Driving onto the Main Stage at Pebble Beach in a 2019 Infiniti QX50
A once in a lifetime experience.
A call during Pebble Beach’s Concours d’Elegance would normally be ignored. There are too many hands to be shaken, cars to be drooled over, and never enough time to peacock across the lawn and feel like the one-percenters trading McLaren F1s like lunchroom pudding.
My phone's insistent pulse, however, demanded answering.
“Want to drive a car onto the Concours stage?” asked the voice on the other line. Somewhat startled, I bumbled, “Uh, what, yeah, that sounds cool.” “Be here in fifteen.” Click. I called The Drive’s Editor-in-Chief Kyle Cheromcha and asked, “Want to drive with me onto the main stage?” He answered, “Are you kidding me? Yeah!”
The stage is normally reserved for cars with values that most would hesitate even brushing up against in fear they’d incur a fine so large their great-great-grandchildren would still be indebted by their faux pas. And now, I’d be gracing those floorboards. “Wouldn’t my presence bring down the winner’s value?” crossed my mind. Apparently, I’m inconsequential.
We reached the staging area, giggling to ourselves about what we were about to do, and learned we weren’t chauffeuring some priceless pre-war Duesenberg, a vintage Ferrari once owned by Mick Jagger, or Ettore Bugatti’s missing Type 57 Atlantic. No, we were piloting a...2019 Infiniti QX50. A crossover with Infiniti’s weird and awesome Variable Compression engine. Hoo, hoo!
Taken aback by our rather ordinary steed, we learned that the Infiniti was part of the Concours d’Elegance’s annual charity raffle benefitting a number of worthy causes. Attendees had been purchasing tickets throughout the event weekend and were entered to win either the QX50, a Mercedes-Benz A-Class, or a Genesis G70.
Pebble’s announcers were just finishing up with the pre-war Bugatti winners—of which the total value of around six cars hovered near $15 million—when we settled into the Infiniti. Myself in the driver’s seat and Kyle in the rear getting ready to deliver his best impression of the Queen waving to her subjects, we were shuffled closer and closer to the stage. Waiting for our time in the limelight, the master at arms sauntered up and told us that the Tonight Show’s Jay Leno would be calling us up and announcing who won the car—gulp.
Though outwardly calm, inside I was concerned I’d run Leno over, continue into the stands, mowing down a score of the world’s wealthiest individuals, and crippling a number of financial markets in the process.
Hesitation and worry didn’t have time to foment as the signal was given and we were off, driving at a lightning 6 mph pace! Our drive lasted mere seconds as we were over the grass and up onto the stage where Leno held up his hands for halt. I stopped. “No denim today, huh,” I mused to Kyle as I began to feel better that he and all those around were still very much alive.
With the window cracked for us to hear the raffle announcements, Leno selected the lucky name. The crowd hushed, hoping to hear the excited squeals of the winner. Nothing came. A minute or two passed and still nothing. Leno made a crack about selling the QX50 right then and there, similar to the millions of dollars spent at auction over the last few days. Still no winner and with a smirk and another wisecrack from Jay, we were shuffled off the pedestal and back into the staging area.
After exiting the Infiniti, Kyle and I both couldn’t stop smiling. The entire experience was surreal. It, like Pebble, wasn’t normal. We had piloted the Infiniti onto the stage and that’s all that mattered. It didn’t need to be some priceless antique or multi-million dollar Ferrari as we did something that many, both old and young, enthusiasts have always wanted to do. We parked an Infiniti right where this year’s Best in Show Bentley parked.
We even had Jay Leno announce us. It was awesome and was all thanks to a jostling phone and one of the most pedestrian cars on the lawn.
What a day.