Here it is – the wrap-up of our DaddyTips Road Trip to Indianapolis for the Crown Royal Presents The John Wayne Walding 400 at the Brickyard Powered by BigMachineRecords.com, courtesy of the good folks at Crown Royal. (That’s full disclosure, folks.) Pictures, video, and highlights of just what the heck we were up to before, during and after this big NASCAR race.
For me and the rest of the Capture the Crown writers, bloggers and influencers (some of us are all three) there was a lot of fun to be had before the first white flag dropped to start the Crown Royal Presents the John Wayne Walding 400 at the Brickyard powered by BigMachineRecords.com. (Say it ten times fast. We’ll wait. Did you do it? We knew you could.)
For those of you unfamiliar with the Capture the Crown portion of Crown Royal’s “Crown Heroes” program, here are the basics. (For anyone keeping score at home, this is my third time participating. Yes, I’m a lucky guy.) A select group of bloggers/writers/influence (BWIs?) are placed on teams. We compete in a series of challenges, leading up to a grand prize. This year was a little bit different — teams of four, with one team eliminated per round, and then the final four teammates compete AGAINST each other in a “Hunger Games” style showdown. (Note: there was no violence, Jennifer Lawrence, or Peeta making bread.) Just like “Highlander“, there can be only one. (Again: NO VIOLENCE. I’m just referencing movies because, you know, I do that. Geek Gold Card.)
The weekend began with an easy flight into Indianapolis airport, which of course is filled with cars, pictures of cars, and television channels showing news about cars. The restaurant where I met up with Joe from Taylor PR even had a car on the wall.
(Aside: everyone from Taylor PR is AWESOME. Special props to the people who made this weekend so great, and a big “hey!” to everyone I’ve met at past events who weren’t present at the Brickyard in 2014.)
After chatting with Joe and Crown’s Master of Whisky, Stephen, we hopped into a car and checked into the JW Marriott, a very nice hotel that still has that New Hotel Smell; it opened in 2011, a year before Indianapolis hosted Super Bowl XLVI.
I had a little time and thought perhaps I would check out downtown Indy. But I was so happy to have total free time that I wound up unpacking and watching ESPN.
Next up: a great meal at Harry and Izzy’s. We started off our meal with a whisky tasting led by the aforementioned Master. Even though this isn’t my first Crown Royal racing weekend, and Stephen has been at every single one of them, I’m still fascinated by his presentation. The guy seems to know everything about whisky, of course with a special emphasis on Crown Royal’s various varieties.
Although I’ve had the pleasure of partaking in Stephen’s whisky tastings before, this was the first time I had to test my palette. Everyone attempted to guess which type of Crown they were trying. There were prizes, but it was a multi-way tie, with about half of us getting one out of four. (Side note: this is not sour grapes, or even sour mash, but I actually did manage to get 2 out of 4 correct. Unfortunately my dad-addled brain couldn’t manage to remember that the base Crown brand is called Crown Royal Deluxe. There are witnesses who can back me up on this. But rules are rules and I didn’t write down “Crown Regular”, which doesn’t exist but probably would’ve won me a prize. I AM NOT COMPLAINING. I’m simply impressed with myself that I actually managed to get 2 out of 4 whiskys correct in a blind taste test.)
Harry and Izzy’s served up a nice spread, but we had an early day Saturday, so I opted out of after-dinner drinks and hit the sack.
8am Saturday found everyone in the hotel lobby, raring to go. Figuratively speaking at least. (It was early and most people hadn’t had coffee yet, including me.) We boarded the bus and rode to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway to pick-up our credentials.
These passes gave us access to the garages, pits, and Crown Royal Pagoda Suite. One of the credentials is called a Hot Pass, which if you don’t get out much (#RaisingMyHand) makes it sound cooler. (Pun intended.)
After breakfast in the suite, we walked around the track a bit. Pace car rides had to be skipped due to weather, but we were able to get to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame Museum. Even if you aren’t a NASCAR buff, the museum offers an amazing collection of cars and racing-related items.
After lunch, it was time to start the challenges. Another new twist this year was pre-challenges that allowed a team to get a five-minute head start. Big Machine Records’ artist Justin Moore played the role of Alex Trebeck, leading us through a series of trivia questions. Justin, who we saw perform at IMS last year and is steadily getting more and more famous, was very funny; if he ever gets tired of being a country star (which I guess could happen someday) he could switch to game show host. (Free idea, Country Music Channel. Hire me to produce it, though. Seriously, give me a call, I could totally make it work.)
Our team lost the head start, but thanks to some fast and fancy footwork from from my teammates (not me; more on that later) we managed to complete all of our round one challenges and were the first group to make it back to the cozy, air-conditioned Crown Royal Motorcoach.
