When I was a little girl growing up in Long Beach, California. I remember hearing racing cars every year near the port, where my step-father worked. I once got a glance of the cars racing down the street, and feeling the excitement and to this day I can still remember the smell of exhaust and burned tires.
When the invitation to attend the NASCAR Monster Energy Cup at Phoenix International Speedway came, I was excited to attend, as this would be this Latina’s first NASCAR race. That’s right, Mi Gente. I have never been to a NASCAR race, so allow me to share my experience with you.
I was given a media pass which granted me access to Pit Road and the Garage Area. There is a lot going on here. Pit crew members move tires back and forth, racecars are inspected, drivers briefed. In other words, it’s the place to be, pre-race. Watching gives you an understanding as to why folks fall in love with the sport.
In the garage area, I was on a quest to find the Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota Camry, #19, piloted by Mexican race car driver Daniel Suárez, who just might end up as Rookie of the Year. I also had the opportunity to interview Daniel, who turns out to be very accessible and funny.
Suárez shared with me that “If you want to get into this sport, you must knock on doors and find sponsors”. Originally from Monterrey, Mexico, Suárez began his racing career karting from 2002 to 2007, where he won numerous class championships.
In 2011, Suárez participated in the Toyota All-Star Showdown, where he was the highest-placing Mexican driver. A fun fact about Daniel: He stars in Pixar’s Cars 3, where he voices the character Danny Swervez.
And to my utter surprise, I was invited to ride at 100 mph in Chevrolet’s Impala Pace Car with former NASCAR driver Brett Bodine. Bodine has been driving a pace car since 2004 and as we were nearing the century mark, he explained what the car is doing on the track. A Pace Car’s primary function is safety; under a yellow caution flag, the pace car reins in the leader with the rest of the field behind. Once any damage is removed, the race can restart. So what does it feel like inside the car? During a decidedly thrilling three-lap drive, the pace car gains speeds so quickly that you feel gravity shifting you toward the car’s outside. You’ll want to hold on for dear life, but you’ll also want to do it again.
My first NASCAR race was fun and unforgettable. I invite you to experience all that NASCAR has to offer.
Until next time,
P.S Don’t forget sharing is caring!