for advance notice
of special offers!
(emails are never
shared or sold)
Join Our Mailing List



































Racing Commentary

Email Lew at lewboyd@coastal181.com

 Tony Stewart hugs his new best girlfriend, Jeannine Laroche, at NHMS in July.
(Dick Berggren Photo)



We invited our friend Dick Berggren to provide a Guest Tearoff on an unusual dinner he attended last summer.

Most fans of big league NASCAR racing never get closer to their heroes than seeing them on TV. In July 2011, four of his fans shared an intimate evening with Tony Stewart.

The New Hampshire Motor Speedway branch of Speedway Children’s Charities, which raises money to benefit local kids in need, had auctioned off the night with Tony to the two highest bidders, each of whom was allowed to bring just one guest. I attended the dinner representing NASCAR on FOX and Speedway Illustrated magazine, along with Greg Kretchmar, the area’s top radio personality.” That was it in the room, just four fans, two media types, Tony Stewart and the folks who created their dinner.

And what a dinner it was, served in Bruton Smith’s suite high above the track. It was prepared by Smith’s personal chef and was as elegant a meal as could have been found in the finest restaurant in New York city. But the food was much less important to those four fans than this up-close one-on-one with their favorite driver.

When Tony first walked in, he spotted one of the fans, 79-year old Jeannine Laroche, and told her in a loud voice, “Well, this is trouble. I’m going to have to call my girlfriend and tell her it’s off. Baby,” he said to Jeannine, “You’re hot!”

That comment brought laughter and set the tone for the evening. When it came time to decide who was to sit where, Stewart insisted that Jeannine sit next to him. She became Stewart’s favorite person for the entire night.

Jeannine’s daughter, Francine Slesinski, had won the auction with a mind to bringing her mother together with her favorite driver. Jeannine had become a big Stewart fan – she thought her son Raymond looked a little like Tony. And Raymond had raced with the number 20 just like Tony had for so many years.

When the evening ended, four fans had memories to last a lifetime. Stewart signed everything the tiny group asked to have signed. He posed for photos. He answered every question. He cracked jokes. He told stories. And he stayed well after dinner was over, engaging this group far beyond the event organizers’ wildest hopes. And he paid more attention to Jeannine Laroche than anyone else.

On Sunday, Tony had a good race, one of his best of the year so far. Mother and daughter, Jeannine and Francine, were in the stands when he qualified second, led 48 laps, and finished second. The Chase for the championship began a few short weeks later and Stewart announced on its eve that he was just “taking up space” because his team wasn’t good enough to win the championship. But, when the Chase started at Chicagoland, Stewart led 35 laps and won the race. It was his first win of the year in NASCAR’s top series.

There was an empty seat next to Francine the following week when the September race began at New Hampshire. Jeannine’s health was in decline and she was unable to attend, but she planned to watch it at home on TV.

Stewart won that race, a stunning second victory of the year and his second win in a row. He came out of the day leading the points.

 (NHMS/HHP Images)

When the race ended, an excited Francine called home to talk to her mother. But, there was bad news. Francine was told that her mother had just died. She had clung to life just long enough to see Stewart win his second in a row and take the lead for the championship which he ultimately won. When the race ended, she passed away.

© 2012 Dick Berggren, Coastal 181

If you were interested in this Tearoff, you might enjoy the books below:

Behind the Scenes at New Hampshire International Speedway

by Allen Lessels
“Then Tony Said to Junior…” – The Best NASCAR Stories Ever Told

by Mike Hembree
The Great Book of NASCAR Lists

by John and M.B. Roberts
Foreword by Kyle Petty

Stop by our Book Store Directory for a look at our book and DVD selections:

Book Store

.: Previous Tearoffs :

12/31/11 - A Hundred Tearoffs

12/19/11 - Some Cars

12/4/11 - Bob Jepson, the Land Speed Racer Next Door

11/22/11 - Present Payoff, Future Payoff

11/7/11 - Route 169 South, Algona

10/19/11 - Otto Does the 'Cuse

9/30/11 - Saturday Folk at New Hampshire

9/14/11 - About J.R. Hildebrand - and that Last Lap

8/30/11 - Sideways and the Dzus Queen

8/16/11 - Totally Fast

8/2/11 - Perrotte at Plattsburgh

7/14/11 - So Here's What Jack Says

6/30/11 - Quick to Quickest - Jim “Mr. Magoo” Maguire

6/16/11 - Climb to the Clouds

6/2/11 - Irv and the Hall of Fame

5/18/11 - Makin' MOWA

5/4/11 - The Running of the Racers

4/21/11 - Pruett's Perspective

4/4/11 - Winter of Discontent

3/23/11 - Thinking of Gene Bergin

3/8/11 - Sprint Car World Record?