What are these “challenges”? Fun, goofy stuff related to Crown Royal and racing. Sometimes we were even helping out troops stationed overseas — one challenge was to convince 15 people to pack a Crown Royal Camo Care Package, basically a bag of goodies that gets sent to one of our men and women serving overseas. A goofier challenge was to find someone willing to be filmed (not for broadcast) singing a song by a Big Machine Records artist. We found a woman willing to sing Tim McGraw’s “I Like It, I Love It”; at first she said she didn’t know the song but by the first chorus she was rocking out. Whoever you are, thanks for your help. Extra special thank yous to everyone who stuffed Camo Care Packages, whether they were for Team Ninja Cheetahs (we were the only team with a name, chosen by Katherine from Glam.com/Brash.com) or not.
Afterwards, we attended a press conference with E! News host Terrence J., Justin Moore, and Mr. John Wayne Walding, the man whom this weekend’s race was named for. Here’s a video of the entire thing. Not only is John Wayne a hero, he’s one heck of a public speaker. He talked about his experiences, how it felt to have a race named after you, and what he hopes to pass on to his four children. Thank you Katherine for asking a parenting question, and thank you to Mr. Walding for bringing up PTSD; that would have been my follow-up question but clearly the man possesses telepathic powers. Or maybe it’s just a Green Beret thing. (For more on PTSD, watch the documentary “Wartorn”; read my AV Club review of this amazing film here.)
After that we went back to the Pagoda for another head start challenge —write a toast to John Wayne Walding using certain words. We had ten minutes and our judge was the talented Terrence J.
Here is what we won with:
To John Wayne Walding:
A hero in you is what we see
Clearly, you’re king, you are royalty
Perseverance, sacrifice, and a heart full of pride
You’re the man on the throne, we’re just along for the ride
Reign On, our friend, keep changing the game
Thanks to you and to Crown, these 4 city slickers will never be the same
Pretty good, right? So we had 5-minute head start.
First challenge was completing a jigsaw puzzle. Luckily I was teamed up with people who have mad puzzle skills. It’s always fun to see people’s competitive side come out during these events; I’m no exception, but I am lousy at puzzles. (For what it’s worth I was very helpful with the toast and convincing people to make Camo Care Packages.)
We finished the puzzle in under five minutes and were out the door, racing towards the next challenge, which was a fact-finding mission at the IMS Hall of Fame Museum. This was harder than we thought it would be, but we did manage to answer all four questions (for example, a 1916 IMS program sold for 10 cents — now ya know) and race like, um, ninja cheetahs back to the Crown motorcoach. Once again, we were first, meaning we would be forced to turn on each other in a Battle Royale. Again, I’M KIDDING. No bloggers were harmed by any other bloggers during this event. (One person got a scraped knee, but I’m not naming names.)
All that would have to wait until Sunday. After a quick trip back to the hotel to rinse off a layer of track grime (mmm… track grime…) we hit the Pagoda.
The scheduled concert was canceled due to weather; since “weather” meant a huge thunderstorm complete with lightning, nobody complained about staying indoors and enjoying a bit of Crown Royal-style hospitality.
Sunday was race day, but before the gentlemen and woman (Danica Patrick) started their engines, my three former teammates and I had to find three crowns hidden around the track. Remember earlier when I mentioned speed? This would be where I lost.
Let me put it this way: the role of Danny Glover was played by me. When I arrived at the finish line and saw that all three of my competitors were already there, I couldn’t help but think of Glover’s classic line from “Lethal Weapon”. (Not safe for work; contains cussin’.)
As you can see from the photo above, I’m a good sport. And luckily my feet stopped hurting after a couple of days.
Two of the three arrived at the same time; the tie breaker was a trivia question. The ultimate winner was Marcelle of Jersey Girl Sports. Her prize was a dinner with the Master of Whisky and her friends, plus a trip to the Crown Royal distillery in Montreal. Congratulations to her, and props to Josiah and Katherine, both of whom were actually as fast as cheetahs and made me feel like the not-as-fast dude that I am. Which I’m OK with, because the whole weekend was a blast.
The challenges were over, and we got to relax and enjoy the race. We were able to get crazy close to the track; again, thanks to these events, I am totally spoiled when it comes to NASCAR or any other race. I don’t know that I could go without pit and Pagoda Suite access. First world problem of the highest order, but I think it’s true. This is the way to watch a race – from trackside, in the pits, or upstairs in the Pagoda Suite for when it gets too darn hot and you need to enjoy a cool, refreshing beverage. (If it’s a tasty Crown Royal cocktail, enjoy it responsibly. Ahem.)
The race turned out to have some drama, with eventual winner Jeff Gordon dropping from 2nd all the way down to next to last place before zooming to the lead at the end. Danica Patrick had to leave the race because of a busted axel; they announced that she wasn’t going to return but she eventually did.
After the race, it was time to relax, and also celebrate. We went out to dinner and had a few responsible drinks with Z. (aka Nascar Race Mom), Deaqon James of Fast Lane Mag, Jeremy Johnson of Man Jr., Katherine Fotinos from Glam.com, Josiah Schlatter from Vice, Phil Van der Vossen from Gunaxin, and the rest of the 2014 Capture The Crown crew.
We’ll post more pics and video later. Thanks to everyone for a great weekend. Reign On!