I have lived in Texas now for 30-plus years. I think the summers are too hot, the winters too warm, and the fall too short. But the spring in Texas is something to behold. The new green on the trees and grass, the blooming flowers everyone plants.
I have lived in Texas now for 30-plus years. I think the summers are too hot, the winters too warm, and the fall too short. But the spring in Texas is something to behold. The new green on the trees and grass, the blooming flowers everyone plants. And finally, the Nextel Cup race at Texas Motor Speedway.
That's right, NASCAR comes to town and it is a wonderful part of spring in Texas. I have the good fortune to go to this race as a photographer for Motorsport.com. I have been a race fan for most of my life, so getting to photograph NASCAR's highest level is a dream come true for this fan. Here, I'd like to try and give my fellow fans bits and pieces they don't normally get to see.
Texas Motor Speedway is a beautiful place, a fantastic facility. I hear this from other photographers and writers. It is a huge place. I mean huge! I cannot tell if it comes across on TV how big it is since I have never watched one of these races on TV. But there have been 100,000 people in the stands and it looks mostly empty.
It is hard to express what it is like to be here when there are 200,000-plus fans on their feet as the race begins. It's very hard to describe but something you never forget. Just like watching 200,000 fans stand with three fingers in the air the year Dale left us, for lap three. The place got quiet, if you can imagine that. It still brings emotions to the surface for me.
On to Thursday's events. Lots of Busch practice and qualifying as expected. What gets interesting is watching teams prepare the cars for qualifying and then how different it is for the race. I was watching a guy place a temporary skirt over the spot where they jack up the car, just covering that six- to eight-inch opening in the skirt trying to gain just that little bit of speed. I have been here for five or six years now and I have never noticed that before. What amazed me was the effort that goes into getting into the field.
TMS also had IROC practice here Thursday night. They only brought out four cars and the drivers each took laps in the cars. The drivers do not even know what car they will be in when the race begins. I knew the cars are equally prepared but it was interesting to see how they practice the cars.
It was also very enjoyable and interesting to watch the drivers interact. When they first showed up at practice, they pretty much grouped themselves by series. That ended pretty quickly for the most part. I watched Helio Castroneves, Ryan Newman, and Danny Lasoski talk and have fun after Newman's brush with the wall.
That brings up another point. Every time a car came in, all the drivers not in a car would flock to the car that just came in. They would ask the current driver questions and listen as the driver told the crew chief about how the car handled.
One last point on IROC. Jeff Hammond of the Fox broadcast team was treated to a ride-along with Jay Sauter. Not that unusual in itself, but the interesting point was that he had to sign the liability forms like all of the drivers do. It makes sense but it's something I never thought about before.
Oh well. I hope these musings entertain you and give you something you did not know before. On to Friday's work.
Editor's Note: James Spires is one of Motorsport.com's contributing photographers. Mr. Spires thought it would be fun to give our readers an inside look of what it is like to be a member of the press at an event.