WIN Series Presents: Dana Wilson

Happy Anniversary to Shane and Dana!

Dana Wilson

“Marrying Shane was the best decision I've ever made, my whole life.
He is the best person I know.”

The featured Woman in NASCAR in this interview is Dana L. Wilson, known as @MrsCrewChief on Twitter and the wife of Shane Wilson (@CupCrewChief on Twitter) of Richard Childress Racing’s #33 Cup car. But before we get to know this woman behind the man behind Clint Bowyer, I’d like to provide some background on his crew chief.

Shane was born November 3, 1968 in Vermont, the youngest of four children. That's Shane pictured above at about 4 or 5 years old with the family’s pet woodchuck, appropriately named Woody. They had found him as a baby, brought him home and raised him. The photo was taken at their home in South Royalton, Vermont.

Shane’s love of cars and racing began as far back as he can remember. It grew with the help of his father as well as family and friends. With help, Shane built his first race car at the age of 16 and the rest, as they say, is history.

Shane was hired in 2006 by Richard Childress Racing for his knowledge and experience in NASCAR’s top three series. Within a year's time, Wilson became the crew chief for one of NASCAR’s championship teams. Wilson worked with RCR drivers Kevin Harvick and Jeff Burton, bringing RCR 10 victories and the 2006 championship for the No. 21 team in the Nationwide Series (the Busch Series back then). Before his time at RCR, he worked with Penske as a crew chief for the #77 Cup Series team.

In 2009, the veteran NASCAR crew chief was named to lead the #33, Clint Bowyer’s team.
Above: The Wilsons and Harvicks celebrate the Busch Series Champsionship.
Below: Shane signs an autograph for an adoring fan.
Richard Childress, president and CEO of Richard Childress Racing, said the following in regard to Shane and his role with the No. 33 team: "Shane brings a great deal of knowledge and success to the RCR team, much of which he has earned since coming to RCR in 2006," said Richard Childress. "He will be able to hit the ground running since he's already familiar with and has been a part of the organization for the past three years. He and Clint have worked together a little bit and I'm confident they will complement each other in this new program."

Shane was quoted having said the following about his personal drive to succeed:

"I've always been involved in some competitive sport or another and when the success came at such an early age, I became addicted to racing," says Wilson. "When I couldn't get the financial backing I needed to move my team to a higher level, I sold it and moved myself to a higher level instead."

And that he did. Wilson continues to call the shots in 2011 as crew chief for Clint Bowyer, the driver of RCR’s #33 Cheerios Chevrolet.

Let’s Get To Know Dana Wilson aka @MrsCrewChief
Dana Wilson was born in Lansing, Michigan, on September 13, 1976. She was raised in Williamston, Michigan. She is pictured at left at the age of 4 in the British Virgin Islands, a family vacation spot they still take part in today.

Q&A with Dana Wilson

LB -Did you grow up in a racing family or sports-orientated atmosphere?
DW- “No, I grew up in Michigan. My dad likes things that go fast and I am just like my dad. As opposed to NASCAR specifically, no. Motorcycles and boats. We always had boats and anything that could race. I was actually one of the people that made fun of people who drove around in circles. That was until I got the job at Las Vegas Speedway.”

Dana went on to say,“My dad, he like cars himself so we've always had Corvettes and cars like that. He built my brother a race truck. He and my brother built the motor together and that kind of stuff. So I wouldn't say we were not a racing specific family. No.”

LB-So were you a competitor in any race or sport competitions?
DW- “I grew up swimming competitively and I also did track and field but I dabbled in basketball, but that was it. It was more Shane's cup of tea, never really mine. We were as a family more into skiing, snowboarding and water-skiing, wake boarding as opposed to your typical high school sports."

LB-Did you attended college?
DW- "I started at a Central Michigan University and I studied abroad in Germany. I returned to the U.S. and transferred to Michigan State, where I finally got my degree in hotel restaurant and casino management with minors in Spanish and German, actually. Which is what originally took to Las Vegas because I was much more interested in the casino aspects of things but quickly decided I didn't want to work…. that program seems to fast-track people towards working the front desk of a hotel, which that type of work I just really didn’t want to do.”

