Well, I used to be a die-hard NASCAR fan (from approximately 2000 through 2007 or so) and I still follow casually. In that time, I collected NASCAR cards hardcore and I still occasionally add to that collection from time to time, so this is going to happen every once in a while. Variety is the spice of life and all that.
Anyway, the travelling road show is opening their "playoffs" on September 20th at Chicagoland Speedway, a local haunt; so, both the race track and NASCAR are starting to build hype for the event.
My little brother caught wind of Matt Kenseth doing a free signing at our local shopping mall, in partnership with a jeweler. It was close, the guy has won the championship and a couple Daytona 500 and I had no other plans; so, I figured why the hell not?
Even though I was more of a Tony Stewart guy and I've already met Matt once before:
Like I said, in my younger days, I was as rabid about NASCAR as I am now about the Cubs. I used to stake out these signing events when the races came to town like a crazed conspiracy theorist tracing hidden signs in movies placed by the Illuminati lizard people from Mars.
So, I've had this signed rookie card from 2000 Upper Deck for probably about 10 years now; but, two is better than one, right?
Off we went:
As is fairly normal with these events, there was a show car on display for everyone to "oh and ah" at while we waited in line. When I last watched NASCAR regularly, Kenseth drove the #17 Roush Racing Ford sponsored by DeWALT tools and had been for years, as you can see from the trading card above. Things have changed quite a bit, as he now drives this ride for Joe Gibbs Racing (he of football fame).
The slight irony: Kenseth is now driving the car that was piloted by Tony Stewart, my favorite, for over a decade.
At any rate, I was surprised at how short the line was for this meet and greet. It was never longer than a couple of stores down from the jeweler and, all-told, we got through the line in less than half and hour. I've waited in line for groceries longer than I did to meet this national sporting champion.
That doesn't mean the store wasn't prepared though - they were excellent hosts:
A free bottle of water that reminds me of where I am, just in case I forget? Sweet deal!
I was also quite amused by the "ticket" that was passed out for meeting Mr. Kenseth:
Either these were the tickets or I struck a really bad deal for a knock-off watch.
Apparently, this whole event was held because Matt is partnering with Rogers & Holland to release his own watch line, off which I am wearing a paper version. NASCAR and corporate sponsorship go together like peanut butter and ladies (name that flick!).
So, after standing in line for a short while with a lot of people wearing Green Bay Packer shirts (Kenseth is a Wisconsin native), we met the man of the hour, without a hitch:
Yes, I am wearing a tank-top. I will enjoy the last breaths of summer, damnit!
Matt seems like a good guy, very polite and willing to converse about whatever anyone wanted to talk about. My brother asked him what was his favorite paint scheme out of all the cars he's driven, which apparently was the design on his 2003 DeWALT Ford. I'd be partial to the car I drove to a title too.
As you can see, 8x10 headshots were provided in case one didn't have anything for Kenseth to sign (though I wonder who cares enough to show up for something like this and doesn't have anything to get signed). However, I collect trading cards, so I didn't need one of those:
I had this die-cut Challenger insert from 2003 Press Pass (RIP) in my NASCAR binder, just begging to be signed. Though, I am a bit disappointed that he signed right through the black sleeve of his firesuit. So it goes; there's only so much space on the card, after all.
All in all, I now have a card signed by Matt Kenseth from his rookie year of 2000, when he won Rookie of the Year, and from the year he won the circuit championship in 2003 (turns out Challenger was a good set for him to be a part of, huh?). Not a bad pair, I'd say.
Kenseth celebrating his 2003 title, way back when it was the Winston Cup Series
Image courtesy of Lawrence Journal-World
To conclude, it was an enjoyable experience. Excellently hosted, very prompt and obviously productive. I have to say, NASCAR signing events are the best in professional sports. In my experience, they are the only professional athletes who hold these events without charging the fans.
I've never once had to hand over money for a signing session for a NASCAR driver. In contrast, I've never once gone to a signing session for a baseball or football player because I've never seen one that didn't have at least a $20 fee attached to it. I'm cheap.
That doesn't mean my point of view is correct, however. I acknowledge my sample-size is quite limited and biased. What sorts of experiences have you guys had with meet and greets/signing events? How do they compare between sports in your experience?