Matt and I spent the weekend at Watkins Glen for the NASCAR race. On Sunday morning, we woke to the news of the tragic events the night before at Canandaigua Motorsports Park. While there certainly was a dark cloud hovering overhead, here are the silver linings from this weekend.
1. First-time winner A.J. Allmendinger. Sure, every driver is excited to win a race. But there is nothing like the enthusiasm of a first-time winner. And no one was more excited about winning his first NASCAR race than A.J. Allmendinger (after 213 starts). Well, except maybe car owner Brad Daugherty, who jumped up and down in the broadcast booth and bear-hugged his co-host Rusty Wallace. The NASCAR race at Watkins Glen has a knack of producing great racing and surprise winners. And this week was no exception. Check out A.J.’s Victory Lane interview. My favorite part is that his former employer Roger Penske was one of the first to congratulate him.
2. The kindness of strangers. When we head to the track, Matt uses a scooter to cover long distances. On Friday, we trekked across the track through the infield camping to snap some photos near the Outer Loop. As we headed back, Matt complained that the scooter would only turn left (I think it was confused and thought we were at an oval). Sure enough, a bolt in the scooter’s suspension had come out of its hole. No sooner had we stood the scooter up to examine the suspension, a couple campers came over to see if they could help. They rounded up tools and helped us repair the suspension. And when we offered to buy them a case of beer or some firewood for the weekend, they refused. So, to those Good Samaritan campers, thank you. And we will be sure to pay it forward.
3. The bar at the Seneca Lodge. For more than 15 years, I’ve been staying at the Seneca Lodge, which is just down the hill from Watkins Glen International. Inside the Lodge’s main building is a restaurant and bar. But the bar isn’t just any bar—it’s part of racing history. The walls and ceiling are covered with racing artifacts spanning the years—stickers, hats, photos, signs, banners, and car parts. And hanging from the deer heads and arrows (placed by the archers who also call the Lodge home) behind the bar are laurel wreaths left behind by Watkins Glen race winners past. Because this is where they came to celebrate after a long day at the track. The historical significance really hit me a couple months ago when I watched the F1 documentary 1, which included home movies of James Hunt and Emerson Fittipaldi celebrating at the same bar that Matt and I pony up to every visit. The bar truly is my happy place (when I’m not at the track).
4. Rubbing shoulders with the drivers. Thanks to a cold pit pass, Matt and I were able to rub shoulders with some of the drivers (like Marcos Ambrose) and actually meet a few. But more on that later this week…