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Racin’ With Jason: A year to remember

  • Jason Remillard with IndyCar drivers Helio Castroneves, left, and Will Power at an IndyCar race at Loudon, N.H., in 2011. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Published: 4/2/2020 5:35:02 PM
Modified: 4/2/2020 5:34:52 PM

Over 10 years covering auto racing for the Springfield Republican, I had my share of memorable moments. But I never had a year like I did in 2011.

I was able to cover all three race weekends — there was an IndyCar race added — at New Hampshire Motor Speedway and I made my return to the local short tracks for the first time in a while.

Today, I would like to share some of those memories with you, since there really isn’t much to write about the current state of racing.

GET ON THE BUS: I was so excited to cover the IndyCar race weekend at NHMS. I had heard there was a lot more media availability than there was in NASCAR, and I found that out almost immediately.

The first day I was at the track was an off day for the IndyCar crew, but the drivers were still out performing sponsorship responsibilities and meeting media obligations. I had decided to write a story on Team Penske — which at the time consisted of Will Power, Helio Castroneves and Ryan Briscoe. I reached out to a team media rep and secured an interview with all three drivers.

This wasn’t any ordinary interview, however. And it certainly was a venue I wouldn’t have expected — the Penske team bus.

This thing was decked out to the nines — large TVs throughout and very comfortable seating (leather couches, if I recall correctly).

I interviewed each of the drivers, starting with Briscoe and Power. After finishing with Power, I waited for Castroneves. Power struck up a conversation with me while waiting. We talked about the possibility of racing at the Circuit of the Americas, which was being built in Austin, Texas, as we watched a segment on it on Speed Channel. Power said it would be “bloody awesome” to race there — which the series now does.

The Australian driver also asked me why seafood is so popular in New England and what makes it better than other places. I told him it was because the proximity to the ocean made the seafood fresher. Not being from the area, I didn’t have any restaurant recommendations for him though.

Finally, Castroneves arrived. He was my mom’s favorite, as she loved him on “Dancing with the Stars,” which he won. My girlfriend at the time loved Power.

I had a great interview with Helio, talking about racing and his DWTS experience.

At the end of the interview, Castroneves asked if I wanted to take a picture with Power and him (Briscoe had already left) to give to my mom and girlfriend. I know it probably flew against every standard of media credibility, but when a three-time Indianapolis 500 champion asks you to take a picture, you take the darn picture!

Almost nine years later, the photo still sits on my dresser as a reminder of where my career has taken me.

Two days later, Power made headlines in the race when he flipped the double bird to race control after they allowed the race to continue on a wet track, which led to Power and Danica Patrick making contact and crashing.

All in all, it was the best race weekend experience of my career. From my motorcoach encounter with the Penske boys to a pace car ride from an Indy Lights driver to talking to Pippa Mann just before she went out to practice ... I hadn’t received that level of access before or since.

STUPID QUESTION: Tony Stewart doesn’t take kindly to dumb questions.

“Smoke” showed why after he won the Cup Series race in September 2011 at Loudon. He took the lead after Clint Bowyer ran out of fuel late in the race.

In the postrace press conference, a reporter — not me — asked Stewart to talk about his pass for the lead and what went into it.

I cringed when that question was asked, knowing it would probably result in a snarky answer fron Stewart. I was not wrong.

I don’t remember the exact answer, but it went something along the lines of: “I knew he would run out of gas at that exact time and exact spot and spent the whole race planning to pass him.”

Oh, boy. Stewart was on a roll, especially after saying in his postrace television interview that he had just let go of some “dead weight” earlier in the week, which we later found out meant he broke up with his girlfriend.

MODIFIED MADNESS: The year 2011 also included a return to the short tracks for me after a long absence. Late in the season, I covered several NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour events at Stafford and Thompson and had great experiences at each.

I wrote about my experience covering the Thompson World Series when I discussed Ryan Newman’s scary crash at Daytona. Other than that, I saw some memorable events — such as Ware’s Chris Kopec coming out of retirement to drive the No. 79 car for one race at Stafford and current Cup Series driver Ryan Preece’s first race in the No. 16 car that he would win a championship in two years later.

Jason Remillard is a copy editor and page designer at the Recorder. He can be reached at jremillard@recorder.com or followed on Twitter @racinwithjason.




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