The weekend started off on Friday upon landing in Miami, and quickly got off on an exciting start as our cab driver spent more time on the shoulder of the freeway, and honking his horn at the Miami rush hour traffic, than in an actual lane. My dad and I eventually made it to our hotel safely and quickly realized the hotel we were staying at was not your regular hotel. This was the first of many surprises throughout the weekend that really made winning the NASCAR Peak Antifreeze Series championship sink in.
A few hours later, we met with Steve Myers and Otto Szebeni from iRacing for dinner down in Miami Beach. Talking with these guys, you could really see the passion they have for iRacing, and sim racing in general. They also had a great sense of humor that would make the trip a great one.
Saturday morning was our first day at the track. Having never been to Homestead, I never realized how far out in the middle of nowhere it really is. After going through what seemed to be the never-ending palm tree farms, we arrived at the track, got our credentials and headed into the track. My dad never had the opportunity to get a garage pass before, so we spent most of the day Saturday walking through the garage and pit lane during practices.
After a few weather delays, from what our trip’s “chief meteorologist” — Otto Szebeni — would call a stationary front over top of the track, we headed up to our seats for the Xfinity Series race. The seats we had were up in the NASCAR suite above Turn One, and will ruin any race fan from their experience of watching a race the typical way. That was truly a once in a lifetime experience.
On Sunday, there was a bit more on the schedule. First up was the pace car ride. Riding around the track that I’ve raced numerous times on the iRacing service and being able to actually see how well iRacing’s laser scanned tracks correlate to the real thing was awesome.
“In the same room as all the drivers just hours away from competing in the last race of the year, and Jeff Gordon’s last race of his career.”
After taping the iRacing TV segment in the media center, we then headed into the garage area to meet up with TJ Majors (spotter for Dale Jr.) in the #88 team hauler. TJ gave us a tour of the hauler and talked about sim racing, and a whole slew of other things. After talking with TJ for a while we then headed over to the #15 hauler where we met Michael Waltrip and Clint Bowyer, and also received a more in depth tour of the hauler as well as the pit box.
Once all that was complete, we attended the drivers meeting, which was probably one of the coolest experiences of the whole weekend . . . in the same room as all the drivers that were just hours away from competing in the last race of the year, and Jeff Gordon’s last race of his career. They played a short video of his career and then began going through the actual meeting.
We then headed out to the driver introduction stage to receive the NASCAR PEAK Antifreeze Series championship ring and trophy. Unfortunately, the aforementioned stationary front had been replaced by a cold front (according to Otto), and not 30 seconds before heading up onto stage the rain started falling, and the drivers were told to return to their haulers. Clint tried really hard to get the stage guys to let us go up there but, it was to no avail as the rain started falling harder. I can’t thank Michael and Clint enough for taking the time to at least attempt the presentation.
Even though we got rained on a little bit, it did not take away from the amazing weekend. I can’t thank everyone at iRacing, PEAK Antifreeze, and NASCAR enough for putting-on our series. I also want to thank Steve and Otto for taking us everywhere down there and making it one hell of an experience. I can’t wait to be back in the series for 2016 with the Team and trying to defend the title.