It's a place that not many people ever get a chance to be, and that fact is a shame. So to better paint a picture of pre-race festivities I will relive a story from 2005.
In 2005 I worked for MBNA Bank, I was a telemarketer (not fun). We had a raffle at our building, where everyone put there name in the hat once, and the winner gets to hand the Mid Race Leader award and check at the beginning of the race. I thought hey why not there might be a chance. Sure enough my name was called and the rest is history.
The day of the race we woke up early... real early. We pulled up to Texas Motor Speedway's credential center, which gives off a real feeling of having a purpose for being at the track. After a few moments I have my credential around my neck. It says I'm with MBNA, and I am part of the pre race extravaganza.
Along with this pass come garage passes, pit passes, and just about every other kind of pass they can hand out, it is a real sweet deal.
So we walk around the track for a while just taking in the surroundings, when these two guys pull up in a golf cart. They say they've been looking for us everywhere, apparently the passes come with a ride around the track too. These guys take us anywhere we want to go on this golf cart all weekend long. So they take us to the infield where the pre-race show is going on.
We get to bypass all security and we are literally placed in the center of a crowd of 43 of the greatest drivers on the planet. Everywhere you look there's somebody you know. Rusty Wallace to my right, Dale Jarrett to my left, Dale Jr. in front of me, and Ken Schrader behind me. You get to talk to all of your hero's moments before they are to be introduced on stage.
Once driver introductions begin the seemingly seamless show you see on television, is extremely hectic backstage. People are rushing drivers back and forth, and rushing people with over-sized checks here and there. Finally, you all are in line. I'm right in front of the guy with Mobil 1, We both are handing out awards to Dale Jr. for his performance the week before at Atlanta. There is a guy who goes over your que's and everything like a conductor leading the orchestra.
They start calling driver name after driver name. The crowd begins to build as each name gets bigger and bigger as they head toward the front of the field of 43. They get to Dale Jr. the crowd goes insane, from that little stand you're placed on it is deafening to say the least, but awesome.
The announcer says, "Now on behalf of MBNA, We have Toby Christie, and Ron Christie to hand the $10,000 Mid Race Leader Award to Dale Earnhardt Jr. So I go up the ramp with my dad (who I wisely chose to give the second ticket to). We hand Earnhardt the check. We shake his hand and share a moment with him. He hands us his hat and we are on our way, as the announcer gives the Mobil 1 team their cue to go on stage.
It was an experience you can't even put a monetary value on, which is sad because NASCAR doesn't, and because of that not many people get to experience this part of the weekend enless they are working for the right company at the right time, but it was definitely something that four years later I haven't forgot anything about.