The smell of fuel, the sound of engines, the enthralling atmosphere at the track; there was truly nothing like it. The closest I had ever been to a professional stock car racing event was watching Ricky Bobby in the movie Talladega Nights. Well my friends, this was absolutely nothing like the movie. My first trip to the Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, FL was truly the experience of a lifetime! When can I go back???
I was honored to be able to attend the season kickoff Automobile Racing Club of America (ARCA) Lucas Oil 200 race with the Motorsports Safety Group. MSG is headed by neurosurgeon and concussion specialist Dr. Jason Cormier of Lafayette, LA. The team also includes several other medical doctors dedicated to educating the racing community, among others, on concussion prevention and ways to keep them behind the wheel longer. MSG is a newer sponsor to the ARCA racing series as of last year. In the year 2018, MSG’s focus and message to drivers has broadened to the health and fitness involvement in concussion prevention. Which is where little ole’ me came in…
With my background in fitness and knowledge of food and health, I was asked to attend this opening race with the MSG team to assist in relaying their new message to the drivers and teams. I was also asked to sample my protein bar to the teams and surrounding participants in support of MSG’s healthcare education and wellness training. Which is a HUGE deal for me.
I honestly did not know what to expect at all going into this experience. I had never been to a race before, I wasn’t very familiar with racing or what went into it, I knew no one except the people on the MSG team. So all I had to do was go into it open-minded, which is exactly what we did. Oh and my sweet sidekick and partner in crime, Jeffrey came with me. He’s helped me a ton through my journey with Pump and Crunch! (mainly the tech side because he’s a technology genius and I barely know how to unlock my iPhone) 🙂
To start our trip, I have to include our travel experience. I was clearly in charge of booking flights and stay in Daytona. Welllllllll, there are two airports to fly out of in Houston, TX. Uber’s were about $100,000 that day for some reason but we had to get to the airport one way or another. We already Jeff’s apartment late and guess what….. I took us to the wrong airport! WOOOOO! Our flight was taking off out of Hobby (15 minutes from home) and I decided it would be fun to go alllll the way to Bush International (45 minutes from home). Welp, this now gave us 1 hour until take off time and it takes 1 hour to get to Hobby from IAH. I peed in my pants… not really, but I wanted to. Anyways, we made our flight by about 2 minutes after SPRINTING through the Hobby airport. If you think you’re in shape people, just run through the airport with 2 suitcases then get back to me. I about died. Long story short, we made the flight, and everything got better from there lolllll.
Day 1: The Day Before the Race
The drive from the hotel to the track was nerve racking. I literally had no idea what to expect. You could hear the sounds of the cars from about a mile away from the track, which was building the tension even more! We stopped to get our “backstage passes”, I called them, or our “Pit Passes”. These granted access to the garages, pit row, victory lane, and more. We arrived at the Daytona International Speedway, drove through the tunnel, and entered into the center of the track.
The Daytona International Speedway Race Track is 2.5 miles long. The race we were attending the next day was 200 miles, or 80 laps around the track. The inside of the loop isn’t empty by the way, or so I thought. There are thousands and thousands of people either camping, fishing in the pond (yes there is a pond inside the track), or working on prepping for race day. We parked, and our first stop was the car garages.
I had my rolling travel bag packed with about 100 protein bars ready like amo to hand out to whoever we met. I had them stuffed in my pockets, my backpack, and in my hands ready to rock and roll. As we entered the garages, Dr. Cormier and the MSG team knew just about everyone, so my protein bars were flying! The ARCA racing community is like a big family. Every person we met was so friendly and welcoming, I felt like part of their family as well. And, they all enjoyed my protein bars! Which was a HUGE deal for me. We met the President of ARCA, Ron Drager, among other leading members of the Racing Club, like Marc Gundrum and Tom Legeman. We also the Venturini family, including Big Bill, Cathy, Billy and Tommy. The Venturini owns four racing teams in ARCA; they’re a big deal. We also met a few of the drivers, which personally was one of my favorite parts of the trip. I have so much respect for these guys because, 1) They’re badass racing drivers and 2) They’re all SO YOUNG! We met Natalie Decker; she’s 20 years old and was the winner of the Lucas Oil Pole (4th woman in history to ever win the pole, by the way). We met Michael Self, who was the WINNER of the ARCA Lucas Oil 200 Race that we attended the next day. We also met Jesse Iwuji, Zane Smith, and a few other drivers, all of which ate my bar and loved it! A few more people we got introduced to were racing legend Geoff Bodine, Bo Lamastus, and Mark Thompson. All super cool, friendly people. The ARCA racing community was amazing. Again, just one big family all helping each other out in any way they can. I loved it.
To finish off our Day 1 experience, some friends on the ARCA staff were kind enough to take Jeff and I for a drive around the actual track!! Insane. We got up to 105 mph, which is the fastest I’ve ever been in a vehicle in my life. By the way, the stock cars are capped out at about 170-185 mph.. I’m such a ninny. After our lap around the track, it was time for the qualifying race; or the Pole. Drivers take a few laps in groups of 6-7 cars for time. Natalie Decker, who we met previously that day, won the fastest time!
