A newbie's five picks to click for the Great American Race
GarageCam takes you inside the Sprint Cup Series garage at Martinsville Speedway.
Get the on-track times for everything at Phoenix International Raceway Play: NASCAR Fantasy Live The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and NASCAR XFINITY Series heads to Phoenix International Raceway for a doubleheader of NASCAR action, while the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series remains off. Check out the full schedule below. &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;nbsp; All times are ET SUNDAY, MARCH 15: RACE-DAY SCHEDULE 1:30 p.m. : NSCS Driver/Crew Chief Meeting 2:54 p.m.: Official Welcome by: PIR President; Bryan Sperber 2:55 p.m. : Intro Honorary Race Official: Doug Ducey, Honorable Governor, U.S. State of Arizona 2:56 p.m.: Intro Honorary Race Official: Brigadier General Scott Pleus, Commander of 56th Fighter Wing, Luke AFB 2:56:30 p.m.: Intro Honorary Race Official: Jared Valdheer, Offensive Tackle, Arizona Cardinals 2:57 p.m. : Intro Honorary Race Official: Ruben Pardo, Winner of Toyota 120, NASCAR Mexico Series Race 2:57:30 p.m. : Intro Honorary Pace Car Driver: Dan Henderson, Two-time US Olympian, Current UFC Mixed Martial Artist 2:58:30 p.m. : Intro Grand Marshal: Brad Woods, Camping World National Training Director 2:59 p.m.: Intro Honorary Starter: Mike Turner, Parts & Accessory Manager, Camping World of Avondale 2:59:30 p.m.: Intro Miss Sprint Cup : Julianna White 3:00 p.m. : NSCS Drivers Introductions 3:30 p.m. : Intro Presentation of Colors by: Luke Air Force Base 3:30:20 p.m. : Invocation by: PIR Chaplain; Ken Bowers 3:30:45 p.m.: Intro National Anthem 3:31 p.m. : National Anthem: Tori Kelly 3:32 p.m.: Flyover TOT: Commemorative Air Force (B-25 and SNJ) 3:38 p.m.: "Drivers, Start Your Engines" by: Brad Woods, Camping World National Training Director 3:45 p.m. : Green Flag -- CampingWorld.com 500 (312 Laps, 312 Miles) ( Get results ) ON TRACK -- 3:30 p.m.: NASCAR Sprint Cup Series CampingWorld.com 500 , FOX (312 laps, 312 miles) ( Follow live ) PRESS CONFERENCES ( Watch live ) -- 12:30 p.m.: Martin Truex Jr . and Joe Garone, GM, Furniture Row Racing -- Approx. 6:15 p.m.: Post-NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race FRIDAY, MARCH 13: ON TRACK -- 3-4:15 p.m.: NASCAR Sprint Cup Series practice, FOX Sports 1 ( Get results ) -- 4:30-5:25 p.m.: NASCAR XFINITY Series practice, FOX Sports 1 ( Get results ) -- 6-7:25 p.m.: NASCAR XFINITY Series final practice, FOX Sports 2 ( Get results ) -- 7:50 p.m.: NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coors Light Pole Qualifying, FOX Sports 2 ( Full lineup ) -- 10 p.m.: NASCAR Mexico Series Toyota 120, NBC Universo ( Get results ) PRESS CONFERENCES ( Watch live ) -- 2 p.m.: Kevin Harvick -- 2:30 p.m.: Chase Elliott -- 4:45 p.m.: Denny Hamlin -- Approx. 8:45 p.m.: NASCAR Sprint Cup Series qualifying GARAGECAM ( Watch live ) -- 2:30 p.m.: NASCAR Sprint Cup Series -- 4 p.m.: NASCAR XFINITY Series SATURDAY, MARCH 14: ON TRACK -- 11:30 a.m.-12:25 p.m.: NASCAR Sprint Cup Series practice, FOX Sports 1 ( Get results ) -- 12:45 p.m.: NASCAR XFINITY Series Coors Light Pole Qualifying, FOX Sports 1 ( Full lineup ) -- 2:30-3:20 p.m.: NASCAR Sprint Cup Series final practice, FOX Sports 1 ( Get results ) -- 4 p.m.: NASCAR XFINITY Series Axalta Faster. Tougher. Brighter. 