Welcome to Rookie Stripes, the interns’ view of a NASCAR weekend at Pocono Raceway
Rookie Stripes: Phillip
I’m sitting here, three days after the 5-Hour ENERGY® 500 weekend, still in awe of what I witnessed. This past weekend was my very first experience around a NASCAR event. And, I have to say, I am sold. The atmosphere the entire weekend was more intense than I imagined. I knew NASCAR fans were passionate, but from what I saw this weekend, I really underestimated you guys!
I have the fortunate opportunity of being an Intern here at Pocono Raceway for the summer. I have been a part of some big time events, but nothing compares to what I witnessed this past race week. The planning and collaboration that goes on during the weeks prior to the race is unbelievable. It hits me every now and then, when I’m in meetings, just how lucky I am to be a member of the team that puts on this huge event.
With this being my first experience around NASCAR, I was very excited to see what all the hype was about. I was greeted very quickly with just how exciting my weekend was going to be. On Friday, Donnie (Intern #2) and I were taking a break and eating lunch. Being interns, we were trying to stay out of the way of the people that looked important. As we were just finishing up, in walks none other than “Five-Time” himself, Jimmie Johnson. That was pretty wild. But it gets better!
On Sunday, we organized and executed the scavenger hunt. We were giving fans the opportunity to compete against one another for a chance at ticket upgrades. We planned this scavenger hunt for three weeks, and the top-ten finishers completed the hunt in 15 minutes. Now, that’s getting it done for ticket upgrades! The scavenger hunt was also a great way for Donnie and I to meet race fans that follow Pocono Raceway on Facebook and Twitter. It was great to hear their racing stories. When I told them it was my first time at a race, they couldn’t believe it!
One of my favorite parts of the weekend was the pre-race festivities and the start of the race. Seeing the National Anthem being played and Jason Lee telling the drivers to “Start their Engines” up close was a once in a lifetime opportunity. Thinking that was pretty cool, it got even better once the race started. I cannot describe the feeling I had when the drivers were given the green flag. It was one of the most intense experiences I have ever had.
To cap off what was an already amazing weekend, Donnie and I were given the task of passing hats out during the infamous “hat dance.” We were instructed to pass out the 5-Hour ENERGY® and Pocono Raceway hats. Once the race was over, and Jeff Gordon made his way over to Victory Circle, we were passing out all of these hats to his pit crew. It was crazy! Jeff Gordon was probably five feet away from me while he was doing his post-race interview!
Having been a part of such an amazing weekend, it is safe to say, I am now a NASCAR fan. There is just so much energy, passion and excitement surrounding the sport. I am very honored and appreciative to be a part of this great Pocono Raceway staff. The best part about all of this, I get to do it again in August!
Rookie Stripes: Donnie
Ever wonder what it would be like to watch a NASCAR race from somewhere other than a fan’s perspective? I was able to get an inside look at everything that goes on before, during and after a race. I never understood just how much work goes into an event that only lasts a few hours each day. It was incredible to witness and something that I am fortunate enough to be a part of.
As an intern, I expected to see things that a fan normally wouldn’t be able to see, but I had no idea that I would see as much as I did. I was given three credentials that had to be worn at all times. I had an all-access credential, pits and garage pass and a Victory Circle pass. These passes allowed me to do all sorts of things. I witnessed drivers giving interviews and got to tour the garage a few times during practice. I was able to watch the race from an RV that was right next to Victory Circle, which was gave me an incredible view of the start/finish line. I was also allowed to stand in Victory Circle to watch Driver Introductions, as well as, hand out the hats to Jeff Gordon’s team after they won the race. These were things that didn’t really sink in until after the race was over and I was at home. It’s really surreal to me.
It was amazing how at the start of the week there was hardly anything at the raceway. As the week progressed, things got pretty hectic. I’ve never seen a place transform from a few people here to over 90,000 diehard fans cheering on their favorite driver. To sum up how fast the entire week went for me, I felt like if I blinked, I would’ve missed the entire weekend.
Sunday was a big deal for the other intern, Phil, and I as we helped host the scavenger hunt. It was our project to work on for this race. The scavenger hunt went really well, but I was amazed that it was over so quickly after all that work we put into it. It made me realize that the same could be said about the race weekend. Every worker at the track puts so much time and effort into the race and it’s gone before you know it.
Overall, my first NASCAR experience at Pocono Raceway was one that I will never forget. I was able to see a lot of different things and I have a better understanding of what goes into producing a major sporting event. I look forward to the race in August, but until, then there is a lot of work to do!