After the checkered flag was waved to begin the 2010 season, all that was left for Jamie McMurray, winner of last weekend's Daytona 500, were the customary visits to the various cities that make-up the championship tour.
McMurray, driver of the No. 1 Bass Pro Shop-sponsored Earnhardt Ganassi Chevrolet, held off a late charge by Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the No. 88 Amp/National Guard-sponsored Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet Impala SS, after a two and a half hour delay because of a pothole between turns one and two.
After being released by Roush Fenway Racing at the end of the 2009 season, McMurray was picked up by Earnhardt Ganassi Racing to take over Martin Truex’s ride after Truex signed with Michael Waltrip Racing for the 2010 season.
The win not only gave Teresa Earnhardt her fourth 500 victory, but it also made her the 500’s winningest owner in the 21st century.
The win for McMurray was just the beginning of a very grueling schedule of doing talk show after talk show, along with the customary visits to the various major cities throughout the country.
"Oh, my God!" McMurray screamed after taking the checkered flag. "I can't freaking believe it right now. Thank you so much. I can't believe we just won the Daytona 500."
Los Angeles City Hall, seen here in the background, is where the day’s festivities would officially begin.
“Auto Club Speedway day in L.A.” as the event was dubbed, is centered on promoting NASCAR racing in the local area, and each year it is staged in conjunction with the Auto Club 500, which is run the same weekend.
Since the Daytona 500 runs the weekend before the Auto Club 500, the event also includes the race winner as part of the victory tour.
Auto Club Speedway invited some of their season ticket holders to accompany McMurray for a tour of the city, along with members of the media aboard this double decker bus.
When you talk about a nostalgic tour of the city, why not include a bus that is probably as old as the city itself.
The ride was not one to brag about, but it did get a lot of attention especially driving down the freeway with the banner proclaiming Jamie McMurray Day in L.A.
The guest of honor arrives amidst a throng of cameras and members of the local media.
McMurray was quickly ushered into City Hall, where he took a short tour of the building, which includes some of L.A.’s most treasured memorabilia.
Jamie McMurray, along with Auto Club Speedway President Gillian Zucker, and L.A. City controller Wendy Gruell, exit City Hall in anticipation of getting the day's events started.
The first order of business is to proclaim Feb. 18, “Auto Club Speedway Day in L.A."
Wendy Gruell, who is L.A.’s self proclaimed “Queen of Potholes,” talks about the impact that NASCAR has on the city financially, as well as the continued support the city will give towards the sport.
Gruell also said that if Daytona needed someone to help with the pothole problem, that she was available.
Gruell earned the title of “Pothole Queen,” when she helped city crews and volunteers fill 747 potholes in one weekend, after being elected to the City Council back in 2003.
McMurray and Zucker hold up the certificate of proclamation that will be displayed at Auto Club Speedway.
Jamie McMurray talks about his Daytona 500 win, and the impact it has had on his life during the past week.
One of the topics he focused on was the grueling schedule of doing appearance after appearance, with little to no rest.
“It’s been a long, tiring week, and its something I never expected. Winning the race was unbelievable, but everything else that goes along with it is unbelievable," said McMurray as he addressed the media and his fans.
Kevin Harvick, Matt Kenseth, as well as some of the other 500 winners told him that after the win his life would never be the same, especially the week following the win and to enjoy every moment of it.
McMurray thanked the fans that have supported him through the years, and the opportunity that Chip Ganassi gave him to drive one his cars this season.
Now it was time to leave the confines of City Hall, and embark on one the most bumpiest and adventurous rides through the streets of Los Angeles.
The bus driver assured us that she was well-schooled on how to navigate these treacherous roads, along with the aggressiveness it takes to get from one destination to the next.
Its not so much the bottle-necked traffic that she had to worry about, but also the pedestrians who have no respect for what color the light is to cross the maze of streets that she was about to navigate.
For a minute she thought she was actually racing the Auto Club Speedway show car, which is seen through the right side window.
No the picture isn't backwards; she actually drove very well considering the bus was right-hand drive.
With McMurray in tow, it was now time to head for our first destination.
