Did you ever think Ryan Newman and Tony Stewart could have become even more popular than they already were? I didn’t think so, either. But after the surprise the Stewart-Haas Racing boys gave fans at the NASCAR SpeedPark-Concord Mills Wednesday night in Charlotte, I think the answer is a resounding “YES!”
Still feeling skeptical? Hear me out. As part of a specially sponsored Quicken Loans event, racing fans of all ages were invited to take part in FREE go-kart racing from 5–8 p.m. and to get their picture taken alongside the Quicken Loans #39 Chevrolet. Sounds like a pretty good deal, right?
But just when race fans thought their night couldn’t get any better, out walked Ryan and Tony looking for some competition on the track. Talk about a surprise! For the next few hours, the duo spent time racing against longtime NASCAR fans while gaining some new fans along the way. They even signed autographs and took pictures, making it a truly special night for their fans.
It didn’t stop there, either. To give fans the complete experience, Dave Burns – ESPN’s NASCAR pit reporter – was there to give drivers the “Start Your Engines” command while also commentating turn-by-turn. Dave interviewed Ryan and Tony between races and also took time to interview fans.
After hearing about the free go-kart event on Ryan’s Twitter page, Bill and Jennifer Locke, along with their 12-year-old son Dylan, rushed out to take part in the action. Little did they know who they’d run into at the track.
“I had a gut feeling that something like this would happen,” Bill Locke said. “I’m not sure why, but I was still really surprised to see them show up.”
For Dylan, a race fan since before he can even remember, the opportunity to race against two of NASCAR’s biggest stars was something he won’t soon forget.
“They are my favorite drivers, and I’ve always wanted to race against Ryan,” Dylan said. “I was trying to catch up to them and tell them that I’m a boss, but I ended up coming in last. I had a really nice car but I lost traction.
“It was still a lot of fun.”
Henry Nance, 8, has been a NASCAR fan for five years. He finished just short of taking home the checkered flag, placing second. Henry did, however, take home bragging rights over both Ryan and Tony.
“I didn’t get to see them that much because they were so far behind me,” Henry said. “I never thought I was going to beat them, but they were way behind me. I can’t even believe I just got to race against them. I was really excited when I saw both of them.
“The guy in the No. 2 car won, but I wasn’t too far behind him.”
The impact of Ryan and Tony’s presence wasn’t just felt by the kids in the crowd of nearly 500. The parents also appreciated Ryan and Tony taking time out of their day to hang out with their fans. Jennifer Locke knows the event was something her son Dylan will always remember.
“I just think it’s amazing they do stuff like this for the kids,” Jennifer said. “This is something the kids absolutely love and it’s great for the family.”
While the majority in attendance were kids, adults also took part in the high-speed action. Trina Allen and her husband Ronnie heard about the event from their kids, who were back home in Kentucky. While Trina isn’t as big of a NASCAR fan as her husband, she jumped at the opportunity to get Tony’s autograph before waiting for her husband to complete his race.
“My husband is a huge fan of Tony’s, so we had to get his signature,” Trina said. “You could say that I’m here because I’m his fan (referencing her husband).”
“My friends won’t ever, ever, ever believe me,” Henry said. “Everyone’s going to be very jealous.”
Dylan and his parents took a lot of pictures so they’ll have proof.
“I can’t wait to tell everyone who I got to race against,” Dylan said. “Nobody will believe me but that’s why we have pictures.”
Any valuable lesson you can take from this? Keep up to date with Quicken Loans Racing. You never know what we’ll have in store for you next. Also, be sure to tune in to this weekend’s Bank of America 500, Saturday night (7 p.m., ABC)!