Sunday at Phoenix International Raceway certainly is a Race Day. The weather is great – mostly blue skies with the sun darting in and out of the few fluffy clouds. The chilly breeze keep it cool, but definitely break out the sun block and shades. No doubt that Sunday’s The Profit on CNBC 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Race will come off as planned. Saturday was black and white. Sunday is definitely Technicolor – big, bright beautiful – sensory overload, NASCAR style.
The Cup garage opened at 7am and the hustle and bustle began. If one wears ear protection, really good ear protection just once during the weekend, it’s Sunday morning in the garage where the teams run their engines for extended periods of time, quite loudly.
Those fans who have paid for the privilege are wandering in the garage, which starts out ‘Cold’ before becoming ‘Hot’ which limits access. Pit tours are leading groups around explaining what they are seeing and experiencing.
Out in Pit Lane there was a long queue of people patiently awaiting their chance for a Pace Car Ride. Meanwhile, over in Victory Circle, there’s another queue of people waiting to have a chance for a Photo Op with the Race Trophy.
The Grandstands are slowly filling, but there are lots of people on the track by the movable stage, awaiting their chance for a photo, autograph, hand slap or some form of acknowledgement from a driver or two. There’s probably many more fans out in the merchandise areas, based on the branded and logo apparel seen everywhere. Talk about wearing your heart on your sleeve – and everywhere else possible.
In the Pit Lane the crews have mostly completed their Pit Box complex installations, and quite grand they are. They’re like large metal marvels – Control Rooms/Work Shops, full of electronics of all kinds including satellite dishes. Everything is lined up perfectly. Branding is noticeable everywhere. Anything with a surface has a team or sponsor logo.
AUSTIN DILLON/No.3 Chevrolet has his Pit Box decorated like a log cabin, complete with fireplace video.
Swarms of crew hover and prep away on the cars, and others are tending to their specific/assigned tasks in Pit Lane. There’s even one crew member who paints bright colors on all the lug nuts – five per wheel.
Any number of things could be happening Sunday to celebrate the track’s Fiftieth Anniversary. One has already happened, with the bringing to the Media Center two well-known drivers with a Phoenix history – BOBBY ALLISON and AJ FOYT.
Allison won the 1982 Coors 250 K&N West Series race at PIR. During that race, the Bobby Allison Grand Stand hadn’t yet been built, so the drivers were driving right into the sun. It was so bad the race was stopped for half an hour until the sun set. Allison had lots more tales.
AJ Foyt also had tales to tell, mostly funny. He won his first race at PIR, and his first USAC Championship at PIR. He also went on to win four IndyCar races and one stock car race at PIR. He’s glad that TONY STEWART is running his number – 14. He doesn’t like to see numbers retire. And he wants to see IndyCars back at PIR. “I think it would be a good race.”