STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — Blog by Race Chaser Online Associate Editor Kyle Magda — Joseph Wolkin photo —
Race weekend in the media center: jam-packed and people hustling and bustling to go find stories. Then, it’s back to the laptop to get the most recent news out there.
After the day concludes, it’s time sit back, relax and find a place to eat. For me, Pocono Raceway is a home game, living within anywhere from 10-40 minutes from the Tricky Triangle. It’s nice to have the necessity of sleeping in your own bed and eating comfort food, but that’s not always the case.
Other writers, camera people, TV personalities come from all over the country, with the local media outlets covering it as well.
Going to Pocono in June for the first NASCAR race as a media member was a little intimidating at first. People listening while press conferences going on could leave a “rookie” unknowing of the next step.
Two months later, with three Sprint Cup Series races under my belt as media, the tour headed to its final road course race of the season at Watkins Glen International. The things that would transpire between Tony Stewart and Kevin Ward Jr. that fateful night at Canandaigua Motorsports Park made people believe that the absolute worst can happen.
It was nearly midnight on August 9, 2014, when the updates started to pop up on Twitter and my phone started getting a few texts. The next morning in the media center, reality started to settle in.
Many reporters were on little to no sleep after a long night. Greg Zipadelli, Stewart-Haas Racing, addressed everyone about the ongoing situation and it wasn’t until afterwards that I realized the situation was real. After being at Chemung Speedrome the night before covering a Race of Champions (ROC) Modifieds Tour race, the words didn’t appear on the computer and it felt like the story took forever to write. Time nearly stood still.
The sending of Facebook/text messages and phone calls started happening and racing was the last thing on my mind. The story was finally finished, but not around 2:30 p.m. that afternoon.
In those moments of weakness, reality can strike, even during a NASCAR weekend.
A flip of the switch had to be done, and, thankfully, it happened during the red flag after a vicious crash between Michael McDowell and Ryan Newman, forcing NASCAR to replace the guardrail. Strolling up and down outside the fence adjacent to pit road with another writer, a pit crew member from Front Row Motorsports was just sitting out the delay. Conversation started and my sanity was back.
A.J. Allmendinger went on to win his first career race in the Sprint Cup Series in thrilling fashion. It had to be one of the most exciting victory lanes I’ve been a part of in my short racing media career. The single-car JTG Daugherty team redeemed themselves at the Glen after falling short there in years past.
How does this tie into the last few days? NASCAR on FOX Sports analyst Steve Byrnes is in another fight with the “c word.” It’s unfortunate, but Byrnes has come back from it. The longtime NASCAR reporter tweeted this last Tuesday:
When my son comes home from school in tears, angry and sad because I have cancer, I don’t feel like I “got this.”
I stopped dead in my tracks when I first saw it and nearly brought me to tears. Things like that can make someone think, even if you’re not wealthy or powerful, being alive is the most important part.
The people in the racing community: drivers, crew members and media is a tight-knit group. It’s a lesson I’ve learned when I first stepped into the media center at Pocono Raceway in June and added to at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in July. Talking to media members around my age at my races, they asked questions as well.
To show you an example of how close media members are, my laptop went out Saturday morning of the August Pocono NASCAR weekend. Someone was kind enough to lend me a spare tablet to do my work on for Sunday’s race.
People can take life for granted sometimes, but there are good and bad days. No one is perfect and everyone is human. When I walk out of the media center after a day at the race track, I’m just a 21-year-old who enjoys life and spending time with friends and family. Just trying to clear the mind and focus on the more important things and get a good night’s rest for what tomorrow brings, whether it’s at the race track, school or home.
As a writer, there are other responsibilities I have, such as being a student, son and friend.
After a race weekend has wrapped up, it’s back to real life.