In case you missed it, last night was the North Carolina Education Lottery 200 in Charlotte (Shark-lotte?) and I was given the official title of “Just Stay Out of The Way Guy” for the SafeAuto #60 truck team. My duties for the day included eating a ton of cookies and blueberry muffins in the SafeAuto trailer, playing games on my iPhone, and making comments about how the fast food restaurant “Bojangles” somehow sounds like an offensive name, even if I can’t decide who exactly it offends. When that got boring, I ventured over to the Sprint Cup garages in hopes of rubbing elbows with Jeff Gordon and his sideburns, but sadly I discovered that Jeff Gordon is way shorter than I anticipated, so I instead rubbed my elbows on his shoulders, which was awkward but surprisingly wasn’t as weird as it sounds.
As I’m sure many of you know, on most occasions the SafeAuto truck is driven by Stacy Compton who, if memory serves, actually owns all or part of the team. After I met him early in the day, I had NWA’s “Straight Outta Compton” stuck in my head for the next ten hours, which would be a much better problem to have if I knew more than just the first two lines of the song. Anyway, for this race, the truck was to be driven by Indian phenom Narain Karthikeyan (I called him “Narainmaker” for short), who was described to me as “the fifth most famous athlete in all of India”. I liked the strategy to go with the young, fresh, foreign guy to shake things up a little bit, if for no other reason than because it worked for Jean Girad and Team Perrie in Talledega Nights. But then again, I was the Just Stay Out of The Way Guy, so it really didn’t matter what I liked.
Before the truck race took place, the Sprint Cup guys did a series of qualifications and practices for their All-Star race tonight. Being the NASCAR fan that I am, I wanted to get close to the action so I walked around the pits and checked out the Sprint Cup garages a little bit. What immediately struck me when I left the truck garages and checked out the Sprint garages was how much more serious the Sprint garages felt. Even though their race is only an exhibition, the Sprint guys were much more focused and seemed like they paid greater attention to detail (you wouldn’t believe how much work the Rainbow Warriors put into making the flames on Jeff Gordon’s car look just right). When I say that they paid more attention to detail, what I really mean is that they used a lot more of that NASCAR terminology than the truck guys did. As much as I know about the drivers and their beefs with each other (NASCAR not only shares an audience with the WWE, but they share storylines too), I know very little about what exactly the terms these guys use actually mean. Still, it’s fascinating for me to listen to them describe how to fix their cars, mostly because I can’t help but think of how “get loose” has to be the only phrase to ever have been heard at both a NASCAR race and a Lil Jon concert.
Shortly before the truck race was set to start, I hung out in the pit area with Narainmaker, the representative from SafeAuto that I traveled with, Narainmaker’s agent, and a group of people from Starbeast Motorsports. One of the guys from Starbeast started to explain to me how their company had signed Narainmaker for something or other, but I got seriously distracted and didn’t listen to pretty much anything he said because every time he used the company name Starbeast, I heard “Arby’s” and thought of how badly I wanted a delicious roast beef sandwich.
When the race finally started, I had the opportunity to hang out in the pit area and try my hardest to not distract the pit crew (or make any lame jokes about how not being able to see most of the race cause we were so close to the track was the pits). The SafeAuto Chevrolet #60 truck (my attempt at those post-race plugs drivers do for their cars) was starting in last place due to a blown engine in practice, so I knew the team had their hands full and I also knew that there was a very small chance of me fulfilling my duty as Just Stay Out of The Way Guy. I was given a radio headset that was channeled to the same frequency as the crew chief, spotter, and Narainmaker, and I was told to not press a certain button because it would active my microphone. This was a temptation I would fight the entire night.
Despite starting in 36th position, Narainmaker worked his magic and finished on the lead lap in 17th position. It was a fun night of racing that was littered with wrecks and caution flags. Like most race fans, I always enjoy seeing exciting crashes (as long as the driver can walk away from it, obviously), but the wrecks in this race felt different because of the irony of me being at the race with an auto insurance company. I guess you could say the guys who caused the cautions just didn’t “play it safe”.
Tonight is the Sprint Cup All-Star race and while that’s cool and all, the Creed concert just a few short hours before the race has all of my attention. Yesterday I saw Jeff Gordon, I discovered that Randy Moss owns a truck team, and I saw Jeff Hardy’s name on the back of a truck. Pair my lifelong fandom of Gordon, the Minnesota Vikings, and the WWE with this upcoming Creed concert, and this weekend feels like I’m reliving 5th grade. Not that that’s a bad thing. I established myself as the coolest kid in school when I would give my brother Swanton Bombs in my Daunte Culpepper jersey while jamming out to Human Clay and watching NASCAR. Sure doing wrestling moves and jumping off my living room couch sounds pretty dangerous for a fifth grader, but I can assure you that I took necessary precautions and placed a bunch of pillows on the floor first. After all, no matter how awesome you are, you can never play it too safe.
Justin Case has got nothing on me,
Mark Titus of Club Trillion is guest-blogging his experiences with the SafeAuto team at the NASCAR All-Star Race in Charlotte