For the past five years I have attended the April and Fall races at Texas Motor Speedway and have made some great friends in the process. My wife attended the Duck Commander 500 with me again this year along with our good friends Mike and Shelly. We had a great time as always and Amy, Carol, Brittany, Alice, Brandon and the rest of their Speedway Club team are fantastic hosts and their Experience Package is the best way to do a race weekend. This was my 8th consecutive Experience Package at Texas Motor Speedway, dating back to November 2011.
The weekend started off with the Texas Motorsports Hall of Fame dinner on Thursday evening. Clint Bowyer was there to introduce Jeff Burton who was being inducted as the latest member of the TMS Hall of Fame. Once introduced by Bowyer, Jeff graciously accepted the honor. He went on to share a funny story about his first career win, which came during the 1997 inaugural race at Texas Motor Speedway, the Interstate Batteries 500. Apparently Eddie Gossage, the President of TMS couldn’t recall Jeff Burton’s full name as it was his first NASCAR Cup victory. Eddie was about to present the trophy and just as he was to announce the winner over the mic he spied Jeff Burton’s name above the door. The way Burton tells the story Eddie was like “I’d like to… present this trophy… to uhhhh….. Jeff Burton!” Upon saying this, Jeff spun around to Erik Jones, who had just been honored with the 2015 TMS Racer of the Year Award, and said “Just know, when these track guys are giving you these trophies, they probably don’t know who the hell you are!”
(One ironic twist about Burton’s 1997 Interstate Batteries 500 Texas win is that he was driving the Exide Battery car. I recall Norm Miller of Interstate Batteries telling this story back a few years ago at this same event. He was laughing then but I bet not when it occurred!)
Also honored during the event were Glen and Leonard Wood, Tony Stewart and Martin Truex, Jr.
The Wood Brothers were presented the Bruton Smith Legend Award for their achievements over the last 66 years and are the oldest active team in NASCAR. I personally think they should be given a charter but NASCAR doesn’t seem to agree. Bruton Smith was on hand and I took a pic of he and Jeff Burton chatting after the dinner.
Tony Stewart was presented with the Major General Thomas Sadler Award. This award recognizes those who give of their time and money to the Speedway Children’s Charities. Stewart hosts his “Smoke Show” Fantasy Driving School each year at TMS and has helped the Texas Chapter of Speedway Children’s Charities raise over $1.5 million through the past several years. Although Stewart was still recovering from his January 2016 off-roading incident, he did attend the dinner and humbly accepted the honor. “When I joined the Cup Series in 1999, it didn’t take long to realize that NASCAR is all about families and giving back. That’s something that I have really respected from day one with our sport; how active all the drivers are. That’s something with this being my last year that is probably one of the one things I have respected is how much they (the drivers) give back to their communities.”
I spoke with Tony after the dinner and he was in very good spirits. He also has lost quite a bit of weight and looked great in his suit, which he mentioned must be at least 12 or 13 years old as that was probably the last time he was able to fit in it! He chatted with everyone around and took numerous pictures with us. I started out by asking for a picture of him with my wife and Mike’s wife Shelly. He gladly obliged and the next thing I knew I was taking several pictures of Tony Stewart with two women, one on each side, as they kept appearing and asking me to be their photographer. I gladly accepted the duty and Tony at one point smiled and said to me, “You started this thing!” I don’t think he minded one bit. Wink, wink. After the pictures had all been taken, I told Tony how much I really enjoyed his Periscope feeds and that I noticed he hadn’t done one in quite some time. He stated that he enjoyed doing them as well but lately the main question people kept asking was when would he be racing again. As he had no answer he got tired of repeating himself. He told me that he will only go back to racing when his doctors tell him he can and that he won’t know anything until the end of April at the earliest. He was very forthcoming and it was good to chat a bit with him. Earlier this week, my Periscope app informed me that Tony Stewart was live and I jumped on to see what he was up to. He was driving his 1960 El Camino home from the shop and spoke only a few times. It was great to see him back on Periscope and I like to think that he did it for me! Haha! I highly recommend following Tony on Twitter @tonystewart and on Periscope. Great stuff.