LB- Not exactly what you went to school for ...
DW-“No, it was a hard idea for me to swallow when you feel people can just walk in off the street and get the that type of work. As a motivated hard-working individual, when you spent so much time trying to get an education. You hate to say it's not good enough, but you expect more of yourself, I guess is a better way to put it.”

“My dad put me through Corvette racing school, it was the first official Corvette Chevrolet Racing School at the time. I actually got a job there and that was how I got to Las Vegas. I never did actually work in a casino. (we both laugh).”

"The degree has carried over in the work that I’ve done since in event planning type work. As well as marketing-type things, which all of that was part of my degrees. It just took me on a different avenue than being a hotel rep or restaurant manager.”

LB-What are you doing now? Are you with LVMS now?
DW-"I left the driving school and moved on to LVMS and I did short-track, dirt-track and dragstrip public relations for LVMS. I did everything except for the big tracks there. That is how I met Shane. I had to interview him while he was doing the Winston West Series with Brendan Gaughn.

Brendan was my very first interview and Shane was my second. I was only at the LVMS for six months. They went through a series of layoffs and I was one of the people that got laid off. I eventually got a job at Orleans Arena at the Orleans Hotel and Casino. I was the first employee hired there. I was the VIP Services and Sponsorship fulfillment Manager so I sold the club seats, suites and made sure that the sponsors got what they paid for on the LED Ribbon that went around the arena. It was actually owned by the Gaughn Family at one time.”

LB-So this is where you met Shane for the first time. Was it love at first sight? Or Second sight rather?
DW-“We had goals. I liked him. People that met him would say that he is a person that is very quiet. He has an energy about him that you just like him. He’s just a really nice person. It really comes across on camera and people relate to him. Would I say love at first sight? No, we both had left bad types of situations and were sort of flung into our situation by a friend who was convinced we were meant to be together. It actually took a bout 6 weeks before we actually admitted to people we were dating.”

While the couple began courting, eventually the two began to talk about the possibility of getting hitched. Shane wanted to make sure that she knew what it meant to become the wife of a NASCAR crew chief. At least with the fact that they are both involved with NASCAR in one way or another, it gave them a commonality to begin their future.

In an interview a few years back with Scene Daily, Dana stated, “That first year was really hard with all the races and testing,” Dana says. “It was definitely challenging for both of us.”

LB- Did Shane propose romantically?
(As she laughed) With that question, here is the letter or story about their engagement that Dana had written to send out to the couple's friends and family.

Shane's Proposal to Dana Written by Dana Hall

It was a regular Sunday morning, the two tucked in bed, chatting with hands cupped around warm mugs of coffee. Their regular schedule awaited them, (minus the Winston Cup race- his favorite, the Bristol Night Race, had been on the night before) breakfast at Coachman's Inn and a day toddling around town, looking at neighborhoods and houses. Sunday is always their day. "I went through some houses up on the Northwest end of town awhile ago when you were gone," she said. "They've got huge lots, great views, want to go look at those? I hope I can find them again." "Can we get a slurpee on the way?" He asked. And thus began the adventure. Having trouble remembering her way around some of the back roads, they ended up at a different neighborhood, but by the same builder. After viewing the models, they decided to ask where the other neighborhood, Meister Park North, was from there and see what was available. Alas, there was a completed house, the model they liked, on a corner lot that had fallen out of Escrow! "It has room for a pool, a great spot to make into a dog run for Jackson (and "Girlfriend"), and a HUGE triangular tub!" She exclaimed. It was everything they wanted. The next thing the couple knew, they were putting down earnest money, and submitting a bid on the house. Despite her anxiety over taking such a big step, and never having bought a house before, he was a pro - and they didn't want this one to get away. That evening while making dinner, he came up behind her, wrapped his arms tightly around and Shane said, "Dana Hall, Will you marry me? I'm sorry, I don't have the ring yet because it's not finished, and this isn't the romantic surprise you wanted, but I know you're overwhelmed, so I thought I should get it all over with in one day." And she said, "Yes!"

