[media-credit id=26 align=”alignright” width=”231″][/media-credit]I went into this weekend’s festivities at Dover International Speedway with a mindset of nothing but wanting the best. My favorite driver and my idol, Kevin Harvick, was doing a question and answer session on Saturday morning on the front stretch from about 10:30 – 10:45 with Elliott Sadler and car owner Richard Childress. I thought that the audience was going to be able to ask questions, so I had a lot prepared in the back of my mind for Kevin, Elliott and Richard. Unfortunately, the local radio host asked all the questions and the audience wasn’t able to ask any. However, when the three stars were announced, they came onto the stage with One Main Financial (that was the sponsor of the NASCAR Nationwide Series race on Saturday) t-shirts and hats in their hands. Kevin came out and actually threw a t-shirt to my father and I and I caught it. I was speechless. I looked over at my dad and our jaws were both dropped. My idol just threw me a t-shirt! It was already one of the best days of my life, and I had no idea what else this amazing weekend had in store for me.
After the question and answer session concluded, my dad and I had the opportunity to walk on the track and sign the start/finish line. If you’ve been to a race and haven’t done that, it’s a must. It’s such a great experience for any NASCAR fan. We were just sitting on the SAFER barrier off of turn 4 when I asked if we could walk to the FanZone to go to the merchandise trailers and see “Miles the Monster”, a giant figure that is supposed to resemble the “Monster” behind the Monster Mile at Dover. We left the track and while we were walking, something awesome happened. I heard a golf cart coming up from behind me. I didn’t look back, so I just got out of the way. When it passed, my favorite NASCAR Nationwide series driver, Elliott Sadler, was on the back of the golf cart. In the split second I had to say something to him, I looked at my dad, looked back at Elliott and screamed “Good luck today, Elliott! Go get ‘em man!” He replied with a wink, a thumb up and said “Thanks bud, appreciate it!” as he drove by. In the blink of an eye, there he was, my favorite Nationwide Series driver, talking to me! What a pleasant surprise, only one of many for the weekend.
When I got to Kevin Harvick’s trailer, the woman working behind the counter asked me if I knew that “Kevin Harvick [is] having an appearance and an autograph session after the Nationwide Series race” and I said “No! I’d love to go. Could I have some more details?” She went on to tell me that if I spent more than $50.00, I would get a special ticket to attend his autograph session. So I bought an autographed 2012 Hunt Brothers Pizza No.33 NASCAR Nationwide Series car and some Kevin Harvick gloves as well.
I got the ticket and put it in my pocket, knowing that this was going to be the ticket to arguably the best moment of my life in a mere 5 hours! We then went to the Sprint experience and some other places to hang out before the race started. Watching the race and thinking about what I was going to say to Kevin when I see him, I had a gigantic smile on my face in the cold, windy Dover weather for the duration of the race. After Joey Logano won the One Main Financial 200, I walked down the stairs and bolted to Kevin’s trailer to get in line. Only 5 minutes after the race ended, the line was insanely long. But, I would wait my whole life if I needed to.
I waited about 30-40 minutes in the line when I came around the corner of the trailer and saw him. I immediately got goose bumps and a smile on my face and looked at my dad, who was on the other side of the line waiting to get a picture of my idol and I. I gave the usher my ticket stub and walked over to Kevin. “Hey, how are you doing today?” he asked me in a calm, yet happy tone. “I’m great! How are you?” I asked him. He responded with a smile on his face, looked at me in the eyes and said “I’m great as well thanks.” I took my No.29 hat off of my head and gave him my Kevin Harvick hero card for him to sign for me. He took his time, trying to make the experience as best as it could be for me. After he gave me back my items, I asked if I could get a picture with him. He said “Yeah of course!” and we smiled at my dad who took the picture. Afterwards, I said “Thanks so much Kevin! Go get ‘em tomorrow!” and shook his hand. He replied “Thank you have a good one!” I walked away in amazement in what just happened and saw the picture that my dad took of us. I looked at that picture on the 40 minute drive back to our hotel for all 40 minutes. It was the best day of my life. Or so I thought.
Here comes the part that should warm a NASCAR fan’s heart. I got back to my hotel, wrote my essay for school on NASCAR (what a surprise) and then got on twitter to tweet about my best day ever. A couple months ago, I entered a contest presented by Ollie’s Outlet, a sponsor of Kevin Harvick’s, to win a meet and greet session with Harvick. Unfortunately, I didn’t win. As I tweeted up a storm about my day, someone who follows me saw how happy I was and contacted me. It turns out that he had won the meet and greet contest with Kevin Harvick. He told me that he had already met Kevin when he flew in, and he was going to give me his spot. As my dad was looking up shortcuts for the race traffic for Sunday, I just was lost for words. As I came to realization that this random stranger, who saw how happy I was, just from a simple few tweets, was generous and kind enough to give me, a total stranger to him, his spot to meet Kevin Harvick. After I got all the information from him, I told my dad. He was in shock as well. We re-planned out our day for Sunday to accommodate the festivities on Sunday morning. I went to bed, thinking back on all the events that had happened that day. To think that I was in bed at my own home at 6:30 and I was shaking my idols hand and taking a picture with him a little more than 12 hours later, was simply amazing. I went to bed, reminiscing about my best day ever and looking forward to hopefully a better day on Sunday.