200 , FOX (200 laps, 200 miles) ( Get results ) PRESS CONFERENCES ( Watch live ) -- 11 a.m.: Sam Hornish Jr . -- 1:45 p.m.: AXALTA Chairman and CEO Charlie Shaver and President Mike Cash -- Approx. 5:45 p.m.: Post-NASCAR XFINITY Series race MORE: READ: Latest NASCAR news PLAY: Sign up for Fantasy Live WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView today
The Truck Series runs its final stand alone race of the season Entry # Driver Owner Crew chief Manufacturer Sponsor 1 0 Caleb Roark Kenneth Grimes Michael Stewart 14 Chevrolet Grimes Irrigation & Construction 2 02 Tyler Young Randy Young Bryan Berry 14 Chevrolet Randco/Young's Building Systems 3 05 John Wes Townley Tony Townley Mike Beam 14 Toyota Zaxby's 4 6 Norm Benning Norm Benning Kevin Dargie 14 Chevrolet TBA 5 7 Brian Ickler Tom Deloach Chris Carrier 14 Toyota TBD 6 07 B J McLeod Ken Smith Doug Weddle 14 Chevrolet TBA 7 08 Jimmy Weller Bobby Dotter Jason Miller 14 Chevrolet TBA 8 8 Joe Nemechek Sidney Mauldin Jerry Babb 14 Toyota Smoke-N-Sear/SWM 9 9 Ron Hornaday Jr Joe Denette Ryan McKinney 14 Chevrolet RHEEM 10 10 Jennifer Jo Cobb Jennifer Jo Cobb Steve Kuykendall 14 Chevrolet Driven2Honor.org 11 13 Jeb Burton Duke Thorson Jeriod Prince 14 Toyota Estes-Carolina Nut Company 12 115 Mason Mingus Billy Boat Dan Deeringhoff 14 RAM 811 Call Before You Dig/Diamond Equipment 13 17 Timothy Peters Tom Deloach Marcus Richmond II 14 Toyota Red Horse Racing 14 19 Tyler Reddick Brad Keselowski Doug Randolph 14 Ford Reese 15 20 Jason White(i) Bob Newberry Chris Rice 14 Chevrolet Gun Broker 16 21 Joey Coulter Maurice Gallagher Jr Jeff Stankiewicz 14 Chevrolet Allegiant Travel 17 23 Spencer Gallagher Maurice Gallagher Jr Ryan London 14 Chevrolet Allegiant Travel 18 29 Ryan Blaney Brad Keselowski Chad Kendrick 14 Ford Cooper Standard 19 31 Ben Kennedy Steve Turner Doug George 14 Chevrolet Heater.com 20 32 Tayler Malsam Harry Scott Jr Mike Hillman Jr 14 Chevrolet Outerwall 21 35 TBA Kevin Cywinski Dennis Connor 14 Toyota TBA 22 136 Scott Stenzel Beverly Mittler Michael Mittler 14 Chevrolet Mitler Bros Machine & Tool/Ski Soda 23 50 T J Bell Mark Beaver Tim Sliva 14 Chevrolet Dedicated to Electrical Linemen 24 51 Erik Jones Kyle Busch Eric Phillips 14 Toyota ToyotaCare/Project Pink 25 54 Darrell Wallace Jr Kyle Busch Jerry Baxter 14 Toyota ToyotaCare 26 63 Justin Jennings Michael Mittler Michael Mittler 14 Chevrolet Mittler Bros/LG Seeds/Ski Soda 27 77 German Quiroga Tom Deloach Butch Hylton 14 Toyota OtterBox 28 88 Matt Crafton Rhonda Thorson Carl Joiner 14 Toyota JeldWen/Menards 29 98 Johnny Sauter Mike Curb Jeff Hensley 14 Toyota Nextant/Curb Records 30 99 Bryan Silas Chris Baluch Cal Boprey 14 Chevrolet TBA MORE: READ: Latest Chase news PLAY: Monitor your Chase Grid Game picks WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView
NASCAR Hall of Famer's roots trace back to dirt quarter-mile, now in decay
Alex Bowman joins the #NASCARGoesWest gang for an impromptu spring break party at Phoenix International Raceway. Visit CampingWorld.com to find everything you need for your RV!
