By Lee Montgomery
MADISON, Ill. - Pretty busy day here at Gateway International Raceway, which hosts what could be its final NASCAR race with today's 5-Hour Energy 250 Nationwide Series event.
Wheels up from the hotel was 8:30 a.m., and of course I got kidded for the flat tire last night. First Brad Coleman's dad, Brandon, and then Brad himself. In Brad's mind, it went from a flat tire to a crashed rental car. Big imagination, I guess.
UPDATED: 2:05 p.m.
8:30 a.m. - Cloudy, cool morning in Southern Illinois, but no rain. Forecast is for some rain, with a window right around race time.
9:12 a.m. - Laptop is acting screw y this morning, and then I get the blue screen of death. When it reboots, it seems to reset some stuff. My Google Chrome browser isn't working, and the taskbar is messed up. Great. At least I didn't loe anything.
9:30 a.m. - Qualifying gets going. Part of me wants it to rain, for that would put Coleman on the pole. No rain, however.
9:48 a.m. - Wander over to the 18 and 20 haulers to find the drivers, and they're both pretty relaxed. Matt DiBenedetto heads to the top of the 20 hauler to watch a few cars go out, and then he heads to his car. Coleman wanders out there, too, though he has forgotten the Sharpie I borrowed yesterday.
10:05 a.m. - Coleman heads to the track to make his qualifying run. First lap isn't so good, but he picks up on the second and slots in ninth. He wasn't so confident beforehand. so I lean in the car and tell him afterward that, "You beat Danica."
10:08 a.m. - DiBenedetto is next, four cars after Coleman. His first lap is as fast as Coleman's, and then his second puts him in the top three. Nice run, kid. He ends up third.
10:20 a.m. - I'm responsible for two drivers, but I only have one Sharpie. I give it to Coleman, who uses it along the fence behind the pits. When he's done, I get it back and give it to DiBenedetto, who has been using fans' pens.
11:05 a.m. - I see Brendan Gaughan and say, "Hey, dad." But Gaughan says, "Not yet." Wife Tatum hasn't given birth to their first child, yet.
11:30 a.m. - DiBenedetto and I head for an appearance at the track's suites in Turn 1. We go to one location in the garage, and no one is there. Told to go somewhere else, and no one is there. A text 10 minutes later says forget it, so we do. But as we're walking back to the 18 hauler, we're stopped by a Gateway guy, so we go to the suite. Matt D. makes a few fans in the suite, but it was more fun to ride with four other guys in one golf cart.
12:40 p.m. - MRO chaplain Steve Keller tells us there's no praise music in this chapel, so Trevor Bayne volunteered to sing. Well, no. But we did use Bayne's Roush Fenway Racing hat for the offering.
1:55 p.m. - We're five minutes to driver introductions, but Coleman is nowhere to be found. His dad texts him, and Coleman is, um, in the reading room. He makes it in plenty of time.
2:05 p.m. - The track has "Gateway Girls" who escort drivers at drivers introductions, but what about Danica Patrick? Enter Josh Weinrich, an former intern at the track. A surprised Danica took Josh's arm, and the two walked through the crowd. Weinrich just beamed.