I’m going to skip to the end of the Miss Grand Prix of Houston pageant because, well, I’m not a pageant girl and never will be. But I must throw in this bit, while waiting for the results for the New Miss GPHOU, the soon to be former Miss GPHOU was asking us questions on stage. When it came time for my question, here is how it went:
Angela: "So what is your favorite type of racing?"
Me: "Definitely Indycar, and I really hope Scott Dixon wins this weekend!"
Angela: "Just remember who pays for this stage… (The stage being the Shell/Pennzoil Stage)"
Me: "Oh, right… Go Helio! You have to give me props for being the only contestant who knew anything about racing and thinking on my feet for that quick save."
Saturday morning, we woke up bright and early to head to Coffee & Cars. We left 30 minutes late and by the time we got to Reliant almost everyone was complaining about the heat & humidity… We’re in Houston, expect it! I live in Lubbock and I was dying BUT I knew what I was in for. Aside from being disgusted on how many people left after not being crowned Miss Grand Prix of Houston and how much complaining was going on, the event was pretty sweet. The cars were all beautiful and the people were nice!
From there we went to the Pirelli trailer to find out what we needed to do for them, i.e. stand by the WC drivers and look pretty. Then we were stuck in a locker room until pre-race because no one knew what the heck was going on. Pre-race was amazing; getting to see everything up close and high-fiving the drivers before the race, was a pretty sweet deal. Then we started walking to the grid and Angela (the former Miss Grand Prix of Houston) told me to run to Scott Dixon’s car, because of my performance the night before. While standing at his car one of the other girls ran up to me and said “I called the Target car.” To her, it was just the Target car. To me it is Scott Dixon, the driver I've loved since 2004 and only 50 points away from Helio… I told her to keep walking. After telling one of the pit guys what I did the night before, we had to run off the grid at end of the National Anthem. Once the race started, we were herded into a room with no service and no way of watching the race. I was less than thrilled. Time kept passing. Laps kept happening and I was stuck in a room just a hundred yards away. FINALLY we were told we could leave the room and do track side visits, we split into two groups and started.
|The room with no service or way of watching the race|
The first suite we get to was HP, so I walk in and I’m about to ask how Pagenaud is doing. One of the girls asks, “Who are y’all going for?” Needless to say, I was even more disgusted at this point and I took it upon myself to go into the tents first and start the conversations. The best tent I went into was the Strike USA one; I walked in and immediately started complimenting Josef Newgarden’s car and it just so happens I was talking to the guys who did the amazing revamping of it. I was like a kid in a candy store, and I REALLY hope they don’t think I’m just a pretty face with a short dress because I was in Heaven talking about the sport I love most.
After we were through the suite visits we went back and started getting ready for the Winner’s circle and I finally got to watch a bit of the race! Let me just say, after my shout out to Scott on stage and getting to stand by his car, it was incredible to watch him win the first race. During the celebration I was standing behind Simona de Silvestro’s parents and congratulated them on her first podium finish. She then soaked us in champagne! So with my hair now soaking and reeking of alcohol, we got to head back to the hotel to shower up and had dinner with all the other girls.
Sunday, we got to sleep in a bit, eat breakfast and then wait. And wait. And wait. While a few more girls left because they didn't see the point in staying. HELLO, IT'S AN INDYCAR RACE!
We recruited someone to drive us to the train and as soon as we got to the track, five of us were told to go do flags for the WC race. It was cold, raining, and we were in our short dresses… Not the most pleasant experience in the world, BUT a very kind guy gave me his jacket because I couldn't stop shaking. Props to him for being so sweet! After we got back inside we waited in another room until pre-race, which was the same thing as the day before. BUT the thing that made it so special was getting to shake AJ Foyt’s hand. Pretty awesome if I do say so myself. After, we ran out to the grid and I went to Josef Newgarden’s this time because, I was not missing this chance to meet my second favorite driver! Instead, I met his parents… His dad came up and our conversation started out as:
Mr. Newgarden: "Do you drive this car?"
Me: "Oh, no sir!"
Mr. Newgarden: "I’m just kidding; I know who drives that… he’s my son."
Me: "YOU’RE HIS DAD?!"
It went on from there, and let me just say that experience was well worth all of the annoying parts of the weekend. Seeing these parents so supportive of their children and so willing to talk and get to know complete strangers shows just how special Indycar is. Someone show me another sport where everyone is as nice as Indycar people as a whole and I’ll enter in another pageant. That’s how confident I am that there is nothing like Indycar.
This time around we got to see the failed standing start. However, we were once again stuck in a room with no service and no way of knowing what was going on outside. My patience was running out until they said we were going to the pit side suites. We went up there and took a few pictures and started saying hello to everyone. I once again ran into the Newgarden’s and watched a lap of the race while getting to chat with Mr. Newgarden again. Such a cool dad! After we were done with the visits we got to stand around and watch the race (FINALLY!!)
Now, as a representative of the Grand Prix I cannot comment on the accident BUT I feel like it is my right as a fan, especially of Chip Ganassi Racing that I should get to say a few words. Cheering as Scott Dixon was gaining on Will Power in those last laps, and the seeing the yellow flag start waving just as they were crossing the finish line my heart stopped. No one knew how bad the accident was and the entire mood changed. Once they got Dario into the ambulance, the celebration started. One very important thing I learned this weekend was that you do not tell the winner’s family what to do. Will Power’s mother-in-law is one feisty lady and told the volunteer, “This isn't my first time in the winners circle,” and kept on walking. She then overheard me say, “Go get 'em'” and came back apologized for being so rude. I always say first impressions are typically the best, and considering the past two races I was not surprised by what I saw. The Mayor is one class act and making faces behind Will Power accepting his trophy made everyone laugh and smile. Also, two guys who were with Scott Dixon remembered me running to his car while everyone else was screaming, “I wanna go to the pink car!” Silly girls.
After the celebration, we were released to do whatever we wanted so immediately I was heading to the Paddock. I spotted Josef Newgarden and finally achieved my goal for the season and got a picture with him. I then stopped to talk to Ganassi guys, which made me sigh with relief. We then walked around trying to spot drivers and while I explained different questions some of the girls had asked. They were impressed because I knew what I was talking about. By the time I spotted Simon Pagenaud. My feet were done and the teams had packed up so we headed back to the locker room to get our stuff and head out. There, the former Miss Grand Prix instructed us NOT to comment on anything and that was that.
All in all, being a grid girl was a great experience, but if I’m not working in the industry I would much rather be a fan rather than standing around looking pretty.
I would like to thank everyone who made this weekend possible and giving me this once in a lifetime opportunity. I wish everyone had stayed through the whole weekend and that it had been a clean race, but hey that’s racing for you. As for the media… GET.IT.TOGETHER.
-Kirstyn Brokken @kcb618