By Ariana Murray, SGM Intern – @AMurray1607
PART 1: INTERNSHIP
August is drawing to a close and I cannot believe that I have been an intern with Sunday Group Management for more than six months. I am so grateful to Matt Cleary and Julie Conlin for giving me such a fabulous opportunity. I have learned as much, if not more, about public relations from this internship than I have in three years of classes at Marian University. I honed skills in many different areas, including writing releases, tracking our clients’ media exposure, and statistics.
I was excited about working for Sunday Group from the moment I saw the internship posting. I told my academic advisor, who informed me of the opportunity, how much I would love to work with Sunday Group and how much I knew I would learn about public relations and motorsports. I was thrilled when Matt offered me the position in late February because I saw a new world of knowledge, learning, and growing ahead of me.
The most interesting aspect of this internship was that I, along with both Matt and Julie, worked remotely. Sunday Group has since opened an office in Indianapolis, but at the time there was no office for me to go into each day which brought its own rewards and challenges. Working remotely made learning new programs like Google Documents, Google Alerts, and Microsoft OneNote slightly more difficult, but learning on my own made me more proficient in what I did because I figured many things out on my own. That being said, I cannot thank Julie enough for answering my constant stream of questions about anything and everything! Any time I was unsure or confused about something, she happily explained how to complete something or how to fix an error. She definitely made learning new programs and new techniques simpler! She also made sure to show me my errors so that I could correct them for the next task. I appreciated her feedback more than anything because it helped me to learn from my mistakes.
The past six months have provided me the opportunity to hone my writing skills, as one of the most important tasks at Sunday Group is writing press releases. Releases are a unique blend of business writing and creative writing and it is a fun challenge to tell a personal story in neat, concise language. I was fortunate to cover Michael Marsal throughout the summer and I wrote multiple releases about his successes in both GRAND-AM and the American Le Mans Series. While Michael is known to be a bit of a free spirit, he gave professional answers to questions that I asked and provided excellent information for me to write my articles.
I am sad to be leaving Sunday Group because it means the end of an amazing adventure and incredible learning experience. I had almost no knowledge of public relations six months ago, yet now I am seriously considering it as a career path. Of all of my extracurricular activities, class semester projects, and organizations that I have been involved with in college, this internship with Sunday Group has far and away been the most influential and educational. Once again, I thank Matt Cleary and Julie Conlin for welcoming me into their small family and teaching me all that they know.
PART II: LIFE AT THE INDIANAPOLIS MOTOR SPEEDWAY
I had the opportunity to attend three events with Sunday Group, two of them at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, my home track. My first race weekend was the GRAND-AM race at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in June. As my previous blog post covered this trip, I will focus mainly on the two Indianapolis Motor Speedway events that I attended, a GRAND-AM test on July 6-7, and the Kroger Super Weekend at the Brickyard on July 26-27.
The two events at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway were amazing because the track has been my home away from home since my family moved to Speedway, Indiana when I was a young child. I have not missed a race at IMS since 1993 (almost 20 years!), yet this was my first year as part of the media! The media center is enormous. The fourth floor, where we were located, seats over 300 people and the second floor holds an additional 150 members of the media. The third floor holds a full-service cafeteria, including two soda fountains and a popcorn machine. The first floor contains the photography department and the Chris Economaki Press conference room. Not surprisingly, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway media center is the largest permanent media center in the world.
The test session was quite interesting, as the GRAND-AM cars had not been on the track surface since late 2009. The ambient temperature was just over 100° and the track temperature rose to nearly 150°. Those of us in the media center relished in the air conditioning, but we all felt extreme sympathy for the crew members and drivers out in the heat. Their fire suits made the heat and humidity even more unbearable! The most exciting portion of the weekend for me was writing my first story for Sunday Group. Michael Marsal was driving a P1 Dyson Racing Mazda coupe at Lime Rock Park with the American Le Mans Series. I was to write a release on his qualifying and race efforts. While he and his co-driver suffered moderate body damage early in the race, they powered on to a third place finish. I spent the better part of our two days at IMS critiquing every part of the release and agonizing over whether I had enough information to use in the article. However, my concerns were unfounded and I did a solid job on my first press release. Though a good writer is never completely satisfied with her work, I was pleased about the final result.
