Who knew when we arrived at NASCAR Media Day on Thursday February 4 that we'd be talking to the Daytona 500 winner.
Well duh, we did! We interviewed every driver in the place and even this girl who didn't run the 500 but 2 other races and dominated headlines even more than that blasted pothole.
Our trip began with the Daytona 500 on Wednesday, February 5.
Photojournalist Kevin Wrenn, Sports Anchor Danny Harnden and I made the 530 or so mile trip from High Point to Daytona in about 8 hours.
It was another 30 minutes to our hotel in Lake Mary about 12 miles north of downtown Orlando and we made the 40 mile trip to the track almost every day of our stay.
Our job during Speedweeks leading up to the Great American Race was to produce stories for the 5, 6 and 10 o'clock news every day. And on both Fridays of our trip we produced a little more for a 15 minute NASCAR special. (links to stories at the end of blog post)
After Media Day on Thursday Friday was a near washout....we spent the day inside the Daytona 500 experience for our early Live Shots but as the daylight hours ended the Sun came out...in colorful style.
On the first Friday Night we were setting up for our 10 o'clock special in the infield near Turn 1 when Ford Pickup Truck pulled up and out hopped a NASCAR Star.
Driver of the #99 car, Carl Edwards was bored after a day where rain washed out any on track activity and he was just looking to have a little fun.
It was a treat for such a good natured guy to stop by and spend a little time jawing with us local TV peeps.
The next day was also a day of hanging with the stars...and it was a BUSY one. Qualifying, the ARCA race and the Bud Shootout all in one day, all back to back, with very little time in between each.
And of course we followed Danica Patrick's every move as she ran well in the ARCA race. It was a madhouse surrounding her, every member of the press asking that important question...."Are you gonna run the Nationwide Race next week?"
The culmination of our 4th day was the Bud Shootout.
Local driver Kevin Harvick took the honors winning for a second year in a row.
We were able to get team owner Richard Childress to appear LIVE with us on Fox 8 during our 10 o'clock news.
After we packed up for the night I drove to Titusville for a chance to catch an up close glimpse of the Space Shuttle launch that was scheduled for about 4:30 that morning. The launch was scrubbed and I slept in the Live Truck until about 9am waiting for traffic to clear.
Sunday, Monday and Tuesday were off days off at the racetrack but we still had to produce stories. Using footage we had gathered all week we produced fresh stories from unused video and interviews.
I'm guessing most people spent Sunday watching the Superbowl but I went to a dirt track to shoot a story.
The Volusia County Speedway was hosting the Dirt Nationals and local up and coming driver Austin Dillon was running there.
Austin is the grandson of NASCAR legend Richard Childress and we had a feature planned for Austin later in the week as he prepared to race in the truck series race at Daytona so I thought this was a good opportunity to get footage for that and do a feature about why racers big league NASCAR drivers like Ken Schrader, Clint Bowyer and Kenny Wallace (pictured with me) still go back and visit the short tracks.
Austin won his race Sunday night and even though Childress had tickets to the Superbowl, he spend that night in victory lane with his grandson.
Monday and Tuesday were my light duty days but I had to write and edit the Dirt Trackin' story because it aired Tuesday. Other than that I spent a lot of time watching my 15 channels of cable TV.
But on Monday night we went to the Orlando Magic NBA game. It was my first NBA game and from what I hear I saw a hell of a game. 123-117 Magic over the Hornets.
And Vince Carter scored 48 of the Magic points.
Wednesday it was back to work. The track was open and practice was on for the NASCAR teams in the Nationwide and Sprint Cup Series'.
I spent the morning at media events like this one where Dale Earnhardt Jr talked about his appearance in the Disney Cartoon "Handy Manny".
Thursday was race day. Unlike any other race of the year to get in the Daytona 500 you have to race in one of a pair of qualifying races.
Those two races dominated our story lines for the day.
