By Donna Bell
Photo Credit: Donna Bell and espn.go.com
I never thought I would be writing an article like this one. When Toyota came into NASCAR I was a bit put off. I wanted to keep the series all American Muscle Cars, ya know?
But then we lost Dodge and I knew that Toyota coming in was going to be good for the series. We need as many manufacturers as possible to keep NASCAR going forward and upward, would you agree?
Here’s another thing I never thought I would do. I have always tried to buy my day-to-day driver to be an American brand. My first car was a Chevy Camaro and it was love at first sight. Here is that story.
It was a glorious morning in Florida and my dad was taking me to pick out my first car. We walked onto the car lot and I was overwhelmed with all the choices available. Soon a salesman came over, shook hands with my dad, and then Daddy told me to go look around and see if there is anything that I liked. As Daddy and the salesman walked off to talk finances, I started walking up and down all the rows of cars.
Then it happened. I turned a corner to go down another row of cars and there she was. I knew she was the one, as the light was shining off of her gold color and she just sparkled, calling to me to say “Here I am Donna, I’ve been waiting for you”. I slowly walked over to her and walked around her. Fortunately, I was able to open the door and actually sit in the driver’s seat. I was in love. And if I may speak for her, so was she.
Daddy and the salesman found me and he checked out the Camaro I had chosen. It seems that she came with what they called drop-down air conditioning, which meant that she did not come with factory installed air conditioning, but it was added to the car. Daddy questioned me if I really wanted this car because when he was in it his right knee touched that A/C system and he was concerned. After I drove her, the A/C was no problem for me and I left the car lot in my first car, a Chevy Camaro – Glowing Gold!
Fast forward to today. I had always said I would never by a “foreign” car. Buy American, right? I would never buy a red car as you are just asking for the cops to notice you and give you a ticket. And lastly, I would never buy a convertible. Well, guess what I own today. Yup, a red Toyota convertible. There goes that saying ‘never say never’ lol!
Here’s something you may not know. When your drive a convertible, with the top down, people feel free to talk to you while you are stopped at a light. I have had many short conversations on a number of topics waiting for the light to turn green. I don’t know about this phenomenon, but people just feel free to engage you in conversation.
My former boss and I were talking one day after I had purchased my red Toyota Convertible and he asked me what her name was? I told him I hadn’t named her yet and he suggested I call her Trixie. He knew that I drive race cars and Trixie was the girlfriend of Road Racer from the TV show. Trixie it was! And, oh, by the way, he always called me Trixie too.
Every year Homestead-Miami Speedway has a day where you can get your car washed and drive your personal vehicle on the track. I have driven that track many times, but only in a NASCAR racecar. So, of course, Trixie and I are in! She was due to get tires anyway, so what better way to get the last out of the tires than by getting some track time. We headed out onto the track, following the leader of an HMS driver. You have to remember that these are people who have never been on a race track and for safety sake, you must follow a licensed driver.
Out we headed onto the track and I snuggled her up tight to the bumper of my leader and around we went. And yes, I had the top down for the ride… it was epic! I’m a redhead, driving a red convertible with the top down on the track. You get the picture, right? Laps completed and we head to pit road.
As we got stopped on pit road and I am still pretty stoked at the drive with the top down, I look at my leader and I see his arm come out of the window and he motions me to his vehicle. Oh no, I must be in trouble for something. So I get out of Trixie and slowly walk to him to see what he wants. As I look in his window there he is, all smiles. Really? Well maybe I’m not in trouble after all. Whew! He proceeds to tell me I was the best driver all day and he enjoyed our time together. I had to ask him how fast we went, ‘cause I was not looking at my speedometer during the drive. He said that his vehicle was pegged at 90 mph but we went over 100. Drafting maybe got us above the 90 mph?!? All l know was he was smiling, I was smiling and all was good.
In 2014, everyone was talking about Hendrick and their motor package, but in 2015 there was a big swing with TRD and the Toyota’s were the talk of the garage with their stout engines. They now have the motors, the aero down is good and they are so good on pit road. TRD and JGR have worked hard on building better race cars and it is showing, as with Kyle Busch, who is the current NASCAR Sprint Cup Champion. It was awesome to be at Homestead-Miami Speedway November 2015 standing on top of the wall with his pit crew watching him do his burnouts. Fan momentum has been swinging to his side lately. The sentiment has changed from “what were you thinking” to a little more fans who are embracing the driver has he as mellowed a bit. Getting married, going to JGR and the birth of his son has seemed to mature the driver, a bit.
And after the Toyota Auto-Owners 400 at Richmond where Cousin Carl took his 2nd win in a row, it looks like Toyota is continuing the trend in 2016. Love that last lap bump, dump and run Edwards did for the win. That was the first, ever, last lap pass to win at Richmond. Even though it was done to his teammate, Kyle Busch, all bets are off on the last lap of the race!