Update August 11, 2022 at 4:35 p.m. ET: A press representative from the Music City Grand Prix reached out to Jalopnik to clarify certain concerns I raised in this blog. He forwarded me the confirmation email I’d received for the event, which I have unfortunately not been able to find in my inbox, but I will admit that’s likely because it may have gone to spam and been deleted.
He also clarified that the media entrance was clearly marked from the media parking lot — but after my rental car fell through, I commuted in, and the entrance wasn’t easily visible from anywhere but that lot.
The representative also noted that there was an assigned-seating media room, another photographer room, and two additional media workspaces located near the photographer room I’d stepped into. No staffer I asked on site was able to direct me to those rooms, and I didn’t have the time to explore the area and so didn’t see additional signage. I was also not the only member of the media who experienced issues with the race event.
When I show up bright and early to a race track, it’s usually overkill; I never need to be there that early, but I like to get there before everyone else, just in case. But at IndyCar’s Music City Grand Prix, the sheer amount of disorganization when it came to getting media members sorted meant my initiative was nowhere near enough.
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My first indication that things weren’t exactly going to be smooth sailing for the weekend came when I tried to enter the track. I’d heard that there was a specific media entrance, but trying to find it wasn’t exactly a simple task. Nothing was labeled, and the track workers could really only give me a direction to walk as opposed to a clear answer when I asked for help. When I figured out where I needed to enter, I thought I’d be all set.
I was wrong. After having my bag checked to enter the Nissan Stadium, I realized that I had no idea where the media center was. I never received any pre-race information, and again — nothing was labeled until you got into an elevator. Except, there’s actually a media center in the Nissan Stadium — but that’s not where the IndyCar media center was. So, after first going to the wrong floor, I finally ended up in the basement. Where, again, there were no labels or signs until you’d ended up at the right door.
In motorsport, I’ve worked from some frankly strange places. A tent in Greenland. A warehouse in New Jersey. There are plenty of dank rooms. It’s rare to have a media center that overlooks the track. And that’s all fine. But the Music City Grand Prix stadium left... a lot to be desired.
I entered the room during a safety meeting for photographers, and I do not exaggerate when I say that there was quite literally no room. There were, maybe, six tables that could hold four or five media personnel, each — but that was it. Those tables, too, were claimed well before I arrived, so I realized that I had nowhere from which to actually work. When I asked if there was another room, I was told no. When I asked if there was anywhere to store my laptop, I was told no. If I wanted to actually, y’know, work from the race track, I’d have to find some way to do it. And I guess that was fine, since the media center wasn’t actually equipped with any televisions displaying on-track action or telemetry, which is the one unifying factor every other media center I’ve worked has had.
On Friday, that meant hauling my backpack around and praying there would be no rain to wipe out my electronics. After I conducted my early morning interviews, I found a place in the stadium to work to stay out of the weather. But by Saturday, I was told that working there was loitering, and I was asked to leave that area.
So, by Saturday, I’d conceded defeat. I left my electronics behind and went full analog with paper and pen, since I was doing most of my work on picnic benches in the fan zone, hoping to avoid any torrential downpours. I considered buying a ticket to sit in a grandstand, but the very concept of the thing annoyed me. Why spend $120 on a ticket to watch a race that I traveled to work as media? If I’d come as a fan, I would have done things differently.
The Music City Grand Prix organizers made a point of noting prior to the event that they’d worked to improve the experience based on feedback from the inaugural event. And while I didn’t attend that, I can’t say that I was exactly impressed by my experience as it stood. If Nashville returns to the IndyCar schedule for 2023, I hope there’s a significant shift in organization when it comes to the people who are attending to cover the event.