Drivers reflect on Thanksgiving

Drivers honor the season with food, fun and festivities DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Nov. 25, 2003) -- It's turkey-gobbling time again, and even NASCAR drivers aren't immune to a little celebratory gluttony. While holiday...

Drivers honor the season with food, fun and festivities

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Nov. 25, 2003) -- It's turkey-gobbling time again, and even NASCAR drivers aren't immune to a little celebratory gluttony.

While holiday fowl and trimmings may be de rigor on most tables, some NASCAR folks observe the Thanksgiving holiday with a particularly wide-ranging palate.

* How about an all-day hike?

For the past 25 years, NASCAR Winston Cup Series driver Elliott Sadler and his father, Herman, have scooted off to the woods early on Thanksgiving morning. Sadler hails from southeastern Virginia and says the annual pursuit of deer has become a familial passage rite.

"We hunt all day long and even if we don't see a single deer, that quality time I spend with my Dad is worth it," Sadler says. "Traveling 36 weekends a year, I really look forward to that six weeks or so we get to spend with our family."

Sadler's older brother Hermie, who competes in the NASCAR Winston Cup and NASCAR Busch Series, undoubtedly joins his younger brother afterward for KP.

"When my Dad and I come out of the woods, usually my Mom has a feast prepared for us," Sadler says. "I play with my nieces and we all sit down to eat as a family. Thanksgiving and family is really important to me. I'm sure my Mom would like a little more help in preparing so much food but we definitely help her clean it up since hunting all day long is hard work."

* A friendly gathering ... It's not trekking for deer, but driver Ricky Craven's sporting preference on Thanksgiving Day might be just as strenuous.

A NASCAR Winston Cup Series regular, Craven, his wife Cathleen, daughter Riley and son Richard like to re-acquaint themselves with their New England roots during the Thanksgiving holiday. They spend it at their log home on Maine's Moosehead Lake, and Craven makes sure the pool table is clear and the cue chalk is plentiful.

"I get up early on Thanksgiving morning and get a huge fire going in the fireplace. We have a traditional Thanksgiving dinner, then everyone congregates downstairs, where we have a family billiards tournament," Craven says.

No checkered flags fall, but a lot of pocket change likely switches hands.

"My brother-in-law and I probably take it a little more seriously than everyone else does, but we have a lot of fun," Craven says.

* Pining for home ... In the NASCAR world, the home-and-hearth theme echoes strongest during the holidays.

"We're spending time with family," is how NASCAR Winston Cup driver Ricky Rudd describes his Thanksgiving itinerary.

And if home is where the heart is, then newly-crowned 2003 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series champion Travis Kvapil's heart is in the snowy Midwest. A Wisconsin native, Kvapil, his wife Jen, daughter Kelsey and son Carson usually head north after the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. They like to celebrate Thanksgiving at their grandparents' house, ride snowmobiles and 4-wheelers, and participate in epic family card games.

But this year, Kvapil's heading to New York to celebrate his title along with NASCAR's other national and touring series champions. They'll all convene in the Big Apple during the first week in December, the date of the annual NASCAR Winston Cup Series awards ceremony, so Kvapil & Co., are camping out this week at their Mooresville, N.C., home, where Kvapil says they'll rest -- and miss -- their usual Wisconsin holiday.

Brian Vickers, the 2003 NASCAR Busch Series champion, will spend Thanksgiving lounging in the South Florida sun. He and car owner Ricky Hendrick will spend much of the holiday week in Key West, relaxing and recharging before Vickers heads to New York.

And Vickers isn't the only driver to seek the sun. Greg Biffle, who recently completed his rookie season in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series, is on the Mexican coast with girlfriend Nicole Lunders.

* Heartstrings galore ... A national holiday isn't the only thing some NASCAR drivers will celebrate this week.

Reigning Daytona 500 champion Michael Waltrip and wife Buffy will observe their 10th wedding anniversary on Thanksgiving Day. Another NASCAR Winston Cup Series regular, Waltrip is in the midst of a busy offseason. He was in Los Angeles filming a commercial prior to his wedding anniversary.

NASCAR Winston Cup Series driver Todd Bodine and his wife, Lynn, won't celebrate any personal milestones this week, but they will witness someone else's -- next week.

After enjoying Thanksgiving at their Davidson, N.C. home, the Bodines are scheduled to go on a cruise that will include the marriage of Travis Carter Enterprises crewman Scotty Pease to his fiancee, Anne Marie.


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Drivers Michael Waltrip , Todd Bodine , Ricky Hendrick , Ricky Craven , Brian Vickers , Elliott Sadler , Travis Kvapil