DW-"We were married on April 18, 2003, just after we celebrated our two-year anniversary. We got married on Good Friday at the Suncoast Hotel and Casino then returned home by Sunday. Brendan moved to Cup in December and Shane went with him. Which meant I stayed behind to sell the house. Then I drove across the country with Jackson, our golden retriever by myself. I did the drive in two days. Jackson wasn’t a happy dog in the hotels. I had never been to North Carolina when we moved here but I encouraged him to move back to North Carolina. Shane had lived here for seven or so years before he went to Las Vegas. We were both in Las Vegas for four years, halfway through, we met. Then off to North Carolina!

LB-Tell us a little about your wedding and your parents involvement.......

DW- "On our wedding day, dad walked me down the aisle. Mom made my wedding dress. He and mom- both our entire families- have always been very supportive of us. It not only poured rain, but also hailed, on our wedding day, in Las Vegas! Can you imagine? We were supposed to have an outdoor wedding, and all our plans changed completely. It was as if the storm stayed over us, and was clear everywhere else in the valley. Everyone said it was good luck, and I agree. Both our families pulled together, worked side by side and with friends, to make a banquet room into a fairyland of sunflowers. Everyone has gotten along since, my parents have even come to Vermont for Christmas with Shane's family. A couple years ago, Mom and dad bought a house 2 miles from us in North Carolina, and go back and forth between here and Michigan. Shane's family has stayed there as well. To this day though, I'm pretty sure dad comes to visit us so he can see Shane (and the Late Model car), haha. "

LB-Future children?

DW-"Not at this point. We’re very happy and I love being an aunt. We have a lot of animals. I have two horses, we had a donkey named Shania Twain who left with Angelina Jolie to a new home, on 150 acres protecting cows. David Reutimann and Shane named them. We have three dogs with the puppy and two Guinea pigs named Thelma and Louise.

Dana is an athletic woman who excels at many different sports. Here you will see her enjoying these activities.

LB-So you are now competing in triathlons?
DW-"I did my first one two summers ago. I haven't decided on which one yet ... I might do more than one. I'm doing the Cooper River Bridge 10k April 2nd.

LB-What does your training consist of and do you train with someone or on your own?
DW-"The triathlons I'm interested in are White Lake May Dover weekend, Kure Beach Double Sprint Sonoma weekend and Lake Norman Bristol August weekend swimming, biking, running and strength training. I have a trainer, yes swimming two times a week, biking and running three times a week and strength training three times a week the triathlons are sprint distance triathlons ... they are usually half-mile swim, 15-20 mile bike and a 5k run."

LB-"Do you travel with Shane to the track?
DW-"I did when I was working more, but now I am able to ride the horses and shoot more."

LB-So taking off for a race right now isn't really in the cards?
DW-"I went to Daytona and Vegas. The biggest reason I didn't go to Bristol was because of the death of our dog Jackson."
Jackson and Betty. Jackson on the left passed away recently.
LB-When you say working, what exactly do you do?
DW-"Generically speaking I do event planning and execution, photography, PR, sponsor relations that weekend I'm working hospitality (the event execution part)."

The Points Penalty and Suspension
After Clint Bowyer, Shane Wilson and the No. 33 team won the Chase-opening race at New Hampshire last fall, the triumph was short lived. NASCAR docked Bowyer and car owner Richard Childress 150 points for failing a secondary post-race inspection. Wilson was fined $150,000, suspended for six races and put on probation until the end of the 2010 season. The points penalty knocked the team out of championship contention.

LB-What were your thoughts re: the points and suspension?

DW- "There is just so much more to it than what the media assists people in seeing. It was one of the hardest things I’ve had to go through with him. In a situation with a social media place like Twitter, saying that it wasn’t a big deal. To Shane it was a BIG DEAL. He’s an honest person. There’s a lot of things I can’t say. As a wife its difficult. As a wife you're helpless. How do you help someone go thorough that You finally get to the point where you can crack a joke and say something like, 'That’s not really how I want to see you on SportsCenter.' The truth is as the crew chief you are responsible ... whether you are responsible or not."

