Let’s start at the beginning for this story, shall we?
So. There is a racing series called the Pirelli World Challenge. The cars raced are nothing like F1 or IndyCars. They aren’t even like NASCARS. The cars raced in the Pirelli World Challenge are more like customer cars–just normal cars that might be driven on the street. They just have better (and louder) engines, roll cages, and 5 point harnesses. Oh and different fuel. But other than that, they are just road cars. Now this series often has races that are the same weekend as IndyCar races. Same venue, just different times (obviously).
Many months ago, I was watching an IndyCar race when the announcers started talking about the Pirelli World Challenge. It wasn’t a series I followed closely, just because I wasn’t really aware of it and also because they don’t always air the races the same weekend they happen–it’s always weeks later. So I just didn’t know. But the announcers started talking about a race at the Miller Motorsports Park in September and how it was going to be a great weekend. I immediately recognized the name. Miller Motorsports Park is in Utah. I got really excited. Wait. A race? In UTAH?!?! I have to go!! As soon as I heard that the race was going to be so close to me, I jumped on the website and found that tickets were SUPER cheap (like $25/day for general admission). I knew I was going. It didn’t matter who was going with me. All I knew is that I had to go. The race was the in early September. I think it was May or maybe even April when I found out.
Later in the year, probably in June at a family reunion, I asked my dad if he would go with me. To my astonishment, he said yes almost immediately! I was so excited!!
August rolled around. I knew my dad had expressed interest in going with me, but I didn’t know if he could actually go with me. I called my mom and asked her if he was still planning on coming. She told me that yes he was still planning on it and she needed to get a flight arranged. AHHHHHH!!! I was actually going to be spending a weekend at the track. I was beyond stoked.
Then the actual weekend rolled around. My dad arrived, I didn’t have to work, my sister didn’t have to work, and we were all excited to go. Friday was free admission. The gates opened at 8 AM. Part of me wanted to be there at 745 so we could be there for the full day. The other part of me wanted to sleep in a bit so I could be rested for my day of fun. I slept in a bit. Then we waited for my sister to get out of school at noonish to go to the track. We ate lunch and then headed out to Tooele, where the track is. I was excited on the way there, but nothing could compare to the excitement I felt when we turned off the freeway and down the road to the actual facility. As I saw the countless flagpoles that flew the flags of the Miller Motorsports Park, all I could do was smile. This was all actually happening. We drove through the gates and a volunteer directed us to the nearest open row of gravel parking. We got out and walked towards the offices, where we picked up a program and schedule for the day. Then we walked through the gates to the paddock. I know it’s silly, but I couldn’t stop smiling. I was walking into an active paddock for the first time. Part of me was a bit scared–I didn’t want to be disappointed; I also didn’t want to stick out and look silly because I honestly didn’t really know where I was going. As we started our walk through the paddock, it became clear that the paddock was open. People were freely milling about, talking to crew members, taking pictures of cars, and observing teams setting up their cars for practice. The teams were also prepared for this and were welcoming people to walk about. It was awesome. The cars were all beautiful, as were the sounds. Listening to cars with giant engines run down the pit straight in real life was so great. We meandered up and down the paddock a few times, taking the sights and sounds. There were vendors and tents with historic cars and a lot of people wandering about. One tent had a lot of really loud music. We were stopped by the Cadillac tent, where we got t-shirts. I know, cool, right?
We also found a few stacks of tires in the back of the paddock, behind everyone’s motor homes. Now, Pirelli has a few different compounds that they offer for racing. Because of the compositions of these tires, they go by different names: Hard, Medium, Soft, Super Soft. These names just have to do with how quickly the tire will degrade or how fast it can go/for how long. The joke is, because one of the compounds is the Super Soft, that the tires feel like marshmallows. They don’t. I poked one. It was hard, like any other tire. Shoot. The stack we did find were used tires. I assumed that the teams had already gathered all the data from them, and were going to destroy them anyway. I wanted to tell my dad to grab one and we would make a run, but I didn’t. Took a picture though. (If anyone saw me, they probably thought I was really weird for taking a picture of tires. Meh. Whatever.)
After wandering down the paddock, we consulted a schedule, and picked a grandstand to sit in. We then spent the next few hours just watching the cars go by. It was so much fun. They were all incredibly loud. We watched as practices started and ended, and as qualification sessions were run. I’m sure there are specific details that I want to share, but I can’t really remember them. 😦
One thing that was awesome all weekend was the weather. It was PERFECT racing weather. Not too hot, not too cold. Perfect September weekend.