We woke up at 7:00, took showers, packed up our race bags with water, snacks, scanners and whatnot, and we were on the road to the track once again. We parked in our special spot about a mile away from the track. We walked all the way there and we ended up at the FanZone on the front stretch at about 9:00. We then walked to gate 12, which was on the backstretch a little past the hotel. We arrived there at about 9:45, even though we had to be there at no later than 10:00. We waited for the Ollie’s people to come and escort us to the meet and greet. Checking off our names one my one, they gave us bracelets and we walked into the infield. Dover is well known for its bridges located in turns two and three. We walked on the turn two bridge in order to get into the infield to meet Kevin. He was doing another appearance before ours, so we waited about 10 minutes with the Ollie’s representatives and Kevin Harvick’s business manager, Josh Jones (A.K.A. @Mother_Function on twitter). As we were waiting, some amazing things occurred.
Some drivers, including Mark Martin, Joey Logano, TJ Bell, Trevor Bayne, Michael McDowell, Clint Bowyer, Greg Biffle and Richard Childress passed us on golf carts. We were standing right in the middle of the RV lot, where all the drivers stay for the weekend, usually with their families. It was such an amazing experience to see all these famous drivers up close and personal. Some even waved to us!
After some time had passed, the representatives and Josh told us to walk on over to see Kevin. He was wearing jeans, a Budweiser shirt, a 2012 chase hat and sunglasses. I’ll never, ever forget the next 10 minutes for as long as I live. As he walked over to us gingerly, he said “Good morning everyone,” we replied “Good morning, Kevin! Nice to see you!” he continued by saying “I think I’ve seen some of you guys before.” He reached out his hand and shook my hand first as he said that he’s seen some of us before. I reached out with an even larger smile on my face than the night before and shook my idols hand for the second time in 24 hours. It was everything I’ve ever wanted. I was “hanging out” with my hero, my idol, the man I look up to. What more could I ask for? We stayed with Kevin, asked him some questions, and talked with him for a good, solid 10 minutes. The best 10 minutes of my life and probably the only 10 minutes of my life that I’ll remember so vividly forever and ever. As the time we spent with Kevin was coming to a close, we all took pictures with him. He shook our hands a final time and thanked us for coming out and went back into his RV to be with his wife, DeLana and his newborn son, Keelan. As I was walking back over the bridge, I realized that I was so nervous and excited that I was shaking for the past 20 minutes. Who could blame me, I mean I just hung out with my idol for 10 minutes!
After my emotions settled down and my heart stopped racing, my dad and I made our way to the “tweetup” which was hosted by Bob Pockrass, a NASCAR writer for SportingNews.com and Jeff Gluck, a NASCAR writer for SBNation.com. We got there and Bob was talking to us when we heard a very loud question from the back of the crowd. It was Earl Barbon, the spotter for five time NASCAR Sprint cup champion, Jimmie Johnson. He stayed and talked with us for awhile, gave away Jimmie Johnson hats to people who answered some questions correctly was just being nice and socializing with us. Then, Jeff Gluck arrived a little late with a surprise guest. It was Sam Hornish Jr, driver of the #22 Shell/Pennzoil Dodge for Penske racing. He stayed for awhile as well and talked with us, answered some questions, signed some things and took some pictures. We were pretty tired, so after the tweetup ended, my dad and I went to a nearby picnic bench and rested our feet while listening to Grammy award winning artist, Lonestar. Looking at the pictures for the first time when I could really soak it in of Kevin and I and Sam and I was just so surreal. I couldn’t believe it actually happened for a minute.
After we rested, we went to the NASCAR RaceDay stage and we were a part of the show! I also met “Michigan Jim” who was featured on a segment on speed earlier this season. After we stayed there for awhile, we realized that it was about time for us to get up to our seats for the race to start. We walked up about 4 flights of stairs and went up to the very top of the track, and watched a great race. Although my driver didn’t win or do as well as I hoped he’d do, that didn’t take away from what this weekend had become. The best weekend of my life.
I met my idol twice, got some things signed by him, got some pictures with him, got a t-shirt from him, met some other important people in the sport, and had a blast. What more could I ask for? I came into the weekend thinking that it was going to be nothing more than an average weekend at Dover. I go twice a year and I have been for the past 5 years or so. No race weekend compared to this one. Not just at Dover, but everywhere that I’ve been. It was everything I could’ve ever imagined, and more. It truly was the best weekend of my life.