Each NASCAR race weekend, it takes an army to put on the show for the fans. We grow from a staff of around 60 full-time employees to 5,000 during Labor Day weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway. At our sister SMI tracks, it is no different. I work in the Promotions department at AMS and each race weekend, we bring in one of our sister tracks full-time personnel to help out on our race weekend. Well, during the first weekend of March, it was my turn to be the exchange worker, as I was scheduled to help out on the NASCAR weekend at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
It's always fun to go work these events. It is not your race weekend, so it's much more relaxed at the track when it is not your show to run. Your duties can vary from what each track needs from you that weekend. While at LVMS, I was asked to work with a project coordinator and a camera man to assist them in getting liners taped from celebrities and people in our industry. The list included almost half the Cup drivers, Bruton Smith, Mike Helton, Richard Childress, Darrell Waltrip, Jamie Little, Brad Daugherty, Miss Sprint Cup, the mayor of Las Vegas, Pete Rose, and Paris Hilton.
My favorite moment came on Friday. I was in the media center filming a liner with Carl Edwards. Right behind him was a couple decked out in Carl Edwards gear. They were standing outside the Raceway Ministries office, about to walk to Victory Lane to get married.
Once Carl finished with me, he walked over to them and said, "Hey, what are you guys up to?" and reached out to shake their hands. They couple replied they were headed out to get married. Carl said, "Can you wait 5 minutes? I'd really like to be there for that." The couple was stunned and said, "Of course!"
Carl walked off to tape another interview and I got to watch the reaction of the couple. The bride leaned over to her groom, hugged him, buried her face in his chest and started crying. They were tears of joy. And I got a little choked up. Ok, maybe more than just a little. It was incredibly cool to watch their reaction.
I've worked in this sport going on my 14th season. I've seen things like this happen so many times and those moments still touch me like they did the first year. NASCAR drivers have so many opportunities to interact with the fans, whether it is scheduled or spontaneous. I hate to make a definitive statement, but since I'm in Vegas, I'd bet serious money that NASCAR drivers sign more autographs than any other professional athletes each year.
I spoke with Carl's publicist on race morning and he said to me, "If you can get a picture of the couple blown up to an 8x10, I will get Carl to sign it for them." Carl didn't do this nice gesture for any publicity; he did it just because he wanted to do it after taking the initiative to say hello to the couple wearing his logos.
I've been lucky to see all great things Carl does – his charitable side and all the things he does for Speedway Children's Charities and the Aflac Cancer Center. He's always been great to us at Atlanta Motor Speedway – I guess the track holds a special place in his heart from when he swept his first Nationwide and Cup wins back-to-back in 2005.
I didn't write this as a "Carl Edwards is a great guy" piece. I wanted to share with you something special I witnessed during the weekend. All of these drivers do so many things that they do not choose to publicize. I'm blessed working in this industry to be able to see a side of these great competitors that extends beyond what they do on the race track. I can promise you from my years on the circuit, the guy you hear on the radio when they are behind the wheel or right after they step out of that car can be different than who they are once they are not in competition mode. It can be interesting to watch the transformation once they strap in and pull those belts tight.
All I know is I can't wait for night racing come Labor Day weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway. We are working hard to put on the best show for you and make sure it's one of the marquee events on the NASCAR circuit. Three days of night racing means there will be tons of drivers on the property on race weekend. Who knows who you'll run into! Go on Facebook and share your favorite driver interaction with us!
Don't forget, tickets go on sale March 9 for Labor Day weekend and our concert act will be announced – it will be one heck of a party!
Director of Marketing & Promotion