We met in the limo at 10:30 AM and headed out to California Speedway, an hour's drive away in Fontana. The program was to spend a day in and around the track, doing racing stuff.
After we got signed in (two releases each for me and Mary) and got "hot pits" media credentials, we went to the garage area. We were met by representatives of the Chip Ganassi Racing Team, who would be our chaperones for the day. A quick safety briefing (basically, "don't get in the way of any moving vehicles; this is a dangerous place if you don't pay attention"), and we went to the Ganassi garage.
There, we were introduced to driver Scott Dixon. He was the champion driver of the Indy Racing League last year, and so his car wore the number 1. He's a young guy, but quite good. He always had time to autograph things people brought him, even while we were taping. We examined each other's outfits (one of the shots they used on the show), and he thought mine was neat, though unusual. (No kidding.)
He showed us all around his car. They pack a LOT of stuff into a fairly small space in one of those cars, and lots of stuff is in places you wouldn't expect. This includes the driver. You don't get into one of those cars; you put it on. The seat - which includes padding on both sides of the driver, as well as the seat itself - is custom-molded to the driver's body. The head barely sticks up out of the body shell, just enough to allow vision to the front and mirrors. All of this is necessary to allow the driver to keep control of the car at 210 MPH, with 4 to 5 Gs of side forces in the turns. It's also a safety factor.
The car was painted pink for the weekend. Target, Ganassi's main sponsor, was promoting breast cancer awareness, and the pink car was in that vein. Scott was happy that they don't make racing suits in pink. If they did, he would have worn one, and he didn't think they'd let him out of the garage in one piece in it.
After that, Scott led us back to the parking lot and invited us into his motorhome. The team provides it so he can travel in something resembling comfort. It's a nice one, about $300K worth or so of 40-foot diesel pusher. (I can't remember the manufacturer, but it did sound familiar.) Considering how much time he spends in it, it's a practical necessity.
Then it was back to the garage area. Another release to sign. Scott introduced us to racing legend Johnny Rutherford, and went back to work. Mary, the cameraman, and I piled into an Impala SS pace car, and Rutherford got in the driver's seat. We took a couple of laps around the track, and Rutherford demonstrated how a car merges into traffic coming out of the pits, and how he comes off the track when the green flag comes out. We hit about 115 MPH tops, and at that speed, the side forces were much higher than I expected. That track has a 14-degree bank. Even so, I was pulled from the left rear seat almost into Mary's lap in the center.
I asked Rutherford if he missed racing. He does, a lot. He does get quite a bit of track time in the pace car, though - "too much, sometimes". We went back in, the cameraman got out, and we went back out on the track for another couple of laps so they could show the car running with us in the back.
Finally, we shook hands and parted. We went back to the grandstand, where I signed yet another release (this one on the IRL membership application form). We shot a few bits in the stands, and quickly discovered that earplugs were mandatory. The noise is loud beyond normal standards of loud, and can be felt as a wave of physical pressure.
I climbed up to the flag stand. I talked with the flag men for a moment, and was informed they had the worst seats in the house: the cars go by 15 feet below, and you can't see the start/finish line. As they were telling me that, a car went past. It's a bit unnerving to be directly above a car going past at 215 MPH. I got to wave a green flag, that being the only color that wouldn't confuse the drivers practicing on the track. That was fun.
That ended the day's shooting at the track. We shook hands with the IRL folks and departed. Lunch was at a nearby Jack-in-the-Box. We headed over to Riverside, which was supposedly not too far away - but it took us an hour to get there in Friday afternoon traffic.
The next stop was an Arthur Murray dance studio, where we got a quick lesson in the tango. Then the idea was to go off to a dance club and do it a bit - but the traffic delays had made the original plan impossible. The producer called around to find someplace we could go dancing. While that was going on, the director spotted a go-kart track, and we stopped to race a bit.
On to a bar the producer had located, where we could clear out a dance floor and shoot a couple of scenes. They had us bump - literally - into Scott Dixon, who was shown dancing with one of the Ganassi staffers, but that wasn't used.
Finally, we headed back to the hotels. It was after 11, and we were quite tired. As with the third date, they got some shots of me looking tired, and showed that with re-used footage of me de-rezzing Michael Moore - except, this time, the target of the Frisbee was Mary. I'm sorry it came out that way, for while it made funny television, we hit it off much better than that.
Last night, I met several co-workers, present and former, for dinner before the show. We talked about all kinds of stuff before I headed back to the hotel to get into the costume. I didn't have a dressing room this time, because the musical guests, The Donnas, needed both of the ones upstairs. Oh well. I hung out in the green room till it was time to get makeup. While they were doing that, I was interviewed for an upcoming behind-the-scenes segment for the show. (Dunno when that will air.) Back down to the green room, got sound, swapped the helmet battery, met co-workers.
The segment was pretty funny, all told. Jimmy did stop in the middle to comment on my line about racing "like sex, it's better in the first person than the third", and I mumbled something about speaking theoretically. During the introduction, Jimmy asked about the absence of my mustache, and I tried to get in a plug for Schlock Mercenary, but it apparently didn't make it out. Drat.
I was on the couch for The Donnas. Not bad at all. I was next to Xzibit (who was there to talk about his show Pimp My Ride), and during a break, I told him he wasn't getting anywhere near my Lexus. That got a good laugh out of him.
I'd been invited to a show at a local comedy club, but by the time everything was over, it was after 10 PM, and I'd been up since 3 AM Pacific, so I was about to fall over. I politely declined. One of these days, I'm going to get to LA on Sunday and take the guy up on his offer. I'd really like to do it, but not at the end of an impossibly long day.