Tuesday, July 22, 2008

My Trip to the Coke Zero 400

Getting There
This past 4th of July weekend my dad took me down to Daytona to see the Coke Zero 400, formerly known as the Pepsi 400. We had a great time. We woke up early Saturday and left about 5 AM. that whole week i was busy getting information and maps and the schedule of events that would be taking place so we would know when and where to be.

Sprint Fanzone
In addition to tickets for the race, my dad bought us Sprint Fanzone Tickets, which were amazing. Gates for grandstands opened at 2, while the Sprint Fanzone opened at 1. We were pushed for time. For some odd reason, they had us park on the Backstretch, so once we got to the stands we had to take a tram to the Frontstretch, then go through the line for the Sprint Fanzone, and go into the "Turn 4 Tunnel." It's cool going down in there, knowing the race track is above you.

The Interviews
We walked all through the infield and finally got to the Sprint Fanzone just as they they did the interview was, only a few fans got to ask questions. There was a guy up on the stage with Kasey that was mainly asking the questions. And of course it was mostly questions the media asks him 24/7. One of the questions that was asked by a fan was did Kasey have a Dodge Challenger (Those are my favorite cars. I want one when I turn 16!!) Kasey said there was one at the shop that they gave him to drive and he liked them. Another fan asked him what some of his hobbies were. He said that during the season he likes to stay at home and go to the lake that he lives very close t were announcing, "Welcome Budweiser Racing driver Kasey Kahne!!!" If we had stopped to buy a t- shirt or something like that, we would have missed my favorite driver! It was amazing though. And yes, he is just as cute in person as he is on tv! There were alot more people in the Fanzone than I thought there would be. The wayo, and in the off season, he likes to be in the cold and go skiing and ride the snow mobile. Another fan asked Kasey if he had any heroes or favorite drivers. Everybody started yelling out names for him to pick ( Bill Elliott and others) and one guy up front yells, "YOURSELF!" Everybody started laughing and Kasey said, "No, I'm long from my favorite driver, but I would say... I grew up you know, Sprint cars and Indy Cars and Nascar, I watched every one of em and you know I kinda had my favorite driver in each one and it's tough to say, I mean the guy...ugh I don't know I don't wanna say him but...let me think...maybe Mario Andretti. Mario Andretti is probably my favorite all-time driver. What he's done and what he did and how he raced everything in dirt, pavement, Indy cars, Nascars, Sprint cars. He raced everything he could and he won in every single car he could. To me that was a great driver and probably my favorite." I'm pretty sure the driver he was referring to first, that he didn't want to say, was Jeff Gordon. I've heard him say many times that that is his favorite driver. He probably just didn't want to lose any fans. The interview didn't last very long, only about 10 minutes. He was quickly whisked away to an engineers meeting. He rode off in a golf cart and was on the opposite side, so I didn't get to touch his hand. We also saw interviews with Jeff Burton, Juan Pablo Montoya, and David Ragan.

Garage and Inspection
After Kasey's interview, we toured the garage. Of course, since it was an impound race, nothing was going on. When we got to Kasey's, there were girls everywhere. I had to squeeze in to get a picture. Fortunately, Kasey's garage window slot was open, so I got to take a good picture without the glare from the window, even though the car cover was on the car. There was Sharpie writing all over the window. "Kasey, will you marry me?, We love you, Kasey!", was cleverly written backwards, so when he was in the garage and viewing the window from the opposite side, he could read it. Those were just two of the hundreds of messages. I didn't sign it, though now I'm wishing I did. We rested a while. (It was incredibly hot!)and then went to inspection. That was one of my favorite things. one of the Nascar Officials came over and was talking to the guy next to me. He talked about his schedule, how often he was gone, what it was like to be an official, and the rules about the height and weight of the car. It was cool to get an "insider's" view on their job. Before, I had viewed officials as just handing down penalties and not really caring about the teams, but after hearing what he said, my opinion changed 100%. He was really nice. He was easy to talk to and seemed easy to get along with.

The Track
After inspection, we went to Gatorade Victory lane. I got my picture taken at the entrance to that. Then, we went to the track. We got to walk in the grass and actually go out on the track. It was indescribable. Words can't explain it. All the history that track has...to think about all the drivers who have raced there...it's just incredible. the track is so steep. VERY STEEP! The tv shows nothing. It looks flat, but it was a climb. We went to the Start/Finish line. I brought my Sharpie, so I could sign it. There were alot of people signing. It was hard to find room, but finally we did. We signed two blocks from the wall. It was cool. Knowing your signature is on the Start/Finish line at Daytona?! That's awesome! I got to see the SAFER Barrier walls. That's pretty cool seeing today's technology up close.

After that we just sat and watched the pre-race activities. Lady Antebellum performed a concert. They sounded great. I love them. Speaking of concerts, Kevin Costner performed a concert. He was pretty good. It was cool seeing an actor there. With Nascar, you get a little bit of everything, and that's what I love!

The Race
It was finally time for the race to start, and we found our seats. The racing was great. Kasey started 41st, but came back to finish 7th. Dale Jr. led for a while, and of course, most people were cheering when he took the lead. There at the end though, Kasey had some choice words for Jr. as did Kenny, Kasey's crew chief. Overall, it was a great race. Even though I would have preferred Carl Edwards to win over Kyle Busch, it was still cool to see Kyle win his 6th race of the season. This was Kyle's first Daytona win, so it was good to be a part of that history.

Even though I didn't get to meet Kasey, I did get very close to him, and I got to see him live and in person. Visiting Victory Lane, walking the track, and seeing a great race were only a few of the fun things I got to experience. It was incredible! It was definitely the best highlight of my summer!!

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