When it comes to being a fan of NASCAR, I'm just like everyone else. When it comes to being a fan at the track, I'm the first to admit that I'm spoiled. One of the perks to having a husband in the media is being able to get your hands on media passes for the race weekend. And with that comes media parking and a cold pit pass. Yes, the cold pit pass can be purchased by regular fans. But the media pass? That's where the ultimate experience comes in to play.
Several weeks ago, I was at Michigan International Speedway. They rebuilt the media center this year and while it isn't much wider than the previous MC, it's much nicer. Outside the “writer's room,” where the journalists sit tapping at their computers (and amongst whom I was doing the same thing at the time), the main floor of the media center is now floor to ceiling glass. One could stand there and watch the pit action and the race without ever having to leave the comforts of the air conditioning. This is also where they have a small lunchroom where they feed the media. The lunch room, also floor to ceiling glass, is right next to the entrance to pit road from the garages. There is almost nothing cooler that sitting there, eating lunch, and feeling the rumble of the cars as they drive past on their way back out to the track for practice.
One floor above that are the hospitality suites. These are reserved for the teams and sponsors. New this year, I believe, is a small cafe/restaurant where they can get food/drinks should their particular suite not be serving anything at that particular moment. Where we like to stand is on the roof of the media center. You can see the entire track and it's easily my favorite place inside the track to watch the race. You know, at least until the sweltering heat gets to me and I head back inside. Last year, there were not that many people up there. This year, however, despite the sweltering heat, it was packed! I managed to find a spot down by my favorite drivers pit stall and stood there for a good bit, until I'd had enough of the heat.
But perhaps the coolest part about being able to be in the media center are the press conferences. You get to see all the drivers (that are scheduled, anyway) and because the writer's room isn't too terribly big, you get to see them up close and personal. On more than one occasion I had to ask myself, “Am I really here? Am I really seeing this?” It really is an incredible experience. You also run the chance of being able to see them as they come in and out to use the rest rooms (my husband nearly ran into Jeff Gordon on his way out of the MC). The drivers meeting area is also in the media center, though I did not head in there during the meeting. There's just something about being so close to the drivers that you can reach out and touch them that makes the fan experience that much more.
If you ever have the opportunity to experience a race in the way I've described above, I highly recommend it. You won't be sorry you did!