Monday, November 18, 2002


Let me start off by saying that I have just spent two days covering the Winston Cup finals. For those of you who have lives in large, metropolitan cities, the Winston Cup is the Superbowl of NASCAR. As much as NASCAR’s public relations and marketing department would like to think they’re changing their image and expanding their fan base (which they sort of *are* achieving, actually) this means rednecks. Lots of ‘em, coming in their RVs from all over the Deep South. I kid you not, I did not meet anyone from any further North than North Carolina, and really, the “North” part of “North Carolina” is just a formality.

There are three very important things I have learned over this past weekend.

#1- I learned how to find a husband in 48 hours or less, as long as your standards aren’t terribly high. I was proposed to on four separate occasions by four different men (all with mullets) who noticed that my press credentials had the words “Garage Access” stamped on them, which needless to say, meant I could go into the pit with the crew as long as it wasn’t during the race, (and six inches behind it if the race was actually taking place) and into the garage where they were prepping the car as long as the driver didn’t mind.

So, ladies- No more “baruch ata adonai, I’m gonna die alone!” :) All you have to do is contact the press office of any NASCAR speedway, request garage access, show some sort of press ID from a news-gathering organization, (doesn’t have to be your own name, right?), and walk around “NASCAR Village” (flea market of overpriced souvenirs, alcohol and demo video game kiosks) with this credential displayed. After procuring oneself a husband, you may walk directly to the tunnel that leads to the infield (this ID enables that, too) and throw oneself directly in the path of a speeding racecar, as, in my opinion, death is preferable than spending the rest of one’s with someone named Jimmy Lee (pronounced “Jimmalee” in these here parts.)


#2- Never take inanimate objects for granted. There is a opening in the fence surrounding the wall of the actual racetrack. The opening is surrounded by a “cage” of chainlink fencing material. There is an NBC camera that is controlled from a remote location right on the edge of the wall, and just enough space for one enterprising photographer to squeeze in beside it. This is a Primo Spot, and you have to get their early to claim it.

So two hours before the race began, I got there, claimed the spot and sat in my White Trash Lawn chair for two hours waiting for the green flag. (Don’t knock it- my Dad always brought a lawn chair to places like Jason’s Woods, the intensely popular, stand in line for four hours Haunted Halloween Hayride, when I was like, 10. I was always immensely mortified by this as Manda and I each usually had a friend or two with us, but about 45 minutes into the wait we were all clamoring to sit in the chair.) With nothing else to do, I started jotting down notes for things I wanted to write here.

This is what I wrote: “As I write this, I’m staked out in front of a hole in the fence near the first turn of the race. Everyone wants this spot because you don’t have to shoot through this Big, Dumb Fence. Although, this fence I’m trying to maneuver around is the only thing between me and 185 mph of Deadly Home Depot ads rocketing past my head, so perhaps I shouldn’t complain. Or call it dumb.”

In the 159th lap of the race, a car caught on fire and went careening into the cement wall about 100 yards from the hole. As for me, I was long gone, up to the very top of the stadium to shoot down on the race. But an @P photographer was standing where the car hit the wall (NOT where I was, Mom, 100 yards away), and he sustained first degree burns on his hands, chest and face. However, right before that happened, he made an awesome (in focus) photo of the NASCAR fireball hurting toward him. To his credit, he was attended to by the ER crew at the race, got his second camera body (the first one melted, but luckily it flew out of his hands AND he was able to retrieve the digital card) and went back to work. I don’t know, dude. (I just said “dude.” Hi, Luke!) That’s pretty rough, in my opinion.

The thing is, Bad Old Boss was there, editing the work of 12 @P shooters- 10 of whom flew in from all over the country, plus two of my co-workers from the summer- and since he didn’t elect to go to the hospital... Whatever. More on that uncomfortable situation in a future entry, but please allow me to say that the Hiami Merald team of four outshot the 12 @P people both days. Whee! And you know? It’s not because we’re any more talented or motivated, (I caught something crucial on the first day, partly because I was on the ball, but mostly out of pure dumb luck), because that’s just not true. I wasn’t paying much attention to the situation with them, but it sounded like the stuff they missed- the requisite “kiss the trophy” shot, for example- wasn’t because they were slacking off or blew their exposure or something, but because they didn’t have clear communication or direction as to who was doing what. I’m just sayin.’


Finally, #3- There were a lot of famous people at the race, including World Record-holding, retired race car drivers, and well, Britney Spears. At one point, I saw a crowd of security guards hustling someone out of the stands through a throng of people, so I aimed my Very Telephoto lens down from the top of the stands and shot it. Because I didn’t know, maybe it was a crazed fan, or a security breach, or maybe Elvis *is* alive, this is NASCAR, afterall. It turns out she was in the stands, and people recognized her and started pestering her for autographs. People were jumping over railings and stuff, so they hustled her away into the Big Official Building. (At this point, I’m shooting from the observation deck- that’s not really what it’s called, but you know what I mean- on top of the Big Official Building)

About an hour later, being me, I really had to go to the bathroom. So I asked the security guy blocking us mortals from the VIP building where the nearest bathroom is, and he said I could go into the VIP building and use the one on the top floor if I left my gear with him and went right in and out again. No problem.

On my way in to the ladies’ room, I see a throng of PR types (they really stand out at NASCAR- cell phones, dressed in black, cute shoes, hair all one layer) a little way down the hall. They’re talking about “how we’re glad security got her out of there, it was getting rough.” Whatever, don’t care, gotta pee.

So I’m in the bathroom, which has two stalls. I go in, blah blah blah, and just I’m about to...... um, go? Yeah. I see that the person in the other stall is wearing extremely nice shoes. Okaaaaaay. So I’m about to burst, but what if it’s Britney Spears?


Too bad. Can’t wait. As I’m washing my hands, the woman in the other stall comes out, and she is absolutely NOT Britney Spears, but she has a VIP credential, so she was one most likely of the well-heeled members of her entourage, but not the Pop Princess herself.

So... Does this mean Britney Spears *publicist* heard me pee?!?!

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