Monday, June 22, 2009

Behind-the-Scenes at SaveMart 350

As promised, here is some behind-the-scenes footage from Sunday's race.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Sunday in Sonoma: NASCAR!

I got a chance to talk to Juan Pablo Montoya right before the race.

What a blast! I am a new NASCAR fan!

I went into this weekend totally ignorant about NASCAR as I had never been exposed to any events--and I leave with a great appreciation for the sport.

In the “behind the scenes” video (which I'll upload soon) I mentioned the number of laps that a car can go on a set of tires. I found out they last about 30 laps—I said 2. That is how little I knew going into this. They also cost about $1,700 per set!

I was able to stand right next to the Tony Stewart team and talk with their crew during the race. They were all so nice and obviously had a great performance!

As you'll see in the video, I was so close that my foot nearly got hit by a new tire they were putting on Tony’s car. They changed the tires in a flash!

Here are a few photos from Sunday's race (won by Kasey Kahne). Check back for the video!

Here I am talking to a TNT reporter.

Here you get a general sense of the excitement surrounding the race.

Lots of activity going on in the pits.

Here I am talking to members of Jimmie Johnson's crew before the start of the race.

Day 2 at NASCAR Races

Another fun day at the track! I got to wave the famous checkered flag as one of the “VIPs” at the event. Who would have imagined that following my athletic career, I would be able to get to see such incredible events?

The NASCAR family has treated me so well, with so much respect. I can see why they have a reputation for being great with fans. Well, off to Infineon for the last day!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Day 1 at NASCAR is Awesome!

Day 1 was awesome! I am not a likely NASCAR fan, mainly due to my ignorance about the sport. But I am learning so much during my weekend at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, California. I can’t believe the teamwork, coordination and precision that goes into absolutely everything!

I waived to flag to start the race and I also waved the checkered flag! All drivers have to qualify to race on Sunday (here's information about the Sprint Cup race), even if they have won all prior events.

I loved being right there by the “pit” with the drivers getting in and out of their cars. They are so calm and intense at the same time. I was also amazed with how fit they are! Excited to see more... Here are a few photos.

UPDATE: Here's the video...

As you'll see, I'm proudly wearing my USANA shirt everywhere!

The winner’s circle where the drivers get there awards and speak to the press.

Me and My friend Ryan Canepa.

Getting ready to wave the green flag!

Waving the green flag!

Me with NASCAR officials Rachal and Dan on the track.

Friday, June 19, 2009

NASCAR, Here I Come

Just wanted to do a quick post: I am headed to NASCAR!

I have never been to an event and I am excited to wave the flag! I talked to a friend who lives in Napa and people are already lined up in their RV’s and having tailgate parties. Should be fun to see!

Here's some information about the race on Sunday (I'll actually be involved all weekend). It's the Toyota/SaveMart 350 at Infinion Raceway in Sonoma (not too far from where I live).
  • When: Sunday, June 21
  • Time: 5 p.m. ET
  • TV: TNT
  • Last Year's Winner: Kyle Busch
Look for me wearing a USANA shirt!

Returning to Jefferson

This video shows our surprise visit to Jefferson Jr. High (now middle school). We had no idea if anyone would be there and we got lucky to find the team and my old coach Barry Haile there practicing. He has been there for 35 years!

The kids were great and I was surprised to see my #3 jersey and photos framed on the wall in the gym. I can’t remember the last time I was in that gym! Still looks the same...

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Photos From the Trip Home

OK, so I know I 'm kind of doing these out of order, but the events leading up to the actual induction ceremony were great, so I wanted to post some more photos from my return "home."

Getting ready for the 4K fundraiser race. Gotta have the Rev3!

Stanton Stevens, my Mom, Donna Azzi, Miss Mimms, and my Dad, Jim Azzi before the hall of fame induction ceremony.

My sister, Susanne Kramer. I was so happy she was there with me.

Fellow inductee Sonja Hogg. She was hilarious!

Carol Stiff of ESPN.

Vern Glenn, of Channel 4 in San Francisco, followed me around for a documentary.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Class of 2009

Induction night was wonderful. Each inductee and our escorts rode over from the hotel to the Bijou Theatre in a huge limo (you'll see in the video below).

My Dad seemed a bit overwhelmed by the whole thing. It was really fun to go over with everyone. We are all so different yet we were and are so passionate about the “game.”

When my Dad walked me to the stage, I had to really focus and take deep breaths to have the courage to get up on the stage. He was so cute!!!

Vern Glenn of Channel 4 in San Francisco followed me during the weekend for a documentary. Above is his video of my acceptance speech.

An Incredible Night

What a night! My Dad escorted me to the stage for the hall of fame induction ceremony on Saturady. We have shared so much and he has always believed in me — even putting a hoop in our driveway when we could barely afford clothes.

My whole family was there. When I got to the stage to speak, I was literally speechless, doing my best to hold back the swell of emotion. Something took over me as I was standing there looking out into the very bright lights of the Bijou Theater. I had been in and out of tears all day. I have never felt more brave. There is no way to prepare for this kind of emotion.

I speak for a living and I am always prepared, but this was different. This was pure love and emotion coming out of me. There was so much love in the room, love for people, love for the game — Teresa Edwards, Pat Summitt, other legends in the game were all there. Many of the women were playing and making the game great when no one was watching.

I am so very blessed to have played when I did. I am so so lucky. I got a chance on stage to say “Thank You.”

Here are a few photos from the night. I'll have video of the amazing evening soon.

What an amazing class! It's an honor to be included in this group.

