It all started innocently enough as I opened my gmail account on Aug. 24. I saw an e-mail from "fulfillment" and figured it was some sort of sexual enhancement crap that needed to be deleted. My eyes swept to the right and I read, "Your entry in the Kodak EasyShare Gallery Best Race Moment Photo Contest," so I clicked on the e-mail to open it because I had entered two photos in the contest, back in May. In fact, I'd entered every NASCAR contest I could find, every day for about three weeks, knowing that my only hope of ever going to a race again would be slim once we moved to the Pacific Northwest.
Sitting at our table, beside the empty white wall, I read: "Congratulations! You have been selected as a Grand prize winner in the Kodak EasyShare Gallery Best Race Moment Photo Contest, administered by ePrize. You have won a trip for two to the Homestead-Miami Speedway® for the Ford Championship weekend scheduled to be held November 17-20, 2006."
Right about now, I'm hollering, "Mama! Listen to this," and getting my cellphone out of my bra where I keep in on days when I don't have a pocket. I needed to call Milton and Kay, our buds whose trailer we stayed in at Talladega the last weekend in April. Once I got him on the phone, I started reading again.
"Trip package includes roundtrip coach-class airfare for two from a major airport near winner’s home to Miami, FL; five days and four night’s accommodations at a hotel (single standard room, double occupancy); a Ford Championship Race Package for two; transfers to and from airport in Miami, FL; VIP Pit Passes; and $500 spending money. The Ford Championship Race Package includes two tickets to the following races: Craftsman Truck Series, Busch Series, and Nextel Cup races. Please see the attached Official Rules for further prize details and eligibility requirements. This prize has an approximate retail value of $4,500.
You will be notified of your approval status once we have received and reviewed your fully executed affidavits of eligibility. Your prize will be fulfilled 8 - 10 weeks after you receive your approval notification.
Two affidavits are in the attachment of this email. The first affidavit is the Winner’s Affidavit. It must be completed by you, the prize winner. The person who will be traveling with you must complete the second affidavit, named the Travel Companion Affidavit. Please return the original completed copies, signed and notarized, within the next ten (10) days. If you do not return the affidavits within this timeframe, another winner will be selected. You can find the mailing address at the top of the Winner’s Affidavit.
Please be advised that there are tax ramifications that will result from your receipt of this prize. If you choose to receive your prize, you will be sent a 1099 form at the end of this calendar year. Please consult a tax advisor for further information about how to best address this issue."
Milton started to chuckle about the time I got to Homestead-Miami; he was thrilled for me, as was Kay. They've been going to Talladega twice a year forever, so they understood right away what a big deal this was for me, the novice race-goer.
For the next few hours, I alternated between giddy giggling and worrying that I was the victim of some sort of malicious and hurtful scam. Nevertheless, I headed for 3 Doors Down Cafe, where I asked Leland to go with me on the trip and Lamont to take care of Mama while we were gone. (I looked him in the eye and said, "Honey, I'm about to ask your brother to go somewhere with me; I'll take you the next time I win something.") On Saturday we signed and had notarized our two affidavits of eligibility and press releases at our branch band and sent them quickly off to Michigan to ePrize from the downtown post office.
Several days of anxiety and nerves later, on my afternoon break my cell phone rang with a number I didn't recognize. It was Jean from Travel By Design in Atlanta, congratulating me on the nice prize I'd won and telling me she wanted to set up our flights and hotel. I just about hyperventilated again. The next day I got an e-mail with our itinerary on American, flying out on Nov. 16 and returning to Portland on Nov. 20. Our hotel is the Sonesta Coconut Grove Miami. Instead of the airport transfers, she's given us a rental car since the hotel is 20 miles from the racetrack. All our our paperwork and the spending money will be Fed Exed about three weeks before the trip.
Can you tell I'm about to hyperventilate just typing this? I'm so floored by it all. And way, way beyond excited.
Y'all NASCAR fans know what a big deal this is, but for the non-initiated out there, Homestead-Miami is the last race of the season for all three series; championships could be won and/or lost during those three races, depending upon the standings when someone announces, "Gentlemen, start your engines!" We'll see qualifying, practice, and racing in all three categories--the trucks race on Friday, Busch on Saturday (which is like the minor leagues of NASCAR), and Nextel on Sunday (which is like the big leagues).
Besides getting all that, the VIP Pit Passes totally rock because you get to get up close and personal with the cars and the engines and the sounds and the smells and the drivers and the crews. It's pure-D heaven for a NASCAR fan. At Talladega in April, I lucked out and had pit and garage passes which meant I had a phenomenal time, taking pictures right and left. I believe that I'll have that much fun, if not more, at Homestead-Miami. And I'll have Leland with me; he likes racin' too.
Here are the two photos I entered although I don't know which one is considered the winning one. Mama thinks it's me all rigged out for Talladega on April 30, right before the race got rained out. What do you think?