A couple of people have asked me to explain my “And that is how I almost passed out at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach” tweet. Considering that, and how much fun I had before that while covering today’s Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race at the Grand Prix, I thought it was a good idea to blog.
First things first: I’m doing just fine now. Aside from a mild sunburn to the back of my neck, there was nothing wrong with me that lots of fluids, a good meal and a few hours’ nap didn’t fix. Thanks for all your concern, though!
My first auto race was honestly great fun. I didn’t realize just how big the Grand Prix of Long Beach was until I got into the city this afternoon. Compared to what I saw at TPCR media day last Tuesday, it was so much bigger and so much crazier, not too unlike San Diego Comic-Con. It’s always exciting to cover a huge live event – with so much of my work done over the phone or email, it’s a welcome change when you actually get to be on the ground, interacting with people, soaking up the experience, and buying the T-shirt. I got to discover that auto racing isn’t just a sport, but there’s also a whole culture that surrounds it.
The best part of it all, though, was that I was there to support two of the most wonderful people I know. After winning the pole at Friday’s qualifying session, my friend Rutledge Wood took the checkered flag in the race today, his first victory in two chances. My other equally awesome friend, Michael Trucco, placed third. So, as I joked with Brett Davern after the race, if he would have just kindly moved out of the way it would’ve been perfect. (Brett’s a really nice guy, though, and a great racer by what I saw out on the track today. You wouldn’t have believed it was his first go-around.)
I really can’t say enough good things about Rutledge and Michael, and today reminded me again why I’m so very lucky to call them friends. Spending time with them is always a pleasure: they’re sweet, they’re funny, and most importantly, they bring out the best in me. Around them I don’t have to be anything or worry about how I look. I’m just spending time with my friends, who also happen to be people that I admire professionally. After the race, I got to sit down with both of them again for brief interviews, and it was really a pleasure as well as an honor to share their big day with them.
I had the good fortune to experience the ride with all the right folks, too. By pure coincidence, I ended up sitting at the same table with Rutledge’s brother-in-law Adam, Michael’s mom and Michael’s wife – and some of the crew from Top Gear came by later and recognized me from my set visit late last year. I went from not knowing anyone to realizing I was surrounded by perfect company. (When Adam told me he’d heard of me, my jaw about hit the table. I’m still not used to being talked about.) Things really couldn’t have gotten much better unless I’d been in the car alongside one of my friends.
It’s after the race that the story got interesting and rather out of hand.
When I reconnected with my family, I discovered that the handicapped parking was, in fact, in a lot considerably far away from the convention center. To make matters worse, when we tried to start our long journey that way, we found out that we were on the wrong side of the racetrack to get there – and there was no crossing that didn’t involve stairs, which I can’t handle. We spent a good half-hour wandering back and forth trying to find a way out, until I’m dripping with sweat and starting to feel my eyes wanting to roll back into my head. Hence the “almost passed out’ comment, because I was considering it.
The event staffer we asked didn’t know what to tell us, so my father ended up flagging down two police officers, who in turn asked a pair of maintenance guys if they would mind using their cart to drive us to the proper exit. I really can’t thank those cops and maintenance guys enough, because the ride gave me a few much-needed minutes to catch my breath and got us started in the right direction.
We still had to walk several blocks (and unfortunately for me, one flight of stairs) to get to the bus that finally got us to our car about an hour and a half after we’d first departed the convention center. At that point, I was in a pretty sad state! But after some painkillers and a bottle of water, and then a proper meal and a nap once we arrived home, I’m feeling better now. Luckily, Sunday is my day off, so I’ve got twenty-four hours to do nothing and enjoy it.
It’s not the way I would’ve liked to end my day, but that doesn’t stop me from saying I’d do it all over again. No matter what I went through, I still got to support my friends, hang out with them, and experience something I never thought I’d ever do. That makes all the crazy more than worthwhile.
Keep an eye out Monday for my full coverage of the Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race. The race will also be replayed on SPEED several times in the near future, starting on May 4 (check your local listings for specific time and channel).