DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Michael Waltrip had a new crew member in his pits during his seventh-place finish in the season-opener Daytona 500. James Thompson Jr. of Florida got the experience of a lifetime when he was chosen by NAPA Jacksonville to be NAPA’s first Honorary Pit Crew Member in its NASCAR program.
Thompson Jr. is a valued customer of NAPA Jacksonville as he is the co-owner of five JD Byrider stores. Four of those stores are NAPA AutoCare Centers and are located in Atlantic, Cassat, Blanding and Tallahassee.
Thompson Jr. not only enjoyed the NAPA Race Day Experience as all guests are treated as VIPs, but he received a NAPA AUTO PARTS crew shirt and hat from Waltrip himself who also autographed them. He was then escorted down to the garage where he toured the team’s hauler, ate lunch with the team, participated in driver introductions and lined up with the crew on pit road as the National Anthem was performed. To top it all off, Thompson posed for a photo with the two-time Daytona 500 by a decal that saluted Thompson as the Honorary Pit Crew Member. The decal was located on the quarter panel of the No. 55 NAPA AUTO PARTS Toyota Camry. The father of two also got to wave the team’s pit sign showing Waltrip the exact location of his pit stall and then for several laps, watched the race with crew chief Bootie Barker on the team’s pit box.
“I really enjoyed the experience,” said Thompson. “It was all kind of unexpected so I didn't really know what to expect. I knew I would be able to go into the pits, but I was shocked to see my name on the car. I really enjoyed the personal interaction with the crew and all of the NAPA team members were awesome. They were all very good at what they do and my impression is that it is a very well run machine. I guess I knew that the drivers have a ton of commitments to live up to with various sponsors, but you could tell that Michael really likes his relationship with NAPA. The memories will definitely live on in my mind.”
This season at NASCAR Sprint Cup events where NAPA is hosting its popular Race Day Experience, a guest will be chosen based on different criteria determined by the NAPA management from that region.
In 2009, the Honorary Pit Crew Member program is being offered at Las Vegas Motor Speedway (March 1), Bristol Motor Speedway (March 22), Phoenix International Raceway (April 18), Talladega Superspeedway (April 26), Charlotte All-Star Race (May 16), Dover International Speedway (May 31), New Hampshire Motor Speedway (June 28), Chicagoland Speedway (July 11), Indianapolis Motor Speedway (July 26), Watkins Glen International (August 9), Michigan International Speedway (August 16), Bristol Motor Speedway (August 22), Atlanta Motor Speedway (September 6), Richmond International Raceway (September 12), Kansas Speedway (October 4), Texas Motor Speedway (November 8) and Homestead-Miami Speedway (November 22).