Friday was another washout. We took refuge inside of a motorhome with some fans who came all the way from Michigan to spend a few months in Florida and take in the race.
We thought we were going to have a truck race that night...especially when the sun came out and the track was almost dry. But another line of showers pushed the NASCAR Truck race to Saturday.
That eased the pressure on us as we looked to the 10 o'clock NASCAR Special that we did overlooking Lake Lloyd on the Superstretch.
With the truck race pushed to Saturday we had a very BUSY DAY ahead and because the Nationwide Series races started at 1pm we had to get to the track early enought to get the pre-race activities...and be there late too.
Our planned stories Saturday were features on Danica Patrick, Chrissy Wallace in the Nationwide Series and a follow up on Austin Dillon in the Truck Race.
Chrissy Wallace wrecked out of the Nationwide Race before completing a lap. Austin Dillon did the same thing in the Truck Race. Ironic? I hope. I don't want to be a bad luck charm.
And I think we all know what happened with the GoDaddy girl.
And finally it's Sunday...Valentine's Day...Daytona 500 day.
And I didn't think we'd ever get there. First traffic backed up 31 miles from the racetrack on I-4 west of Daytona. We took a "shortcut" through a small town or two and ended up 3 miles from the track...STOPPED....for about 45 minutes before the seas parted as people turned into fan parking and we were cleared to the infield.
The only real hiccup of the week came in the form of an argument with the douchbag from one of the "Local" stations. You see, to get video from our camera in Victory Lane to our livetruck 3 city blocks away we had to connect to a patch panel in our parking area.
Apparently protocol allows "Local" stations to mark off their selected spiquots for future use. But when NONE of the remaining video cable hookups worked I hooked into ONE of the FOUR spots marked for the ONE "Local" station and since the "Local" station was not at the track ANY until SUNDAY I didn't figure it would be a big deal. Boy was I wrong.
The tech from "Local" approached me with a total lack of respect and instead of offering up a "Hey Guy, let's work this out" he proclaimed how quickly he was about to unplug me from "HIS" marked spot, that he needed ALL of them and I was just SOL. let's just say it wasn't pretty after that)
With the calming help of the local Fox truck operator I got things sorted out....and then ended up using one of "Local's" video spots anyway. (Did I mention "LOCAL" had FOUR reserved!?! Who needs FOUR cameras in Victory Lane anyway!)
Rant over...let's continue.
I shot video of the Daytona 500 from several different positions.
And even though I like being in the pits for the close up of pitstops I really liked being out over the tunnel in Turn 4. What a VIEW!
With the pothole debacle the race dragged on with 2 red flags. But with the race being on Fox that eliminated the need for us to worry about a 6 o'clock story.
Kevin and I worked on a plan of attack for the end of the race. We scurried up and down pit road trying to predict a winner so we could be in the pits for the celebration.
After the race I manned Victory Lane while Danny and Kevin interviewed other drivers from the top 5.
And then our race was on to get our story done for the 10 o'clock sports Live Shot.
After our Victory Lane Live Shots and a little silly celebrating of our own we packed up and rolled out. We left the track at Midnight, grabbed a Waffle House, er, supper and drove to Brunswick, Georgia for some sleep.
After Kevin edited and fed our Monday story for the 5 o'clock show we hit the road and were home in time for supper.
And just like that....it's all done.
Our Stories - (here's a list of most of the stories we produced from Daytona)
Drivers Talk about Racing at Daytona
RCR Strength Training
Daytona 500 Qualifying
Richard Childress Live in Victory Lane
Danica's Stock Car Debut
The Retirement Age in NASCAR
Driver's Take a Day Off
Pressure on Junior and Danica Mania
The Women of NASCAR
Jimmie Johnson Wins first Duel
Number 3 back at Daytona
Hanging with the Fans
Daytona 500 Preview
Nationwide Race Recap
Daytona 500 Recap
Dale Jr's Daytona 500