One Fan’s Passion for NASCAR: Meet Mary Lou Briggs

Mary Lou Briggs hugs her Denny Hamlin brick at the
NASCAR Hall of Fame.
Courtesy of Mary Lou Briggs
NASCAR fans can be summed up in one word – passionate. Mary Lou Briggs is definitely passionate about NASCAR, but even more so about Daytona and her favorite driver Denny Hamlin. For over 40 years, Mary Lou has been fortunate enough to live in the Daytona area and be in attendance at nearly every Daytona 500 ever since. Many NASCAR fans dream of just heading to one, but Briggs has been to so many she cannot count on just her fingers and toes anymore.

“I am very lucky,” said Briggs of her fortune to live in the Daytona area and be blessed to attend so many races.

Having lived in central Florida since 1966, Briggs has a lifelong interest in cars. As she says, “Once I entered that tunnel at Daytona, there was no staying away.”

Although she lives in the area, Briggs has gone to extremes to see her favorite races. She recalled sleeping in her car while in the parking lot just to be able to see the race. Briggs also shared memories with me of the olden days of racing - no RVs but just standing atop your car on the infield grass, jumping up and down and cheering on your favorite driver.

Graced by so many memories, it was hard for Mary Lou to choose a favorite. But after pondering for a moment, she remembered one of her earliest memories of Daytona.

“I went with my mom and brothers in the station wagon,” she said. “I was hanging on the fence between Turns 3 and 4. I remember hanging on the fence and it was under caution. Richard Petty came by - he was the man - I was waving and waving. He turned his head! I swore that he looked right at me. All I thought was ‘Richard Petty looked right at me!’ and I still remember that to this day. That was 40 years ago and that was one of my first races.”

Briggs also told me of the time she saw herself in an old video of the 1981 Daytona 500, while she was eight months pregnant. In the infield, standing on top of her car (keeping in mind she is eight months pregnant), Briggs and her family watched Geoff Bodine wreck in front of them.

“It was about two years ago, I was watching a replay of the race and they showed the wreck … there I was in the background of it. Eight months pregnant, standing on my car and pointing at Geoff Bodine and for all these years I never knew about the video. I bought the DVD just so I could watch that part.”

Mary Lou and Denny as seen on her Facebook profile.
Continuing the walk down memory lane at Daytona, Briggs went on to talk of more recent races:

“I think it was 2007, I had a credit card where if you cashed in points you could wave the green flag, and I got to go up into the flag stand during qualifying and wave the flag for Denny Hamlin. Oh my gosh! They played the National Anthem first before qualifying; I was just in tears because I was so excited. From being in the infield, to being in the flagstand and waving the flag for him – that blew me away.”

The great experiences for this lucky fan do not stop there - Mary Lou has even had the opportunity to ride along during driver introductions with Hamlin, and not just once, either.

“I have gone at Atlanta twice and Charlotte once,” Briggs said as she tried to remember.

Teaching me along the way, Briggs explained that the chance to ride along with a driver is bought through a charity auction.

“I save up every penny! They take credit cards so you can pay it later,” Briggs said, laughing.

I found out about Mary Lou through our Skirt and Scuffs photographer, Debbie, who told me Briggs is a collector of NASCAR items, specifically those of her driver Hamlin. Well, that is putting it mildly, as you can see.

Everyone has a Denny Hamlin car nose in their living room, right?
Briggs' entire house is dedicated to her NASCAR collectibles. An avid eBay user, Mary Lou supports buying for charities first and foremost. From tires to sheetmetal and even a gas can – you name it, Mary Lou has it. Looking through her photos, I think she has enough sheetmetal to assemble a brand new car – no engine yet, though.

“I love the race-used pieces because there is only one in the world,” Briggs said as she and I chatted about her collection.

Briggs' love for NASCAR even parlays into her job as a teacher. Her classroom is NASCAR-themed. From a victory lane reading area, checkered flags and of course Hamlin, Mary Lou is immersing her students into the NASCAR way of life. (Who wants to join me in going back to school?)

Victory lane reading area in Brigg's classroom.
From Daytona to Denny and more, Mary Lou Briggs' story is simply fascinating. She has had opportunities most of us dream of, but yet is so humble about it because she is just living out her NASCAR dream along with her husband Rusty.

Amanda Ebersole brings the readers of Skirts and Scuffs interviews and insight into the people who make NASCAR the sport we all love. Besides interviews, Amanda also writes her weekly columns In the Rearview Mirror and NASCAR By the Numbers. Catch up on all Amanda's writing by clicking here. Feel free to contact Amanda via Twitter or e-mail.
One Fan’s Passion for NASCAR: Meet Mary Lou Briggs One Fan’s Passion for NASCAR: Meet Mary Lou Briggs Reviewed by Unknown on Thursday, February 16, 2012 Rating: 5