McMurray opted to enjoy the beautiful sunlit day, and take a seat on the outdoor pavilion and give the media as well as the season ticket holders a chance to ask him some questions.
Auto Club Speedway provided refreshments for the day's events, along with souvenirs for the season ticket holders.
The first stop was L.A. Live’s ESPN zone where McMurray would do a live radio interview with ESPN sports broadcasters Mychal Thompson, and his partner Andrew Siciliano.
The event brought out the Lakers biggest star Earvin “Magic” Johnson, who tried jumping over this fan to get into the day's festivities.
McMurray, who had the Midas touch when he took the victory at Daytona, would not be denied his chance in the spotlight which caused Magic to freeze in his footsteps.
Next stop on the tour was a visit to King Taco, which is a landmark eatery in the local area.
King Taco has been a staple amongst the Angelenos for a few decades, and seen here is Joann Young along with Zucker, and McMurray as they get ready to address the fans and local media.
Daytona 500 Champion Jamie McMurray and boxing’s Super Bantamweight Champion Israel Vazquez, partake of one of King Taco’s signature carne asada soft tacos for the fans and media.
McMurray was not shy about topping his taco with the infamous red chili sauce, which is a lot hotter than the milder green one.
A nice cold bottle of water helped to soothe the burning effect, when McMurray found out just how hot the sauce really was.
McMurray talks to the local media about what it was like to win the biggest race of the season.
They asked him questions about the sport, as well as all the publicity that he has been receiving since becoming a Daytona 500 Champion.
After eating the hot chili, his Spanish took on a new light and he sounded like a seasoned veteran while answering question after question.
He amazed a lot of people who were standing around listening to him speak their language, until it was found out that a Spanish interpreter was quietly standing in the wings translating for him.
Maybe one more taco would have done the trick, or it could have backfired and burned his mouth so bad he wouldn’t have been able to say anything.
Either way, McMurray was a trooper for even trying the hotter sauce during the visit, and the fans enjoyed every minute of stay here.
The day was perfect, and almost went by without any incidents. Well the reason I say "almost" is...take a look at McMurray's facial expression, and that alone should tell the whole story.
After eating a very good lunch that Auto Club Speedway graciously provided for all who attended the event.
The burritos that each person consumed at King Taco, lets just say were worth their weight in gold.
As the bus driver was backing out of the parking lot, the rear end of the bus got stuck at the end of the driveway and the passengers in the lower level had to exit the bus.
As much as the driver tried to free the bus, it didn’t work so the passengers who were sitting on the top level had to move forward so the bus could free itself.
Once the bus was free, the crowd cheered and it was back to City Hall where the event would come to its conclusion.
This is Joann Young, who is Auto Club Speedway’s Public Relations Manager.
She was very well organized in getting the event started, and here she is seen greeting all the season-ticket holders while making sure that each one was well taken care of.
Ms. Young also greeted all the media members, along with making sure that each stop we made was ready for our arrival.
A lot went into planning an event of this magnitude, and watching her go about her routine was truly a testimony of all the hard work and dedication she has for the Speedway, as well as the sport itself.
What more can be said about the first class event that Gillian Zucker who is President of Auto Club Speedway, and David Talley who is Director of Communications organized for the “Auto Club Speedway Day in L.A.”
Mr. Talley was hands on from the very beginning, greeting all who were there to attend the event, and he also made sure that all the banners were properly placed on our red chariot.
Once the event got started and we boarded the bus for our historical tour through the streets of Los Angeles, Mr. Talley took the initiative to make sure that all who were aboard the bus had something to drink, as well as tended to the season ticket holders making sure that all their needs were met.
The professionalism that Mr. Talley displayed, tells a lot about the character of the employees the speedway hires to handle each individual duty.
Ms. Zucker was also hands on making sure the Speedway was portrayed in a very respectable manner.
She allowed her team to carry out the days events, without once changing the program that was already laid out.
That alone spoke a thousand words, and is testimony to the tight ship she runs at the speedway.
The day is over, and now it's time see what other NASCAR adventure awaits around the corner.