Do you want to know how difficult it is to get a good picture of a racing car when you are sitting in the grandstands? It’s difficult.
There were quite a few different types of races. There were the Pirelli World Challenge races, then there were a TON of Porsche races (like, Porsches everywhere), and then a couple of smaller car series running races as well.
When we originally headed out to the track for the day, we asked my sister and brother-in-law if they wanted to join us. My sister said she couldn’t because she was at work, but my brother-in-law agreed to come out. After he arrived, he texted me and asked me where we were. He texted one word: Marco. I replied, “Polo!” but then immediately regretted that life decision. I was at a racetrack. The only appropriate response to that text would have been, “Andretti!”
I told him that we were at the far grandstands at the end of the paddock. I assumed that he knew what a paddock was….never assume, Mary. Never. After a considerable amount of time, we all began to get worried that he was lost. We were right. After all, the facility is kinda huge. I decided that I would go look for him. I found him, wandering completely past the grandstands we were sitting in, and almost to the grandstand that was even further away from where we were. I suppose that made sense from the text I sent him. I walked up to him, to tell him that he had gone too far, and he said, “Okay, you weren’t very clear. And what the heck is a ‘paddock’?” I just looked at him, not realizing that people didn’t actually know what a paddock was. I was a bit embarrassed, but then explained that a paddock is where the cars and teams are. We went back to where my sister and dad were and watched the racing for the rest of the afternoon. It was wonderful.
Did we know what was going on? No, not really.
Was every race a bit confusing due to that? Yeah, a bit.
Was I aware of the close championship battle in the Pirelli World Challenge? No, not really.
Did it matter? Not at all.
When we left that day, we were all really excited about coming back the next day for more excitement and fun. We went home and eagerly purchased tickets for the next day (including one for my older sister! Which made Saturday a day at the track with daddy and his girls…hehehe). Friday really was fun. I know it doesn’t sound like it was, because we were just sitting in one spot, watching the cars go by on one section of the track, but it really was so much fun. And so loud. As I went to sleep that night, all I could hear were the engines roaring by. Right before I drifted to sleep, I distinctly remember debating if ear plugs would be a good idea for the next day.
We got to the track the next day. Saturday was not free admission. We had to pay to park, which meant that we got a hang tag for track admission. It is still proudly hanging on my rear view mirror. (Yes, I know. I’m a dork.)
Once we were inside, tickets (and new programs) in hand, the setup was the same. There seemed to be more people, probably because it was a Saturday, and people don’t work on Saturdays. There was practice already going on. We decided to pick seats quickly so we could see as much as we could. We chose seats on the final corner of the outer track. At Miller Motorsports Park, there are a few different configurations of the track.
Sidenote: One thing that really impressed me about Miller Motorsports Park is how quickly and well everything was run. They often had to change the track configuration and had to do it in limited time, and yet it was all done relatively seamlessly. The track commentators were also really good at calling races and telling spectators what was going on. It made watching a lot more fun. End sidenote.
We watched as Porsche races were run, as different qualification sessions were run, and as World Challenge races were run. We kinda just stayed put throughout the day, except when we went to find lunch, which was such a hassle. There was only a few places open for lunch and it was a long wait where ever we went. We finally got some lunch and returned to our chosen grandstand to watch the rest of the afternoon.
The last event of the day was NASCAR. It was late and we were all exhausted, but we stayed to watch anyway. They were loud, and went off track quite a bit. Also, when NASCAR comes to town, the stereotypical NASCAR fan also comes out. It was so incredibly interesting. I, being naive, didn’t think that the stereotype was true. I was completely wrong. There were mullets, so many mullets, and a lot of camo. I don’t mean to bash the NASCAR fan, but I was just so in awe because I was proven so wrong.
Because of all the offs and the lateness of the race, we all lost interest pretty quickly, and decided to leave in order to beat the traffic. It was a good choice. My dad let me drive (which I still don’t fully understand, but whatever). While I drove, he talked on the phone to my mom. Apparently, I have a bit of a lead foot, because my dad kept calling me Mario Andretti. Meh, I’ll take it. But maybe I’ll try slowing down too.
(and not a bad picture at all. woo! go me.)
All in all, it was such a fun weekend. I am so glad my dad came and that we were able to go all weekend. My first weekend at a track, and I can’t wait to go again. In any series. Bring it on.