Watkins Glen International has always set a full schedule of off-track activities during the annual NASCAR stop at the upstate NY venue including autograph sessions, driver appearances, opportunities to have coffee with track executives (president and vice president) and concerts every night of the race weekend.
On Friday night the Tim Dugger Band made an appearance and there were reports that Ricky Stenhouse got up on stage and sang with Dugger. This was confirmed by his girlfriend Danica Patrick via an Instagram story (https://www.instagram.com/danicapatrick/) a short while afterward. I also noted numerous photos of the couple with fans after the concert.
A few years ago Sports Illustrated published a story about Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson and Elliott Sadler riding around the campgrounds at Watkins Glen and how Gordon found a campsite with a bunch of anti-Gordon things around it. When they stopped and nobody was home, he autographed a bunch of items and moved on. This year, no such things have been reported. However, perhaps one of the neatest things I’ve ever heard of happening at a race track did take place at Watkins Glen.
About 10:30 PM Friday night Chase Elliott tweeted (https://twitter.com/chaseelliott) “Anyone around Watkins Glen tonight interested in playing soccer with me n @blaney (Ryan Blaney)? He then said, “Grass field behind Sir Jackie Stewart grandstand (turn 10) For those interested.” Matt LaFlair, a frequent contributor to www.speedwaymedia.com in the past, said that Austin Dillon also showed up to play and that there were about 30 fans there, most actually played soccer, that they played for about an hour and it was a lot of fun. The drivers posed for photos with the fans after they were done. Elliott posted on Twitter, “That was really cool, thanks to everyone that came out! We’ll try to do it again sometime soon. Team CE (Chase Elliott) 1-0.” Blaney responded on his Twitter feed ( @blaney ), “We were out numbered 11-6….We will make a comeback. Thanks to all the fans that came out.”
Lastly, there was also some reports on social media that the wife of Kyle Busch, Samantha, was out and about in an M&M painted car meeting with fans and LaFlair confirmed that was the case as well. Today, as he was walking from the campgrounds to his seat he said that he saw the street legal car painted like the No 18 car of Kyle Busch’s in the camping area. Since he’s a Busch fan, he was wearing his Kyle Busch T-shirt and he said the passenger in the car was getting out of the car saying, “He’s wearing a Kyle Busch shirt!” at the same time LaFlair said, “That’s Samantha Busch!” They hugged and chatted for a few minutes about the Busch’s son, family and racing before snapping a photo.
Unfortunately, you’re only going to see this type of thing happen on Friday or Saturday at the track and you have to actually be in the right place, at the right time. Sunday is race day and sponsor commitments and appearances rule the day. I can recall Tony Stewart sending out a stack of signed hero cards to my children and their friends in 1999, his rookie year in Cup racing because they were chanting his name outside the motor coach lot. Dale Jarrett, who had done a commercial for his sponsor UPS, where a child asks, “Are you Mr. Dale Jarrett?” and Jarrett simply responds, “I am.” I watched children playing with toy cars saying, “Are you Mr. Dale Jarrett?” when I hear, “I am.” And Jarrett signs some cars for the children and walks away. You have to be there and there’s really no better place than Watkins Glen International for your NASCAR wishes to come true.