one fine day, when I was browsing through the nascar website, something struck my mind…wait a minute..I’m sure I know somebody from India drives a NASCAR (apart from me .. lol ) ..that is who we all know as the fastest indian in the world -Narain Karthikeyan !!
NK started his NASCAR venture with the team Starbeast motorsports driving a Chevy truck in the NASCAR Truck series. more on this later.
now while browsing through NK’s site I realized he lives in Charlotte, NC. I then quickly found ‘contact’ link on his website and quickly emailed his manager..but I never heard back.
I forgot about it all..
then, for whatever reason I can’t remember, I looked up the truck series schedule and was pleasantly surprised to see a race coming up at Talladega Super speedway..it’s a 2 hr drive away for me. Back to ‘contact’ link on NK’s site..found NK’s manager’s (in India) number and quickly called him..guess what, the request to meet him at the racetrack was treated positively and he said he’ll work on it..
I did not hear from him for quite a few days and then comes the surprise ..an email from Megan Nagle ,PR and Media Rep. of Starbeast Motorsports. It was about the ‘meeting’ ..then on, we got onto discuss about this ‘meet NK’ event. That’s it…I was set to meet the man who has made India famous in the motorsports field.
I respect him for all the achievements he’s had by far..stuff we all dream of doing but end up nowhere close..
..and then Megan called me on friday and gave me Narain’s Schedule. He had a drivers meeting at 11.00 and he would be free by 12 ish..wasn’t a problem at all for me coz I had absolutely nothing planned for the saturday..Atlanta to Talladega Speedway is a 2 hr drive and so I planned to leave at around 9.30am so I’d reach by 11.30 with 1/2hr to spare considering the traffic around the track area..sounds like a plan right? what can go wrong ? no ?
..and then the worst did happen….woke up at 9.15 am and quickly did my morning duties and drove off at 9.45am..now this was getting very close to disastrous but nothing was lost..
drove faster than I should have ,which is quite normal around Atlanta. ..an hr into my drive I even regretted my decision and thought of driving back but then, I kept going anyway..once I got into Alabama the speed limit dropped down from 70 (in Georgia) to 55 mph.
not everybody knows that..the 25 harley group did not. they ripped past by at 90’s..i did not want to get ticketed and my throbbing headache ensured I drove within the speed limits..the time? well, I was going to reach bang at 12.00..didn’t get too worried..
I guess I spoke too soon..remember the bikers, well, guess what, one of them crashed out big time with parts of his bike strewn all around the median…he was alive..don’t know the extent of injury though…this created a mess of the traffic..3 mile pile up..howz that..now I was screwed..messaged Megan about this so she’d know. cleared my way and got back on track with a 15 minute delay. Luckily there was no traffic and I reached at 12.15pm..
and parked up..
I did not expect this big a crowd considering it was the truck series and not the chase series..and then I realized I was in Red Neck territory too !!
I was late and did get things out of schedule..did that affect my meeting ?
…now late I was..reached at 12.15 for a 12.00 appointment. quickly called Megan and apologized for being late but she said ” all is ok..don’t worry..Narain is just 10 minutes into his drivers meeting..it’ll take a while..let me know where I can spot you and call me from there “…I hung up and then started to wonder..his meeting was at 11.00..did the meeting time get postponed? did he get pissed off that I was not on time? what to do next?
that’s when I realized this stupid thing called time zone..Georgia is in Eastern time zone (GMT -5 hours) and Alabama is in central time zone (GMT -6 hours)..meaning my 12.15pm was actually 11.15 am..dang ..so I was actually early..damn, for a change I reached some place early !
So now, I had all of 45mins to spend before my meeting at north tunnel.
so I went all around the souvenir area..merchandise is a big business for all teams..selling t-shirts, caps, sweatshirts..scale model cars..etc.
earlier during my conversation during planning, I asked Megan to help me with a Pitpass so I could go and watch the race with the team. that would be fun. But it wasn’t to be..apparently the teams have to provide all details of their pitpass entries 10 days in advance..NK’s manager who I was interacting with communicated with her rather late and therefore all hopes died..so plan was to just meet NK and drive back home..
while I was busy roaming around all the stalls, Megan called me and told me that she was trying some back road approach to get me pitpass..her plan was that she’d come out and take me along with her so I could hang out with NK back at the pits..that’d be awesome right? but luck had other plans and it did not look like a possibility. She did try a lot but things did not work out..in the meanwhile, I waited along at the north tunnel entrance where people who wanted to go to the infield were waiting for their shuttle…
funny old man..or he was too pissed.
and bang at 12.00 pm local time, I get a call from Megan..”we are waiting around at the main entrance..we can’t drive up to the north tunnel ..you’ll have to walk over the bridge which has the banner ‘this is talladega’ and when you get down, you’ll find a blue miller lite flag..we are near that in a white Taurus ” ..”aye aye..I’m on my way”..I told her that..but back in my mind, I was only imagining ..what am I going to look ahead for ? did she find a way to sneak me inside ? did she get me a pass ? what’s happening ? in the meanwhile I reached the spot …and there was the White Taurus..
