On Wednesday of Championship Week, I embarked on our second Twitter-based Trophy Tour with the Astor Cup. That’s right, I was entrusted for an entire day with the care of a 98-year-old trophy worth about $300,000 and I didn’t drop it.
INDYCAR Director of Special Events Joe Hodge, INDYCAR Security Director Ed Harris and I took the Astor Cup to a lot of iconic locations in the Los Angeles area and snapped photos to create a little social media buzz going into the season finale. It’s a fun idea that other sports trophies such as the MLS Cup have done in the past, and not only is it a really enjoyable day for myself, but also hopefully neat for INDYCAR fans to follow along, as well.
Where else would our day start but the start/finish line of Auto Club Speedway? Dear Old Astor (I can’t spend more than 5 minutes with an inanimate object without fondly naming it) met up with the Fuzzy’s Ultra Premium Vodka Triple Crown trophy for the first shot, which was a gorgeous view of the morning light at the track.
After a quick Starbucks run and some NFL chatter on whatever happened to Donovan McNabb (remember this because it’s important later), we all headed to the Staples Center, home of the Los Angeles Lakers, Clippers and Kings.
Then off we went to Santa Monica Pier, a place that I am quite fond of, as we’ve done a few media events in that area and there’s a cool little hotel called The Shore of which I’m a fan. Unfortunately there isn’t really an iconic “Santa Monica Pier” sign, but then I remembered the Route 66 sign that says “End of The Trail,” which is very fitting for the end of our season. I have a great photo somewhere from last year of Tristan Vautier and Esteban Guerrieri, 2012 Firestone Indy Lights contenders, pretending to duke it out right there.
As we tried to set up, there was an older gentleman sitting on the edge of the bench we were trying to set Dear Old Astor on that didn’t seem to take the hint to move, so Joe and Ed politely chatted him up while I took the shot. I spoke with him a bit as we were leaving, and he told me he was very busy sitting there doing “bikini research.”
Stub Hub Center, where the L.A. Galaxy play, was a very cool experience. Justin Pearson of their Communications department was extremely accommodating, and brought the team’s 2012 MLS Cup to take a group photo with Dear Old Astor. We got to take photos at Landon Donovan’s locker, and also went out on to the field. All of this on a game day.
Hollywood Boulevard was a bundle of laughs. We didn’t want to leave Dear Old Astor in the car, so he came along with us to lunch (“Table for four, please”). People did keep asking us if they could drink out of him. I didn’t really understand everyone’s very dire need to fill him with liquid, but I don’t ask such personal questions. Needless to say it wasn’t allowed.
We found a spot that overlooked the famous HOLLYWOOD sign on the hill, and after many a false direction, located Paul Newman’s star on the Walk of Fame. That was a great idea by Joe, and I think people enjoyed that shot a lot.
FOX Sports 1 was our final stop of the day, and also the one I wish I could do over again. We got there about an hour early and figured we could just hang out for a while until the studio was available for us to snap a photo. Kenny Florian (former UFC fighter) is an anchor on a UFC talk show they produce there, so we hung out in the green room with him and some of the other talent as they prepared for their show. Ed is a former wrestler, and it was entertaining to hear them swap stories.
We finally got on set, where I marched to the news desk to take the photo and be on our way without paying any attention to my surroundings. It had been a 10-hour-plus day since our first photo, our trip back was pretty long and our body clocks were still set on Eastern time. We were done in a few minutes, and I again marched right out being the most unobservant person ever. Completely missing that over in the corner, Ed was having a jolly time talking with Donovan McNabb. He was filming a segment. Also in the studio was Jimmy Rollins, who I admired because I used to be a big Phillies fan. And I missed it all.
Aside from that terrible misfortune, it was a solid day. I’m happy with the way INDYCAR social media has developed over the past couple of years, and am constantly looking for creative ideas to try out when I have the opportunity. There’s always an attempt to balance the great, deep-rooted history of INDYCAR and the new, ever-changing trends of social media, and I think the Trophy Tour is an ideal example of how we can portray both.
In the future, I’d like to see us incorporate more fans into the tour by having a set schedule of what we’re doing that we can publicize a few days before and have fans meet us at some of the locations. The problem with that now was that our hits were very close together and involved a lot of traffic, but maybe we can plan for something a little different ahead of time next year.
The good news is you can definitely catch Dear Old Astor in Victory Circle this Saturday with either Scott Dixon or Helio Castroneves at Auto Club Speedway. Come out and join or watch on NBC Sports Network at 8 p.m. (ET).