Martin Truex, Jr. received the Texas Motor Speedway Sportsmanship Award. He had a great 2015 despite the immense stress he must have experienced while watching his longtime girlfriend Sherry Pollex battle courageously with ovarian cancer. It is my understanding that she has beaten it back and we are all happy for them and continue to pray for this sweet couple. Truex stated, “Perspective is a wonderful thing. I learned a lot through Sherry, from her going through her battles on truly what is important in life. I’m very, very proud to be driving race cars for a living, but I’m also very proud of what we’ve been able to give back to our community, to people around us that we love, and most importantly to the causes that we believe in that our near and dear to our hearts.”
Friday was a good day of practice, qualifying and racing. We met up with Chad Knaus again and he and we chatted a bit about this and that, but nothing about racing. He did mention his wife does come to a few races and that she was coming to the TMS race. We didn’t get a chance to meet her this time, so maybe in November! Chad is always friendly to us and takes the time to say hi and ask how we’ve been. We ran into Kasey Kahne just after talking with Chad so I grabbed a quick pic of him and my wife so she could make all of her friends a bit jealous for the day.
We met the @TheRightFrontTire while standing behind Jimmie Johnson’s car during qualifying. He’s a cool guy who I follow on Twitter and so we chatted a little about some of the Xfinity teams he was interviewing for his show, among other things. We ran into him again in the garage on Saturday during the rain delay and he gave us a couple of T-shirts, which I asked him to “autograph”.
We spent the beginning of the NASCAR Xfinity race in the Speedway Club pit box and then hung around in the pits the rest of the time. The races at Texas lately have seen some long green runs and so the racing can go by fairly quickly. I took a few videos and did some Periscope feeds, mainly during the restarts. Kyle Busch won on his way to sweeping the weekend.
On Saturday we met Jase Robertson and got to spend some time talking with him. He showed me a picture of this gigantic catfish he had caught just a week or so before. The dang thing had to be at least five foot long. We took some pics and listened as he talked about some of the things Duck Commander has in the works. The rain cut the visit short and ended up delaying the start of the race for a little over two hours. We attended the driver’s meeting and sat on the front row of the gallery section. I was able to get autographs from Kyle Busch, Dale Jr. and Chase Elliott. After the driver’s meeting we milled about in the garage and pit area waiting for the rain to stop. Once it did, we began the race up in Burnout Alley on Turn 3. We stayed there and watched until about lap 200 and then left for the pit box. We stayed in the pit box until Kyle won, completing an impressive back-to-back two weekend sweep, and then headed over to Victory Circle to join Kyle for a post-race photo. Of course, we had to wait until after the trophy presentation, the interviews and the hat dance. I ran into George Flanigen in Victory Circle. I met him back at the infamous November 2014 Texas race when Jeff Gordon and Brad Keselowski tangled after the race. I met him through Rutledge Wood, who does double-duty as a NASCAR commentator for NBC and a co-host of Top Gear, which returns on April 26th to the History Channel. He and Rutledge did a show called Lost in Transmission, which I enjoyed but it was sadly short-lived. It would be great to have another network pick it up or maybe have Rutledge do Hulu or Netflix version of the show. It was nice to see George again and reminisce about watching the replay of the Gordon/Kez fight on Eddie Gossage’s phone. We had a good laugh about recalling Eddie getting pissed about us sticking our fingers over the phone and asking “Who’s that??” We had to watch that video about four times before no one covered up the action with their digits. A little while later our group took a few photos with Kyle. I think the race was over at about midnight and we didn’t get back to our hotel until around 3:00 AM.
I uploaded some of the pictures from our 2016 Duck Commander experience. Thank you for reading this far!