I never realized how many of you were NASCAR fans until I announced I was singing for the "OneMain Financial 200 NASCAR Nationwide Series Race” at the Dover International Speedway, to be aired live on ESPN on September 29th, 2012!
Many of you have asked me questions about my day, many with specific details. Well, here I am and I’m going to do the best I can to describe how everything went.
IT WAS INCREDIBLE!
I’ve sung at sporting events before, both major leagues and college level; however, this was a very memorable, amazing experience.
First, let me admit, this was my first experience with NASCAR. I never really sat through a race on television, let alone attended a race in person. I was extremely impressed! The Dover International Speedway is an extremely large facility; it's called "The Monster Mile." My call time was 11:00am even though I was due to sing at 3:30pm. As soon as you enter the raceway, there is a HUGE Monster holding a NASCAR vehicle in his hand looking like he's about to crush it! He has red eyes that light up at night. As you can imagine, this is a very popular spot to take pictures and very popular with kids. Fun!
As soon as we arrived, we were escorted via security to our VIP Suite, where our host greeted us. We were treated like VIP Royalty entire day. We had security, a host and drivers to care for us. The VIP suite was directly in front of the winner's circle and where they set up the beginning ceremonial site. What a view!
We watched the drivers practice and it was so impressive – just hearing the speed and watching how fast those cars were going was a natural high!
Back to the VIP suite... the food was impressive as we noshed on colossal shrimp, and other gourmet goodies! There was a full bar as well. The employees were very friendly and happy to see us and greeted us with big smiles and conversation.
Our hosts and drivers picked us up for sound check and I got to see where all the audio magic happens, as the audio booth is actually located underneath the seats! I ran through the National Anthem twice and it went well. Once I received the thumbs up I knew we were good to go! Whew!
Standing on the track, watching the pre-race preparation was an outstanding experience. Large open space, wind roaring, the drivers teams working on cars, impressive race cars speeding in front of you like lightening – WOW!
Back to the suite, time for some rest before show time. This was going to be aired live ESPN. I watched the TV cameras set up, too many to count. I watched the press report to work, too many cameras & reporters to count. I watched the radio stations do their thing – 460 stations aired the race and me that day! I watched as the drivers settle in & their teams working on their cars. The families filing in. The fans piling into their seats. Our suite filling up.
My nerves started to flutter a bit – I was startled because generally that never happens. Gulp.
Showtime! Our driver and host arrived! It was time to go down and get ready to greet the press and get set up backstage with the Dover Air Force Base Color Guard and others who were speaking that day. Whew! Here we go!
When my feet hit the track it was loud. It was boisterous with adoring fans whom are dedicated NASCAR lovers. The stage manager pulled me over to the backstage area and gave me directions as to what was to happen. There were, what seemed to be a million people around me – celebrity drivers, families, military, press, TV cameras, radio hosts, TV hosts... it was surreal...
I repeated those directions in my head over and over. Even though it was very simple, in that frantic moment, I felt I needed to... wouldn’t you?
It was time. The announcer confirmed the pronunciation of my name – got it right the first time! I was backstage right. The Dover Air Force Base Color Guard marched on stage and... there I was right behind them after they took their place! I stood center stage, beaming with pride, feet grounded to the stage as I looked up at the roaring crowd with a huge smile on my face. I always beam when singing, especial our country’s National Anthem!
"And here to perform our National Anthem, please welcome national recording artist Gina Zavalis!"
Adrenaline Racing (no pun intended - HA!)
And there you have it. I sang to the crowd. I can’t tell you how many TV and press cameras were in front of me, filming and snapping away, although the TV footage only showed me at the beginning and at the end of the anthem. It was thrilling and breathtaking. I know many of you have been asking for a video and I will have the official DVD direct from ESPN soon, so look out for it on my website and social media pages.
Most of all, I was honored and privileged to sing our National Anthem for the United States of America. That’s what this is about.
And... I think NASCAR came away with ONE more fan...