Friday, September 14, 2012

Women in NASCAR Presents: Jordan Fish

Welcoming in the new year
Dec. 31, 2011  
When Jordan Fish locked eyes with Denny Hamlin across a basketball court, she had never been to a NASCAR race or even watched one on television. She was just doing her job, performing a sideline dance for the Charlotte Bobcats.

Dance was a constant in Jordan’s life from the time she was a preschooler, so it’s fitting that it played a role in meeting her sweetheart years later.


A little bit of history...

Linsey, Jordan (right) & their parents
Christmas 1989
Jordan Lauren Fish was born Oct. 27, 1987 and raised near Charlotte in Fort Mill, South Carolina. Her parents divorced when she and her sister, Linsey, were very young. Each parent remarried, and then divorced again, so Jordan has what she calls “a very blended family.” In addition to Linsey, she has a half-sister and half-brother, and she remains close with both parents, her siblings and extended family.

Jordan at 11 years old
 in her tap recital costume
Jordan learned her dancing skills in tap, ballet and jazz classes throughout her childhood. When she didn’t make the freshman cheerleading squad, Jordan joined the dance team, performing routines at half time for basketball games. That experience led to a big opportunity – dancing for an NBA team, the Charlotte Bobcats.

Jordan spoke about her two seasons dancing for the Bobcats: “The best thing about it was I got to do what I love to do ... dance and perform. I absolutely loved everybody at the Bobcats. They’re like my second family. The fact that I met Denny through there - that is a special story. It was cool how we met.”


In her own words, here's how Jordan Fish became Denny Hamlin's sweetheart:

I was dancing for the Bobcats and the dancers sit on the sidelines while the game is going on. Denny has two friends, Jason White, who is a (NCWTS) truck driver, and Ron Herbert, who owns Red Rock Café. Denny used to race go-karts with Jason growing up. They were sitting on the sideline and Denny was across on the other side of the court.

Jason and Ron asked me, “Do you like guys who take left turns?” I was like, “What? What are they talking about?” I knew nothing about NASCAR. The whole time, the security guard is saying, “Sir, you can’t talk to the cheerleaders.” They said, “Do you know any NASCAR drivers?” I was like “Um, Dale Gordon?” I didn’t know a thing.

I saw him (Denny) from across the court. When I had a sideline dance, I went over and danced in front of him. I smiled at him, and he smiled back at me. So I didn’t meet him really, we just made eye contact.
A kiss before Denny gets in his car
Photo credit: Lori Nizolek
The next day, my girlfriend who was on the dance team called me. She said, “Jordan, there’s this guy who wants to go out with you. He drives in NASCAR. His name is Danny Hamlin. She chopped his name up. (This was January 2007. It was the off-season for him.)

I called him. He just didn’t seem interested. I just really didn’t click with him. I told Denny, “It’s nice talking to you, ...I’m sorry, I’m sorta talking to this other guy.” He said “That’s okay. I completely understand. I was together with my girlfriend for 7 years.” So me and the other guy dated for six months and ended up breaking up.

(Later) I was doing the Miss South Carolina USA pageant. I had to get sponsorship. I didn’t have any money, was a broke college kid. My friend was like, “Why don’t you get that NASCAR driver who likes you to sponsor you in the pageant.” I said, “That’s a great idea!” So I called him and said “Would you want to sponsor me?” and he’s like “Sure!” I said, "How about I’ll take you to dinner as a thank you?"

So that’s what we did, we went to dinner. I had such a good time with him that I didn’t even care if I got the sponsorship money at that point. When we hugged, I had butterflies in my stomach. It was the first time we hugged. And so then he runs in the house and gets me a check for my sponsorship - it was so sweet.

We were inseparable for about two weeks straight before I went to school. We just clicked. I remember him asking me to be his girlfriend the day before I left for college. It was hard our first six months or so. I was driving back and forth every weekend, 3-4 hour drive each time. The only time I could see him was on the weekend and that’s when he was working. We broke up a couple times because it was way too hard.

Jordan & Denny's dogs taking a nap
Missy (left) and Andy
Despite the bumps in the road, their story has a happy ending. Now Jordan and Denny live in Huntersville with their two dogs: Andy, a pit bull mix, and Missy, a Jack Russell terrier. Jordan is close with Denny’s parents, Mary Lou and Dennis, and spends time with Mary Lou on most race weekends. She talks to Denny’s sister, Lisa, almost every day.

