To everything, there is a season. So, as this NASCAR season has ended, it is time for me to end my season of writing about the sport I have loved for so many years.
My NASCAR writing journey began nine years ago when my daughter went away to college. As an only child, she decided I would be very lonely without her. She saw an ad for NASCAR writers on a then new website called Bleacher Report. So, she signed me up and off I went writing all sorts of posts, some of which were really awful and some of which were only semi-awful. But it was great fun and I met some wonderful writers, editors, and photographers, many who have become lifetime friends.
As with many start-up websites, there were challenges so I was incredibly grateful to Ed Coombs and Barry Albert for the opportunity to write for Speedway Media. And I have been there ever since, writing stories on up-and-coming racers (yes I got to interview the likes of Chase Elliott and Ryan Blaney well before they became the young guns they are today), after-race analyses about what was ‘Surprising and Not Surprising’ and stories about those behind the scenes in the sport.
Timing is everything and I was fortunate to be involved at a time when NASCAR and the tracks were credentialing what they called ‘Citizen Journalists’. Because of this, I had the opportunity, thanks to Patti Bodnar Welsh, Bob Pleban and the Mattioli family, to become credentialed for my first race at Pocono Raceway. Some of my favorite stories have come from that track, including interviews with Dr. Rose Mattioli, Looie Mattioli, Ashley Walsh, Chase Mattioli, Brandon Igdalsky, Nick Igdalsky and Suzanne Igdalsky. I had a seat in the media center, traversed the garage area, and even got into Victory Lane when my favorite driver Jeff Gordon won the race.
The entrée given by Pocono Raceway enabled me to cover the sport at other tracks, including the Monster Mile at Dover and the Magic Mile at New Hampshire. Other dream tracks included Daytona, where Trevor Bayne stood in Victory Lane wondering if he was dreaming, Homestead, where Kevin Harvick was crowned champ and Las Vegas, where we not only covered the race but visited the Grand Canyon and had Elvis renew my hubby and my wedding vows.
Some of my most memorable experiences in covering the sport include the following:
- At Dover, we had the ultimate experience of flying on an Air Force C17 with the Casey Mears gang. The amazing Air Force pilots demonstrated refueling, an attack hard landing (it was hard!) and a cargo drop. Flying with these extraordinary service men and women, as well as the Geico race team, was one of the most amazing experiences I’ve had in NASCAR.
- Also at the Monster Mile, thanks to Gary Camp, we had the privilege of covering their special race experience for kids with autism. The enclosed area, quiet space and driver appearances, including Jamie McMurray who is dedicated to this cause, gave these special needs race fans the treat of a lifetime in a way that they could absolutely enjoy it.
- While covering the NASCAR championship weekend in Vegas, we had the extreme honor and privilege to cover the intimate party where Goodyear presented the coveted gold car to that year’s champion Brad Keselowski. I will be forever grateful to Mike Siberini at Goodyear for inviting us to this amazing experience.
- Another one of my favorite memories was hanging with Kim Roberson at the NASCAR After the Lap event on champions’ weekend, tweeting about the crazy things going on with the drivers and just how much they were drinking. We also had a great time getting all fancied up to cover the red carpet festivities. And darn, we looked amazing!
There are so many people that have helped me along this NASCAR journey. I’m so grateful for the amazing NASCAR media corps, especially Bob Pockrass, Dustin Long, Jeff Gluck, Chris Knight, and Lee and Reid Spencer. The folks at XM Sirius Satellite Radio and MRN were also terrific and I’m especially thankful to Clare B. Lang, Mike Bagley and Pete Pistone for their welcome and assistance. Thanks also to Kim Novak and John Luzzi from Speed/Fox Sports 1 for the all the chats and fun.
I’m also grateful to so many folks at all levels of the sport with whom we maintain friendships to this day. These include many of the NASCAR spouses, hauler drivers, crew chiefs, spotters, team members, PR reps, sponsors, and officials. I have especially loved covering the racers, teams and officials at some of the so-called ‘lower levels’ of the sport….people like Andy and Sue Santerre that defined the Busch North Series and Kip Childress, whose daily Facebook Bible posts inspire me every day.
I am well aware that I’ve most likely forgotten someone very special – that’s what happens when you celebrate your sparkling 60th birthday – and for that, I apologize. But please know that any and all of you who have crossed my path and touched my life are the truest of blessings.
As we have celebrated our NASCAR champ, Martin Truex Jr., this year, a driver that I’ve seen work his way up racing here in New Jersey and throughout the Northeast, I too am celebrating my time in a sport that is amazing, frustrating and ever-changing.
Thank you for reading, thank you for sharing this NASCAR journey with me, and thank you for indulging me in this way too long goodbye! Happy Holidays and God bless.