2/21/11 - Dinner at Daytona

2/10/11 - The Call Him 1/4ley

1/28/11 - Doc's Beard

1/15/11 - Reconsidering Generalizations

12/31/10 - Powerful Passion

12/19/10 - Tearoff at Yuletide

12/6/10 - Indy in December

11/21/10 - Mutt and the Brutal Ballet

10/29/10 - The Johnny Bensons and Their Supers

10/13/10 - Anatomy of an Accident

9/28/10 - Maybe Marty

9/14/10 - Push Refresh for Speedway Illustrated

8/23/10 - An Ode to Senior Supers

8/6/10 - Adrian and the Deep Water

7/20/10 - Holdout in Yuppieville

7/7/10 - The Wins are Gustin

6/16/10 - Racin' Kid, Racin' Dad

5/28/10 - The Monk and Matty D.

5/15/10 - Bluebird

4/27/10 - Catching Up With Steve Arpin

4/11/10 - The Song of the Fifties

3/22/10 - Davey!

3/8/10 - Restart!

2/21/10 - Miracles of the Rock

2/8/10 - Roger The Remarkable

1/21/10 -  Shane's Sensational '78

12/28/09 - The Flying Finn and The All American Boy

12/12/09 - Hello Wall

11/29/09 - Once More for Ernie

11/15/09 - Ernie's Excellent Chase

11/1/09 - In The Zone

10/19/09 - Rough Week in the Midwest

10/1/09 - Common Starts, Uncommon Comebacks

9/4/09 - South Dakota Chris

8/15/09 - Facial Exposure

7/31/09 - Dying in the Pits

7/9/09 - Barn Rat's Last Race

6/18/09 - Catching Up With Brad Doty

5/20/09 - Big Boys in The Attic  - rare photos of legends

5/6/09 - Back Up In The Attic - more rare photos

4/22/09 - The Son of Hard Luck - accessible racing
experience for the handicapped

4/3/09 - Racin' In The Attic - Gordon Ross photo collection

3/18/09 - About That Mike Spaulding

3/3/09 - Dick Berggren's First Win - (you had to be there!)

2/11/09 - Peter at the Park - Peter Fiandaca at Riverside Park

1/30/09 - Steve - Steve Arpin

1/4/09 - Racer Speak -cool quotations

12/16/08 - Wimble Power, Will Power - Bill Wimble

11/24/08 - Remembering Chuck Amati - by Joyce Standridge

11/11/08 - That Rick Ferkel

10/24/08 - Beyond Bionic - Bentley Warren

10/6/08 - Fifty Second Classic - Skip and Lois Matczak

9/20/08 - Joey's Dad - Tom Logano

9/1/08 - One Night at The Park - the death of Les Ley

8/20/08 - Transitional Technology - early supermodifieds

8/6/08 - Wallace on Wednesdays - dirt trackin’ Kenny

7/19/08 - Star(ter) of the Show - importance of good flaggers

7/7/08 - McUnderdog - Eddie MacDonald

6/18/08 - The Night Buzz Was Worried - Buzz Rose

6/5/08 - John Richards - Boomer Role Model

5/20/08 - The Spirit of a Racer - the late Al Powell

5/1/08 - Bobby's Blues - Bobby Santos III

4/15/08 - Thinking About Rene Charland

3/26/08 - Carl and Corey - Carl Edwards and Corey Dripps

3/4/08 - A Cool Track with Cool Racers - West Liberty, Iowa

2/14/08 - Doug Wolfgang

1/25/08 - Frankie Schneider

1/7/08 - When Drivers Can't See - cockpit vision

12/21/07 - When Starters Couldn't See - flagstand vision

12/1/07 - Ride Along with Erica Santos - in-car camera midget win

11/15/07 - Tough Drivers

11/1/07 - Cockpit Safety

10/15/07 - That First Race

10/1/07 - Racing Nicknames

9/15/07 - Too Many Officials

9/1/07 - The Look of a Real Driver

8/15/07 - Being Dale Junior

8/1/07 - Armond Holley

7/15/07  -  Red Farmer

© 2007-11 Lew Boyd, Coastal 181





































































































Free Web Counter