Mid Ohio Madness: Day One

It was about 7:20 in the morning, and nausea had taken over. A loud throbbing entered my right temple. From my lips, a huff escaped.

Getting up this early during the summer wasn’t the issue. It was what I was getting up early to do.

IndyCar is racing over at Mid Ohio this weekend, which is about 40 minutes from my house. My local newspaper, the Mansfield News Journal, invited me to gain experience in the media part of things. Me, a small town girl who writes a racing blog, getting the chance to learn the ropes from people who get paid to write.

Can you see why I was nervous?

Half an hour later, I had straightened my hair, threw on my ‘professional’ clothes, and ended up staring into the mirror. You could see the worry in my eyes. My heart was hitting hard, making my chest ache. I couldn’t back down now; I was expected to show up. Besides, this was an amazing opportunity that not everyone receives. Putting all the fear behind me is what I needed to do.

So I did.

On the way over, my phone vibrated. An email told me that I could talk to Justin Wilson about his work for the International Dyslexia Association if I desired. I accepted without hesitation.

After the ten minute battle of getting the credentials (the people in the booth were very confused because I’m only 16), Mom and I headed for the Goodyear Tower. The young lady in the official-looking polo told us the media was on the second floor. Climbing up the steps, I wasn’t sure of what I was about to walk in to.

The room was crowded. People were sitting in chairs, leaning against the wall, rushing around, all with a credential swinging from their necks. I quickly found the PR man for the track, Jesse Ghiorzi, who also hooked me up with the passes, and he filled me in on what goes on in the Media Center. Everyone was there for the announcement of Kellogg’s, the cereal brand, teaming up with Chip Ganassi Racing for some new promotions. Dario Franchitti and Scott Dixon would be in the center at 10:00 to talk about it. Having no idea that was happening, Mom and I took two seats near the wall.

My first press conference on my first day. Huh. I began snapping pictures with my iPhone, getting weird looks from the adults in the room. Their thoughts probably sounded like: “Why is this teenage girl here? Ew.”

Oh well. I wasn’t there to please them anyway.

I kept my mouth shut as everyone asked Dario and Scott questions. Then, they made the drivers eat a bowl of Vrooms, the special new cereal made just for this partnership that can be found at Target. I cringed; cereal on a ninety-degree day? The rest of the time was for photographers to snap pictures and for reporters to get sound bites. One camera guy told Dario and Scott to hold the boxes of cereal for exactly five seconds. Then, he made them switch spots and do the same thing. His tone wasn’t that sweet. Geeze.

We snuck past everyone and went onto the second level, where all the magic happens. You had a great view of the start/finish line and the first turn. A TV showed coverage of the practice that was going on, following the cars around the whole track. The wooden counter traveled around the room, stopping at the back wall, so writers could use their laptops. There was a table with all sorts of pamphlets, schedules, and press releases spread across it. Boxes of Poptarts and Frosted Flakes also rest on the surface, now adorned with Dario’s smiling face.

I met Katie Largent, a senior at John Carroll University, who was starting her second year interning at Mid Ohio. After a bit of talk, she revealed she was a NASCAR fan. Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Joey Logano fan, actually. That made me relax a bit more. She’s responsible for everything that goes on in the Media Center, except technical issues. It was nice to meet someone relatable in a room full of higher-up professionals.

Leaving the Media Center, we went and walked around, taking in the size of the course. The sun burned hotter as we circled the place, reminding me of the air-conditioned building I abandoned. But, I didn’t care; I had to look at this weekend from all aspects, from a reporter to an intern to a fan. Soak it up and cherish how it made me feel.

We headed back, and I finally sat down with Justin Wilson. Bringing out my tape recorder, my hands trembled for my first one-on-one interview. He was very easy to talk with, as we covered the International Dyslexia Association, the Mid Ohio wreck last year that broke his back, and fear. That interview will be up sometime next week.

The heat started to get to me, so we left around 12:30. I felt horrible that we had to leave, but tomorrow is supposed to be crazier: qualifying, the American Le Mans Series race, and who knows what else. No reason for me to pass out on day one, right?

At the end of the day, I’m sitting here, still nauseous about what happened and what is to come. I guess there’s no room for fear, so I’m diving in head first for the rest of this weekend.

Here I come, IndyCar. Be ready.

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