Thursday night in Austin, Texas, proved to be more magical than any of us could have ever imagined.
Fans started lining up outside of Brazos Hall around 4:00PM to ensure they could get inside for the Third Annual Buxton’s BIG TIME Bash presented by The Austin Grand Prix with Will Buxton, Formula 1 seasoned journalist and Pit Lane Reporter for NBC and NBCSN, as our gracious and entertaining host. Following the format for the past two years, local non-profit Meals on Wheels took up a suggested $5 donation at the door, with a number of guests generously giving even more.
After a short history of how we first connected with Will over the Austin race at the 2011 Canadian Grand Prix, Will took to the stage, welcoming the crowd to a jam-packed evening of surprises and entertainment. But first, we all took a moment to pause for injured Marussia Formula 1 Team driver Jules Bianchi, who remains in all of our thoughts and best wishes for his speedy, full recovery.
First to join Will on stage was his entire NBCSN Formula 1 Crew: Leigh Diffey, David Hobbs, and Steve Matchett. If you think this group is entertaining on TV, when they get together in person, their energy just multiplies. Cracking jokes, sharing stories, and taking digs at each other gave the guests a unique opportunity to get a little closer to their favorite American Formula 1 presenters.
Will then welcomed Matt Bennet, director of Road To: Mercedes, to introduce the show before its world premiere at Brazos Hall. It was amazing to hear about the behind the scenes work and passion that went into the show first hand before airing it.
The premiere of Road to: Mercedes was a huge hit with the crowd. The show highlighted some of the most storied and revered history of the Mercedes-Benz legacy. Will and his producer, Jason Swales, traveled far from their UK homes to Affalterbach, home of Mercedes AMG, and along the ride documented the deep passion and intricate sporting history of the legendary car manufacturer. To the satisfactory applause of the crowd, Will thanked the guests for their support of Road To: Mercedes and then introduced his NBCSN team that made it possible: Ron Wechsler, Blair Soden, and Jason. Similarly to Will’s on-air F1 presenters, guests appreciated hearing about what makes the team work so well together, as they shared stories on stage before tossing a bunch of NBCSN gear into the audience. The premiere of Road To: Mercedes offered guests of Buxton's BIG TIME Bash a rare chance to preview the show before it aired on NBCSN that night, which proved to be a proud moment for Will and Jason and the entire production crew, who were delighted to join in the fun and share it with guests at Brazos Hall.
Next on stage was Caterham F1 Team driver Marcus Ericsson, the Swedish driver who would later be announced over USGP weekend as a 2015 Sauber F1 Team driver. Marcus and Will shared insight into the Formula 1 Paddock before welcoming American Formula 1 reserve driver Alexander Rossi to the stage. Alexander again vocalized his gratitude for the out pour of American Formula 1 fan support. Alexander has been in Austin since Wednesday’s Fans’ Forum, meeting with fans, posing for photos, autographing memorabilia, and getting a nice chunk of air time. One thing that is clear, Alexander is incredibly passionate about making Formula 1 more accessible for the fans and making it a hit in the United States. But it wasn’t just Formula 1 personalities in attendance: Italian IndyCar driver Luca Filippi hopped up on stage next with Will to share personal stories, which was another treat, as any of Will’s followers know that he is a big supporter of the IndyCar series.
Throughout the evening, Will and his special guests handed out dozens of unique door prizes, including Formula 1 driver-autographed hats (including a couple made especially for cowboys), shirts, racing gloves, jackets, posters, a Pirelli book, an Alpinestars kit, Felipe Massa’s left mirror from his Williams Martini Racing car drive in Monza, a Pirelli T-shirt signed by Max Verstappen as the first autographed item he signed after being announced as the 2015 Toro Rosso driver, a TW Steel Watch, and a number of driver-autographed, professional F1 photographs donated by American motorsports photojournalist Jamey Price. To add to our amazement, the Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team had three "2014 World Champion P1" signs from their 2014 Russian Grand Prix win signed by drivers Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg to give out to three lucky guests. These three signs were signed immediately after the Mercedes AMG Petronas Team won their first ever World Constructors' Championship last month in Russia, and are also priceless mementos of the epic 2014 season.
A huge thank you is due to all of the Formula 1 teams, drivers, sponsors, and friends who donated priceless prizes that the winning guests will treasure forever: Mercedes AMG Petronas, Scuderia Ferrari, Infiniti Red Bull Racing, McLaren Formula 1 team, Lotus F1 Team, Williams Martini Racing, Sahara Force India, Pirelli, TW Steel, Alpinestars, “Lines” by Graham and Leigh, Jamey Price, and NBCSN.
But before the night was over, Will received a call on his mobile phone from the living legend Mario Andretti. Mario was finishing up dinner in a nearby restaurant and wanted to stop by Buxton’s BIG TIME Bash to say hello to the crowd and show his support for the fundraising initiatives for local non-profit Meals on Wheels. We later learned that Mario knows firsthand what a vital difference Meals on Wheels makes to home bound individuals in need, as he has delivered meals himself in New York.
Will was beside himself after speaking with Mario and shared the news with guests. When Mario took to the stage, Will bowed down to the Legend on stage, quipping “We’re not worthy!” to the roar of the crowd as hundreds of cameras flashed to capture the surreal moment on camera. Mario and Will were electric on stage, again sharing intimate stories of past experiences and a number of jokes with the crowd. It is still hard to believe Mario Andretti and all of our special guests took the time out of their busy USGP weekend to join us at Brazos Hall to raise money for Meals on Wheels.
The final door prize looked to be ready to go home with a winning guest: a 3D display of Circuit of The Americas enclosed in a shadow box and autographed by Mario himself. But Will had something else in mind, as he called us back to the stage for an amazing surprise. Will presented us with a check made out to Meals on Wheels in the amount of One Thousand Dollars from Ross Garber, who generously matched the door donations taken last year to help increase our 2013 donation to Meals on Wheels to $13,000+. This year, Ross Garber, Ferrari Challenge driver #66 for Ferrari of San Francisco, rallied support throughout the Ferrari Challenge paddock and raised a whopping $19,000 with Mark McKenzie, James Weilland, Chris Ruud, the Garber Family Foundation, Darren Crystal, and MG1 Motorsports donating! The 3D carving of Circuit of The Americas will be presented to Ross Garber as a small token of our gratitude and amazement at his support of Buxton’s BIG TIME Bash and making a huge impact with the local Austin community.
We are incredibly pleased to announce that at time of publication, the donation to Meals on Wheels totals $23,547.35, however that may well increase as a number of people have told Will that they want to donate to the amazing cause as well. You can continue to donate at the Meals on Wheels website at: https://mowam.secure.force.com/donate (please choose "In celebration of" Will Buxton, Austin Grand Prix, or Buxton's BIG TIME Bash so we can add your donation in our tally!).
Will recapped the night in shock:
Thank you for making this event a raging success for the Austin community. It wouldn’t be possible without the energy and support of Will Buxton, who graciously gives this his all to make it a huge evening. We especially want to thank Brazos Hall for donating the amazing venue and last but not least, our family and friends who volunteer their time to make sure the event goes off without a hitch. Thank you for your generosity and support, and we can’t wait to see what the future holds and we hope you will be a part of future memories.