IRL: Lucky lady won trip to Nashville race

Pringles Purchase Leads Lucky Lady to Dream Indy Racing Trip NASHVILLE, Tenn., July 21 -- Like many hard-core fans of the late Dale Earnhardt, watching races hasn't been very easy lately for Lois Carter, an input operator in the advertising...

Pringles Purchase Leads Lucky Lady to Dream Indy Racing Trip

NASHVILLE, Tenn., July 21 -- Like many hard-core fans of the late Dale Earnhardt, watching races hasn't been very easy lately for Lois Carter, an input operator in the advertising department of The Orlando Sentinel.

The petite strawberry blonde had no idea that when she inserted some coins into a vending machine at work in April and pressed the buttons for a can of Pringles potato chips, she was going to get her excitement back for the sport along with her afternoon snack.

The outside of the vending machine sported a flyer telling about a sweepstakes to win a trip to an Indy car race. By registering a special number on the bottom of selected cans of Pringles on an Internet Web site, fans could be placed in a drawing to win the trip.

Carter, who says she's unusually lucky, noticed that there was a number on the bottom of her 1.75-oz., red can of chips. She registered it the next time she went on line and won a racing hat.

She sort of forgot about the contest at that point, but on June 25 there was a message for her on the answering machine at work telling her that she was the grand-prize winner of a four-day, three-night trip to the Harrah's Indy 200 Indy Racing League event at the brand-new Nashville Superspeedway in Nashville, Tenn. in July.

Carter and her husband of almost 12 years, James, a tall, dark-haired, bearded instructor in the Harley-Davidson department of the Motorcycle Mechanics Institute in Orlando, were on their way. Proctor & Gamble, Pringles' parent company, provided round-trip airfare via Delta Airlines for two to Nashville, a Hertz rental car, three nights at a local Holiday Inn Express, tickets to the race, and an all-access hot pit pass for the weekend.

"My face hurts because I've been smiling so much," said Lois a few hours before the race. "Watching the races has not been easy for me since Dale was killed at Daytona in February. When I got to the track yesterday and heard and saw the Indy cars when they were out for practice, I got all choked up and there were tears in my eyes. It's like being here is giving me my sport back."

Carter said she thought she'd just pick up her tickets at the "Will Call" booth, so she was surprised when she got a telephone call from Cahill Racing team manager Mike Horvath before she left Orlando. He told her where to meet him to get her credentials and how to find him and driver Robby McGehee at the Cahill Racing transporter in the garage area at Nashville.

"We didn't realize a team and a driver were involved," she said. "Everything has been more than what I expected. The excitement level is just constantly going up."

The Carters don't have any children but they do have three ferrets, eight motorcycles ("a lot of them are projects though," James admits) and many televisions and VCRs. The couple, who participated in demo derbies at the historic Flemington Fair Speedway in Flemington, N.J., when they lived in that area, attend two or three races a year but they constantly tape all sorts of events for later viewing.

"While we're here, we're taping this race and the truck race, the Busch race and the Winston Cup race at New Hampshire," James noted.

Although they follow the sport that avidly, neither were prepared for how intense things get in the garage area and the pits at an Indy Racing Northern Light Series event.

"This is our first Indy car race," Lois said. "We consider the Indy 500 to be one of the high holy days of racing and we went to the first Brickyard 400, but everything is more intense than what you see on TV. So much is going on. This is serious business, and everyone is very busy. They are all doing their jobs, but it must be hard to deal with all the people and everything. It's just awesome."

They're also impressed with Nashville Superspeedway, a brand-new race track. "It's nice to be part of something so new," Lois added. "When I went into the ladies' room and I saw 40 perfectly empty and perfectly clean stalls, I was really impressed. I had to wait in a really long line at the airport. I guess that's a woman thing, but this is a really nice facility."

Lois is a fan of Al Unser Jr. while James likes Sarah Fisher, but "we're both definitely Robby McGehee fans now too," Lois said. "He's really nice; everyone at Cahill Racing has been great."

"We met him last night and had some of his birthday cake," added James. McGehee, of St. Louis, turned 28 on Friday. "It's amazing how he's racing even though he has a broken leg."

"I think it's neat that his car is black too, just like Dale's" added Lois quietly, giving a tug to her brand-new black Nashville Superspeedway T-shirt. "It's like this was all just meant to be."

-LM-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Robby McGehee , Sarah Fisher , Al Unser Jr.