Bringing Champ Car to the Fans – Anaya Yates

Anaya Yates ChampcarIf you have been to a Champ Car race within the last year, chances are you may have run into the whirlwind of positive energy named Anaya Yates. Anaya’s combination of elegance, adventure and a passion for the Champ Car series makes her a natural individual to work with the fans of the series.

Mecca of Speed: Where did you grow up and where do you now call home?

Anaya Yates: I was born in Casper, Wyoming and moved to California when my dad, Glen, began working on the Apollo space mission projects. That was a very exciting time to grow up. I felt like I was part of history when the first man landed on the moon.

I call Rancho Santa Margarita and Corona, CA my home now. You may wonder how I live in two cities. My two sons, Michael 18 and Connor 17, were raised in Rancho Santa Margarita. Their father and I have a mutual agreement in sharing responsibility, half of each month. This works out great for both the kids and for us. It’s a “Win-Win” situation!

Mecca of Speed: What is your profession?

Anaya Yates: I am the System Integrator Program Administrator at Wonderware…not underwear…Wonderware! No, it’s not pots and pans either. We develop software for Real Time Factory Floor Automation.  Our pool of over 2500 System Integrators is worldwide to accommodate the needs of our customers on global parameters. I administer the enrollment, testing and certification for all our System Integrators.

Mecca of Speed: What attracted you to the Champ Car World Series?

Anaya Yates: This makes me laugh. Some of the stories I have heard about how people got involved with Champ Car, or CART as it was called then, are absolutely hysterical.

Mine is just another one you would say “Really?’ to.

In 1998, my boys and I were sitting in the grandstands at the annual rodeo in Rancho Santa Margarita. The announcer said the bull riding competition would not be held for another hour because the bulls were delayed in traffic. Seriously, that’s what he said! Anyway, there were two guys sitting next to me in matching pants and shirts. I was wondering what inspired them to dress alike. If you know me, you know I didn’t hesitate asking them what was up with the matching outfits. They said they worked for a car racing team and had just got off work. Whew! I was glad to hear that.

I ended up dating one of them and was invited to many races over the next three years. I was hooked the very first time I went! The atmosphere, the friendly people, the exhilaration of cars zooming down the track and traveling to different cities was right where I wanted to be. Well, the guy is in another series now, but I’m still here with Champ Car!

Mecca of Speed: How did you become involved with the Champ Car Inner Circle organization?

Anaya Yates: I didn’t really know anyone to hang out with when I first started going to the races. However, I met quite a few people at the track. One of them was Tara Munger who operated the 7th Gear racing website for several years. I posted on the forums, asked who was going to races and if they wanted to meet up for a group dinner on Saturday night. That’s when I met Anita Swirsky and we started organizing Saturday night dinners at all the races we went to.

I met Dave and Linda Wood through the 7th Gear dinners and we stayed in communication during the season. When CART was bought over and changed to Champ Car, Dave and Linda Wood ended up becoming the Official Champ Car Inner Circle Ambassadors.

I received a phone call from Dave around August of 2004 asking me if I wanted to coordinate the first Champ Car Inner Circle dinner at Laguna Seca. Dave and Linda thought the Saturday night dinner at the races would be a great idea for Inner Circle members where they could meet the “inside people” of racing. Not the drivers, but the people who are working on all aspects of an event of each race venue.

Billy Kamphausen, Logistics Director, was our first guest speaker. The dinner was a smashing success and Billy captivated the audience! There was a raised fire pit outside on the patio where we were having dinner. Billy climbed up on the stone wall, fire blazing behind him, burning embers drifting up into the sky like some Indian tribal ritual, and talked to all about his position within Champ Car. He then answered everyone’s questions. I’ll never forget that weekend; it was the beginning of my involvement with Champ Car Inner Circle.

Mecca of Speed: What events or activities from the 2006 stand out most?

Anaya Yates: I was the Inner Circle Coordinator for Dave and Linda Wood at the 2006 Long Beach race. I organized the dinner venue for Saturday night and helped them with Inner Circle activities at the track.

