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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

35 Hours at The Brickyard: Wheaties Fuel Endurance Contest

715am Friday, July 23rd I arrived outside IMS wearing a T-shirt. I met up with contest leaders Julie & Jeremy from Breaking Limits Marketing outside the track in the parking lot of a liquor store. I was about to start a contest in which I was to keep my hand on Clint Bowyer's Wheaties Fuel car for 33 hours. It was myself and seven others competing for a prize package worth $4,000. $500 cash, a $500 Kroger gift card, Suite Tickets for the Brickyard 400, a hot lap on Sunday morning, ride along in the Clint Bowyer's truck after driver intros, a pit tour and garage tour. It was, as I called it, the Mother lode of all NASCAR fan Prize Packages.

830am Game on. We placed one hand on the car in our chosen positions - I took the front right corner of the car. I'm short. It was comfortable there. We all looked at one another as the reality of what we were embarking on sank in. One of the contestants said "We're gonna be here a while". I'm pretty sure that everyone was looking at everyone else wondering who would drop first, when that would happen, and who would be the last person standing. There were five men and three women when we started.

1100am Driver Q&A Sessions started on the Chevy Stage with Riki Rachtman. Jamie McMurray kicked off the first Q&A followed by Clint Bowyer. Clint finished his session just as we were going on our first 10 minute break. He came over to meet us all, got a group picture with us, and signed our Wheaties Fuel Contest T-shirts. Bowyer couldn't  have been nicer, even when I went up to him and boldly said "Sign me, Baby". His reply was that he only had a black sharpie and our shirts were black. I looked down and noticed the silver windshield on the car on the shirt and pointed, saying "You can sign right here." I looked up and realized I had just made Clint Bowyer blush - the windshield in question fell right between my breasts. I held the shirt out while Clint signed the windshield so he didn't have to rest his hand on the right side of my chest - he grinned the whole time, though. Next up on the Chevy Stage were Jeff Burton, Ryan Newman, Juan Pablo Montoya, Jeff Gordon, with Tony Stewart wrapping up the day's sessions. That took us through about 1pm. All eight of us were still hanging onto the car.

130pm Our second break. We got a 10 minute break to visit the bathroom and rest every three hours and a 15 minute break every nine hours. Our first visit to the bathrooms brought us all a nice surprise. The bathrooms in question were in a traveling trailer owned by Team Chevy. The workers at the Team Chevy Display were nice enough to provide the contest leaders a key so we could have access. We were all thinking sarcastically, "Oh yay, port-o-potties"...then we opened the door. We found an air conditioned area with cherry doors on individual stalls, hardwood floors, granite counter tops and brass fixtures. Those Chevy people know how to travel with the comforts of home.

The afternoon went on. As it turns out I somehow became the unofficial spokesperson for the group. We had a fence around us to keep non-contestant from being able to touch us but we could talk to anyone who wandered up. Many of the contestants were focusing completely on keeping the hand on the car. I was pretty much in auto-pilot mode by noon and could chat it up with anyone who wanted to talk or ask questions. Our judges figured out pretty quickly that I am not shy and could rattle off the basic rules of the contest, the prize package, and answer questions from the crowd more effectively and quickly than they could. By mid-afternoon when a spectator would come to ask a judge a question, the judge would just point and say "Ask Amy". I talked to a lot of people. The most asked questions through the two days were "Do you get bathroom breaks?", "What do you win?", and "Do you win the car?" Asking if we won the car was crazy. We were hanging onto a RCR Show car....ya really think they are going to let us take it home??

530pm Track activity was over and people were beginning to clear out. We all went on out 10 minute break. When we came back everyone was shocked to find out that two of the men had dropped out. As it turns out, one of them had tickets for Friday night's Camping World Trucks race at O'Reilly Raceway Park. Both had come to the conclusion that the rest of us were more serious about this contest than they were and decided to walk away. We were down to six.

The evening went slowly. The crowd cleared out, the Team Chevy display shut down and turn off the music. It got quiet fast. We knew that overnight we were going to have issues. As the night went on, our judges rotated, it got darker, and quieter. We watched a lightning show in the sky to our north until about 10pm and got word that Hornaday had won the truck race down the road at ORP. Then it got rough. From 1130pm to 230am we all struggled. It was quiet, there was nothing to distract us. At our 230am break we talked about how we were halfway through the night and it would get better once the sun came up. Amazingly, to all of us, we did not lose anyone overnight. The sky became incrementally lighter beginning at 530am and the six of us were still there. Then, things got weird.

The Official Track Merchandise tent next to us, opposite the Chevy stage lit up when workers arrived around 6am. The lights reflected off of a Skoal display hauler and made it look 3D, like a cave you could reach your hand into. One Contestant thought she saw a woman in a white dress walking about 50 yards away - it was a flag. I mistook a blue trash can for a blue bear for a second. We all saw some pretty strange things that weren't there. The sun came up, and the Team Chevy ladies showed up. Those sweet ladies brought us a carton of Starbucks coffee and a stack of cups. Between then and the next break was the only time I struggled with having to go pee, ha ha. I drank the coffee a little early, but I made it our 830am break without mishap.