After congratulating Natalie in Victory Lane, the MSG team finished the day celebrating with margaritas and a good night’s rest to prep for Day 2: Race Day.
Day 2: Race Day
The next day, we arrived back at the track after coffee and breakfast around 11:00 am and headed straight to the garages. The amount of work that goes into racing stock cars is unreal people. I’ve never seen anything like it. A team of people are CONSTANTLY, and I mean constantly, working on those cars. The tension was bit higher today because now, the pressure was really on. Everyone was working on their assigned tasks, prepping the car and driver to hit the track in hopes of making it to Victory Lane. We made a lap around the garages, wishing the drivers and their teams good luck and then headed over Pit Row.
Pit Row is the area near the track where the pit crew is set up during a race, ready to change tires, add fuel, or repair the cars if needed. While the ARCA cars and drivers prepared for their Lucas Oil 200 race that afternoon, the NASCAR drivers took the track to practice, and we had front row seats. We were in Daytona Beach the weekend prior to the NASCAR Daytona 500, the 60th annal Great American Race. NASCAR teams arrived one week prior to their big race to prepare and race in several smaller races throughout the week, so we got the best of both worlds that weekend.
ARCA is to Minor League Baseball, as NASCAR is to Major League Baseball. Drivers go through ARCA to get to NASCAR; kind of like levels. The race we were in town to attend was the ARCA Lucas Oil 200, which again is a 200 mile race for the drivers, about 80 laps around the track. The NASCAR Daytona 500 is a 500 mile race for the drivers, which is 200 laps around the track! Craziness, but I love it.
As we were watching the NASCAR drivers practice, it really was like a movie. I was so drawn in. The LOUD car engines, the wind against our faces from being so close to the track as the cars passed, the smell of the entire track, and the SPONSORS! Monster, MM’s, Home Depot, all the BIG names you’ve seen on TV. Yep, we got to watch them “warm up” at 200 mph. Casual.
Not only did we get to watch them practice, but we got to walk around in the NASCAR garages. Holy moly, this was a huge deal. I almost got hit by a car twice, which is a normal apparently and I touched a car with my finger for one second without getting caught. Way cool. I also snuck a picture (above) of Erin Andrews, FOX Sports Reporter (pink shirt), interviewing one of the NASCAR drivers. The vibe around the NASCAR garages were a bit different than the ARCA garages. Everyone was in the zone and ready to run you over if you got in the way (me). It was awesome.
At this point, it was about 90 minutes to race time. As part of the MSG team, we attended the Pre-Race meeting of the drivers, team owners, friends, and family. This meeting was to remind drivers of safety during the race, the rules and regulations, and also to recognize the major sponsors of the Lucas Oil 200 Race.
The Daytona International Speedway is very fan-friendly. Prior to race time, the drivers were available for a meet-and-greet and autographs free for anyone AND the track was opened to the fans during the presentation of the drivers. Jeff and I even wrote our names on the Start/Finish line.
It’s race time!! After the presentation of the drivers, we hustled up to the ARCA suite, which they were kind enough to allow us to watch the race in. We filled our bellies and got ready for the race to begin.
200 miles, 80 laps, 40 cars, in 3-2-1 GO! I had never been to a race before so I wasn’t expecting any wrecks to happen. Yeah right. We saw 7 wrecks… not small ones either. The cars flipped, started fires, smashed against each other, and a few of the cars had wrecked so many times they were almost falling apart. It was the epitome of an “action-packed” experience. I was glued to my seat and couldn’t look away. I didn’t realize how the lineup can be affected so easily as well. For example, if I was driving and was in first place but someone a few cars behind me wrecked, I could end up in last place if I stopped for a tire change and gas. A caution truck appears on the track to signal drivers to slow to 50 mph if there is a wreck. They drive at 50 mph as long as they need to until the wreck is completely cleared from the track. These laps count into the 80total for the race! So, if you’re in first place, stop for gas, and the crew is still lapping at 50 mph, you’re losing ground big time. But these stops are necessary sometimes. There is so much that goes into it all, I feel like I’ve just touched the edge.
7 wrecks later and only 16 cars left in the running, we made it to the 80th lap! Michael Self, a driver on the Venturini Motorsports team and who I met the day before, won the race! He made his way to Victory Lane where photographers, news teams, and lots of Powerade and Champagne was waiting for him. MSG is a sponsor of the ARCA Racing series, so we were able to go up and take a photo with him.
This is my favorite part of the whole trip. Are you ready?
As we walked up, the winning driver, I repeat, the winning driver said to me “I won because of your Pump and Crunch bars, get in here and hold my trophy with me”………………….. my heart was beating so hard I couldn’t breathe.
Most epic moment of my life so far, besides exploring buffets with Jeffrey Bernard. Kidding, but for real. Michael was such a kind guy to say that and it meant the world to me! And I guess he was telling the truth because he ordered his first shipment of bars from me last week, AHH!
Overall, the weekend was magical. I had the most amazing experience at the Daytona International Speedway. I can’t thank the Motorsports Safety Group Team team enough for taking me under their wing and believing in my business! I can definitely say after that weekend, I am definitely a stock car racing fan.
Yours In Health,