You know I like to focus on human interest, humor, and weird stuff if you read my articles. I love learning and writing about things that others overlook.
In my last article, “Fishing with Aaron..Mr. Perfect” I shared tips I learned last October when I spent ten days with Aaron. His sponsor, Nationwide, had a contest in which the winner was invited to go fishing with Aaron in North Carolina on a Saturday morning, on a tour of Hendrick Motorsports in the afternoon, and to the NASCAR race on Sunday at Charlottesville. The winner could bring a guest and decided to bring his dad. Aaron could also bring a guest, and he chose me! I was thrilled because I love NASCAR and have watched it for years on TV but never attended a race in person.
Bet You Don’t Know:
This brief history of me might explain my interest in cars and trucks. My dad owned the first used car dealership in Santa Monica, California, in the late ’40s. When I was ten years old, he taught me how to drive to help him move his large inventory around the car lot. I drove everything from antique cars to an army tank in my youth. My fondest memories are driving Chevys, Fords, Oldsmobiles, and Cadillacs from the ’50s, considered vintage cars today. My dad never knew that I drove one of his cars in a drag race on a drag strip in Saugus or let a couple of hitchhiking sailors jump in the back of a truck I was driving with my friend Kathy. And yes, I had a pair of fuzzy dice hanging on the mirror of the ’53 Bel-Air Chevy I drove for a few years. It was powder blue…sigh…but I digress. I was a car buff most of my life, and I still enjoy driving as long as the vehicle has an automatic transmission and CD player.
Regarding fishing, I am one of a few women on the west coast that fished bass tournaments in the 90s. Now many women and girls are competing, and that makes me happy. Because I was unique in what seemed to be a man’s world back then, I was asked to write a woman’s opinion column about fishing in the Western Outdoor News. That was probably twenty years ago, and it launched me into a writing career. So, the lone woman driver, Danica Patrick, sparked my interest in NASCAR. We had something in common. On a side note, Kurt and Kyle Busch are 3rd cousins of Aaron because my grandmother and their great grandmother were sisters. That’s a plug for Ancestry.com. And something most people don’t know or care about.
Do you Like Corvettes?
Now you can probably imagine how exciting it was for me to tag along with Aaron and the Nationwide winners for a private tour of the Hendrick Motorsports facility and museum. Rick Hendrick has over two hundred vintage cars on display in perfect condition that he can still drive whenever he wants. He has every Corvette made except one, and many are the first ones built. Mr. Hendrick was inducted into the Corvette Hall of Fame in 2015 and had some great stories about Corvettes that you can read on the internet. He also owns over 100 auto dealerships in the U.S.A. In addition to the magnificent automobiles in this massive building, Mr. Hendrick has replicas of a Dairy Queen, 76 Gas Station, drive-in theater, an old auto dealership, and stores that all reflect his childhood and family history. Each comes with a beautiful story about his family and early businesses and a cart of old fashion candy for the taking. A special area is dedicated to his son Ricky, who sadly passed away on Oct. 24, 2004, in a plane crash, along with Rick’s older brother John and John’s grown twin daughter. A total of ten people lost their lives; it was a tragic and devastating event.
NASCAR and Fishing Do Go Together:
Mr. Hendrick unexpectedly came out to meet us as we were wrapping up our museum tour. I didn’t know much about him until after we met, and I did some research. I like and admire him because he has high values and a strong love for his family and people. It’s no wonder he is highly respected and highly successful. The topping on the cake was discovering that he loves fishing. He prefers ocean fishing on his yacht, but he has caught and released some big largemouth on the two bass ponds he has on the Motorsports property. He always uses a spinning rod and reel when bass fishing, probably with his friend Woo Daves. I had to high-five him for that because that’s my favorite as well. We even discussed our favorite baits, and I let him know that we could get him a Robo Worm sponsorship if he were interested? (Lol) He also invited Aaron and me to fish his ponds anytime, so that’s something new on my bucket list. As our conversation came to an end, Mr. Hendrick told our guide to take us up to his private man cave that very few ever get to see. OMG. That man has a vast collection of signed football helmets and guitars from many famous people. Many of them were displayed under the glass floor we were walking on. I only wish they would have allowed cameras in this place because words fail me. It was a privilege to have the opportunity to meet Mr. Hendrick and all the people that made this trip so wonderful for us.
Before They Start Their Engines:
After the museum, we headed across the expansive property to the factory where the race cars and engines are made and assembled. We saw how the engines start from a massive block of steel sitting on the floor and end up a high-powered engine. We were able to see the four spaces designated for each sponsored driver and where the banged-up cars are brought. Dale’s car was in there because he had hit the wall during the qualifying event. That left him with just one car for the race on Sunday because each driver is allowed only two vehicles per event. The rules and regulations for NASCAR are many. Some of the weights and measurements seemed so trivial but are highly scrutinized because they affect the speed and performance of the car. Did I say that each vehicle is worth about a million dollars? I’ll get more into the technical stuff next time.
My Heart Was Racing:
The most exciting part of race day at Charlottesville for us was meeting Dale and Danica, who were both racing for their next to last race before Dale retired and Danica moved on to other things. How special was it that Aaron and I got to be there and take photos and speak with them? On top of that, Todd, our rep from Nationwide, gave us a HOT pass for the garage and pits. Believe me when I say that I took full advantage by taking lots of photos and asking a carload of questions.
Our day at Charlottesville began with lunch under the blue top of the Nationwide trailer. Soon Danica showed up for photos and a Q & A. In addition to racing, Danica loves Yoga, exercise, and cooking. She has a new cookbook featuring her recipes and calls it her health and wellness book. Danica also owns a winery in Napa Valley. Her high-end red wine is available now, and the white is coming soon. The following Monday after I met her, the Napa Valley fire broke out in California and threatened her winery while destroying some others. As a native Californian, I’m familiar with that area and was pleased to learn that her winery did survive. I just realized that we would be having our Outdoor Writers conference in that area in May, so I hope to go there in person.
I was able to ask Danica how she felt about being the only woman racing in NASCAR. She replied, “I’ve never known anything else,” and continued by saying, “I enjoy being different, but it’s like a double-edged sword. If I have a good race or a bad one, people are always paying attention.” She likes standing out and said she is one in a million rather than one of a million. And yes, she said she does have a hit list that consists of a few people she dislikes or may even hate, and then she laughed. Most of those people usually drive cars around her, and some work to take her out. Looking back at some of my tournaments, a few would have liked to take me out. Thankfully there are limitations on how close they can get to your boat. In bass tournaments, they can take you out by catching your fish, which I suppose is a lot less violent!
Just the Beginning:
Speaking of being taken out, there is still so much to share about Dale Jr and others, and I will continue with more on that next time. Meanwhile, the new NASCAR season begins with the Daytona 500 on Sunday, February 18th at 2:30 pm ET. I have to decide if I still want to watch the race without Dale Jr. and Danica or go fishing. Oh, that’s right; I still have cousins to watch and a new Nationwide driver, Alex Bowman #88, who I will share some behind-the-scenes tidbits with next time.