The DirectTV 500 has come and gone, and here I am, finally getting around to writing and posting my own unique kind of UCAP. For those of you who don't know, or who don't frequent the RASN-M newsgroup, a UCAP is an "Up Close And Personal" account of the goings-on at a NASCAR race. Mine generally have little to do with the race itself, and focus mainly on the "behind the scenes" things that grab my attention. I like to watch people and things, and I often find interesting perspectives on this sport that we all love. So here it is, in glossy Kodak color, I hope you enjoy!
Thursday, March 30
Have you ever been to a Ford Fan Appreciation Event? This was our second opportunity to attend one, and I must say that the 1998 event (held at the Dallas Convention Center) was much more well organized. Parking was better, we were let into the convention center right away, and were quickly able to determine where we needed to go to get those highly sought driver autographs. When all was said and done, we wound up with 5 out of the 6 attending driver's autographs, missing Dale Jarrett only because his line was too long and eventually closed by the time we finished with the other five. All this was accomplished in just two and a half hours!
The 2000 Ford Fan Appreciation Day even was a different matter entirely. After driving through Dallas rush-hour traffic, Mom and I arrived at the Arlington Convention Center to find an unbelievably long line waiting just to get in the door! And would someone please tell me why they always hold these things so far from the track and so soon after work hours that fans have to play hooky just to get there?
Once we finally got inside the main hall, we found a confusing mess of displays. We wandered aimlessly for a few minutes while we tried to locate the autograph lines. By the time we found the line for Rusty Wallace and Robin Pemberton, we were number 323 or so in line, and only the first 350 people were allowed to get each driver's autograph. The Dale Jarrett/Todd Parrott line was already closed! There was another line at the other end of the hall for Stacy Compton (or was it Elliott Sadler?) which wasn't full, but since we knew each driver would only be signing autographs for one hour, we knew we would never get finished in Rusty's line before he was gone as well.
I must say that it was a nice leisurely line, no hurry and push, and each guest got to pose with the drivers and have their pictures taken, but that also meant that it plodded along pretty slowly. Luckily there was a Blue Bunny ice cream truck parked right next to Rusty's line, and the vendor was passing out free ice cream to anyone who wanted it. While we were waiting, an announcement was made about the second autograph session, which featured Ricky Rudd and Jeff Burton/ Frank Stoddard. The tickets were available in another room down the hall, and the only way to get those tickets was to go pick them up. We had been in line for over half an hour and weren't even half way through when they started passing those second session tickets out, so we figured that Rusty and Robin were the only two autographs we were going to get.
Here's a shot of Rusty Wallace and Robin Pemberton as we approached them in line.
When we finally got to the front of the line, the man standing beside Rusty (PR? Security?) looked at Mom's trademark sparkly hat and said "Rusty, I don't think this hat is authentic". Rusty looked at Mom and laughed. Mom answered, "Hey, it was a Chase Authentic hat. I cut it up myself and sewed it together." Rusty laughed and said, "Cool."
Mom wanted her picture taken with Rusty (her favorite driver). She thrust her camera at me and told me to take one. While she was posing, I was frantically asking how to operate her camera, as I generally use an SLR which you have to manually focus, etc. So in the confusion, I thought I took a picture of her with him, but I didn't. I felt really bad, and I wish I had just used my own camera instead of trying to figure out hers. I felt really bad. Luckily, instead of trying to get my own picture with Rusty, I just sat back and took lots of pictures of him while I was real close, and some of them turned out really well.
Robin Pemberton was very polite, but he looked really bored. He was there to sign autographs, but a lot of the fans just got Rusty's and not his. I really don't understand that. I wanted both. A racing team is more than a great driver in a great car, it's..., well, it's a team, and I don't see how you can be a fan of the driver and not a fan of the whole team. So here's Robin as we asked for his autograph and gave him something to do.
Mom was excited to pose with Robin for a picture.
And here's another one of Rusty as we left the line.
After getting Rusty's autograph, we learned that there were still a few tickets left to get Ricky Rudd's autograph, so we raced to the other end of the convention center and got two. They were only giving away 350 tickets to each of the other drivers as well. We thought Ricky was getting ready to start signing, so we went ahead and got in line. We had a little bit of a wait, but were starting out closer to the front of the line this time around.
Ricky was equally gracious and friendly, although I did notice that his hair has gotten much more grey in the last couple of years. Must have been the stress of trying to own and operate a one-car team. As we got to the front of his line, Ricky said to Mom, "Did you make that hat?" Mom said, "Yes, I cut up a Chase Authentic hat and sewed it on." And Ricky said, "I saw it whall-ago and I like it." Hey, does anybody know how to get the licensing to produce "official" merchandise? Maybe we should try to market these things!
Mom got her picture made with Ricky.
And here's a few more that I shot as we went through the line.
We hung around a while to put our names in some drawings (didn't win anything, never do). And I tried both the simulator (that was fun) and the Daytona USA 2 arcade game. Both of these are based on the Daytona USA game by SEGA, which I have at home on my Sega Saturn, so I did pretty well even though the controls were different than mine.
Here's a photo Mom took of Dale Jarrett's show car.
There wasn't much else to see after that. Oh, but I did get a free MBNA racing t-shirt for filling out an application for their credit card (and yes, they sent me a very courteous letter of rejection, probably choking the whole way through it!)