I got another phone call from Dave a month before the race asking me if I could get some volunteers to help with a new program Champ Car had in the works. Free Podium Photos and Inner Circle membership kiosks located at the track! I let him know I would be happy to volunteer myself.

Gathering other volunteers was a little tricky at first because they didn’t want to miss out on practices, qualifying or the race, but as soon as they got to their volunteer positions, they had an amazing time! After it was over, they ambitiously asked if they could volunteer at other races.

I was also to help out with the free Podium Photos of fans with the lovely Champ Car girls. The photographer originally hired had some other obligations to attend to, so Champ Car personnel asked me if I could take over for the rest of the weekend. We met in the Champ Car Business Unit transporter, went over the instructions and I was asked if I was available for the rest of the season. From then on, I was the “Picture Lady” at all US and Canadian Champ Races for 2006!

Mecca of Speed: Can you tell us some of the activities people can experience if they become involved in the Champ Car Inner Circle?

Anaya Yates: Thanks to the wonderful marketing personnel at Champ Car, Inner Circle membership is FREE! You can sign up on-line or at the track. At the track activities include varied tours of the pit, medical unit, safety team, & pace cars. Fan Forums give the public and Inner Circle members a chance to ask questions of drivers, owners and key team personnel while at the track.

The Inner Circle members also get an opportunity to win pace car rides, shirts, bags and other swag when they stay after the Fan Forum to answer race trivia questions. Saturday night dinners, with featured guest speakers, are held at the US and Canadian events. The tours and dinners fill up almost as fast as the invitation is posted and seats are limited.

If this is not enough to keep an Inner Circle member busy, they also meet many people from all over the US and other countries too! Some of my longest friendships have been created through Champ Car and the Inner Circle. It’s priceless!

Mecca of Speed: Can you give us an outline of your activities and responsibilities over a race weekend?

Anaya Yates: For both the Podium Photos and Inner Circle membership booths, I try to line up my volunteer time slots as far in advance as possible. Volunteers receive either a 3-day admission/paddock/seat ticket or an Overcrew pass depending on how many hours they volunteer for.

I fly to the race venue the day before the event starts. On Friday morning, I have the volunteers meet me at our booths 15 minutes before we open. General instructions are given, they meet the Champ Car personnel who are working from our area and they get a volunteer shirt for the weekend. We typically spend 8-9 hours a day taking photos of fans or helping them with Inner Circle registration at the kiosks. We answer questions regarding the track, drivers, cars, and anything else they can ask us. If we can’t answer their questions, we find a Champ Car person that can assist them.

Sometimes we are pulled aside to help with another activity that is going on. Sunday we pack everything up, put it back into the transporter and it is ready for the next race. Monday I fly home and go right back to work!

Mecca of Speed: Being involved with Champ Car on a regular basis, who are some of the personalities that have impressed you and why?

Anaya Yates: George, at the “Soup Kitchen”. He definitely has a personality. I’m always hungry. George makes sure breakfast & lunches are ready right on schedule! He comes across as a big ol’ gruff guy, who teases me all the time, but he’s a Teddy Bear at heart.

All kidding aside, Paul Newman stands out the most. Not because of his movie star status, but his never ending passion for racing, involvement in the series, and his charitable contributions from his food products, make him who and what he is today. I highly respect him for all he has done.

Mecca of Speed: Traveling to several events has given you a good cross section of fans across North America. Are there any commonalities between Champ Car fans?

Anaya Yates: They are all overly enthusiastic about Champ Car racing. It appears a lot of fans use their vacation time to attend Champ Car races. Quite a few of the fans post on various Internet racing forums. Good food, drink and friendly people are at every event.

Mecca of Speed: When people first become interested in racing there is often one driver that hooks them into the sport. What driver was this for you?

Anaya Yates: Anthony Lazarro. He was the Atlantic Series Champion for PPI back in 1999. I always thought drivers were placed on a pedestal, but Anthony and his family were always nice and friendly to me. He changed my whole outlook on drivers for the good. If you get a chance to talk with a few drivers, you find out they are just like you and me.

