Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Follow up with PR Intern Stephanie

It’s been five weeks since I’ve started working at Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis as the PR Intern. After the first event, the Thursday Night Thunder, I was so pleased with how well everything was going and how much I loved what I was doing. I also had a feeling that after being thrown into singing the National Anthem during that event I was prepared for anything the track staff could throw at me. But of course….. I should have known better.

The next event on the schedule was the Night Before the 500. The week before the event I did a lot of detail work. I designed the program and got things ready in the media center. I also was given the freedom to leave the safety of my trusted mentor and adventure inside the track to do my first solo interview.

Apparently, Scott thought there was a USAC team testing so I wouldn’t be to out of my element. But to my surprise I was faced with a very unfamiliar car. That evening a man named Rodin Younessicar was trying to perfect his skills of only turning left in his # 16 USF 2000 machine. When I approached him to get a short video interview I think he was just as surprised to hear me ask if I could interview him as I was to seeing him. Since I knew nothing about him or the USF 2000 series I decided the best way to get the information I needed was to just have him talk about himself. Thankfully he did a fabulous job and I was able to walk away without being embarrassed.

You can view this video at

The following week I was only in the office on Monday and Tuesday. I was able to practice my interview skills with Dalton and Dakota Armstrong and Alex Bowman on those days. Then the rest of the week I was stationed at Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS) selling discounted tickets for the Night Before the 500.

Armstrong and Bowman interview:

Finally, on Saturday I came into work for the Night Before the 500 race and once again felt at home with all the USAC people around me. The night was filled with exciting races. I loved being able to talk racing with the fans, go out and capture all the action on my camera, and meet and hear how excited the drivers were after their big win!

Following this event I was in SpeedFest mode while at the office. I was emailing drivers PR reps and making passes to send out to NASCAR. One day I had to cut 1,105 pieces of paper in half with scissors!! Talk about a HUGE blister the next day. Even though my boss was slowly killing me I was still having a great time.

The next event was the Champion Racing Association (CRA) race on June 12. This event I was no stranger to the series because I see them almost every weekend when I drive my front wheel drive (fwd). I was once again going where no intern at Lucas Oil Raceway has gone before and that was behind a wheel on the track. I had never raced there before and was slightly intimidated by the track. Not only would everyone who was working know me but this is a very large and flat track.

Race day I was ready to bring the heat and hopefully end the day with a solid finish. In practice my car had a mind of its own and just wanted to push up the track. After a few laps my confidence was boosting but it must have gone up to much because I spun out in the middle of three and four. I didn’t hit anything and when I came in my grandfather, Tom Bigelow, reassured me that I was doing great and said the only way to know I had pushed the car to its limit was to spin out.

During that practice I was running 11th out of 18 cars. Not as fast as I wanted to be so I decided we needed to make some changes. Unfortunately, the changes we made to the car made it handle a lot worse and I had to switch back the changes and start the race at the rear of the field.

My race was the first race of the afternoon and I was asked to sing the National Anthem once again. In order to make this happen I had to drive my car on the track, sing in my uniform, and then jump into my car and get buckled in as quickly as possible. Once all the pre race ceremonies concluded and I was in my car my focus and determination level was shooting through my roof. On the pace laps I felt out my car and I knew that I would be able to pass a decent amount of the cars in front of me.

Once the green flag dropped I was off. I passed one car that was spinning out to my inside and was charging to catch the next. Sadly, that car was also going to spin out right in front of me and with my car pushing as bad as it was I was unable to drop low to miss it. I ended up hitting the wall with my right front and broke the lower a-arm. I was done for the day L .

Even though I was given a hard time at work the next day and told I would be repainting the inside wall I think the staff thought it was pretty cool to see me out on the track. I now have a better understanding of the track and I’m able to tell people that turn one and two take FOREVER to get around and three and four are a lot sharper. You need to enter one right above the second lane mark and let your car drift up the track and angle it to shoot out of two. Enter three a litter higher then one and just hang on.

Thankfully, I will be able to redeem myself on October 1st when CRA returns to Lucas Oil Raceway.