A behind-the-scenes look at Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s media tour Play: NASCAR Fantasy Live Editor's note: Dale Earnhardt Jr. was in New York City last week for a Road to Daytona 500 media tour and let NASCAR.com tag along. NEW YORK -- It's cold at 9:30 a.m. in the Upper West Side of Manhattan. Thirty degrees won't come for four more hours, and the wind whips and swirls between the skyscrapers and billows down the sidewalk at the intersection of 67th and Columbus, where a line of people snakes down the sidewalk. These huddled masses are lined up around the block outside 7 Lincoln Square, awaiting the opening of the doors that will bring both warmth and a seat inside the "LIVE with Kelly and Michael" studio. NASCAR superstar Dale Earnhardt Jr. has already called in to "The Dan Patrick Show" as his first media obligation on Feb. 11, and he has four more stops on the docket as part of the Road to Daytona 500 Media Tour. He's in a black Chevrolet SUV fighting morning traffic, but steadily making progress toward this tiny pocket of the largest city in the United States. And he's running late. Congested morning streets make it hardly Junior's fault, but he bustles into the dressing room at the "LIVE" studio a bit behind schedule, and there's a pair of show producers eager to get him prepped for his spot. Part of their job is to make Earnhardt feel both welcome and comfortable. With Valentine's Day three days away, it's an easy talking point -- and one Junior will hear relentlessly throughout both this trip, and at Media Day in Daytona Beach, Florida, the following day. "Got any big plans for Valentine's Day?" an assistant asks Dale Jr. after a few quick brushes in the makeup room. "We've got a race," Junior says. "Oh, how romantic!" • • • It's a commercial break, and host Michael Strahan signs an old New York Giants jersey that was tossed down from the balcony. He banters playfully with the audience, including one member who makes fun of his arm strength. "Hey, I wasn't a quarterback," he says. "I hit quarterbacks." An image of Earnhardt Jr. suddenly blares on the television screens behind the hosts, and Strahan teases, "You don't know who our next guest is, do you?" "Dale Jr.!" screams the audience, and there's a few shrieks thrown in there as well. The man himself strides on stage, and that's where one first sees the transformation. Quiet and reserved by nature, he is a media chameleon of sorts -- his personality adapts to its surroundings . When the camera comes on, there's Junior smiling, there's Junior giving these well thought-out answers to questions he's answered literally hundreds of times before. He's stopped just once in this building, by a pair of veterans who ask for a quick picture with NASCAR's 12-time Most Popular Driver as he walks to his waiting ride in the building's parking garage after the filming is completed. "Thank you for your service," he says before climbing into the back seat and being whisked away. • • • At the "Rachael Ray Show," an employee named Vida creates a pet name for Earnhardt as she describes how the taping will go. "Hey, pumpkin!" she says when he walks in. "OK, pumpkin?" after her final bit of instruction. "Yes ma'am," he replies. It's how he always replies. Vida appears flustered when Earnhardt is pulled away to do the stage. "I have to get a picture with him," she says on the way out. Vida's not the only one at this stop to feel the Junior Effect. Chad Carter, a producer on the show, is from Concord, North Carolina. It's a town just north of Charlotte (Charlotte Motor Speedway is actually in Concord), and about 20 miles southeast of Mooresville, where Junior grew up. He's talked Earnhardt up all week, so the staff is eager to meet the man. "In my area of North Carolina, it's Jesus, Elvis and Dale Earnhardt Jr.," Carter told the show's associates, and even Ray herself, leading up to this day. Carter left a note