I reached up and asked her ” whats the scene? whats happening next ? that’s when NK gets out of the car..” seriously this was the moment of pride..I swear it..a man representing my country was in a typical american sport ..he is one who has driven across a wide array of track cars ranging from Formula 1 to A1 gp to Lemans to Nascar..not too many have in the motorsports field have done this..
after a brief conversation, he signed these memorabilia..
my conversation with NK –
NK : Hey this is Narain
AV : and this is Avinash
NK : you live around here? around Talladega ?
AV : No no, I used to.Currently I live in Atlanta. I’ve driven a NASCAR on this track before though.
NK : really ? how ?
AV : it was the Dale Jarett Racing academy thing.drove for a very short duration of 6 laps.
NK : that’s interesting.
AV : Ever since I saw the news about your NASCAR venture, I’ve been looking up your website nkracing.com for
updates but instead, found out you live in Charlotte. I keep driving to Charlotte often coz my sister lives there
and I thought of seeking a way to meet you at your house.emailed your manager but didn’t get a response.
NK : I don’t live in Charlotte that often..I keep travelling between US, India and Europe. I also drive in the
formula series in Europe.
AV : Oh, btw, lemme tell you 1st hand, I’m not here from any magazine or anything, I’m just a big Fan
of motorsports and I highly commend your achievements in the motorsports field. I share my knowledge alongwith
like minded people on online forums.
NK : online forums? how are they doing in India? are there a lot of people participating?
AV : Oh yes..definitely..this community is vast and Vibrant.There are lot of us guys who’ve been following you
and your achievements all the way. and I’ll go back home now and write about it.
NK : That’s nice to know.
Megan : Why don’t you share the links and we’ll follow it and share some pictures and info as and when we can.
AV (to Megan) : Sure Megan, I’ll email you the details.
AV (to NK) : So, how does NASCAR feel?
NK : NASCAR is a totally different ballgame..its quite unlike the other motorsports. we’re still in the learning
phase and that’s why we’re participating in only 9 races of the race calendar.
the cars are very different and feels different compared to past racing cars I’ve driven.
AV : Aren’t the NASCAR cars and Trucks the same?
NK : Yes.predominantly the cars are the same in both the series. the truck series is just made to promote the truck
market in US.
AV : OK. So what cars do you drive in India?
NK : I drive a 911 back home as well as a Nissan GT-R.
AV : Oh yes, the GT-R…you were part of their brand building exercise weren’t you?
NK : Ya man..that GT-R, I bought it with my money and it was not gifted by Nissan quite unlike what the media said.
AV : Really? now, that’s some revelation. didn’t know that.
AV : Anyway, I guess it’s time for race prep’s for you..I’ll probably let you go at this point.
NK : yes, now I have to go and prepare for the race in some time.
AV : Sure sure..wish you good luck for the race and hope to see you soon.
Megan : Keep in touch Avinash, we’ll see what we can do further, in the meanwhile, go to our website starbeastmotorsports.com
and vote for NK and you could win a chance for an all expense paid trip to the final race.
AV : Cool, will do that.
NK : Alright, Avinash, nice talking to you..enjoy the race.
I then went walking around the stalls again..
..and then, reached the Dodge stall.
well, the fun did not stop there…
i saw this..
yupp..it was back to drifting !!
this time around, it was even better…there was a Viper drifting around !!
got in line and got my ride..by the time I got the ride, the challeger pulled in front of me..I politely told them that I’d already ridden in a Challenger and would want to sit in the Viper..the next was the Viper and I was super thrilled.
it was the ride of my life !!
After the dodge thrill ride, the race had started and most of the stalls closed.
I was walking back towards the parking lot with my mind set on driving back home and sleeping .
That’s when I remember somebody tell me that if tickets are still available after the race has started, they
sell the tickets for cheap. tried my luck and guess what, that somebody was right !!
found $100 tickets for $50 !! I didn’t let it go..I bought ticket and went to the race..
After this race, I spent no more time at venue and drove back to Peachtree City,GA.
and with that ends my ‘meet-Narain-Karthikeyan-and-watch-him-race’ thread. quite an eventful day it was.