Disclaimer: Disney, Pixar and ABC invited me to San Francisco on an all-expenses paid trip, in exchange for my coverage of events, which included a Sonoma Raceway experience As always, all opinions are my own.
In my life I’ve done some incredible things. Things that pushed me out of my comfort zone.
I’ve hiked through a rainforest in Asia.
I’ve climbed to the top of Chichen Itza (back when they still allowed it).
I’ve even kayaked through a Florida creek (while our guide was actively looking for a huge gator known to roam those parts).
Each one of those events scared me half to death. Made me want to cancel before I even started.
Yet somehow I found each one to be exhilarating (at least after it was over).
Just a little over a month ago I had the chance to add something to that list. Something I never would have done on my own.
And while you might not see me running to do it again, I love that I stepped out of my comfort zone (even though I was soooo tempted to back out), and had a blast.
What was it you ask? The Sonoma Raceway experience I had while attending an event with the folks from PIXAR. Yes, I got into a race car…and you’ll get to WATCH below!
Sonoma Raceway Experience
Trust me, it’s hilarious. My expressions, my words, everything.
Three beliefs I had BEFORE showing up at the Sonoma Raceway:
- The course would be your standard oval-shaped track
- There would be no other cars on the track
- The driver would stay on the roadway
I Was Wrong!
Mistaken Belief #1 – The Course Would Be Oval
Driving up from Emeryville, where PIXAR headquarters is located, was stunning. We had left before dawn and witnessed a beautiful sunrise, all while driving through pastures and vineyards. It wasn’t exactly where I’d pictured a raceway, but then again, I was a newbie when it came to racing.
There it stood. The Sonoma Raceway was massive. But…I noticed it immediately. It was not oval. Huh? The one nearby at home (Texas Motor Speedway) was. This course was beautiful with twists and turns and HILLS too.
How was this going to affect my race car experience? Surely we wouldn’t go as fast? Ha! Think again.
Mistaken Belief #2 – Cars Would Race One at a Time
Race is a word I’m going to use loosely here, because in reality I thought a driver would take us out for a quick spin around the course. There would be no racing against other cars.
Once again – I was wrong!
Surprisingly, three cars raced at a time, cruising at speeds upwards of 100 mph (that might not sound like a lot, but on a curvy, hilly course, trust me, it was)! Cars would pass each other. WHAT?!? I didn’t sign up for this. But I had, after all.
In fact, our driver, LOVED to say that we were racing Lightning McQueen style as we passed others. Boy were we ever!
Mistaken Belief #3 – Cars Would Remain on the Roadway
Enough of me talking about my experience. Let’s just have you watch the entire thing and you’ll notice when the car is bouncing – we didn’t quite stay on the road!
Two (2) laps with my friends Amiyrah from 4HatsandFrugal.com and Dawn from HustleMomRepeat.com. Amiyrah willingly jumped in the front seat. Dawn is behind the passenger seat and I am behind our driver.
Warning – I make a complete fool of myself. The video speaks for itself!
Pit Stop Challenge and Garage Tour
Photo by Marc Flores
We had the unique opportunity to spend some time in a real garage and learn a bit from Tony Nicholson of Robin Automotive (a garage on site at Sonoma Raceway). Listening to all they do to get a car ready for a race day was impressive.
But we did more than just listen. As part of our day, we spent some time getting to know a race car intimately, in the pit stop challenge.
You’ve seen the races and know how fast the pit crew must change out the tires on a race car. Well, we were challenged with that task.
There were a couple of concerns…
Um…we had never done this before.
Um…those tires were heavy.
But hey, I’m a good sport and partnered up with Dawn for a TIMED tire change. I handled the machinery and Dawn handled the tire.
Shockingly, our very first time we completely changed the tire in 42.21 seconds! Woot! Woot!
- Fun Fact: For a team’s first time, we placed FIRST. We never tried it a second time, but several teams did, and after that, we finished THIRD.
Not bad for first-timer’s huh?
Look who I ran into. Friends from the CARS family joined us for some fun!
In addition to the timed tire change, we were able to jump into the driver’s seat of a real race car which had a simulator. Huge disaster for this lady right here as I can’t hardly drive a stick shift for the life of me.
PIXAR Presentation – History of Racing
A good chunk of the day was spent with those directly responsible for bringing Cars 3 to life.
While I’ll be sharing more in the coming weeks, there was one presentation I found fascinating, despite not having a lot of knowledge about racing or NASCAR in general.
With the screeching of tires in the background (literally), we had the chance to chat with two people about the history of racing and how it related to Cars 3, and oh, it does!
- Jay Ward – Creative Director of CARS
- Ray Evernham – Former Crew Chief for Hendrick Motorsports
I learned so much in just a brief period of time. Like how many race car drivers got their start bootlegging moonshine. It was illegal of course, and they had to be fast to get away from the law. Perfect segway for racing, don’t you think?
Back in the day, cars actually raced on the beach. Daytona Beach was a prime example, half sand and half roadway. It’s something that you’ll see played out in the new film. That’s the thing, Cars 3 (of which we have seen about half), really follows so much history. Racing buffs will love that.
Real Race Car Drivers = Cars 3 Characters
- Junior Johnson – (Junior Moon in Cars 3) – a bootlegger who went to prison, yet became a champion crew chief and brought the first sponsors to NASCAR. He is still alive and PIXAR met him. They even let him record his own character!
- Wendell Scott – (River Scott in Cars 3) – an African-American driver who regularly beat NASCAR guys, but was not awarded a trophy. PIXAR met with his grandson who explained that Wendell had to get out of his own car and change his tires himself (and he still won the race)!
- Louise Smith – (Louise Nash in Cars 3) – female race car driver.
- Smokey Yunick – (Smokey in Cars 3) – a driver who tended to stretch the rules.
What struck me most, is that at the end of it all, Ray Evernham was so grateful to PIXAR for being respectful of the legacy of NASCAR and racing. And just in case you were wondering, Ray voices Jackson Storm’s crew chief in Cars 3.
While I can’t tell you anything YET, we did get an exclusive screening of the first 40 or so minutes of CARS 3! Yes, we did! You will not be disappointed…PIXAR has done it again.
Let’s take a sneak peek at the newest trailer, just released this week:
CARS 3 opens in theatres everywhere on June 16th!
Follow along over the next few weeks as I bring you more from my trip to San Francisco and PIXAR for #Cars3Event! Here are some posts so far:
- Tour PIXAR Headquarters
- The Toy Box – PIXAR Visit
- Born in China Screening & Review
- Puppy Dog Pals – Exclusive Interview
- I’m Going to PIXAR for Cars 3 Event
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