You’d think a certain driver would ask his dancer girlfriend for expert dancing advice before Bristol, right? Nope. At driver intros in March, Hamlin wowed the crowd with his interpretation of “the Dougie.” Before Bristol this month, Jordan asked him about his dance, thinking he might want a few lessons. She described the conversation like this:

Bristol August 2012
Credit: Tyler Barrick/Getty Images
Jordan: “What are you gonna go out to for your Bristol song?”
Denny: “I’m gonna do the Wobble.”
Jordan: “Do you even know how to wobble?”
Denny: “No.”

“I guess he practiced on his own,” Jordan said. “He went out there and did so well. I was so proud of him!”

For Jordan, though, dancing has gone by the wayside, trumped by other things like career and family. She took time from her busy schedule to chat with Skirts and Scuffs.

Beth Reinke (BR): Are you on the road with Denny a lot?

Jordan & Denny at the track
Jordan Fish (JF): I work during the week, eight hours a day. It’s a juggling act because I’m working and my paid time off days, I’m trying to save them as much as I can. Denny usually leaves Thursday or earlier because of appearances. I work Friday and fly out on the team plane. It’s nice because I can work during the week and still get to see him on the weekend. It’s a lot to handle, especially being pregnant because I’m tired a lot.

Celebrating Jordan's graduation from ECU
December 2011
BR: I understand you graduated East Carolina University in 2011. What was your major and where are you working now?

JF: I majored in communications with a minor in public relations. I work for NASCAR Media Group in their library area. I started there as a paid internship and then it became my full-time job.

BR: Explain what you do in your job at NASCAR Media Group.

JF: I watch a lot of race footage and put it in our archives. I tag it with metadata. It’s a very nerdy position. (laughs) I’m specifically assigned to qualifying. When I see a driver on track, I tag it with (for example) “Jimmie Johnson,” “48 car,” “hood sponsor is Lowe’s.”

Then producers ask for it if they need to make a specific promo. Say they want a money shot - that’s Victory Lane when the driver climbs out of the car. So they’ll say, “Hey, can we have a money shot of Kevin Harvick?” They tell us which race and we find it. I never thought it would be something I would do, but I’ve enjoyed it. It is basically the preservation of NASCAR history.

Jordan and "pilot Denny" getting ready to fly
BR: What are your career aspirations overall?

JF: I just got asked yesterday if I wanted to do some of the wardrobe assisting or styling for the show they shoot at NASCAR Media Group on Tuesday - Inside NASCAR on Showtime on DirecTV. The hosts are Michael Waltrip, Chris Myers and Kyle Petty. I will be doing that from Sept. 11th. I’ll be assisting wardrobe, so I’ll be styling them.

I thought I wanted to get into broadcast and media and maybe do on-air stuff. But since the baby is coming, that’s kind of being put on hold right now. A few months ago I was saying, “God, please, just show me what it is I’m supposed to be doing.” Then I found out I was pregnant. He (God) was like, “You’re meant to be a mom.” So right now it’s kinda up in the air, so we’ll see where my career takes me.

Golfing in the Bahamas
Easter 2012
BR: Speaking of prayer, what role does faith play in your life?

JF: It plays a pretty prominent role. We have a weekly Bible study at my office (led by Connice Dyar, women’s chaplain at Joe Gibbs Racing.) She comes every Thursday and she does a weekly women’s Bible study. It’s really nice because with racing, it’s hard to go to church. The one thing that has been consistent is Connice coming up to NASCAR Media Group. She prays with me about my pregnancy and about what is going on. We’ve been getting together to go to lunch and just kinda having some one-on-one time, praying and spending time with the Lord. It’s been really nice.

Her husband (Bob Dyar) is a chaplain at Joe Gibbs Racing. I got really close with him and he would come pray with us before the race, before Denny got in the racecar.

BR: Joe Gibbs has a legendary faith. What is your impression of him?

JF: I know that he has impacted Denny. Joe has made him turn around in a sense, when it comes to faith. I definitely would say Joe has influenced him in a very positive way to become the man that he is today.