Tennessee coach Pat Summitt, center, one of the game's all-time greats.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Visiting Miss Mimms

As promised, here's the video of my visit to see Miss Mimms while I was in Oak Ridge, Tenn. She was the director of Scarboro Day Care Center. We'd lost touch for 30 years and had an emotional reunion.

There's more to come...

Reconnecting in Oak Ridge

I just returned to California and I am feeling so overwhelmed by my “induction” but what touched me the most was the people I reconnected with.

My trip “back” was literally breathtaking. I'll be posting some videos and photos soon. One video in particular that is amazing was taken just following my visit to Scarboro Day Care Center in Oak Ridge. In it, you'll see Vern Glenn from Channel 4 in San Francisco, who is following me for a documentary.

The incredible reunion with Miss Mimms, who was the director of the day care center when my sister and I were kids, had no idea we were coming. We also had no idea if she was still alive since we had no address or phone number for her.

To our complete surprise, we found out from one of the older teachers at Scarboro that she still lived in the neighborhood. So we paid her a visit. I am still trying to process all that I this is where I learned to love basketball.

I felt total love and acceptance at the school because of Miss Mimms and the love she gave us. Thank God we found her. My Mom, Dad, Sister and my niece Alex were there with me.

I'll have plenty more from the actual ceremony, which was unbelievable, but I wanted to start with this because it was such an emotional and wonderful experience to reconnect with Miss Mimms.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Having a Great Time in Tennessee

I'm having a great time! This is our Class of 2009. They are a very funny and lively group! Tonight is the big night! Going to get some rest now as this day has been crazy busy!

The above photo is from the 4K run this morning. 5 a.m. for me! I'm standing with Cynthia Cooper, one of the all-time greats (she's also being inducted into the hall of fame tonight).

The run is a fundraiser in honor of Kay Yow, NC State women's basketball coach and Women's Basketball Hall of Famer (Class of 2000). She lost her battle with breast cancer on Jan. 24, 2009.

This is Miss Mimms. When we were kids we wanted her to be our mom. Hurt my mom's feelings a bit but we loved her. She was the director of Scarboro day care center. We had lost touch and we had a very emotional reunion yesterday in Oak Ridge. I had not seen the school in 30 years!

I am having a great time! Very busy. Much more to come...

Friday, June 12, 2009

I've Arrived in Knoxville!

I arrived in Knoxville last evening and was greeted at the hotel by my family, including my parents and my niece and my sister! I am so excited to have everyone here with me.

I met Karen Tucker from the Hall of Fame and she escorted me to a print interview with the Knoxville News Sentinel and then to WBIR TV. Then we had dinner at Calhoun’s on the river. They are known for their ribs and barbecue. Ironically, it is the same restaurant we ate at before winning the NCAA Championship here in Knoxville almost 20 years ago.

As we drove in this evening we passed Thomson-Bowling Arena where we beat Auburn to win the title. It seems like yesterday and it also seems like forever ago at the same time. There are so many memories here and I feel it has only just begun.

Today we are off to Oak Ridge (20 minutes away where I grew up) to tour all of our childhood places, including Scarboro Day Care, where all of this began for me. Should be an interesting day.

I am also being followed around by Channel 4 from the Bay Area for a documentary about this bizarre journey.

Tim from USANA is editing a video from yesterday, so look for that soon (Update: It's at the top of the post). Thank you everyone for following me on this journey!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Heading Home

I just did an interview in San Francisco at “Chronicle Live.” The video above is a “behind the scenes” look. Here's where you can find the taped interview (click on "Chronicle Live" on the left).

I had the opportunity to meet Jahvid Best, Cal running back and Heisman candidate. What a great guy! He is so down to earth. I am always impressed when I see young athletes who “get it.” Jahvid was very complimentary of his team and he talked about not getting complacent with his success. He said, “as soon as you settle with your success, it’s over.” Impressive for someone so young. I hope he continues to have a fantastic career. What a great role model!

I was interviewed about heading (back home) to Tennessee for the Hall of Fame induction this Saturday.

I am getting more comfortable with all of this as we near the date of the ceremony. My Dad will be walking me up to the stage. He has been such a strong loving father and I can’t think of anyone better to be my guide, as he has done my whole life. I thank him for having so much love and patience with me.

When I was a freshman at Stanford and we were absolutely terrible, he was so supportive. For Christmas that year, my one gift was from him was a brick (to be placed in the Stanford Brick Garden — fundraising effort) with the inscribed words “Jennifer Azzi, All-American.”

I was so mad! My only gift was a brick and it what was written on it was not even true! I had done nothing. I wasn’t even an All-American in high school! I was at Stanford, we were terrible, losing, no one came to see us play, and he got me an All-American Brick!

Now, looking back, I think he knew something I could not see. I left Stanford as a two-time All-American. He somehow has been able to see things in me that I am unable to grasp.

Anyway, on to Knoxville!

Friday, June 5, 2009

A New Reading & Learning Center in Seattle

I was in Seattle yesterday for the dedication of a new Reading and Learning Center.

I emceed the event for the WNBA and the Seattle Storm. Sue Bird and Swin Cash were two of the Storm players who participated in the event. The Storm partnered with WNBA Cares, and Pitney Bowes sponsored the renovation of the center.

Kids from disadvantaged situations will have an opportunity to read and learn in a wonderful setting. I was blown away by the before and after photos of the center. They did so much work, painting and building to create such and incredible place for the kids.

A funny moment happened when I was introducing the VP for Pitney Bowes. As soon as I said the word “Vice-President,” one little boy yelled, “You mean OBAMA!” Absolutely hysterical! I took a deep breath and said, “well, we tried to get Obama here, but he was busy today.”

The kids were really sweet. They are our future, so I am thrilled when I can be a part of events like this.