In October of 2014, I had a wonderful opportunity to act as a social media race reporter for 5Hour Energy and Michael Waltrip Racing. I had entered a contest earlier in the year, and was selected to enjoy several privileges including behind-the-scenes tours and information and having my name on the #15 car driven by Clint Bowyer. (Take a look at my slide show above for a photo essay of the four days.)
I learned several things on this trip that can apply to real-life. Here they are in no particular order.
Professional sports are very competitive and consuming.
This opportunity to be in the garage area, watch from pit boxes, and get a shop tour revealed to me how consuming racing is. There are many demands on drivers, crew and support personnel and it isn’t an easy or glamorous life. I’m sure it’s the same with many other sports. There is pressure to perform well because sponsors want to be seen, employees need to be paid, and fans want to see action and wins. If one is not careful, it can become addictive and all-consuming. The season is basically year-round, with races starting in February and going through just before Thanksgiving. Off season is continual prep for the next year. Crews often leave on Thursday and don’t return until Sunday night, spending much of their time at the track. It’s not for the faint at heart!
There’s a lot of preparation before every race.
Some don’t think racing is a true sport. But go behind the scenes and you’ll see there’s a lot more to it than jumping in a car, and turning left for 400 miles. Strategy, engineering, science, teamwork—they all lead to wins or losses. Cars are being prepped with precision weeks in advance. Food has to be purchased and prepared. Flights have to be arranged. Winners of contests have to be entertained.
It takes a team.
The driver often gets a lot of media attention, but the crew also does a ton of work. They work out, they practice…it’s like training for the Olympics to save tenths of seconds off a pit stop. Everyone has their job, but sometimes there is crossover. For example, the hauler driver may also shop for groceries and keep the truck stocked. For MWR, his wife and son also travel with him and cater meals for the team at the track. A crew member may also help in the marketing department. It certainly is a team sport.
You don’t have to be star struck.
For the days we were behind the scenes, it wasn’t unusual for someone “famous” to cross our path. Jack Rousch. Joe Gibbs. Darryl Waltrip. Reporters. Drivers and crew members. Wives and girlfriends of stars. Sometimes I’d ask to get a photo, sometimes I’d just be amazed at how close they were. I didn’t bother trying to get autographs (except we automatically got one from Clint.) I can easily get star struck, but I’ve been learning through the years that an autograph or photo doesn’t change whether I saw or got to briefly talk with a well-known person. We all feel special when granted access others don’t have, but it’s wise to be enjoy that in moderation. They are no more special in God’s eyes than you or I are. They just may be recognized more.
It’s wise to be flexible.
Most of our trip went off without a hitch. But there was a downpour on Saturday and we had to be ready for a possible delay. Our planned meeting of Michael Waltrip was unable to happen because of his involvement with Dancing with the Stars, but that couldn’t have been foreseen months before. It was a little confusing to find our way at the track sometimes. “Go with the flow” had to become the rule of the trip and it was a great way to see how teams have to deal with ups, downs and changes in plans on a normal weekend.
Don’t let disappointment ruin your whole day or trip.
Clint’s car unfortunately blew an engine at lap 100, reducing the amount of time we could watch on the pit box. It was very disappointing to walk away from the pit box, knowing I may never have that opportunity again. However, we headed to the top of Turn 2 and enjoyed the amenities of the 5Hour Energy hospitality bus, and felt the rush of wind and rubber as over 40 cars sped past us on a turn. Shaking off disappointment led to absorbing more of the whole experience from yet another angle not normally enjoyed.
It can be a challenge to embrace an experience and report on it at the same time.
My responsibility on the trip was to share it on social media. I was given a lot of flexibility…they weren’t demanding. But I wanted to do a good job, so as you can see from the slide show, I took a lot of photos and wrote captions, much of which was done in real time. I had to view the experience as one sharing it with others. Many of us do this routinely with daily activities on social media, but I wonder about what we are missing when we share in real time? We start looking at experiences through a camera lens rather than fully experiencing it. We are concerned about the location of our phone, whether it is charged, and what updates we may be missing. While I enjoyed sharing along the way, it did take time and energy. There are times it is worthwhile to do so, but other times it may be more refreshing to really just go “off the grid” and not report anything at all, or at least wait until you get back.
Keep your work area neat.
It’s amazing how clean the shops are for these race teams. I’ve seen three now and all of them look like you could almost eat off the floor. The hauler holds so much that it can’t work well without being organized. That way they can avoid losing things, and pack up quickly. I should have asked how long it takes to pack a hauler–that would have been an interesting fact to share. With doing it every week, and being so organized, I bet it takes a lot less time that you think. This is inspiring for daily life and workspaces. What clutter is draining you?
Cheer on, build up and encourage others.
I was impressed that MWR teams wear logos for all sponsors of MWR, not just the driver they are on crew for. For example, 5Hour Energy is primarily focused on Clint Bowyer (#15), but team shirts for Brian Vickers (#55) also have 5Hour Energy logos on them It’s a company practice to honor sponsors in this way and create a culture of teamwork. There’s also help to smaller teams. We got to be at the pits of a smaller team because of an MWR employee helping with the pits that night. I really like that sense of teamwork, crew development, and give and take. Of course not everything is shared with a bunch of other teams, but there is a spirit of cooperation to build racing in general.
Another way all the teams are encouraged is through a ministry called Motor Racing Outreach. They provide prayer, chapel services, children’s ministries and more to those at the track. I think that is awesome, especially since the schedule is so demanding that it’s highly unlikely people make time for formal church services. I also like that the sport begins their event with prayer.
Don’t contribute to stereotypes.
I think some are surprised that I’m into NASCAR. Some don’t think it’s a valid sport, or don’t respect what goes into it. They have their own impression of how fans behave and attitudes that are prevalent. Sure, there’s always some of that (in every sport) but you don’t have to avoid enjoying a sport or hobby just because there may be a stereotypical fan that doesn’t match who you are. Be who God made you in the best way you can to honor Him, and don’t worry about what others think. Run your race!
I’m so thankful for the delightful experience I had at this race and all the things I learned.
Disclaimer: I am very thankful to Michael Waltrip Racing and 5Hour Energy for allowing me to be their social media reporter. The thoughts I share are my own and may not reflect those of these companies. I was not required to personally endorse any product or team while I enjoyed my experience.