BR: You have Proverbs 31 from the Bible on your Twitter profile. Why did you choose that passage?

Jordan and her sister, Linsey
picking out a Christmas tree
November 2011
JF: I think it just reminds me of the woman that I want to be. It talks about being a good wife and a good mother and a good servant to the Lord. And that is something that I aspire to be. I know that I am not that, and people probably think, “Oh, that’s arrogant!” but that’s not what I mean. It’s something that I aspire to be. My mom is a great Christian woman, so is my sister. They both have great hearts. If I can be anything for my daughter, I just wanted her to know that I have a good heart and so does her dad.

BR: Speaking of your daughter, you recently announced you and Denny are expecting in January and you recently found out the gender.

JF: Now I can actually refer to her as a “her” versus an “it.” When I got pregnant I just had a feeling that she was a girl. I told everybody, “I think she’s a girl."

When we went to find out I told Denny, do you want to make a bet ... 20 bucks or something? He said “I think it’s a girl.” And I said, “Well, I think it’s a girl!” (laughs)

When we were in there, we couldn’t see what she was. The ultrasound lady was pressing (on my belly) to make her turn. Finally we got a clear shot and she was like “Oh, it looks like a little girl.” He was like, “I knew it!” I was grinning from ear to ear. I knew it, too. I just had a feeling. It’s parents’ intuition that we both knew.

Jordan & Denny cut the pink cake
at their "gender reveal" party.
BR: What preparations are you making for the baby?

JF: We didn’t really tell a lot of people that we were pregnant, together. It was real separate because I told my family when he was racing. He told his family early on. We never got to share that news together. I was really disappointed about that, so I said for the sex we have to do it together.

We did this big gender reveal. It was so much fun. All our friends and family were yelling “pink, blue, pink, blue!” Then we cut the cake and it was pink inside. It was so exciting. The whole room was filled with so much love and joy.

BR: What are your thoughts and feelings on becoming a mom in January, just a few months away?

JF: I have a lot of feelings. I’m nervous. I’m anxious. I’m excited. I’m emotional. Our friends just had their twins the other day. I saw Denny hold the girl twin and it was just so emotional. It was so sweet to see him hold her. He was telling our friends, “Your son better stay away from my daughter.” And just hearing him say “my daughter,” that is just insane. We’re gonna have a little girl here soon who is ours. It makes me emotional.

Denny actually felt her kick last night. He was like, “Oh my gosh!” It’s surreal to know there is actually somebody inside of you depending on you.

BR: Have you sought advice from anyone about motherhood yet?

JF: Everybody wants to give me advice. (laughs) “Don’t tell anybody the name, keep it to yourself.” “You need to get a night nurse.” I’ve heard so much advice already. I talked to Nicole Biffle, (because) she’s got a little girl. Denny’s mom is giving me advice. It’s just too much to think about. It’s a lot of decisions to make.

I signed Denny up for his Dads 411 class in December. It’s basically like a dad’s prep class and they learn how to do diapers and stuff like that. He’s like “I’m not doing that,” and I’m like, “Yes, you are.”

Jordan said she has received one consistent word of advice about motherhood: “Everybody says, ‘It’s gonna be the best job you’ll ever have.’” And in her heart, she knows that will be true.

Jordan's favorite Bible verse:
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. ~ Philippians 4:13
Photo credit: Linsey Nealey
"When I think I can't do anything anymore, when I'm at my wit's end,
I know I can do it through God." ~ Jordan Fish

Follow Jordan on Twitter or Facebook

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On behalf of Skirts and Scuffs, I would like to thank Jordan for taking the time to talk with me and for her generous help with the photos. It was an honor and a blessing to interview her.

Unless noted otherwise, photos are from the Fish family album.
Please do not copy, reproduce or share these photos in any way.
Special thanks to Lori Nizolek for use of her photo.
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Beth Bence Reinke writes "Gibbs Garage," Joe Gibbs Racing Sprint Cup team recaps, for the 2012 season. Her Skirts and Scuffs column, “Faith on the Frontstretch,” explores the role of faith in motorsports.

Beth is also the author of Race Fans’ Devotions to Go, a devotional book geared toward female NASCAR fans. Follow her on Twitter at @bbreinke or e-mail her at bbreinke@skirtsandScuffs.com