The McDowell family, from Hodgenville, is avid NASCAR fans and when they received the opportunity to be a part of the drivers parade before the Quaker State 400 at Kentucky Speedway on July 13 they said yes.
Regina McDowell said her family has been big supporters of Toyota and NASCAR for years and she was contacted by a Toyota representative when a spot opened to be in the drivers parade.
“I have an awesome friend that is with Toyota,” she said. “We are huge promoters of Toyota and own several Toyotas. She always tries to hook us up with tickets and other goodies. This year I was also contacted by a Toyota representative regarding an open spot they had for the drivers’ parade. Of course, I said yes. We had no idea who we would be driving for.”
The McDowell family loves NASCAR and it all started with Regina’s youngest son Brady.
“Our love of NASCAR goes back many years,” she said. “It started when my youngest son Brady picked out the No. 18 car one Sunday while the family was watching a race, because what kid doesn’t love M&Ms.”
“In 2016, I got Brady tickets to Kentucky Speedway for his 15th birthday, that was his first track experience. I had contacted Samantha Busch and told her all about Brady and his love of Kyle and NASCAR. About two weeks before that race I got an email from Samantha that she was going to make Brady’s birthday even more special. She fixed us up with garage/pit passes, meeting with Kyle, professional photographer and extras. It was a dream come true for him. We have met Samantha every year since than for a hug and a quick photo.”
Brady is not your average racing fan.
“He soon found himself infatuated with Kyle Busch and NASCAR,” Regina said. “He fell in love with the world of NASCAR. His fascination with the sport has made him into a NASCAR expert. From the size of tracks, bankings, drivers specs to drivers hometowns he can tell you about it.”
Brady, who recently graduated from LaRue County High School, and his family also follows the truck series closely.
“Brady is close to Ben Rhodes from Louisville that races in the truck series,” Regina said. “We love following him and cheering him on. He is such a kind person and takes the time to get to know his fans.”
After receiving the call that they would be driving in a Toyota Tundra in the drivers parade, they were excited and kept in suspense as they didn’t know who they would be driving.
“We did not know who we would be driving for,” she said. “However, we had hot passes to get into the garage and pit areas and were standing in front of Kyle Busch’s garage and a man in a Toyota shirt was standing with us. My husband Gary started talking to him and telling him about our adventure of driving a parade truck for the Cup race. The man told us his wife worked for Toyota and that was actually part of her job. He asked if we knew who we would be driving for and we told him no. He asked who we would want to drive for and of course I said Kyle Busch. He said we would see what he could do for us. The next day when we were getting our keys to the truck I was given the ‘key’ to a special truck.”
Heading into the parade around the track, Regina had some pre-race jitters since she wasn’t sure what to expect.
“I didn’t know really what to expect but I was very nervous,” she said. “There was a long walk into the infield to get to the truck lot, then rules that you were told. It was a brand-new Toyota Tundra which I can say I was very impressed with. We had a meeting time and a place to meet with the Toyota representative. After that it moved very fast.”
She found herself behind the wheel with her family’s favorite NASCAR driver.
“I was a little worried about the banking but once you drive up on it you couldn’t really tell it except that you were tilted,” Regina said. “It seemed like a long wait for my driver to be announced, slowly moving up closer and closer to the stage. Kyle Busch was announced and he climbed into my truck ... his fate was in my hands.”
Busch wasn’t the only driver in the fate of her hands.
“I had two drivers in my truck the other was Austin Dillon,” she said. “We had our windows down and the sunroof open, so I could actually talk to them. I asked Kyle how I was driving and he said, ‘You are doing great but you could speed up a little.’ I also asked him if his wife Samantha was at the track. We have meet Samantha several times and she is a sweetheart. I slowly made my way around the track on to pit road and safely delivered my drivers. I wished Kyle good luck and out he jumped. It was an honor for my family to get to do this and a memory that will never be forgotten.”
For McDowell and her family, this was a memory they won’t forget and a once in a lifetime chance to be a part of their favorite drivers race day.
“Driving on the track was awesome,” she said. “Going onto the track you actually had to drive up the banking and form a line next to the wall. After you picked up the drivers you had to stay down on the apron of the track, below the yellow line.”
Even though the race didn’t turn out like the McDowell family hoped for, they still had an unforgetable time being around some of the top drivers in NASCAR.
“The finish was of course a disappointment to us, we were ready to head to victory lane to celebrate with our driver,” she said.
Kyle Busch’s older brother Kurt beat out Kyle to win the Quaker State 400 by 0.076 seconds.
“We were glad that if he didn’t win that his brother did,” Regina said. “It was a great race and an exciting finish. I really thought Kyle would take his brother out because Kurt had said a few months ago that if it came down to it that he would take Kyle out. But I guess Kyle had a weak moment for his brother since he wasn’t locked into the championship plus it may have wrecked both out.”
The McDowell family isn’t stopping at Kentucky. They plan to travel to other tracks and continue watching the sport they love.
“We’ve been going to Kentucky Speedway since 2016,” Regina said. “We have plans to venture out to other tracks now that Brady is out of school. He wants to make a trip to Charlotte, Bristol and Martinsville.
“We love the enjoyment that it brings to Brady. We have met a lot of new friends at the track and through social media. We love the excitement of the race track.”