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At Daytona, collegian realizes NASCAR dream

JACKSON, Tenn. (BP)–Sure, it’s warm. Sure, it has great beaches. Sure, it has world-renowned golf courses.

But for Union University senior public relations major Amanda Jones, going to Florida isn’t about getting that perfect tan or sinking a birdie putt on the back nine. It’s about taking part in the biggest weekend in motor sports — and not simply as a spectator.

Growing up a racing fan in Paris, Tenn., Jones and her dad loved going to NASCAR races. One of her favorite things to do while at the track was to get up early and watch all the crews enter the garage area. Unfortunately, to actually enter the garage area required credentials. So instead, she would sit as close to the garage area as she could, watching and soaking it all in. It was here that Jones realized her dream.

Those dreams have become a reality now for Jones, who will participate in her first Daytona 500 this weekend as a public relations representative for Bobby Hamilton Racing.

“I knew from a young age that I wanted to be in public relations,” Jones said. “I would always look for the [public relations] people for the teams. They are easy to spot with their team jackets and laptops.”

Jones became so enamored with the thought of working in NASCAR that she started asking people at races how she could get involved. One person Jones kept in especially close contact with was Lori Shuler, a public relations representative for Bobby Hamilton Racing.

“I got the feeling Lori believed in me,” she said. “I made sure to e-mail her every month just to keep in touch.”

Jones’ persistence paid off and in July 2004 she became the first intern for Bobby Hamilton Racing as a member of the #18 Craftsman Truck Series team.

Jones admits that the opportunity caught her off guard.

“Honestly, I never thought about working in the truck series,” she said. “But I would rather be winning with a good team in the truck series than not winning with a Nextel Cup team.”

Winning certainly wasn’t a problem with Bobby Hamilton Racing last year. Hamilton won the truck series championship and Chad Chaffin, the driver Jones worked with directly, won twice. Combined they had six wins, the most by any team in the series.

“People kept telling me last year that I was spoiled. Looking back, I can see that they were right,” Jones admitted.

As a public relations representative for Bobby Hamilton Racing, Jones’ jobs include scheduling meetings and interviews for the driver, keeping up a portfolio of how their truck is doing on the track, sending out two press releases per week and encouraging other members of the crew.

The truck series schedule lasts 25 weeks and Jones is planning to be there for almost all of them this year. She is going to have to miss a few races during school but will travel with the team full-time after her graduation in May.

After graduating from Union she is also planning to move from Jackson to Nashville, where the Bobby Hamilton Racing headquarters are located.

As for the future, even Jones doesn’t know for sure.

“I can see myself staying here at least two or three more years, but there is a high turnaround in this sport, not necessarily with people leaving, but with people switching teams,” she said.

For now though, Jones is quite content with where she is.

“I love what I am doing and love working with NASCAR,” she said. “I also love Bobby Hamilton Racing and I want to be a part of helping them grow, but I could also see myself going somewhere else if something else comes up in the future.”
David J. Roach is a student at Union University in Jackson, Tenn.

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