Every NASCAR fan dreams of winning the lottery and starting his or her own race team. NASCAR fan Joe Denette did just that, parlaying his dollar and his dream into his own race team after winning the Mega Millions Lottery.
[media-credit name=”Joe Denette Motorsports” align=”alignright” width=”210″][/media-credit]The Fredericksburg, Virginia native had been a bit down on his luck prior to picking the winning ticket. In fact, Denette was unemployed.
“I was a construction worker up until January of 2009 and then I got laid off,” Denette said. “In May of 2009, I hit the lottery and I’m still laid off.”
“I just played the lottery like I usually do and woke up one morning in May and found that I had won,” Denette said. “Needless to say I went from there to the race track.”
At the race track, in fact at Richmond International Raceway, Denette met Hermie Sadler, NASCAR driver and SPEED TV personality. Denette and Sadler clicked during a ride around the track in celebration of his lottery win and the partnership was formed.
“During the check presentation for the lottery, he (Sadler) drove me around the track and that’s how I got with him,” Denette said. “We became friends then and we’re still real good friends.”
“One thing led to another and we started talking about starting our team,” Denette said. “And that’s what we did.”
Denette decided to focus on the truck series because of his affinity for the race vehicles.
“I love trucks to start with,” Denette said. “I drive a truck myself so I’m a little partial to trucks. I’ve always loved racing and this will be the best start.”
After claiming his winnings of over $70 million, Denette decided to first work with his new NASCAR mentor Sadler to field a truck at the Bristol race in 2009, with Sadler behind the wheel. Denette continued to support Sadler in various runs throughout 2010 before deciding to launch his own team for 2011.
This year, Denette will launch his new Camping World Truck team, Joe Denette Motorsports. The new owner plans to participate in the season opening truck race at Daytona and will run the entire 2011 schedule.
“To start with, we plan on winning races and winning the championship,” Denette said confidently. “Jason White will be driving our No. 23 truck and GunBroker.com is our primary sponsor.”
“We are running all 24 races and we will make them and contend for a championship.”
Denette is most confident in his new team, as well as his driver, citing White’s experience, as well as his pole run at Daytona last year. “I think he can do it again this year,” Denette said.
White will be paired with crew chief Chad Kendrick, fresh off his stint with Germain Racing, where he worked with drivers such as Max Papis, Stacey Compton, Narain Karthikeyan, and Timothy Peters. The 31 year old driver, competing in his fourth year in the series, echoed the confidence of his new owner as well.
“I feel like I am finally somewhere that I can grow, be competitive and race for wins,” White said. “With this team and my sponsor behind me, I feel like we will be not only win races but contend for the championship.”
Denette is sparing no expense in his racing endeavor. Under the tutelage of Sadler, he has purchased top notch equipment, as well as forming an alliance with Kevin Harvick Inc.
“We’re renting a place to house all of our trucks from KHI,” Denette said. “Kevin Harvick is also doing all of our chassis and bodies and we basically have an alliance so we get our research and development from him.”
Although Denette is trying to be as involved as he can in all aspects of his new truck team, he is primarily focusing on the business side of the operations.
“But as many chances as I can get to go to the shop, I take,” Denette said. “And as many times as I can get to the track, I will go.”
Denette clarified, however, that he might not be able to make the trip himself for the first race of the season at Daytona.
“My wife’s expecting a baby, due the following week and we’re not sure if he’s going to wait until then,” Denette said with a chuckle. This will their first child and he realizes that, although he is now a NASCAR team owner, he has little control of when his son decides to enter the world.
“When he’s ready, he’s ready,” Denette said.
Although Denette is experiencing many new transitions in his life, from husband to father and from unemployed to NASCAR truck team owner, he still primarily defines himself as a race fan.
“I’ve been a NASCAR fan my entire life,” Denette said. “Now rather than sitting in the stands just watching the race, I’m a part of it. I’ll be in the pits and a part of all the action.”
“A lot of times, I do want to pinch myself,” Denette continued. “And I think, I hope I don’t wake up from this dream.”