She was told by Ray Evernham that, “It’s the unfortunate part of the deal.”

DW-“I don’t know. It's hard to convey. The whole thing just broke my heart. I know it did the same to him."

During the suspension, Shane watched the race from home with Dana.

DW-"The win in Vegas was bittersweet, making the first two wins as a Cup chief somewhat hard to enjoy. The after effects and the ripples are still there. You learn who your friends are.”

LB-Does he think if it hadn’t happened that he’d have been up there in line for the championship?
DW-“Oh yes, definitely. Not a doubt in my mind.”

LB-Who has to pay the fine? Does RCR or does Shane? Or can you answer even answer it?
DW didn’t feel comfortable answering. Didn’t want to cause any issues. (Silence)

'More to the situation than people will ever know'

LB-Any comment on Jennifer Jo Cobb's situation. Does Shane mention anything as far as what people in the garage are saying? Just curious what you and Shane feel or think about it.?
DW-"This is going to be bad ... I have no clue what you're talking about LOL, what did she do?"

LB-She walked away 10 minutes before the green flag (at the Las Vegas Nationwide race). Her car owner, Rick Russell, asked her to start and park and she refused. Then it just grew from there. DW-"Oh. Wow. Intriguing. Shane and I try to avoid as much drama as possible. He never mentioned it to me..."

LB-She's been all over the NASCAR news scene. I don't know. A lot of people are saying she's a hero for standing her ground. Your opinion on a current situation would be an addition.
DW-"I suppose my first comment would be that there is most likely far more to the situation than people will ever know. Having gone through what Shane and I went through last year. I'll think on it and get back to you."

LB-After some time went by ...
DW-"I chatted with Shane a little, made for some interesting conversation. Not a very exciting answer, but here it is: Having gone through what Shane and I went through last year, I'm sure there is more to the story than people will ever know, regarding Jennifer's situation. So much goes into racing: time, money, effort, etc. I'm not in a position to cast judgment, especially since I don't have all the facts. Ultimately I'm a big believer in making decisions based on whether you'll be happy with how you handled yourself when it's all said and done.

"Is there a different current issue you'd like an opinion on? LOL."

It Takes Two ...

LB-Is there a particular time that stands out in your mind that you felt incredibly proud of Shane? I know you're always proud. But you know what I mean.
DW-"The proud thing is hard. He makes me proud every day, in one way or another. I guess I was proudest when he took his first cup crew chief job offer at Penske and we left Vegas. We were happy and comfortable there, he loved his job at Orleans Racing, and he chose to bet on himself, give his dream a chance. And so we left for North Carolina and here we are today. We also had a conversation one day and he said some of Crew Chiefs work their crews hard, I make mine want to work hard. He values them."

LB-When you and Shane have free time what do you like to do to relax and unwind?
DW-"We went for the very first time, two days in Belgium. Then into France. We live on Lake Norman. Spending time on the dock. During the suspension, the only positive thing that happened was that he was able to come and watch me win my first barrel race. Very exciting to have him there."

LB-Was it nice to have him around more while he was suspended? Did he drive you nuts?
DW-“It was nice having him around but it was a lot more work. Both to be honest."

LB-How was it when the team won in Vegas?
DW-“That was tough. Bittersweet. He’d worked so hard with the team. It was his team he put together last yet. And he has yet to be there when a race.”

LB-Are you close to other pit crew families? The dynamics of a team.
DW-“There is drama but very close. They were originally on 29 until the swap. But the 33 crew is very close. We spend time together."

I would like to personally thank Dana for allowing me to interview her. I can in no way convey to you on paper who she is as a person; very kind, very intelligent and extremely patient. You can contact her via Twitter at @MrsCrewChief.
WIN Series Presents: Dana Wilson WIN Series Presents: Dana Wilson Reviewed by Lindi Bess on Sunday, April 10, 2011 Rating: 5