Riki Rachtman showed back up around 9am and stopped by to check on us. He spend quite a bit of time with us throughout the two days. That is one of the nicest, laid back, down to earth real guys I have had the pleasure of meeting. We all appreciated his support. The crowd started rolling in, and I once again was able to occupy myself with answering questions and chatting up the crowd. It was like once we passed the time at which I would have been up and going for the day my body said "oh, we're just skipping sleep this time, okay then. " I got my sixteenth wind and was good to go.

Somewhere mid-morning Laura Steele from Q95 showed up at our display with a camera man. We were interviewed for the IMS Jumbotron. She asked short questions of three or four of the contestants but I talked the most, as the unofficial spokesperson for the group. Of course, we couldn't see a Jumbotron from where we were so I have no idea if I came across well or like an idiot. And then I met Big Kahuna. Suddenly there is this guy in front of me with a small video camera. Very animated and outgoing, he made a comment on my Media for Hire Shirt that I was wearing. He asked if I won it online and I told him no, I offered to wear t-shirts for my business-minded Twitter friends for free advertising during the contest if they would send me one. At one point during the interview Big Kahuna asked which contestant's ass I could kick. I informed him I'm 5'1" and weigh 97 pounds....the video is posted under "BgKahuna1" on YouTube. It's really hilarious.

1230pm we finally lost another contestant. He appeared to have a cramp in his thumb and it lifted. The judge called it over for him. That gave us all a burst of energy and we all were more focused than ever. We were at five contestants left and fully expected all five of us to make it to the end. My 'buddy' throughout the contest had been Jordan who was next to me, on the front of the car. The guy was awesome. A 20-year-old college student who grew up in Plainfield, he was the only one of us who slept. Yep, he slept with his hand on the car. He laid on the ground in front of the car with his hand on the splitter behind the braces. We kept waiting for him to move and drop off each of the three times he slept but it didn't happen. Just before our 230pm break, Jordan had moved to the left side of the car and I was at the front. Out of the corner of my eye I saw him jerk. I looked over and asked "What was that?" He said he had almost passed out. I reminded him to not lock his knees and that we had a break in just a few more minutes. In a perfect world I would have had it me and Jordan standing at the end.

230pm We went to break, one of our judges and I split a BBQ sandwich from the track concessions and I let myself drink a little more water than I had been, knowing that we were in the homestretch. The next hour was uneventful. Jordan was back on the front of the car, I was back on the front right side. As soon as Jordan sat down on the ground I knew he was in trouble. He leaned his head against the hood of the car with one hand on either side. Since we had lost the guy earlier for one thumb coming up all of us had mostly kept both hands on the car as a safety net. After a few minutes, Jordan's head began to bob. It went down and came back up four or five times then stayed hand slipped off, then his thumb and first finger on his other hand, and he was out. Judge Julie woke him gently and apologized that he was out. I cried for him. Hated to see him go out with just an hour and 47 minutes left in the contest. And then, there were four.

530pm The remaining four - one man and all three original women - had made it to the end of our 33 hours. Onto a 30 question written multiple choice stock car trivia test. On the Chevy stage. In front of approximately 500 people. With Riki Rachtman talking the whole time. At the end of the ten minute test myself and a contestant named Harry were tied. Final tiebreaker question: take the number of Dale Earnhardt Sr's championships multiplied by his career Cup Series wins multiplied by the number of his career Cup Series top tens. I did the math in the margin...when I transferred my answer from the margin I left a number off. I finished second. Had I not made that mistake I would have won. At that point I had been awake for 37 hours, sleep deprivation causes you to make stupid mistakes. I left with a $500 gift card to Kroger for second place.

I had an hour and a half drive home after the contest, grabbed a shower, and had a friend pick me up a sandwich to eat. I think I was asleep about three minutes after my head hit the pillow. Saturday 11pm I finally went to bed. I had been up for 42.5 hours. I slept for nine hours and awoke feeling better than I expected. Judge Julie had asked me late Saturday if I would consider doing something like this again and I told her no. On Sunday I thought about it again and decided that yeah, I probably would do something else in the future like this, if the prize package was worth it. So bring it on, what crazy contest can I be a part of next?


  1. Had a pleasure hanging out with you.

  2. Great narrative style of writing Amy....very impressed by you "down to earth style" and the vivid detail.

  3. You guys were rock stars! It was a fun contest to watch - just glad I didn't have to stay up overnight (:

    Glad you liked the coffee -
    Heidi (Team Chevy)

  4. Great post! We were there and seen you all with your hands on the car and wondered what was going on. Riki explained to us during Chevy Day then we had more questions all of which you answered in your post. Congratulations on your 2nd place finish -- $500 from Kroeger is nothing to sneeze at!

  5. Great blog Amy! You all did an amazing job out there -- we got off easy with only providing coffee and clean bathrooms!

    Kelli (Team Chevy)

  6. Great post about the contest. Here is a link to the video