for Junior, along with a gift bag full of local beer, gin and bourbon. The wooden table has a stack of North Carolina-specific books, an attempt to make the glamorous green room feel more like Mooresville than Manhattan. A succinctly titled "Duke Sucks" sits on top. Earnhardt thumbs through Carter's 1994 Concord High School yearbook, and a book of photography by Hugh Morton, one of North Carolina's most well-known native sons, while waiting to be called to the stage. The TV blares behind him. Someone brings food -- flank steak and popovers. Junior has already changed clothes so he doesn't appear on different talk shows wearing the same outfit, and he reacts to a new piece of clothing like most everyone. He puts on his new striped suit jacket, fixes it, pulls on it, then checks it out in the mirror before finally asking, "Does this look OK?" Vida will soon get her picture, and Carter is waiting for Earnhardt when he gets back to the green room after his interview with Ray and special guest host Regis Philbin. There isn't much time for pleasantries, but Earnhardt greets Carter as he does everyone else he encounters on this trip -- a look in the eye, a firm handshake and a one-word introduction: "Dale." "Thank you for the gift bag," Earnhardt says. "That was very generous of you." • • • At lunch, Earnhardt perks up at the prospect of food. It's been a busy morning. He offers suggestions to the sushi novice (black dynamite, on account of the tempura shrimp -- the crunchiness hides the fact that there's actual raw fish jammed in there), then expertly wields his chopsticks with his left hand while polishing off a salad, miso soup and two lines of brightly colored sushi. Whether it's eating or walking or making a decision, Earnhardt Jr. is always moving fast, as if his personality mirrors how he hopes to perform on the track. Maybe it does. But there is no wasted movement with this man in the city, no dallying. When lunch is finished, he rises, puts on his jacket and is 25 feet away before anyone else has pushed a chair back from the table. He power-walks on the city sidewalks, reaching his vehicle before anyone else in his group and not waiting for the driver to emerge and open the door for him. Now, at 1 p.m., is the only break Earnhardt has in the day, a 45-minute stretch in which he doesn't have a commitment, and doesn't need to be chugging along in his rented ride to get to his next commitment. He can do anything he wants. And he wants to go to Bleecker Street. Nestled near New York University, Bleecker Street is a trendy nightclub district in Greenwich Village. It also has a Burberry store. That is the purpose of this detour. Junior looks like any man shopping for his significant other when he walks through the doors and is confronted with a dizzying array of pink purses, accessories and clothes. He selects two scarves for his girlfriend Amy Reimann, but the merchandise continually catches his eye as the employees ring him up. He inspects a wallet, whose well-designed interior is stunning when he pops it open. "That's cool as hell," he murmurs. Two scarves quickly becomes two scarves plus a wallet … plus a shawl … plus a new purse to replace the one stolen from Amy on vacation. Not even the loud buzz as he walks out the door -- two of the security devices hadn't been removed -- harshens his mood. • • • That famous selfie in Victory Lane at Daytona International Speedway last year is the first image of Dale Earnhardt Jr. that people on Twitter glimpsed. It was the first tweet from @DaleJr, and it kicked off a year in which Junior delighted his fans and followers with Throwback Thursday photos, race predictions and late-night Q&A sessions. It directly led to this penultimate media tour stop at one of the Twitter offices, where a bunch of hip 20-somethings sequester Junior into a conference room and film his reasoning -- and reaction -- to joining the platform. "It's hard to