To Kevin Heaney, they weren't just cars mindlessly going around in circles.
They were going around in a triangle -- and he still didn't care.
"I told my dad, 'This doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me. This is not fun,' " the Rockville Centre native and Chaminade High School alumnus told his dad, Steve, during his first NASCAR experience at Pocono Raceway's 2.5-mile Tricky Triangle when he was 12.
That same youthful naysayer is now 30, works as the media relations director at the Pennsylvania track, and loves his job.
Heaney didn't initially have his dad's love for motor sports, but he did pick up on the prodding of Steve and his mom, Patty, to work his tail off to get what he wanted.
Steve Heaney had developed some NASCAR contacts when teams traveled to New York City following each season for Champions Week festivities. Those connections eventually allowed Kevin Heaney to get an internship with NASCAR powerhouse Hendrick Motorsports while attending Misericordia University in Scranton, Pennsylvania. Among his duties was giving tours of the race shop, which fans are regularly allowed to visit.
"I watched a car get built," Heaney said. ". . . So I learned the ins and outs of what went into making a car work, the ins and outs of how many people touch a car. What it meant for a driver, what it meant for a crew chief, what they go through, what a pit crew goes through."
After being on the inside for awhile, Heaney says simply, "I got hooked."
After college he was hired as a media representative for Performance PR Plus, which does public relations for Hendrick Motorsports driver Jeff Gordon.
The following year, in 2007, he experienced his first Victory Lane when Gordon won at Darlington, South Carolina. It was a memorable experience in more ways than one.
"I got pulled over that night by a cop, who said, 'You smell like Champagne and beer,' " said Heaney of the drive back to North Carolina. "[I said], 'Honestly I had nothing to drink, I was in Victory Lane.' He saw the Hendrick sticker on the back of the car and was like, 'I guess you work for them.' "
After two years at Performance PR Plus and two more as a communications manager at Richard Childress Racing, he was hired at Pocono Raceway by track president Brandon Igdalsky, working on projects like digital marketing and community relations.
"His pitch to me was, 'I have huge plans, and I want you to be a part of it,' " Heaney remembers.
Pocono, unlike most NASCAR facilities, is family-owned. Igdalsky is the grandson of late Pocono founder Joseph "Doc" Mattioli, and Heaney appreciates how Igdalsky has maintained that family atmosphere while incorporating some aspects of modern-day NASCAR.
The track, which for years didn't pursue naming rights for its races, will host the Windows 10 400 Sprint Cup event Sunday.
"He's basically turning a page," Heaney said of Igdalsky.
That fresh entrepreneurial spirit is helpful during a time in NASCAR when attracting fans is as challenging as ever because there are so many other entertainment options. Pocono now teams up with Dover International Speedway in Delaware for an annual Daytona 500 viewing party in Philadelphia. Pocono has hosted events like Halftime Party so fans can play games like beer pong while watching the race on a big-screen TV.
Heaney now relishes being able to reach out to other tracks for advice, a far cry from a time when business was kept closer to the vest.
"Now, I call up Dover and am like, " 'Our ticket sales are X, how are your tickets salesl Let me know how this works. Let me know how that works.' "
Those calls don't always come in one directions, letting Heaney know that things are going well.
Says Heaney, "It's always comforting when another track calls you up."