Not every Canadian puts hockey first. For Brad Mulders, watching Jeff Gordon win NASCAR races has been his favorite spectator sport for years. Reflecting his No. 24 team spirit, Brad was the first to raise $2,400 or more for Drive to End Hunger and won AARP Foundation’s peer-to-peer campaign.
His prize? A meet and greet with Jeff Gordon at the Charlotte Bank of America 500 race on Oct. 13, two prime seats and a tour of pit row. Joining Brad was his uncle, Jeff Mulders. Brad shared their amazing time at the race with us:
… the BIG day on Saturday...WOW, what a day that was!!
We arrived at the track early and headed straight over to the Drive to End Hunger booth to touch base with Elliot (our 'handler,' as we referred to him). The whole team over there was so friendly, right from the get go!
Elliot went over the itinerary for the day and we were PUMPED by what he was telling us we were in store for. We hooked up with Tammy, who gave me the AWESOME autographed Jeff Gordon hat that he personally signed for his good buddy Brad (at least that's how I tell the story).
I was keeping an eye out for the pit crew members from the No. 24 team [for a Q&A at the display] when I noticed Uncle Jeff was missing. I went back to find out that his ticket had been picked to play the trivia contest... but get this -- HE BEAT THE AMERICANS and won his own Jeff Gordon autographed hat! I don't think it could have been scripted any better!
We went to the clubhouse to see where we would be for the race, and then we were going to head over for the main event. While we were waiting, who drives up? Rick Hendrick!!! We asked if it would be appropriate to say hi and we were encouraged to do so...
Rick Hendrick was so accommodating and he posed for pictures with us and signed a few things. All this was way more than we had expected at this point but it didn't end there. He headed into his motor coach and we were all ushered to follow him in. HOW COOL IS THIS?!?!?! We sat there and talked with him ... Although it was just water in there, I tell people that we had a drink with Rick Hendrick in his motor coach.
Then someone from outside asked us if we wanted to meet Jeff Gordon. Somehow I managed to gather all my stuff and headed outside and there he was. We were introduced and I shook his hand and he personally thanked me for raising the money for the DTEH. I told him it was because of him that we did it but he wouldn't take that credit and made me feel really special. I will never forget that.
We talked about the big wreck the week before at Talladega and we asked questions about what kind of reaction time it takes to respond to a situation like that. Talked about the draft and what he remembered about "the big one". He signed a shirt for my son, a die cast car for me and the same hat that Rick Hendrick and the pit crew signed for me! He was such a nice guy.
After Jeff left, we headed for the garage where we hung out and watched them work on the car he’d be driving that night. Pretty cool seeing all the equipment and precision instruments. We got to see one of the inspection areas while we were in there too. Across the way from the garage were all the haulers all perfectly parked. We were surprised once again when we got to go into Jeff's hauler for a tour…
At this point, I would like to point out that it still shocks me at the level of access that a fan can have in the sport. I realize that we had the best credentials that a fan can have but the fact that we can get that kind of access in this sport is something that I believe most people take for granted.
After the hauler, we headed over to driver introductions. Then Elliot pointed out that the flag stand was right behind us and that we were standing on the start/finish line. I wasted no time (once I had noticed others had already done it) whipping out my Sharpie and signing the Bank of America 500 Start/Finish line! Very, very cool!!!
After driver introductions, we went back to the pits. We were shocked to learn that we would be there with Jeff Gordon and the entire team for the prayer and the National Anthem. Aside from meeting Jeff Gordon and Rick Hendrick, this was my favorite event of the whole day. Even though we are Canadian I felt a great deal of pride being able to share in that moment!