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Inside Ed's Head

Eddie's Rubbing Elbows with Helton in Phoenix!
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By Eddie Laub | 03/13/2016
Category: Inside Ed's Head
 

Sunday -
It's an absolutely gorgeous day to be at the races!  70ish degrees (it is supposed to get up to 78 later,) a slight breeze from the east, and luckily enough- a racetrack full of racecars!  Well…  full if you consider 39 racecars full.  But we won’t get into that right now.

It’s not a real great morning for the #24, #17, and #78 teams- as each had to go through tech inspection at least twice.  I saw the #17 have to through an extra two times, and the #78 will be the last car to pass inspection.  

I just saw one of the oddest things I have ever seen: a couple with stuffed and decorated pigeons attached to their hats. Extra feathers, lots of colors, and on a ball cap.  Of course, they were Junior fans…

Speaking of Junior, not sure what lap it was, but it continues to amaze me how the only thing louder than 39 roaring 700hp engines running full throttle, is the crowd when Dale Jr takes the lead.  Wow.

I watched a bit as the 31 pit crew tore down the pit box after Ryan Newman hit the wall.  They didn’t even get a pit stop in before he blew a tire- ending their day.  They had such a look of defeat among a team that had much higher hopes than this.  I wanted to go give out some hugs. 

They just announced that the reason for Paul Menard’s blown tire is the same as Ryan Newman’s- brake heat blew the tire.  This begs a question: As a car owner or crew chief, do you tell the third teammate, Austin Dillon, what has happened to the other two cars?  Do you risk scaring him by telling him to go easy on the brakes?  Or do you hope his set up is different enough to limit his risk? You know he has driven past his two wrecked teammates and seen the damage.

As for me, I’d keep my mouth shut. And move to a deserted island.  I don’t handle conflict well.

Mike Joy just announced that Austin in the #3 is running a different degree of camber than the other two team cars.  Uh huh.  Sure he is.

You can mark your calendars and call it official:  I broke my driver silence today.  Taking pictures in the garage area, I actually talked to Ryan Newman after his wreck.  I debated saying, “Hello Newman…” in my most Sienfeld-esque voice, but instead I just said- “Are you doing ok?”  He gave me a thumbs up.

To answer my earlier question about whether or not you tell Austin Dillion, the answer is you had better tell him.  Because if you don’t, Rusty Wallace will -- in a live in-car call on MRN!

After pit stops, most every team uses a leaf blower, then a broom to clean off pit road in front of their area.  The #48 team, however, uses a mini-vacuum first.  Tidiness is a high priority for that team!

Part way through the race, I got adventurous and decided to head outside of the track to see if I could get some pictures.  Understand: Phoenix has a tunnel, but you are looking at a good 30 minute walk to get outside the backstretch to a point where you can get some good pictures. They have trams to go through the tunnel, but there is still a lot of walking involved. I head out, and all is going well.  I mingle through the crowd, pass quite a few over-inebriated track guests, arrive on the backstretch, and get what I think are some pretty good shots.  With about 60 laps to go, I decide to head back to the infield for the end of the race.  I make it back to the tunnel tram with about 20 laps left in the race, and I’m pretty sure I met her.  Who, you ask?

Gertrude.  Driving an under tunnel shuttle, and working on a weekend.

I hopped into the shuttle, and got a seat.  There are 25 laps to go, and I am determined to make it back to pit road to get a great shot of the winner crossing the start finish line, so I’m in a bit of a hurry.  I’m the only one on the shuttle, and the next shuttle is in line right behind us.  And what does Gertrude do?

She pulls out her tablet and starts playing a candy crush style game.

I wait patiently, as a couple more people get on the tram, and Gertrude keeps lining up her silly little colorful gems and gleefully watching them explode...  With 18 laps left, I politely ask Gertrude, “How much longer til we leave?”

She puts her tablet down, and replies, “How about now?”

We get on our way, successfully navigate the tunnel, and I get off the tram to hear there is 8 laps left. I quickly head for pit road, get almost into position, and Kasey Kahne brings out a caution. Cool, I can relax a bit now.  I find a spot on pit wall, and get ready.  The tension is great for a race fan, because due to various pit strategies, no one knows who is going to be fast, or who is going to win when they go back to green!  No tires, 2 tires, 4 tires?  What could happen?  

What did happen was some photographer lady about falling off of pit wall and on me, making me miss the end of the race Pulitzer Prize winning shot of the closest race in Phoenix history. It was sure to be on Sportscenter, Raceday, and even my local news that never talks about NASCAR.  I hope she got something good at least.

Since I broke my driver silence today, I went all out and actually touched Mike Helton’s elbow as I guided him thru the mess of photographers in victory lane. I even said, “This way, sir.”

I’m getting so bold in my old age.  
 
Thanks again to Carol and RJO for allowing me this opportunity.  I am worn out and exhausted, but this weekend has been an absolute blast! I needed the break from real life to come work the NASCAR beat.  Thanks Carol! Thanks RJO readers!


Catch up on the rest of Eddie's weekend, and don't miss his other two reports!!


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Comments:
BNP
03/14/2016 12:03 pm (1)
Thanks for doing this. It was a very enjoyable read.
Carol
03/15/2016 5:54 am (2)
Still not sure about the stuffed pigeon hats observation with the comment, "Of course they were Junior fans."

What're you saying, Eddie? LOL

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