News & Media

Rodman: Powerful rainstorms bring drivers, media together

April 15, 2011, Dave Rodman,

TALLADEGA, Ala. -- Logano, Montoya, others find shelter in Talladega media center as storms rage

Late Friday afternoon, Talladega Superspeedway's infield media center became akin to a family picnic gone all wrong with the onset of terrible weather.

Kenny Wallace was the first to come in out of the storm, which spent the day sweeping toward Alabama -- and truly, the East Coast beyond it. Wallace wasn't laughing, which would normally have been a dead giveaway that he was in the room.

"We got here and Juan [Montoya], Jamie McMurray, Kenny Wallace was here -- the place was full of people chilling out. It wasn't really a big deal -- we had nothing else to do, so it was good."


But he was on the phone, apologizing for not being able to run a dirt race Friday night in Paducah, Ky., an event Ken Schrader and Tony Stewart were also supposed to attend. But it was when those words came out of his mouth that I paid attention, lifting my head up from my laptop.

There were 15 or 20 media members still trying to meet their deadlines after Sprint Cup practice had been canceled by rain.

But the room was starting to fill up, with all manner of NASCAR drivers -- and stunningly -- their families, officials and hangers-on. Baby carriers soon occupied spaces usually held by laptops.

Jamie McMurray even scrounged up a phone charger from a writer and plugged up to get some life back into his device.

Wallace was sitting at a row of work stations against one wall, next to wife Kim -- and she looked scared. Wallace was working the keypad of his phone, "keeping the Twitter universe up-to-date," he said.

The prevailing opinion was that maybe the weather wasn't going to be that bad -- but tornado warnings were everywhere. And so was the odd funnel cloud, according to TV reports.

"We were all hanging out in the motor home, me and my family and stuff," driver Joey Logano told a local TV station in an interview conducted inside the media center. "So we got bored, we heard the [tornado warning] siren going off and we said, 'Let's go to the media center, talk to some people and hang out.'

"We got here and Juan [Montoya], Jamie McMurray, Kenny Wallace was here -- the place was full of people chilling out. It wasn't really a big deal -- we had nothing else to do, so it was good."

Logano was possibly the most outgoing of the group of around 50 people who came into the room. He went back to a closet-sized suite reserved for Sirius NASCAR Radio host Claire B. Lang and didn't emerge until the place had all but cleared out, around 6:30 local time.

At one point he'd emerged for a bottle of water, declaring, "I'm helping host the doggoned show."

Logano, when asked if anything similar had happened before, laughed heartily -- even if he had no real way of knowing that a gathering like this, in a place like this, had probably never happened at any NASCAR venue. The threat of weather certainly had occurred, particularly at Talladega.

"Yeah, it was here -- last year," he said. "I don't think anybody really got scared [Friday], I think a lot of it was people were bored, with nothing else to do. That's why we ended up here.

"It's part of it. It's all good. No problem."

If you were busy working, the clichés definitely worked. With the exception of the rainbow-hued weather patterns that dominated the TV monitors throughout the room, there was little clue anything with any bad connotation was happening.

Terry Labonte strolled in, laughing and tossing jibes at a couple of his contemporaries. Travis Kvapil came in with his Front Row Motorsports PR person, went to an empty section of the room and quietly sat back, soaking it all in.

Video images of snarled traffic and some crashed vehicles didn't affect the group here, which included no fewer than four relatively newborn infants -- those of Cup drivers McMurray, Matt Kenseth and Montoya; as well as SPEED TV commentator Wendy Venturini.

Montoya had his entire family as part of a small entourage of around 10 people

Logano's crew chief Greg Zipadelli, who had been in this room before as a race winner with former Joe Gibbs Racing driver Tony Stewart, came into the room with his entire family looking uncertain about even being there.

"I'm usually here under better circumstances," Zipadelli said, almost apologetically before another media member encouraged him to "come on in."

The opinions expressed are solely those of the writer.