Wednesday, March 22, 2006

That's a wrap.

My Sebring write-up has been published at Feel free to direct any comments, criticisms, applause, or what-have-you to me directly to me. If it reads a bit rushed, it was. You'd think after nearly five years of interpreting my initials to stand for "Automotive Journalist," I'd have more of a system worked out, but I end up wingin' it every time.

For the first time, I decided "why not get a photo vest and a fire suit, and check out the pits during the race?" The results are on my photo page. (Note: A couple of the photos on Page 6 might be not-safe-for-work, but the rest ought to be just fine)

Back in high school in North Carolina, my best friend was this guy named Tim. We've kept in touch over the years, and this year I signed him on as my right-hand at the track. While we were down there, he discovered the joys of blogging and set up his own. It's a rather entertaining read, I think, and he managed to include mention of a couple of things that were left out of my article for one reason or another.

I'd like to think I'm getting better with each effort, but I'm also my own worst critic -- all I see is everything I could've said better or wanted to say, but pushed out what I could in stream of consciousness. I'm still recovering from the trip -- and I miss the smell of the orange trees surrounding the track.

I wanted to say something about the fantastic cars they had in the SVRA races -- the 100-car enduro they ran, and how great it is, in the NASCAR era, to be able to see literally dozens of different body styles from dozens of manufacturers, all on the same track.

I wanted to talk about the Speed World-Challenge series, and the new additions of the Aston Martins and Nissan Skyline... And Mike McCann's thrilling win, about an hour after I was in his pit talking shop with one of the guys. Any Viper win, is a good win.

Among the interesting conversations I had at Sebring -- I caught up with Jeff Roselli from Dodge Motorsports, and more/less cornered him (politely, yet firmly) to ask why I hadn't heard anything from them in a year. The guys at the track DO want me doing their PR, but no chance in hell of getting higher-ups to sign off on a freelance guy when it's not in the existing contract with ClearBlue -- and ClearBlue doesn't know jack shit about racing. At least, a year later, I have some sense of why it all happened -- that helps.

I do think, as time goes on, I'm getting better at certain aspects of this whole thing. I finally gave in and got myself a fire suit, so my freedom to go where I want is just that much better now - it certainly helps to be able to roam the hot pit. I'm getting better acquainted with those in and around the series, and I get the sense I've created some good relationships there. I've always wanted to represent you and AE in the best light possible, while at once keeping in mind my mission: I'm turning in the article for, but I'm writing for myself. This is what I do. This is what I'm about, from one day to the next.

My sweetie recently mentioned where I said a few years ago that I was going to make it with the writing (or something in racing) or I was gonna' die trying. Pretty sure I'm about halfway there now - though I'm not certain which direction.

Even though I had a much nicer spot to sit this year, I nevertheless got surrounded by a group of arrogant French bastards. Ah well, keeps my French sharp, I guess...

What I'm learning in this, they never teach in any school.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Back to life as we know it...

A couple thousand miles later, I'm back in MD. Actually, back in VA, at my 9-5. I'll have stories to tell, but it'll all have to wait until I get my deadline knocked-out -- that comes later today.

Just found this in my email:
Saturday, April 8th 8:30PM
Shannon McNally supports The Derek Trucks Band
9:30 Club
Washington, DC 20001
Call 202-265-0930 for more details

Shannon, on a Saturday night... Don't think I can pass that up. We'll see.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Post-race, Saturday night!

I just introduced Tim, my redneck buddy from back in high school... to Joe Cartoon.

Everybody, stand back. Please.

Wanna' know what's even worse? Earlier today, introduced him to the concept of blogging.

And all this, while he was taking in his very first American Le Mans Series race.

Homie ain't never gonna' be the same. I am a bad influence!

As for the post-race wrap-up, just sit tight. I've got a lot of writing to do, and a massive load of photos to sort through.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

At 2:45 running...

Those Audis are FAST. And quiet - I'm sitting barely 70 feet away, and I cannot hear the car as it passes by at full speed.

They also spew some rather fragrant fumes from the diesel powerplant.

The Audi R10 is Silent but Deadly.

More to come...

EDIT: During a caution-flag pit stop to change the front end of the Audi, a cat -- yes, a cat, as in meow meow, walked across pit lane. SPEED channel didn't show this, because NASCAR Busch series qualifying is more important to them. SPEED TV sucks.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Up one minute, down the next...

Whoa, I just saw Andy Hall! That probably only means anything to one person reading this, and if Mylia does remember who I'm talking about, she's sure to squeal with glee. Andy was one of the first people in ALMS to welcome me in and really help set things going. He left the series over a year ago, is doing quite a bit of other stuff these days. I think he's doing some PR work for Dodge Motorsports -- well, it's nice to know someone is doing that... Heh, that buzzard stole my job! It's good to see him back, even if he's not the go-to guy anymore. Anyone who's responsible for running a media relations office in racing, could learn a bit from watching Andy.

