Yesterday, I went and covered a World of Outlaws race at Virginia Motor Speedway.
I was not scheduled to cover the World of Outlaws race. In fact, I wasn’t supposed to work Sunday at all.
I think that’s one thing that I’ve had to re-learn, almost, in my tenure thus far with the Times-Dispatch. Thinking on your feet, being able to adapt to something new, something that you didn’t expect to be doing, is very important. At CNU I had to do this quite a bit with The Captain’s Log and CNU TV, when something would come up that we would want to cover and I’d have to figure out how to work it into the section, work out where and when equipment would be checked out, etc.
At camp, we call it MARFing. MARF stands for Maximum Absolute Rigid Flexibility. It means stick to the plan when it’s normal conditions, but if conditions change (read: weather) then be ready to do whatever you are told until you are told something different. The plan, in that case, is thrown out and a new one is constantly being written and adjusted.
It was also a very unusual situation. As Steve explained to me in the office on Friday night, the race was originally scheduled to run on Saturday night. If that were the case, then just a short story would have been written in the office from information in the press release. On Friday though, the weather forecast was calling for severe storms on Saturday and lots of rain, so the probability of the race being postponed to Sunday was pretty high. The deal was that if the race was rained out, then I had Saturday off and would cover the race on Sunday. If the race wasn’t rained out, then I had both Saturday and Sunday off.
Saturday came and it just absolutely poured all day long, with severe storms across the state, even with a few tornadoes around as well. I was in Charlottesville in the morning through the afternoon with Emily and her family to see her sister’s dance performance at UVA and there were even tornado warnings there.
Around 7 p.m. I called in to the office to see if the race had indeed been postponed and after a bit of searching, we discovered that it was pushed to Sunday. So, I knew that this was a possibility and had planned accordingly.
I set off for the track at about 1 p.m. and made it there at around 2:30. The track is in Jamaica, VA and it is a very pretty area of the state that I didn’t know about until yesterday. I picked up my media credentials and after a phone call or two, met up with the PR director for VMS who escorted me into the press box for the race.
The race started at approximately 3:45 p.m., so I had some time to get my bearings, learn some background on the favorites and who to look out for.
For those that may not know, the World of Outlaws (WoO) is a touring series that runs sprint cars and late modified cars. If you’ve ever seen cars racing on dirt tracks, essentially drifting through the turns and have that wing on the top of the cars, those are the sprint versions. These cars I saw looked more like race cars, but were a bit different. For one, the bumper area of the car was just a roll cage, there was no bumper to protect it. In comparison to NASCAR, the pit stops take much longer and are much less frequent. Also, under caution (of which there were 9) they don’t count laps under caution toward the overall lap count. So, for example in a NASCAR race, whether it be the trucks, Nationwide or Sprint Cup, if a caution occurs on lap 10 and there are 3 laps of caution, then the field will restart at lap 13. In the WoO, if the caution falls on lap 10, then the restart on lap 10. Very interesting and something I had to become adjusted to really quickly.
Other than trying to learn some of the unique quirks of this touring series, and names of the drivers, it was just like covering any event. Pay attention to the action, take notes and ultimately enjoy it.
After the race, the winner and second place driver came up to the media box for interviews and I asked the questions I needed to ask and then wrote the story. The box had wireless, which was great, so I just signed on, wrote the story to about 541 words, which equates to about 15 inches. I sent it into the TDsports email account, called it in and then drove the hour and a half back to my house.
I think I learned a lot yesterday, looking back on it. I needed to do a lot thinking on my feet, especially in preparation for the event. I think that I pulled it off quite well.
Next big assignment is covering some stories at Richmond race weekend at RIR. Should be awesome.