Capture the Crown in Richmond

Me, with the Crown, and a Playoff Beard

This past weekend I was invited by Crown Royal to attend their race at Richmond International Raceway. I had never been to a NASCAR event before, and lucky for me, they used their connections to make sure I got a behind the scenes looks that few fans ever get to experience. I was there to participate in a competition, entitled “Capture the Crown.” For this epic all day event, I was teamed up with two fellow members of “new media.”

Kaitlyn trying out the Headset Scanner

First was Kaitlyn, the ridiculously cute face behind HotforNASCAR.com. She produces weekly video blogs, and will soon be sharing them with our audience here at Gunaxin. We relied on her experience and charms to help advance our cause in the competition.

Josiah with Rutledge Wood

The other member of our team was Josiah from NBCSports.com, who you may know as Shakey from the House of Punte Podcast. Josiah was full of youthful energy and really made the day fun. At times it felt a little bit like we were chaperoning him on a school field trip, but it was clear that he was enjoying himself.

Team Photo before our Pace Car Ride

So there is our team, poised to jump into a Pace Car and take a few laps around the track. I had never done anything like it, and although we only got up around 90 mph, the short track and the banked turns really let you feel the speed. You may be able to get a little bit of an idea from this video :

Matthew Hansen at Press Conference

The race was actually titled “Crown Royal Presents the Matthew and Daniel Hansen 400“, in honor of Matthew Hansen (pictured above) and his twin brother who fell on the battlefield in Afghanistan. The focus was squarely on the Military at this event, and Matthew Hansen and his wife were truly treated like Royalty by the folks at Crown.

Matthew Hansen and Matt Kenseth

After a welcoming ceremony at the Crown Royal RV, we were joined by Matt Kenseth, driver of the #17 Crown Royal car :

Team Photo with Matt Kenseth

Matt took some time to pose with our team, and then sat down with all of the competitors for an interview inside the RV. He was a great guy, very down to earth and easy to talk to. I think he could tell that some of us were at our first race, but he took his time to answer our questions thoughtfully, and we all appreciated his time.

Scavenger Hunting

From there, the Capture the Crown race was really on. We were each given a booklet with over 100 scavenger hunt items of varying point levels. The strategy of course was to knock out as many high point items as we could. The hunt was designed to really give us a complete look at the entire NASCAR experience.

Posing with Miss Sprint Cup

Items varied from finding certain information about the track or key figures, experiencing the event, and documenting it with photographs. I focused mainly on the photographic proof, and relied on my teammates more to interact with the people and find the things on the list.

Pre-Race Car Inspection

We were given complete access to the track, which allowed us into the garage and pit area prior to the race. Apparently many other people had that particular access as well, and the pre-race atmosphere was really great. You were really able to get up close with the cars and crews, and experience all of the work that went into race-day.

Interview with Rodney Atkins, Matthew Hansen, and his Wife

Crown Royal had also brought in Rodney Atkins to participate in their race, and perform a pre-race concert. We had the chance to interview Rodney with Matthew Hansen and his wife shortly before he went on stage. This interview was honestly a bit awkward, as each team had their own carved out time, and we were all trying to answer the same questions in the scavenger hunt booklet.

Rodney Atkins Performing

When Rodney went on stage, we had stage-front VIP access, which of course allowed for some great photographs. Honestly I’m not typically a fan of Country Music, and didn’t really know who Rodney was. But like any music, experiencing a live concert can really make you a fan, and I enjoyed both the sound and lyrics.

Rodney Atkins with Matthew Hansen

Rodney brought Matthew Hansen on stage to talk about why the race was named after him and his brother. Those were some very touching moments, and although Matthew was nervous for it, I think he’ll look back and cherish the entire experience for a long, long time.

Drivers waiting to be introduced.

After the concert we made our way to the back of the stage, where they would be introducing the drivers. The pageantry leading up to the beginning of the race was far more then I ever realized existed.

Matt Kenseth taking an introductory lap

All 43 drivers were individually introduced, and then made their way around the track in the back of a Corvette that was provided by a local club. From there they found their cars lined up in order on Pit Road.

Whiskey tasting in the Crown Royal RV

Once the race began, we eventually made our way back to the Crown Royal RV for a Whiskey Tasting. I personally don’t drink, but the other members of our group clearly enjoyed the opportunity. They were given samples and the full story behind each of Crown’s 5 varieties : Deluxe, Black, Reserve, Cask #16, and Extra Rare.

NASCAR Fans

I could really tell how much of an event a NASCAR race is. Compared to other sporting competitions I attend regularly, most people really dedicated their day / weekend to this race, in order to get in the full experience. I guess compared to other sports, a NASCAR race in your town is really a once a year event, and the fans take full advantage.

#17 Car Pit Crew

Our Hot Passes even gave us Pit access during the race. This is something that very few race fans ever get to experience, and was truly a once in a lifetime thing for myself. The crew worked very hard during the race, and were often times running back and forth. It was a chore just to stay out of their way.

Team Pit Box

As someone who is interested in both sports and technology, I was amazed by the Pit Boxes and apparently previously had no idea what an actual NASCAR pit looked like. They had 43 of these lined up, one for each team. The crew kept track of all kinds of information, and had video replays of their pit stops in order to make adjustments on the fly. NASCAR really is a team sport, with technology playing a large role in a driver’s success.

We Captured the Crown!

Oh yeah, so about the Capture the Crown competition. We Won! Apparently the LONG day in the sun, trying to get every single point possible was well worth the effort, as our team captured the crown and will be traveling to Las Vegas during Champions Week to celebrate. In addition, our team gets to select a charity for a donation from Crown Royal. Thanks to my teammates, my competitors, Taylor PR, and Crown Royal for such a fabulous first race experience.

For more views on the weekend’s festivities, please check out recaps from our friends :