do," Earnhardt says. "You can't try it for a week and go 'It's not for me.' I needed a moment. … "But it also gives us a way to say we're confident, and fans want to hear that confidence. And when we win, we get to celebrate with all our fans." The Twitter folks exude New York. They are trendy, they wear jeans to work and they are young. Yet the 40-year-old Earnhardt does not look like an outsider. He looks like he could be either Twitter's guest for the day, or one of its executives. That's something else we learn from this trip. Earnhardt somehow is both the laid-back guy from rural North Carolina and a media mogul that can blend into the biggest city in the United States, looking like he belongs on Wall Street. It's a dichotomy that shows up everywhere, from the people he meets to his Southern politeness, even to the way he dresses. Sure, he's wearing blue jeans (Wrangler, no doubt) but his black dress shoes are gleaming as if they've been freshly polished, and he bought a new striped sports coat for this occasion. He gives thoughtful, professional answers on questions that need them. But when he's off camera, and sees a beautiful three-layer cake the Twitter folks surprised him with, he grins. "Hell yeah!" he says. • • • He arrives at the day's last stop at 3:32 p.m. It's the fifth hit of his day, a day that began in North Carolina before the sun came up, has spanned states and necessitates that a somewhat introverted man talk almost nonstop. Junior has not yawned once. In fact, this day of racing talk has him amped for the start of the season. An offseason with virtually no testing had the driver itching to get back in the car alongside his Hendrick Motorsports teammates, one of whom is Jeff Gordon. This is Gordon's last full-time season, and it has Earnhardt thinking about his own future. Junior tackled the topic of retirement multiple times last year, and admits it's almost an obsessive thing to mull when one of the greats hangs it up. "I often think about retirement, and what it is that makes people retire," Earnhardt Jr. says. "I wonder about myself. 'What is going to take me out of the car? Is it gonna be family? Is it gonna be health?' "I can tell you I wouldn't step out for the car right now for anything." Minutes later, his "Pardon the Interruption" taping is finished. And one final time, we see the two sides of Dale. He's leaving a beautiful midtown studio, the type of place so very few people have access to, walking away from the marble flooring and fancy recording equipment. It's a building that so few people -- really, so few professional athletes -- will ever be qualified to enter. His day is done, but there's still one final piece of business as the elevator takes him down and spits him back toward the crowded streets. Before he leaves, Dale Earnhardt Jr. heads to a small nook of a convenience store and buys a Powerball ticket. MORE: READ: Latest NASCAR news PLAY: Sign up for Fantasy Live WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView today
Get the on-track times for everything at Atlanta Motor Speedway Play: NASCAR Fantasy Live The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, NASCAR XFINITY Series and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series head to Atlanta Motor Speedway for a tripleheader of NASCAR action, including a unique doubleheader on Saturday, Feb. 28. Check out the full schedule below. Note: All times are ET. SUNDAY, MARCH 1: RACE-DAY RUNDOWN 11 a.m.: NSCS Driver/Crew Chief Meeting (Media Center) 11:15 a.m.: Cole Swindell Concert 12:24 p.m.: AMS Presentation to Aaron's by: Ed Clark AMS President & GM 12:30 p.m.: NSCS Drivers Introductions w/ NASCAR Special Awards (Awards will be read earlier in pre-race) 12:30 p.m.: FOX Live on AIR 12:55 p.m.: Team FasTrax Skydiving Team 12:58 p.m.: God Bless America: Rick Schroeder, United States Air Force Veteran 1 p.m.: Taps by: James Brannon, Dobbins Base Honor Guard 