Ever wondered what it’s like to be on a real race track? I’m not talking about watching a race from the bleachers – I mean burning rubber on the tracks! If you love NASCAR, racing, or cars in general, this post is going to rev your engines! Recently while attending the Cars 3 press event, I had the opportunity to tour Sonoma Raceway, see real life race cars up close and personal, take a few laps around the track and so much more. Read on for details!
I was invited as media to cover this event. All opinions are my own.
Sonoma Raceway Tour
With an early start (6:30 am to be exact) we made our way for the hour drive to Sonoma Raceway. Once at the track, we enjoyed a delicious breakfast, followed by several presentations. One of those presentations I’m going to share with you today – The history of NASCAR racing. I’ll follow up with the other presentations in a future post as their scope is about the new Cars 3 movie hitting theaters June 16th.
Check out these beauties! That’s a whole lot of race cars. We were surrounded by them all day long. Seeing them whiz by on the track, then taking a turn on the race track ourselves!
Here’s my ride r’ die buddies Stella from According to Stella and Nicole from SAHM Reviews. Safety first, so we donned these silly red caps, then slipped on a racing helmet. You’d think I’d be a pro at this racing stuff after taking a spin on the Las Vegas Speedway a few years ago, but Sonoma’s track is VERY different. It’s not a typical track; it has 12 turns! No oval loops here. You’re going to turn left and right and go up and down a few times. My stomach was doing circles as we hopped in the car with our experienced driver.
We survived! After a few laps around the track, we were back on solid ground. Boy do those cars fly! Most of the time I found our race car edging the grass and yellow markers. Our driver loves to drive (and win).
Pit Stop Challenge
Yep that’s right, we got our hands dirty – well actually I wore gloves. 😉 After a quick demo on how to change a pit car tire, we teamed up for the challenge. I picked blogging buddy Andrew from Mommy’s Busy.
Look who was there to cheer us on; Luigi and Guido from Cars!
Okay game faces on – it’s time to change this tire! Unfortunately our first go at the pit stop challenge resulted in an equipment malfunction, but thankfully we received a second shot at it. Trying to change a tire in record time is insane! And those tires are not light, nor do they line up very well, but no excuses, right?! So who won?
Andrew and I of course!!! We beat everyone’s time by 10’s of seconds. 31:46 is our exact time. Can you change a tire that fast? Look how proud we are. 🙂
Want to see us in action? Check out Andrew’s video below!
Touring a Race Car Garage
In addition to touring the track, racing, and the pit stop challenge, we also stopped into the garage of Robin Automotive owned by Tony Nicholson. He was nice enough to give us the lowdown on maintaining race cars, and touring his car collection. Wow – did he have some sweet rides in there!
Yep, that’s a Cooper Monaco. Wouldn’t you want to take that for a spin?
What’s the Batmobile doing in here? Now that’s pretty awesome. The boys would’ve love to see that in person!
Here’s our group of 24 lucky bloggers who flew out to California for this amazing press event.
The History of NASCAR Racing
Remember those presentations I mentioned at the beginning? We learned SO much during our Sonoma Raceway tour. Creative Director Jay Ward and Ray Evernham, former crew chief of Hendrick Motorsports, gave us the lowdown on NASCAR racing. They were beaming as they presented us with racing history, and conveniently tied in the new Cars 3 film into their presentation. They were definitely in the zone.
Have you ever wondered what NASCAR stands for? National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing.
And how about the history of NASCAR? How did it all begin? According to Jay, it has “some pretty nefarious roots.” Ray Evernham piped in to share, “There were guys, Moonshiners, making illegal whiskey, and had to get their whiskey from city to city so they hired these guys called bootleggers. They had special cars that looked stock but they had good engines in them, they had strong suspension and they were great drivers and that’s how delivered their product.”
Then the moonshiners started racing each other to see who was the best. That’s when Bill France Sr. realized he could turn this into a legitimate sport.
Tying NASCAR history into Cars 3
When researching for the latest Cars film, Ward shared they based their legends in the film on real legends.
Junior Moon – Based on legendary NASCAR driver and mechanic Junior Johnson. Johnson’s father was a moonshiner and Junior became a bootlegger. He was a great driver, but had a stint with the law. When he came out, he became a stock car racer and champion driver. Then transferred over to a mechanic and a champion crew chief. He kept climbing the corporate ladder and ultimately brought the first major sponsor onboard to NASCAR.
River Scott – Wendell Scott was the first African American making major accomplishments in NASCAR during a pre-Civil Rights era. While other drivers would pull into the pits and have a crew handle, Wendell Scott did not. He had to jack it up and change his own tires! Despite his challenges, he still managed to become the first African-American to win in the Grand National Series.
Smokey – Smokey Yunkick was one of the best racing mechanics of all time. Smokey was known for finding holes in the racing rules. Smokey’s theory was that if it didn’t say you couldn’t do it in the rules, then you could. He’s known for wearing a hat, so his character in the film wears a visor.
Louise “Barnstormer” Nash – Louise Smith was one of the first lady drivers ever in NASCAR. She won several times at NASCAR’s highest level back at a time when women weren’t even allowed in the pits. She drove a Nash, which the same vehicle you’ll see in the Cars 3 film.
About Cars 3:
Blindsided by a new generation of blazing-fast racers, the legendary Lightning McQueen (voice of Owen Wilson) is suddenly pushed out of the sport he loves. To get back in the game, he will need the help of an eager young race technician, Cruz Ramirez (voice of Cristela Alonzo), with her own plan to win, plus inspiration from the late Fabulous Hudson Hornet and a few unexpected turns. Proving that #95 isn’t through yet will test the heart of a champion on Piston Cup Racing’s biggest stage!
Cars 3 Trailer:
Don’t forget Cars 3 hits U.S. theaters June 16th!
I hope you enjoyed the Sonoma Raceway tour and NASCAR history!