Want to get into racing but don't want to race?

Lauren Liebowitz will take you through a typical (if there is such a thing) preparation time for a race weekend, giving you a behind the scenes look at what it takes to get into the support side of racing.

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It's 6:30AM; the sun is peaking through the drapes of my window. I am half awake and trying to open my eyes to the pulsating noise coming from my cell phone alarm clock. I turn on MTV to grasp a constant in my life, knowing that my day will be very unpredictable. Back in my days spent in the college dorm MTV was part of my daily ritual, now I only get to check out the latest songs in pop culture when I am traveling. I wake up from a 4-hour "nap" after arriving in Phoenix late last night, and I start preparing for my day. I need to iron my shirt, my pants, and my hair. I need to put sunscreen on for the desert sun and I need to pack my brief case with business cards, pens, and note pads. I finish getting dressed, pull my credential over my head and greet the day - and the 14 men waiting for me outside. I, along with the rest of the Spirit of Daytona Motorsports Team, begin the journey to the Phoenix International Raceway. This will be the first day our racecar circles the track's 'roval' course. The crew guys know they have a lot of work in store for them this weekend, which hopefully will give me great material for a story!

While braving the desert condition in Phoenix or any other weather ailment I face during my job, I am in charge of the public relations for the professional racecar team, Spirit of Daytona Racing. The team fields one Daytona Prototype (DP) in the Grand American Rolex Series, and three Pontiac GTOs in the Grand Am Cup GS Series. I am in charge of writing the race reports for each car. I also prepare promotional material for the team and coordinate part of the hospitality. The list of responsibilities also includes: filling the coolers outside our team transporter with ice and soda, arranging the breakfast bars and fruit in baskets during the race weekend and keeping tabs on where our drivers need to be and at what times. I also hold the pit sign for when our Daytona Prototype pits for a fuel and driver/tire change. While I am doing this I always keep my eye open for potential sponsors. This is my job, and after a year of doing it, I can finally say that this is what "drives me."

My job includes a lot of traveling and an accumulation of frequent flyer miles. There are 14 races in a season, and only two of them are near my rented apartment in the Daytona Beach area. During the race season I pretty much live out of my suitcase. I drop my little Chihuahua off at my boyfriend's, kiss both of them goodbye and leave mid-week for some far-away track. I return at the end of the weekend, I say hello to my puppy and boyfriend and then a few days later I do it all again. It's not like I am a hamster circling in a plastic wheel – there is meaning to my constant routine, but I miss the down time. I wish that the periods in between races grew longer and the race schedule grew shorter, but this is my job and I enjoy it.

Before each race I sit down to write up a prerace report. How can I make the same story new again? The Daytona Prototype will be competing at a different race track than last week, but the drivers aren't giving me any new quotes and I am running out of ways of saying " I am really excited to be racing at (fill in the racetrack name)." I dig online for some interesting tidbit about one of the drivers in relation to the track. I find my anecdote and I create a story. Next obstacle to complete is to print up media kits. Each media guide contains information on the series, the team, the car, and the sponsors. I need to go over the info to make sure there are no typos or that I have not mixed up the driver or sponsor. Included in the team file of information is a handful of sponsorship packets for the DP and the GTO along with rental/ownership folders on the cars. You never know who will turn up at the racetrack and having a readymade folder on hand with all of this information always helps. I am still sore over an incident where I showed up empty handed. I was at the Homestead-Miami Speedway I literally ran into Gene Simmons, of Kiss. A crewmember and I chased after him, confronted him about all the great aspects of our team and I realized that I didn't have any information to hand him. I couldn't even find a piece of paper to write my email and team name on for him. He was all business with me and verbally gave me his work email address and I automatically forgot what he said as he turned away. Now I am always sure to keep my pockets packed with business cards, paper, and pens. Next time I run into him I vow to be prepared.

Another piece of information I am in charge of before I leave my office is the race event schedule. I create small hand held schedules to pass out to the team members. I actually enjoy this part of my preparations. It's kind of fun to see all the events going on during the race weekend and I feel like I am looking into the future as I type out practice times and meeting locations. I also try to figure out by the schedule what time I will be falling asleep. If the track closes at 8:00PM I will be lucky if I am back in my hotel room by 10:00PM. Sometimes I sneak away and hang out in our hospitality trailer and relax for a few minutes as I wait for the crew guys to finish going over their checklist or complete their final changes to the car's setup. I have a lot of respect for their laborious and, at times, tedious job. The mechanics and engineers that work on the car live and die by the car. If there is one mistake it could mean the difference of a few seconds lost or even the driver's life. The time consuming precautions that the team takes are to avoid accidents and mechanical failure during the race. Each mechanic wants to feel that while the car is competing on track they did their best during the few days they had in order to perfect the car's handling. When race time comes it's up to the drivers to bring out the best in the car.

During the time I spend at the race track I gather driver quotes for my press releases. I usually send out one or more press releases a day depending on what car is on track and what happened during the session. I also meet up with our photographer to let him know which car we want to highlight and what he should be looking for. I tell him to be "creative" with the pictures meaning make the car look different even though it is circling the same track for over two hours. I am always in awe at what he sends back to me, the car's colors pop out of the picture even more so than in real life. I also meet up with important guests of the team and make sure all their needs are handled. Another important aspect of my job is reminding the drivers of the mandatory autograph session (our team can lose valuable points in the series if the drivers don't show up). Sometimes I feel like an annoying songbird repeating the same message in each conversation I have with the drivers. So far during my watch the drivers have always showed up. Most times one driver is close by and the other driver is on the other side of the track in a golf cart studying turn 3 or 4. After I hunt both of them down I drive them over to their assigned tables with a stack of hero cards and wait for the line of fans to end. Hero cards are like oversized baseball cards. On one side is a picture of the team car and on the reverse side is information on the team and the drivers. Fans love these and I usually need to keep a small stack of autographed cards to bring back to the shop with me for requests.

With only a few hours left in the race weekend, the final event starts, the 250 mile race. The national anthem is belted out across the track and I join the team on the grid as we look up at the American flag. A final radio check is heard throughout the team's headsets and moments later the 40 plus engines are growling as the drivers wait to take the green flag. Sometimes the race is slow with endless yellow flags due to car crashes and debris on course. Sometimes our car is rudely crashed into or spun off track (we hate when that happens, but it gets TV time). The racing gods never tell us how we will finish the race but that is always part of the fun. When the race is complete and I post my final press release it's time to pack up and go home. The long weekend is tiresome but I usually go away with more than I started off with. Many times I gain an important contact or learn about new marketing ideas. The final moments of the race weekend is all that is left as I sit in the airport waiting for my homeward bound flight. I close my eyes and wait for it to happen all over again.

Lauren is the marketing and public relations manager for the Spirit of Daytona, E-Mail Spirit of Daytona Racing, LLC, 264 Carswell Ave, Holly Hill FL 32117 or 386.253.4147 or Fax 386.253.4148.

Related Issue: Women Racers Directory, Women in Racing, Women Racers, More Women in Racing, Race Schedules, Notable Women

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