The Kroger Super Weekend at the Brickyard was a jam-packed weekend, but full of excitement and drama. We arrived at the track early Thursday morning to become comfortable with the vast media center, the Rolex Series paddock, and the Continental Tire Series paddock. While the racetrack was busy with NASCAR Nationwide Series practice, our group wrote qualifying and race previews, attended driver’s meetings, and spoke with various teams and drivers about their feelings on competing at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Throughout the weekend, every person I spoke to had extremely positive things to say about racing at IMS. More than once, I heard people express that this experience was a once in a lifetime opportunity and that it was an honor and a privilege to race at such a heralded and historically significant track.
Our busy Friday began when we arrived at the track around 7:15 AM. We went over the day’s events and our individual tasks and then headed to pit lane for Continental Tire practice. As I was to write stories for Michael Marsal during the weekend, I followed his progress on track very closely. He arrived in Indianapolis for the first time the day before and was awestruck at the road course and the IMS facility. His excitement about racing was contagious and he took to the course quite well. Qualifying came immediately after practice and Marsal qualified 12th out of a seventy-car field. The Rolex cars went on track for their practice and qualifying sessions while I headed up to the media center to write my story.
We ate a hurried lunch in between Rolex qualifying and the Fan Walk, which encompassed both Continental Tire and Rolex cars. The Fan Walk proved to be a huge hit for fans because no other series that runs at IMS allows such up-close access to drivers and their cars. As the Fan Walk drew to a close, both Continental Tire and Rolex drivers got into their cars to drive a lap around the historic track for a once in a lifetime photo opportunity. More than 120 sports cars made their way around the 2.603-mile road course for the first time in the Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s 103-year history.
After the photo was taken, pre-race festivities began for the Continental Tire Series. That afternoon, rain was in the forecast and the skies looked ominous. It had not rained in Central Indiana for well over a month, but it looked as though the dry spell might end. Unfortunately for Michael Marsal, his race at IMS was cut short because of an electrical problem. The issue was found on the first lap and Marsal spent several laps in the pits. He later took the car to the garage area where it was determined that his day was done. The race proved slightly better for Sunday Group team Rum Bum Racing, who finished twelfth in the 59-lap race. A portion of the race was run under caution as finally, rain fell in Indianapolis. The strange weather proved that if an area is in need of heavy rain, it should schedule a motorsports event. Rain fell so heavily at one point that there was standing water in the pit area, which along with the thunder and lightning caused the yellow-flag conditions.
Just before 4:00 PM, Eric Curran and Lawson Aschenbach took the checkered flag for the first annual Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge at the Brickyard. While post-race festivities were held for the GS and ST winners, Rolex teams rolled out their cars for the Brickyard Grand Prix. This race had loads of drama as well as its own fair share of heavy rain. It was a bittersweet day for Michael Shank Racing, which saw John Pew and Ozz Negri bring the No. 60 machine back from one lap down to lead the race. Sadly, the car was later hit on two separate occasions by two different cars, ending the Shank team’s day early. Both Pew and Negri had a strong chance to win the race and it was a crushing blow to both of them to not be able to finish the race.
The Rolex race ended just after 7:00 PM when Alex Popow and Sebastien Bourdais of Starworks Motorsport crossed the finish line first. The win was rewarding for the team, which saw its other car in a position to win the race, only to be knocked out by another car. While the winners kissed the bricks and conducted interviews, Matt, Julie, and I worked on stories and updated team and driver statistics. We left the track around 10:00 PM and were chauffeured to our cars by media liaison Tim Sullivan on a golf cart (Thanks Tim!) As we rode down the straightaway of the road course, we saw the pagoda lit up brightly in the night sky. Each of us pulled out our phones to snap pictures. It was a picture-perfect ending to a fun, hectic day at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.