Sunday Group Management Intern Amanda Peters describes her first weekend working with Sunday Group. While she had been to the Speedway several times before…this was her first to be working an event (the SuperWeekend GRAND-AM Brickyard Grand Prix).
As a born and bred Hoosier who grew up just about half-an-hour south of the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the track holds a special place in my heart. I’ve always maintained that the IMS trumps Disney World as “the happiest place on earth,” and after getting to spend over 30 hours working the second annual Brickyard Grand Prix event, that opinion has only been reinforced.
My time at the track started on Wednesday when I arrived at the track at noon to pick up my credentials and meet Julie (Conlin, with Sunday Group) and Matt (Cleary, also with Sunday Group) in the media center. Shortly after flashing my credentials and getting into the media center for the first time ever, Julie left to help out with Action Express driver Christian Fittipaldi’s media tour. I stayed in the media center to finish up some work ahead of the weekend. After finishing with the media tour, Julie returned and she took me on a tour of the track to find all of the important locations, including all of our clients’ transporters. I was also able to meet most of the drivers and get acquainted with how the track was set up for the SuperWeekend.
Thursday started bright and early, as I arrived at the track just after 7:00am to get my parking pass and attend the drivers meetings. Even though getting my parking pass turned out to be more of a challenge than any of us expected, the famous “yellow shirts” made the process less stressful and I met up with Julie in the media center around 8:30am. I also met the fourth member of our team for the weekend, Peter Minnig, who creates video content for our clients. After a little bit of catching up on work in the media center, the rest of the day was spent gathering quotes from the drivers and teams about qualifying and the rest of the weekend.
The weather was absolutely amazing, hovering in the mid to upper 70s all day, so running between the pit lane and the transporters proved to be rather enjoyable. During qualifications, Julie and I were keeping track of Stevenson Motorsports for the Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge and also following Michael Shank Racing and Spirit of Daytona Racing for the Rolex Series. After gathering post-qualifications quotes from the drivers and team personnel, Julie and I returned to the media center and I set to work transcribing quotes and editing the stories Matt and Julie were working on. We wrapped up writing around 8:30PM (after noting that the Rolex Series race would just be finishing up at that time on Friday night).
Friday saw a little bit of a later start for all of us, as we arrived at the track around 8:30am to do a bit of preparation before the drivers meetings began at 10:00 AM. I reviewed the GRAND-AM media kit, focusing on the North American Endurance Championship (NAEC) points possibilities after this race, because the Brickyard Grand Prix marked the third and final race in the championship and both Action Express and Stevenson Motorsports were positioned to win their respective classes.
At the drivers meeting it was amazing to see the range of drivers at the meeting, and realize just how dedicated and talented they all are, from recent Indy 500 winner Tony Kanaan to F1 legend Rubens Barrichello to the young and talented Ricky Taylor and Gustavo Yacaman to former Indianapolis 500 racer Christian Fittipaldi. After the meeting, Julie, Peter and I made our way over to the Michael Shank Racing hauler to ensure everything was in order for the autograph session and fan walk at 11:30 AM. It was great to see just how unabashedly excited all of the fans were to meet the drivers and get their autographs.
Following the autograph session, we made our way back to the media center for a quick lunch before heading down to a tweet-up in the social media garage with Ozz Negri and a few of the other drivers. The social media garage at IMS is really exciting and interesting because it provides a physical location where it is possible to see just how powerful social media actually is. In fact, with just the buzz created from the drivers and various other outlets tweeting about the tweet-up, the garage was so full they had to turn people away. It made me realize how powerful a tool the various social media outlets can be for promoting and generating interest in just about anything, but specifically motorsports.
The 2.5-hour Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge race started just after the tweet-up, so I settled into the media center with an amazing view of the front straight just out of the floor-to-ceiling windows on my right and a live broadcast of the rest of the race as well as live timing and scoring on the televisions above me to follow Michael Marsal throughout the race.
Even though I watched most of the race on the television just above me, there was something amazing about being able to hear the cars as they raced down the front stretch and into turn one. After his driver change midway through the race, Matt and I went down to pit lane to talk to Michael Marsal about his stint and get some quotes from him. As we were talking with him and tracking the progress of his Multimatic Motorsports No. 71 Aston Martin Vantage machine on the live timing and scoring board in his pit, the car encountered a problem in turn one and hit the wall, ending the day for the team. After his disappointing end to the race, I returned to the media center to write a race recap story.
I truly learned firsthand the value of working quickly and effectively, as I finished up my story just before the start of the Rolex Series race. I also gained even more respect for Matt and Julie, realizing just how much quality content they create in such a short amount of time.
Throughout the Rolex Series race I followed Action Express, literally on the edge of my seat, hoping they would take the NAEC title. With about 10 minutes remaining in the race, Julie and I headed down to the pit lane to be ready to gather post-race quotes.
Perhaps the highlight of my weekend occurred after the race when we were getting a post-race quote from Stevenson Motorsports driver Robin Liddell after his second place finish. I still had the media kit with all of the NAEC point possibilities in it, and was able to provide the conclusive proof that Stevenson Motorsports had in fact won the NAEC in the GT class. We then got to make our way out onto the track to get quotes and witness the celebrations. It was exciting that they won, and even more exciting to get to be a kind of “bearer of good news.”
The rest of my evening was spent transcribing quotes and editing stories, until we were among the select few still remaining in the media center around midnight. Although it was just three days, it was still a long week full of long days. But walking out of the media center around midnight and seeing the famous Pagoda all lit up reminded me how much I love not only that track, but all of motorsports and this kind of work which made the long hours entirely worth it.