Over the weekend, 3M sent me and three other bloggers to the NASCAR All-Star Race in Charlotte, North Carolina.
In case you aren’t a fan of All-Star Games, here are a few reasons why you should definitely check out NASCAR’s version of the event.
Over the course of two days, I not only visited the brand new NASCAR Hall of Fame, but I also toured the Roush Fenway complex where they build everything from chassis to shocks. The next day, we got to watch the entire race from the pits after meeting Greg Biffle and Jack Roush before the race.
Here are a few of the memorable events from the weekend.
The Hall of Fame
If you haven’t been to the NASCAR Hall of Fame, I suggest you visit sometime soon.
I have been to many Hall of Fames: The NFL HOF in Canton; the Baseball HOF in Cooperstown; and even the Rock and Roll HOF in Cleveland.
To be honest, none of them compare to NASCAR’s state of the art facility in Charlotte, North Carolina. NASCAR did a brilliant job of merging history with interactive activities for families and adults alike.
Mike Arone (The Rugged), Christian Matthews (3M), and I even set the all-time Pit-Stop Record for three men.
(Of course, there’s no need to ask who dominated the hardest part of the pit stop – the tire change – during the record setting attempt. Yup. Maybe having Tourette’s Syndrome was an advantage around the pits.)
One of the most fun exhibits for adults was the racing simulator. Apparently, it is so state of the art and accurate that many NASCAR drivers attend on their days off to work on their strategies for certain tracks.
It has even helped a few drivers win upcoming races. Just ask Elliot Sadler.
One of my favorite privileges from the weekend was meeting Jack Roush. Although he was only able to talk to us for a few minutes, I couldn’t be more impressed.
He genuinely seemed thrilled to talk to us, and he even had a few ideas on how to make NASCAR better.
To Roush, NASCAR has gotten a little too easy.
In the 50s, the cars were large and boxy. The tires were hard, and the tracks were rough. You really had to know how to drive in order to race.
Today though, with 38-degree banking and unbelievably easy to drive cars (his words, not mine), the cars will basically drive themselves.
Past that, in order to create a level playing field, NASCAR often has to place restrictor plates on vehicles to make things more fair. In Charlotte on Saturday night, the RoushFenway vehicles were pushing 900 HP. At Talledega and Daytona? They barely exceed 400.
Now, would NASCAR be as exciting to fans if the playing field were more unfair? I’m not sure. But I do know it would be fascinating to see the guys racing even faster.
To say that the RoushFenway Racing facilities were mind-blowing would be the understatement of the weekend.
One of the things that shocked me greatly was the cleanliness of the place. You could have literally eaten off of the floor where they were working on vehicles.
Because of the competitive edge that Roush needs to maintain, we were unfortunately prohibited from taking pictures inside the garage. However, I was able to find out one thing that may surprise you like it did me.
For one reason or another, i had assumed that NASCAR probably made all of the vehicle shells and then sent them to the teams where they would provide the engines, shocks, sheet metal, etc. Not at all.
At Roush, they literally piece the car together from the ground-up. They make hundreds of vehicles piece by piece, and their measurements are so precise that every single part comes within 3o/1000s of an inch of each other or else it is scrapped. Crazy!
Biffle might be the funniest athlete I have ever met. One thing I was dying to ask him was what athlete did he feel he was most similar to.
His answer was entertaining AND enlightening.
NASCAR drivers are different than other athletes. While Biffle admitted that other guys might be more physically gifted than he was, he basically challenged any athlete from any other sport to challenge him to a battle of mental toughness.
Think about it. Most Americans dislike driving in general for more than 4 hours. I have dozed off many times on drives of 3 or so hours. But Greg Biffle will often drive for 4 to 5 hours at 200 MPH in temperatures north of 100-degrees. He will often lose 8 to 10 pounds in one race.
Of course, I followed this up with the question you were all thinking: ”That means you wouldn’t consider yourself a choker in clutch situations like LeBron, right?”
He smiled coyly. Advantage, Greg Biffle.
The race was over before we knew it. Unfortunately, Greg Biffle didn’t win, and he probably has me to blame.
Midway through the race, I was invited to watch a few laps from the pit-box. What an honor! I climbed up the ladder and sat down happily behind his crew chief. I listened to them on the radio, and Biffle was actually starting to gradually move up in the pack.
However, a mere 2 laps after I took my seat, Biffle’s engine exploded. I will never forget the deflated looks on the entire crew’s faces as his car slowed to a stop on the back stretch.
Greg, if you’re reading, I apologize for the bad luck I sent to the 3M team this weekend.
Thanks so much for the experience, it was definitely one I will never forget.
All photos courtesy of Action Sports Photography, Inc.