Centenarian Celebrates Birthday With A Nascar Lap
This little 100 year old honey got a birthday gift that many would be honored to receive. She's been a racing fan for over 50 years and at age 100 took a Nascar Lap. She can barely see over the dashboard....read on to see a picture.
According to Kevin Sperl from the Union Leader, Rachel Gilbert slid behind the wheel of New Hampshire Motor Speedway's official pace car to celebrate her birthday....with one goal in mind: get the speedometer to match her age at some point during the drive around the NASCAR oval. In Gilbert's case, it meant hitting the 100-mph mark. Gilbert has been an avid race fan since 1960, when she and her husband, Gene, who passed away four years ago, began frequenting Bryar Motorsports Park in Loudon, followed many years later with a visit to the Daytona 500.Gilbert's daughters, Helen Nickel and Marie Anne Mills, both of Laconia, knew it was time to recognize their mother's love of racing in honor of her 100th birthday. "We drove by the Speedway and thought that we should buy Mom NASCAR tickets," said Nickel. Mills emailed the speedway asking if they might get a birthday card, attend a race or get a souvenir from a driver."She just loves racing so much," said Mills, "but after I sent the email, I kind of forgot about it. When track General Manager Jerry Gappens got the message, he set in motion a celebration to match Gilbert's NASCAR energy. "It's very unique to meet someone who has lived 100 years," he said. "Not only did I think it was possible, we wanted to have some fun with it." So, on an overcast day, with rain holding off and to the cheers of family and friends, Gilbert settled into the driver's seat propped up by a pillow. Gappens rode shotgun."Oh my Lord, I guess we are all set," she said with a wave to her fans and one last thank you. Revving the engine, Gilbert headed down pit row and into turn one."Go, Mom," yelled her daughters.To break the news about her NASCAR present, the family had taken Gilbert to dinner and placed race driver hats all around the table."You are going to get to go to NASCAR and drive a car around the track," they told her. When asked if she wanted to ride in the passenger seat or drive, Gilbert declared, despite having relinquished her license in 1995, "Oh, I want to drive." Also attending the celebration were friends of Gilbert's from Laconia's St. Francis Home, where she lives independently in its Bishop Brady Apartments. Deb Sturgeon, apartment manager, drove the group to witness Gilbert's drive around the track. "Rachel still lives on her own, comes down to breakfast every morning and then to chapel," Sturgeon said. "Wherever I go with this bus, she is on it with me." Granddaughters Sherry Quinn of Billerica, Mass., Karen Taylor of Rochester and their spouses were also on hand. Karen's husband, Troy, recalled that as they left Gilbert's home to come to Loudon, she remarked, "I'm ready to go," and quickly added, "I meant to NASCAR!" When Gilbert pulled into pit row and exited the pace car, she was all smiles and heaped praise on Gappens as a "great teacher." Then it was off to the media center for cake and gifts from the Speedway: an official race hat and jacket, birthday cards and a coffee mug. Knowing that Carl Edwards was her favorite driver, Gappens worked his connections to get a signed birthday card and Roush Fenway Racing pit crew jacket from the NASCAR star." He also produced VIP suite tickets for Gilbert and her family to attend the Lenox 301 in July, and the opportunity to meet Carl Edwards.