When I was younger Sunday’s were the best. I had NASCAR in the spring and summer, football in the fall and Golf throughout the year. I am the biggest NFL fan there is. It’s the sport I grew attached too as I grew older, but as I stated before it wasn’t always my number one love. My original love was for the sport of NASCAR.
My father was a huge Rusty Wallace fan growing up and from the time I could walk I was watching NASCAR. Growing up I used to sit in the kitchen racing around 1:64 diecast cars (think Hot Wheels), reading books about the drivers and re-watching documentaries on the sport countless times. My mom told me years later that you couldn’t separate me from anything relating to NASCAR.
While my love for the sport isn’t as great as it once was and the NFL has surpassed my love for anything, working the Brickyard 400 for NASCAR’s social media was the experience of a lifetime and something I only dreamed of doing. For someone who is still a kid at heart and for someone who has been fortunate to experience so many amazing things, it was the coolest sporting event I’ve covered in my life. That’s saying a lot.
Just for some perspective on my experience with the sport, I’ll give my background on just how crazy in love I was with it.
The first driver I ever met was Matt Kenseth when I lived in Janesville, Wisconsin (Kenseth is from Wisconsin) in 2000 when I was three years old. This was my first experience with the sport that I recall.
The first time I saw a car in action was when my dad rode in the Richard Petty Driving Experience at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Hearing the amazing sounds they made was exhilarating. Whenever I go to the rack and hear the cars today, I still get goosebumps.
In 2003 I watched the rain-shortened Daytona 500 and it was the moment my naiveite for the dangers of the sport changed. Before the race got called, second year driver Ryan Newman suffered the most horrific crash a six-year-old could have ever seen. I felt awful for him and decided from that moment on that he would be my favorite driver because I didn’t really have one before then.
In 2005 my brother Jacob and I went to our first ever race at the Bristol Motor Speedway. We got there on Friday to watch the then Nextel Cup Series qualifying, and stayed throughout the weekend. Unfortunately, the then Busch Series race got cancelled due to rain (it was also really cold which none of us prepared for), but we got to watch the Cup race on Sunday which was incredible.
In February of 2008 we moved to the racing capital of the world — Mooresville, North Carolina. The majority of the big teams, including Newman’s then team Penkse Racing set up shop in Mooresville. Less than two weeks after moving there Newman won the Daytona 500 which is still one of the coolest moments of my life as a sports fan. I was beyond happy to see my favorite driver win the biggest race in the sport, something I never thought I would see.
In May of that year my parents told me that they had talked to my teachers for approval to skip classes to meet my idol and I still remember it like it was yesterday.
Every year on Memorial Weekend NASCAR runs the Coca-Cola 600 (to me that’s “the race,” not the Indy 500) and all of the teams have a fan appreciation day. Penske held one and I finally got the chance to meet Newman and get his autograph on every item I brought, he was that nice to me. It was also cool because I got to go down on the race shop and see first-hand where they work on the cars, which to the average fan is not the normal access you get.
When I moved back to Indiana in 2012 I became a Kasey Kahne fan because Newman wasn’t quite as likable at that time, but my interest for the sport was waning slowly. I still followed the drivers close, but not nearly as much as I had. I still went to two Brickyard 400s in 2013 and 2014, but it wasn’t the same as visiting Charlotte or Bristol.
In August though my instructor and mentor Chris Taylor reached out and asked if I would be interested in helping with the social media strategy for the Brickyard 400. For me it was something I never expected would happen, it was something I only dreamed of; working for NASCAR.
The person who would oversee us with this project was my first ever friend in Sports Link and someone I hold in the highest regard, Torey Fox. Fox and I spent two years together shaping the social media strategy for Sports Link and the hours we put in are too ridiculous to think about. Thanks to this man, I later had opportunities to work with the NCAA and USA Football because of his mentorship.
Working the race was a dream come true. To work alongside my closest friends in the program was something I will never forget. Being in the garage area, on pit lane and right next to drivers whom I grew up watching was surreal.
I helped make video content for Kyle Busch who was competing with Kevin Harvick for the regular season championship. I followed him and his crew throughout the race and at the end when he clinched it. It was awesome for me to cover such a special moment for a driver who I admired when I was younger for his aggressiveness.
Rowdy rules the Regular Season. @KyleBusch | #NASCARPlayoffs pic.twitter.com/xLGODfhK9i
— NASCAR (@NASCAR) September 11, 2018
I was truly humbled to have even been mentioned to work it and it’s all thanks to the people in Sports Link. It truly was the coolest event I’ve worked in my life thus far. I definitely got emotional as I left the track after the race on Monday thinking about how my life went full circle with the sport.