The network here at Sebring is in total shambles - I'm writing this offline. Some of the others in the office are having no trouble at all, but neither my iBook nor Tim's Win2k notebook can pull an IP address to save our lives. Signal strength is over 90% (should be, since we're only a few feet from the antenna) but the damn router just won't play nice. It's not just my machines, either -- fully 2/3 of the media here, ain't got no link to play with. I may have to file my dispatches to Autoextremist via carrier pigeon. Or worse, dialup.

When I checked-in yesterday morning to get my press credentials, I was handed a pair of tickets to the big Sebring Gala. First time for me. The town of Sebring holds a big bash every year, yummy buffet and open bar all night. Lots of music, right on Lake Jackson. They had the Budweiser clydesdales last night, beside the civic center. I got to chat with the clydesdales' handlers for a while, and came away with the impression that these giant animals are very well cared-for. The handlers genuinely seem tuned-in to the clydesdales and look after them in the best way possible.

As for the rest of the party? Music, booze, and... cuties everywhere. The place was just packed to the seams with hot chicks, left, right, and every which way. Tim (best friend from high school who's along for the trip as my assistant) took advantage of the free booze. I, for the most part, didn't. I might be down here to have fun, but it's also with the single-minded determination to make something out of the trip. Besides, I had to drive the 4-5 miles or so back to the track afterwards.

There's some new drink called Tilt, that takes the "let's mix some alcohol with Red Bull" idea and puts it in a can. If you like Red Bull, Tilt will get you, well, quite tilted. If you don't, well, don't bother.

I slept in the car last night. After telling myself that, no matter what, I'd have better accommodations this time around, I was left with no alternative when I got back here at 0130 than to just pass out in the driver's seat. Tim didn't fare much better.

Sebring notes, Wednesday.

The following post was written yesterday, March 15 at 1:40 PM. Before the internet connection here at the track bit the dust. It's back now, for... *zap* a few minutes...

I'm in Sebring now; got here early this morning. I've got a new assistant this time -- an old friend from high school who's never been to anything like this before. It's also the first time I've actually had a right-hand to help me out at Sebring, woo-hoo! I've got somebody to hold my drink!

For anyone who ever watches any races on SPEED, that fat shit Greg Creamer is even fatter sitting across the desk from me right now than he is on TV. I think Fox uses some kind of special lens or a trick camera to make him look thinner. The dude's a freakin' whale. With an attitude, too. Know what Oscar Wilde said about how it's unfair to be a monster without being a myth? Yes indeed.

And... I'm really tired. Drove from MD to Charlotte yesterday, which I can usually do standing on my head. Except, this was after a full day at work and some after-work nonsense to take care of. So, got up at 0600, but didn't get on the road until close to midnight -- and didn't pull up in Charlotte until 0630 the next morning. Wiped.

Got a brief nap, met up with my dad for lunch at Quaker Steak & Lube (cool place, really) for some good foodstuff, and eventually hit the highway last night around 1030 PM. Drove straight-through from Charlotte to Sebring, making only 3-4 stops for gas/restroom/tasty beverages. I expected it to take about 10 hours; it took 10:38 by my clock. Bah.

Neon finally turned over 170k. He's now due for an oil change, but it'll wait til he gets home. 10 year old econobox, still get appreciative smiles from the girls. Well done.

Dodge has a greatly increased presence here at the track this year. I wonder if they'll bother to tell anyone about it.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Warp ahead one week, Scotty...

In one week, I'll be 1000 miles away from the 9-5, (as well as the 5-12,) and all the stuff that passes for a boring existence up here. I'll be back in Sebring! This place, once you've gone there once, you really do have to keep going back. It's not Spring time, until Sebring. I didn't get it before I went, but I sure as hell get it now. Now, if only I had a small plane I could fly from here, and land at the track... (There's an airport right nextdoor, and Sebring itself is an old air base) Wouldn't that be cool?

Unfortunately, I can't take Mylia with me this time, so I'm bringing along an old friend from WAY way back in the day. In high school, this guy was the Beavis to my Butthead. We're still great friends, and the trip ought to be a blast. Tim and I haven't done a proper road trip since... Bush 41 was still in office. Damn, it's been a while. I wonder how he'll handle Friday night in the Green Park.

I'm packing my camera, though I don't know how much longer my old Elph is gonna' keep snapping. She seems to be more and more battery-hungry these days, and the expensive Li-Ion cells she takes ain't cheap. I've got one that works OK, and two cells that hold a charge when they feel like it. I'm probably gonna' get myself a new cam some day soon. Definitely staying close to the form factor of the Elph, though. Very concealable and easy to work with one hand. More optical zoom is all I really need. At least 4x would be great. I've got 2x right now.

I might not have to sleep in the Neon this time! After crashing in a very cramped car the last two Sebring trips, I'll have (hopefully) a friend there with an RV or a camper of some sort. Worst-case, I've got a tent. I think Tim's got one too. You can do lots of things in a Neon, but sleeping is not one of the things I'd recommend. My knees aged about ten years each night I slept in the car.

Anyway, I'll be posting here (and a few other places I write) so you'll get the scoop...