I had never been to a NASCAR race, so when the folks at Crown Royal graciously invited me to travel to Indianapolis and partake in the Brickyard 400, I really didn’t know what to expect. What I learned in those three days is that everyone needs to attend a NASCAR race, even if you aren’t a real race fan. I also learned that Crown Royal really knows how to put on a first-class event and Curtiss Shaver is true American hero, whether he will admit it or not.
The name of the race was officially, “Crown Royal presents the Curtiss Shaver 400 at the Brickyard powered by BigMachineRecords.com”. Yes, that is a long name for a race. Heck, it takes nearly ten seconds to say. But, this wasn’t just a race. This was an event and all entities were so heavily involved in almost every aspect of the weekend that it made perfect sense to have the name sound like a Dr. Seuss book.
From continuous concerts that highlighted the morning leading up to the big race, to a purple Crown Royal pillow that was placed on top of Jimmy Johnson’s winning car, all the way to seeing a man that devoted his life to helping others meet his NASCAR hero, Dale Earnhardt Jr, Big Machine Records, Crown Royal, Curtiss Shaver and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway knocked this event out of the park.
Two things really stood out to me about the weekend and they were the accessibility that fans have to the drivers, pit crews and cars and the story of Curtiss Shaver.
Let’s start with fan’s access.
I have been to more sporting events than I can count, but I have never been to an event where I was involved as much as I was at the Brickyard. From walking into pit crews in an attempt to get autographs from a crew chief, to touching cars on pit road, to standing on the track, right behind Kasey Kahne for the National Anthem, it was all incredible.
And every fan can do this with the purchase of a mere Hot Pass. It’s like standing on the third base line with the Yankees at the World Series or walking into John Calipari’s coaches’ meeting prior to preparing for the Final Four. Prior to experiencing it yourself, it’s almost unfathomable.
Now to the story of the namesake of the race: Curtiss Shaver. Shaver epitomizes persistence and selflessness. As an 18-year old he was involved in a farm machinery accident that nearly took his life. After two hours with his leg trapped in the machine, he was miraculously rescued by a group of fire fighters. The fire fighters saved his life, but they couldn’t save his leg. Now an amputee, Shaver shifted his focus to becoming a member of the very same Fire Department that saved his life.
He became an EMT and applied time and time again with the department, only to be denied. After being denied near double digit times, he was finally given permission to do agility drills. He passed with flying colors and was offered a position. He accepted the position without even discussing pay.
This was not about money. This was about giving back. This was about the opportunity to help others the way he was helped. This is why Crown Royal deserves a lot of credit. They used their brand to shine light on a man who truly deserved it.
And this wasn’t a public relations stunt. This weekend truly belonged to Shaver. He was everywhere. His name was everywhere. Everyone learned about the story of Curtiss Shaver and in turn he experienced a weekend that he said could only be surpassed by his wedding day and the birth of his children.
And now because of Crown Royal and the opportunity to meet and speak with Curtiss, he will always be an inspiration to me.
All in all, this was one of the most fun experiences of my life and I am so grateful to Crown Royal and the folks at Taylor Strategy for putting it together. If you haven’t been to a NASCAR race, you need to. And everyone should try and be a little bit like Curtiss Shaver.