1:00:30 p.m.: Presentation of Colors by: Riverside Military Academy- Gainesville, GA 1:00:50 p.m.: Invocation by: Billy Mauldin- President & CEO of MRO 1:01:30 p.m.: National Anthem by: Brent Whitaker, Air National Guard "Band of the South" - McGhee Tyson ANGB, TN 1:03 p.m.: TOT Fly-by: 2 T-38’s Talons from the 301st Fighter Squadron Tyndall AFB, FL (Turn 4 to Turn 1) 1:08 p.m.: "Drivers, Start Your Engines" by: Maj. Dan Rooney, CEO and Founder of Folds of Honor Foundation 1:16 p.m.: Start of the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 (325 Laps, 500.5 Miles) ON TRACK --1 p.m.: NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500, FOX (325 laps, 500.5 miles) ( Get results ) PRESS CONFERENCES ( Watch live ) -- Post-NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race THURSDAY, FEB. 26: ON TRACK -- 1 p.m.-2:25 p.m.: NASCAR Sprint Cup Series team test -- 3 p.m.-4:55 p.m.: NASCAR Sprint Cup Series team test *Test will have one car and one driver from any organization PRESS CONFERENCES ( Watch live ) -- 2:30 p.m.: Kyle Larson -- 2:40 p.m.: Carl Edwards -- 5 p.m.: Gene Stefanyshyn, NASCAR Senior VP, Innovation and Racing Development -- 5:15: David Ragan FRIDAY, FEB. 27: ON TRACK -- 10-10:55 a.m..: NASCAR XFINITY Series practice, FOX Sports 1 ( Get results ) -- 11:30 a.m.-12:55 p.m.: NASCAR XFINITY Series final practice, FOX Sports 1 ( Get results ) -- 1-2:25 p.m.: NASCAR Sprint Cup Series practice, FOX Sports 1 ( Get results ) -- 2:30-5:25 p.m.: NASCAR Camping World Truck Series final practice, FOX Sports 1 ( Get results ) -- 5:45 p.m.: NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coors Light Pole Qualifying, FOX Sports 1 ( Get results ) PRESS CONFERENCES ( Watch live ) -- 9 a.m.: Joey Gase -- 11 a.m.: Danica Patrick -- 11:15 a.m.: Tyler Reddick -- 12:15 p.m.: Kasey Kahne -- 3:15 p.m.: Jeff Gordon -- 4:30 p.m.: Motor Racing Outreach announcement with Matt Kenseth -- Post-NASCAR Sprint Cup Series qualifying GARAGECAM ( Watch live ) -- 9:30 a.m.: NASCAR XFINITY Series -- 2 p.m.: NASCAR Camping World Truck Series SATURDAY, FEB. 28: ON TRACK -- 9:10 a.m..: NASCAR XFINITY Series Coors Light Pole Qualifying, FOX Sports 1 ( Get results ) -- 10:40 a.m.: NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Keystone Light Pole Qualifying, FOX Sports 1 ( Get results ) -- noon-1:20 p.m.: NASCAR Sprint Cup Series final practice, FOX Sports 1 ( Get results ) -- 2 p.m.: NASCAR XFINITY Series Hisense 250, FOX Sports 1 (163 laps, 251.02 miles) ( Get results ) -- 5:30 p.m.: NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Hyundai Construction Equipment 200, FOX Sports 1 (130 laps, 200.2 miles) ( Get results ) PRESS CONFERENCES ( Watch live ) -- 10 a.m.: CMS and JGR announcement with Marcus Smith, Denny Hamlin -- Post-NASCAR XFINITY Series race -- Post-NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race GARAGECAM ( Watch live ) -- 11:30 a.m.: NASCAR Sprint Cup Series MORE: READ: Latest NASCAR news PLAY: Sign up for Fantasy Live WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView today
At first race, Penn State student got great view of NASCAR action Students are encouraged to work as active media members at the race track and ultimately tell the story of their unique experience at a NASCAR event. Following each immersion, one student will have the chance to see their work published on NASCAR.com. Melissa Conrad, a senior at Pennsylvania State University, attended the race weekend in Avondale, Arizona, and filed this story. I grew up watching and playing all sports, from field hockey to tennis to cross country and everything in between. I traveled up and down the East Coast watching my brother play summer league baseball and competing in AAU basketball tournaments myself. I watched NFL games every Sunday with my dad. I pined over Olympic figure skating and gymnastics with my mom, the one non-sports-oriented person in my family. I chose to attend