Wednesday, May 30, 2007

NASCAR - Coca Cola 600 - An Insiders View

I arrived at the race track at 11 am. Gates opened at noon for the fans and the race start time is about 5 pm. Already getting to the track you sit in traffic where the last mile took me about 15 minutes even though I had VIP parking passes. I quickly parked my car and made my way up the express elevator to the Diamond Tower Suites. I met with the team of other "concierges", medical personal, security, cleaning, catering and corporate hosts already preparing the suites for the day.

The suites and companies I worked with this year were a little different from the fall race season. I worked with a suite from Deloitte, Speedways Children's Charities, Carolinas Medical Center, Anheuser Busch, CT Communications, The Charlotte Observer Newspaper, and a suite called "The Pit Crew". Most of these are sponsors or closely connected with Lowes Motor Speedway.

I had worked with some of the "hosts" for the fall Bank of America races, so it was easier this time to anticipate issues and things they needed. Most of the suites are given "Pit Passes" so that their guests can visit the pit area prior to the race. Some of these suites will hire a guide for an "official tour".

At 4:15, one of the most interesting things happened. The army was presenting a 30 minute program that included blackhawk helicopters flying around suite level inside the stadium, army rangers rappelling into the track, and they even fired explosives from a large cannon. This was memorial day, so it was really time to reflect and honor the troops. I had met an army ranger the previous day and had a long discussion about Iraq and our exit strategy. He had served 3 tours in Iraq and really provided a different perspective than what I had grasped from reading newspapers and magazines and watching tv and youtube.

Most of this race was mixed with crashes as the heat on the track was around 140 degrees at race time and the track would be cooling down on until darkness fell. Top racers such as Jeff Gordon were eliminated early from the race. With about 50 laps to go it looked as if Tony Stewart would be wrapping up the win.

Also, at lap 50, in one of my suites was a winner of the Food Lion/Coca Cola Sweepstakes. He had been entertained all week, got a ride in the pace car prior to the race and now was heading down with a photographer, his host from Coca Cola to ride a stretch hummer to Victory Lane. I was close to tagging along as things were quiet at that point and there was plenty of room. I settled for the photographer taking my picture in the suite. (I hope to get a copy to post here).

Also during the race, there is lots of food and drinks being served from fruit plates to chicken, to cheesecake. There is also a bar in each suite with two bartenders who make sure that the food and drinks are plentiful.

At the end of the race, I was able to pick up a gift basket from the Pit Crew Suite from Cabarrus County Visitor Bureau. I also was able to bring home a giant bag of popcorn for my kids.

At the end of the night, I did have a bit of an insiders view of the track. I had the opportunity to drive my car around from Turn 2 to the corporate area near Turn 4 as I had to report in. It was interesting weaving in and out of the sea of fans leaving the race. It was only my car and the official golf carts in that area.

I did get to meet some people this week from NASCAR, Lowes Motor Speedway, Speedway Children's Charities, and