoya:

DO YOU BRING THE MENTALITY OF LOOKING AT POINTS FROM FORMULA ONE?: “Point are important in every series. A lot of guys that you get in here are guys that are winning races. When you’re winning races then you can have a bad weekend. If you finish first in one and 30th in another one then it averages out to like 12th or something with the points. It’s not bad, but when you’re finishing 10th and you have a 30th then it goes to 18th or something like that. It really hurts it. If our good weekends were to be a little bit better then it would be a lot easier. Then you can say, ‘I’m going for wins,’ but we’re not.”

To Greg Biffle ( who will have to start tonight’s race from the back because he will be in a back-up car that didn’t complete a lap during Thursday’s practice sessions. Biffle’s primary car was wrecked very late in the second practice session)

Since the car hasn’t made a lap yet, when the race starts what’s on your mental check list of things to check on the car right off the bat:
“Really, in the old days, it used to be tire rubs. Do you smell smoke? Nowadays, with the bodies being templated all the same and the suspension and all that, that kind of stuff is out of the question. So, really, as long as everything feels right – and these cars, we’ve been doing this so long, we unload cars all the time, they’re brand-new, and test all day, like at Indy. We unloaded the car, tested all day and then put it back on the truck, and we had no issues. So, I feel confident. And, really, the cars are brand new and have never turned a lap at every race we bring them to – because all of the parts come off of them, and they’re all put back on, and engines and everything else. So, technically, they’re all brand new every time we unload them for the day. But, yeah, we have little issues we have to fix. Here, we won’t have that issue. But, we have a big race track, two and a half miles, so you can do a lot of stuff under caution, as long as it’s not major. If you have little issues you need to fix or address or work on, here you have plenty of time. Track position, here, is not that important until the fifth hour.”

So the only benefit lost by starting in the back is not knowing right away how the car reacts in traffic? “Yes. Yes, that would’ve been nice for this not to rain out, we qualify in the top 20, we start there and then we could’ve gotten a feel for it right out of the gate. But, there’s a part of me that doesn’t mid starting in the back so I can figure it out on my own and then start working through traffic – because, inevitably, sometime during the night, you’ve lost some track position, you got out of line and get shuffled out and end up 30th, you get back in there and race your way back to 10th. So, you’re back and forth anyway. So, really, it’s a non-issue.”

To Tony Stewart:

HOW WILL THE NEW DOUBLE-FILE RE-START RULE AFFECT THE RACING THIS WEEKEND AT DAYTONA?
“I don’t think it will, honestly. As quick as people get shuffled forward and backward here anyway, I don’t think it matters. I think last weekend was more critical on which line you were in. But I don’t think for Daytona, I don’t know that anybody is going to sit there and say well, I’m going to ride third here because I want to restart on the inside. I mean you know don’t know if you’re going to get a caution. You don’t know when it’s going to come out. Nobody’s going to plan their strategy around a caution and where they’re going to re-start with it.

“You’re not going to decide. You’re just going to try to get to the front and stay at the front. If you can do that, you’re a much better racer than I am because I can’t think that far ahead. Nobody is going to be able to plan and put themselves in those kinds of situations. You’re just going to have to take it as it comes. It’s no different than if four guys pass you on one lap, that’s where you’re at when you restart. So, nobody’s going to try to plan that and say well, I’m just going to ride third so if we have a caution and have a restart then we can do something.

To Jeff Burton:

HOW DO YOU DEAL WITH THE HEAT AT DAYTONA AT NIGHT VERSUS WHEN THE JULY RACE WAS DURING THE DAY?:
“The cars are hotter then they were then, but we have more things to help the drivers than we did then as well so they kind of counteract each other. I like the morning because I can remember leaving here race day and being home, back in Charlotte, in time to be on the lake. It was kind of fun and coming down here was always kind of like a vacation. The teams, we would practice in the morning, the garage would be closed down by one o’clock or 12 o’clock, the way I remember it. Back then the teams weren’t so big that they’re families would come down and they would rent hotels on the beach and it was just a completely different environment, it was much more relaxed than it is now. This was almost like a race and an off-weekend at the same time. We don’t really have that atmosphere anymore. The intensity has picked up so much and it’s so competitive that there’s never a relaxed moment. It was fun to race at 10 o’clock, at the same time I think the fans like the night race a lot better. Obviously, it gets cooler as the race goes on versus it used to get hotter as the race would go on. But you would be done really so it wasn’t that bad. It is hot here, but it’s just what we do.”

I’m in my hotel room getting ready for today’s race. I’d better pick it up – much to do before my show starts over in the media center. I look forward to the heat, fireworks blowout, story lines, arguments, last-minute breaking news from the garage, fireworks filled summer 4th of July event that is the Coke Zero 400…..Let’s go racing!

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