Sports Anchor, Rich Brenner and I left from the TV station headed to Charlotte at 7:30 AM. Our destination was the hotel in Charlotte that was hosting the tour so that we could follow the 3 tour buses that were filled with media from around the nation, Canada and who knows where else. Being just one market removed and an hour or so up the road from Charlotte we are super familiar with the race shop locations so we opted to just drive the tour ourselves.
The first stop on Tuesday's tour was Joe Gibbs Racing withNextel Cup Drivers Tony Stewart, Bobby Labonte and Jason Leffler.
We followed the buses to the Huntersville location and parked on the curb and joined the rest of the crowd pouring ourselves into the luxurious confines of the race teams that build these 3500 pound racing machines. Even though this complex is constructed in monsterous proportions, I felt like a sardine as we jammed into an auditorium with at least 50 other TV crews and who knows how many hundreds of Print Media and Still Photographers.
It was so tight there was no room left for me to set up and gather any video of this formal intro to the tour.
So after the Press Conference type opening ceremony to the stop, we did group interviews with Joe Gibbs, and his drivers. Gibbs talked football and racing but Stewart, Labonte, and Leffler were all about the racing and the upcoming season, which will be the Second season with NEXTEL as series sponsor.
We only had an hour to access the three drivers and the owner and a splattering of other up and coming drivers from several training divisions. The hour was almost not enough time considering the number of media representatvies clamering for an opportunity for the ideal quote and some of them taking to much time to get it.
Rich and I got out the door at Gibbs and headed to our next stop before the tour buses with the crowd could even get loaded.
35 miles north on Interstate 77 to Statesville was our destination. Evernham Motorsports occupies the building at the Statesville Airport that Bill Elliott built when he was a car owner.
On the way to the second stop we figurd we had enough of a jump on the rest of the group that we could stop for gas when we got to Statesville and we even took time to rinse the latest salty residue off the truck in the Super Duper BP Full Contact Car Wash. It did a great job! I never saw the buses pass us from our vantage point at the side of the highway Carwash, but to our surprise, the buses were parked and unloaded when we arrived at the Statesville Airport based race car factory. It seems that my shorcut through the south end of Statesville defied some time space continuum that I still haven't realized.
So again we had to squeeze in, getting in a line that mazed through the Evernham gift shop on the way to a long set of tables that contained our lunch.
The catered Lunch was a huge ass Burrito that was that best thing I have had in a long time. It was full of chicken and rice and black beans and it probably weighed a pound or more. I have got to get that recipe.
After lunch it was time for more group interviews.
The slate of Evernham drivers were of course on hand to answer all our silly questions.
Bill Elliott,Jeremy Mayfield, Kasey Kahne, and the boss of the place, Ray Evernham all stood or sat patienltly as we through out all sorts of queries about their new Dodge Charger.
An African American Driver named Tommy Lane also shared the limelight with the elite group, answering questions about his background and sharing with the media his big plans for the future. Tommy will be driving a late model at Hickory Motor Speedway for the Evernham Diversity Program.
And a young lady named Erin Crocker female that had a heck of a year in the World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series is also joining the NASCAR Diversity Program. She is the only female to ever win a race in the high speed winged sprint cars and now she will race in the Silver Crown Series in a Kasey Kahne Motorsports car, along with three Busch races and three ARCA races in an Evernham Dodge.
Just an hour after downing the super burrito and working our way from driver to driver time was up and it was time for us to leave and head back to the Charlotte Hotel.
There was a mid afternoon Q and A at the hotel with Humpy Wheeler of Lowes Motor Speedway and after that our next stop wasn't until 8 o'clock an hour up the road in Lexington. The buses were leaving at 6 but Rich and I left at 4:30 and got to the Childress Winery at 6 and joked to each other that the buses were just leaving the hotel.
We weren't going to stand in line for this one right here in our backyard!