Past winners agree: “It was just mind-blowing”
EDITOR'S NOTE: TICKETS ARE AVAILABLE for Ford Championship Weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway's 1.5-mile oval Nov. 16-18, as the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup, Busch and Craftsman Truck Series all crown champions under the lights. Additional festivities include Ford Racefest—featuring live concerts, interactive exhibits, NASCAR drivers and the NEXTEL Cup trophy on display—the Homestead-Miami Speedway Celebrity Golf Classic, the Hot Rods & Reels fishing tournament and Ford's "Bailando Por La Copa" salsa-dance finals. For NASCAR tickets, please call (866) 409-RACE or CLICK HERE.
On Nov. 13, 2006, Matt Walker received his first champagne shower. The heavy-haul truck driver from Eugene, Ore., got his splash in the same spot where Tony Stewart bathed in the bubbly a year prior while hoisting the 2005 NEXTEL Cup trophy. And it was the same location in which Greg Biffle would shower in spirits the week following to commemorate his third consecutive Ford 400 win, in 2006.
“I got the works: a champagne shower, a trophy, people hoisting me up on their shoulders,” Walker said. “It was pretty cool.”
And it’s all going to happen to a new amateur at Homestead-Miami Speedway in the coming days. Walker, you see, was the winner of last year’s Built Ford Tough “Race to the Dream” Ultimate Fan Experience contest, celebrated in Victory Lane at Homestead-Miami Speedway. You know, the exact spot where the NEXTEL Cup Ford 400 finale winner raises the trophy.
During the week prior to Ford Championship Weekend, Walker bested eight other opponents in an auto-decathlon featuring stock-car Ford Fusion racing on the 1.5 mile oval track, and F150 and 250 obstacle-course driving on Homestead-Miami’s dirt track.
Walker was chosen as a contestant for Ford’s “Race to the Dream” Ultimate Fan Experience after registering on www.racetothedream.com
and correctly answering trivia questions about Ford racing and products. Nine participants are selected to take to the track at Homestead-Miami Speedway, with this year’s competition set for this weekend.
The winner of the competition then is invited to stay for Ford Championship Weekend, at which he or she receives special VIP treatment courtesy of Ford and Homestead-Miami Speedway. Perks of winning have included a national-TV appearance during the Ford 400 race broadcast, a visit with your favorite Ford driver, dropping the green flag to start the NASCAR Busch Series Ford 300 and a police escort to and from the Speedway.
Richard Fraser, the 2005 winner, got sprayed with suds after his come-from-behind championship run.
“I didn’t give myself much of a chance of winning the grand prize at first,” said the
Sidney, Maine, resident. “When they announced my name at the winner’s circle, it was just mind-blowing. Champagne stings when it gets in your eyes, but it was a welcome shower. It was the experience of a lifetime.”
Both winners, ironically, had trouble even making the trip to Homestead. Walker’s call came in the middle of a job, so he really didn’t have time to appreciate what he had won.
“I was lowering a big crane when a woman from Ford called,” Walker said. “I asked if I could call her back. She said, ‘Do you realize what you’ve won?’ I was a little embarrassed, but I just called her back.”
When Fraser got his call, he didn’t believe it.
“The people from the contest had to call me back to make sure I understood I was one of the nine finalists,” Fraser said. “I thought it was just a sales pitch, and I didn’t really believe that I had won anything.”
After making the trek to South Florida, conquering the track and living it up at Ford Championship Weekend, both winners now reflect on their experience and offer up to the contestants hitting the track this weekend at Homestead-Miami some advice on how to earn the champagne shower
“It’s not about getting the high speed,” Walker said, “It’s about how fast you get in and out of the pits.”
“Listen to your driving instructor,” Fraser added.