Mecca of Speed: What is the quickest way to get through a paddock, walking, golf cart, or scooter?

Anaya Yates: Ha, ha. Ha. My feet hurt already at the mention of this. Scooter for sure, but they don’t let me ride one of those. I walk.

Mecca of Speed: What are some of the unexpected challenges you have experienced during a race weekend?

Anaya Yates: Not enough volunteers. I can do the job myself, but it takes every last bit of energy I have to get through three days. Luckily, it only happened once.

Staying warm or dry can be a challenge. I was never so wet or cold than at Montreal last year. I learned to carry gloves, a heavy jacket and extra rain gear to the races after the Montreal race.

Mecca of Speed: Being involved with Champ Car on a regular basis, what have you learned about the organization?

Anaya Yates: Champ Car is a business. Most businesses operate to make a profit and have specific strategies designed to meet the needs of their fans, as well as the company. I read so many posts on forums that make suggestions on what Champ Car needs to do to make the fans happy. Some of them seem to be viable options, but people need to think about the consequences of trying to implement some of these ideas from a business model point of view for Champ Car.

Mecca of Speed: Outside of Champ Car, what other interest do you peruse?

Anaya Yates: I love snow skiing. During the winter, I’m a ski instructor at our local mountain Snow Summit. Not only do I get to ski, but also I get paid to do it!

I am in college year round to earn my BA degree in Marketing. It’s a slow process as I can only take 2 classes per semester, but I’m half way there. If I happen to find some free time, I read or sleep or fall asleep reading!

Mecca of Speed: What are your long-term life goals?

Anaya Yates: I would like to obtain my college degree before I turn 50. I want to make sure my boys get through college so that they can have a happy, productive life. They will probably graduate before me!

One day, I want to be able to purchase my own home. I’ve been so busy the last 18 years raising my boys, owning a home was only a dream. Now I see it as a near possibility.

Mecca of Speed: What is the best way to pass time while traveling?

Anaya Yates: Reading on the plane and working from my laptop while waiting at the airport. I’m always sleeping on the way home.

Mecca of Speed: If you could invite any five people to dinner who would they be?

Anaya Yates: My Mom. She passed away when I was 17. It would be nice to let her know that all she did for me in those 17 years has helped me my whole life.

Oprah Winfrey. She does so much to further women’s interests, children and education. I might learn something from her.

Stephen Hawking, author of A Brief History in Time. His knowledge and theories on the universe are amazing.

Jesus. To ask him the truth on his existence and why he felt he needed to spread faith and goodness to all people.

An extraterrestrial. Then we would know we are not alone in this universe.

Mecca of Speed: What is the last book you have read?

Anaya Yates: The Tipping Point by Malcom Gladwell. It’s an examination of the social epidemics that surround us.

Mecca of Speed: What is currently on you iPod’s top ten list?

Anaya Yates: Various songs by Genesis, The Eagles, Santana. John Mayer and George Straight.

Mecca of Speed: How do you define success?

Anaya Yates: In my opinion, success can be a feeling, a personal achievement or accomplishing a goal. For example, if I can take someone for two hours, who has never been in the snow or on skis, and have them stopping, traversing and turning by the end of the lesson, that is success for both people. I feel a personal reward in seeing someone that is struggling in the beginning go to smiling and laughing in end. You can’t buy that kind of feeling!

Mecca of Speed: Last question, what qualities do you admire in other individuals?

Anaya Yates: Honesty, reliability, and kindness. People should be fun and outgoing, because life is too short to waste on being serious all the time.

Mecca of Speed: As always, it’s a pleasure talking with you Anaya.

Anaya Yates: Thank You John and don’t forget to come visit the Champ Car Podium Photo and Inner Circle Membership Booths at the races this year. We have a great program for members this season!

Content credit Anaya Yates and John Vatne. Photo credit Anaya Yates.