Penn State University for the well-respected education I would receive from the College of Communications and the athletic involvement opportunities that would present themselves at such a high-profile institution. Now, as a senior having completed a multitude of internships in the industry, I thought I had accomplished a diverse, well-rounded background in sports knowledge. That is, until Nov. 7 when I arrived at Phoenix International Raceway to experience NASCAR. Before arriving in Phoenix to participate in an exclusive student immersion program for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and NASCAR Nationwide Series races, NASCAR was defined as such: The sport of which I have almost no knowledge or opinion. My definition today? The best-kept sports secret of my generation. Per my own observation, it seems that the buzz for NASCAR exists mostly within an older-than-college crowd. However, my experience in Phoenix is proof to why the buzz needs to spread (and will). As soon as we landed at the airport, we were immediately whisked away to the track. Tom Bryant, director of communicators for Touring and Weekly racing, met us at the track entrance to get us set up with credentials that would allow us access to people and areas that thousands of others would beg for during the weekend. I can genuinely say that the scene we walked into was unlike any other sports scene I’ve been a part of, from Penn State’s Beaver Stadium filled to capacity to Gaelic football playoffs in Ireland. It was an organized chaos of pit crews handling hundreds of tools and parts, passionate fans looking on and waiting for autographs, media members fighting for interviews and cars zooming by in tight lanes to enter the raceway for practice or qualifying rounds. Friday consisted of meeting the on-site NASCAR Competition Communications team from top to bottom, who welcomed us as if we were one of their own. The group was not only quick to offer any and all background information on the sport, but was also just as interested to hear our stories -- where we were from, what our majors were, what brought us here and so on. We looked on in amazement as the final practice round for the NASCAR Nationwide Series took place, followed by NASCAR Camping World Truck Series qualifying. I never realized that NASCAR isn't just the race itself; it’s the compilation of qualifying and practice rounds that are just as crucial. The sun went down and it was time for NASCAR under the lights at Phoenix International Raceway . There was one problem though: a power outage in the region. Half of the race track was completely darkened beside the Arizona desert mountains, and the main attraction of the day (not to mention, my first ever NASCAR race) was delayed by an hour. When the lights turned on and the race did get going, a crash occurred before some of the trucks even reached the start/finish line, thus rendering 18 ensuing caution laps. Everyone in the press box made a point to stop by the Penn State students' chairs and whisper: "Don't worry, it's not usually like this." However, what they didn't realize is that you never forget your first experience with a particular sport. Power outages and cautions laps or not, NASCAR was beginning to make sense to me. Saturday was another full day of practice rounds, qualifying, media interviews, press conferences and most notably a 100 mph, adrenaline-spiking pace car trip around the track. The NASCAR Nationwide Series race was set for 2 p.m. that afternoon. We had the amazing opportunity to sit atop Kyle Larson 's pit box, an experience I'm sure would be envied by many NASCAR loyalists. I almost felt guilty taking such an incredible viewing spot for the race, having had no previous knowledge of a sport in which millions live and breathe. Watching the @NASCAR_NNS race at @PhoenixRaceway from @KyleLarsonRacin 's pit box. pic.twitter.com/AvFJIGbSr3 — Melissa Conrad (@melissaconradPR) November 8, 2014 What an experience it was to see the race from that vantage point. Listening to the radio, watching Larson's team go to work in less than eight seconds each pit stop and being that close to the track was a sports moment I will never forget. I learned in those three hours that you do not need to fully understand a sport to truly grasp its intensity. The beauty of sports is just that. If you have a passion for competition, it doesn't matter whether it's a ball bouncing on a court, a puck skimming across the ice, a glove making a catch, or a high-speed car revving its engine. All sports matter. I arrived at the Phoenix International Raceway as a NASCAR doubter and left as a believer. Text goes here MORE: READ: Latest Chase news PLAY: Monitor your Chase Grid Game picks WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView
See which drivers will compete as the series returns to Martinsville RELATED: Play NASCAR Fantasy Live " Sign up for RaceView today Entry # Driver Owner Crew chief Manufacturer Sponsor 1 00 Cole Custer Gene Haas Joe Shear 14 Chevrolet Haas Automation 2 0 Matt Tifft Kenneth Grimes Michael Stewart 13 Chevrolet TBA 3 02 Tyler Young Randy Young Bryan Berry 14 Chevrolet Randco/Young's Building Systems 4 05 John Wes Townley Tony Townley Mike Beam 14 Toyota Zaxby's 5 6 Norm Benning Norm Benning Kevin Dargie 14 Chevrolet TBA 6 07 B J McLeod Ken Smith Doug Weddle 13 Chevrolet TBA 7 08 Camden Murphy Bobby Dotter Jason Miller 13 Chevrolet TBA 8 8 John Hunter Nemechek Sidney Mauldin Jerry Babb 14 Toyota TBD 9 9 Brennan Newberry Joe Denette Ryan McKinney 14 Chevrolet Qore-24 10 10 Jennifer Jo Cobb Jennifer Jo Cobb Steve Kuykendall 12 RAM Driven2Honor.org 11 13 Jeb Burton Duke Thorson Jeriod Prince 14 Toyota Estes-Carolina Nut Company 12 115 Mason Mingus Billy Boat Ben Leslie 14 Chevrolet 811 Call Before You Dig 13 17 Timothy Peters Tom Deloach Marcus Richmond II 14 Toyota Red Horse Racing 14 19 Tyler Reddick Brad Keselowski Doug Randolph 14 Ford Broken Bow Records 15 20 Gray Gaulding Bob Newberry Chris Rice 14 Chevrolet Gemini Southern / Krispy Kreme 16 21 Joey Coulter Maurice Gallagher Jr Jeff Stankiewicz 14 Chevrolet Allegiant Travel 17 23 Max Gresham Maurice Gallagher Jr Ryan London 14 Chevrolet AmWins Group, Inc. 18 29 Ryan Blaney Brad Keselowski Chad Kendrick 14 Ford Cooper Standard 19 31 Ben Kennedy Steve Turner Doug George 14 Chevrolet Heater.com 20 32 Alex Guenette Harry Scott Jr Mike Hillman Jr 14 Chevrolet MOTORS ILLIMITEES 21 133 Brandon Jones Maurice Gallagher Jr Shane Huffman 14 Chevrolet TBA 22 35 TBA Kevin Cywinski Mark Rette 14 Toyota TBA 23 50 T J Bell Mark Beaver Tim Sliva 14 Chevrolet TBA 24 51 Erik Jones Kyle Busch Eric Phillips 14 Toyota ToyotaCare 25 54 Darrell Wallace Jr Kyle Busch Jerry Baxter 14 Toyota 2015 NASCAR Hall of Fame Inductee Wendell Scott 26 63 Justin Jennings Michael Mittler Michael Mittler 14 Chevrolet Mittler Bros Machine & Tool/LG Seeds/Ski Soda 27 74 Wendell Chavous Mike Harmon TBA 13 Chevrolet Vydox 28 175 Caleb Holman Charles Henderson Darrell Holman 14 Chevrolet Food Country USA-Gain Flings-Lopez Wealth Mgmt. 29 77 German Quiroga Tom Deloach Butch Hylton 14 Toyota OtterBox 30 180 Jody Knowles Tracy Wallace Wayne Hansard 09 Ford Clayton Signs, Inc. 31 182 Cody Erickson John Corr Michael Cheek 13 Ford Performance Auto 32 186 Brandon Brown Jerry Brown Adam Brenner 13 Chevrolet Willmar Concrete Pumping 33 187 Charles Buchanan Jr Charles Buchanan Jr Craig Wood 13 Ford Spring Drug 34 88 Matt Crafton Rhonda Thorson Carl Joiner 14 Toyota Ideal Door/Menards 35 92 Austin Hill Ricky Benton Michael Hester 14 Ford BTS Tire/ Goodyear Fleet HQ/ Wynns 36 98 Johnny Sauter Mike Curb Jeff Hensley 14 Toyota Smokey Mountain/Curb Records 37 99 Bryan Silas Chris Baluch Cal Boprey 14 Chevrolet TBA MORE: READ: Latest Chase news PLAY: Monitor your Chase Grid Game picks WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView