Saturday Spotlight: A race towards healing

by: Sarah Lively, web producer Updated:

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CONCORD - Nancy Pennell battled cancer three times. She fought through breast cancer in 2000 and pancreatic cancer in 2010. In May of 2013, the pancreatic cancer returned for good.

She was surrounded by family when she passed away in February, including her husband Wayne and daughter Jessica. Nancy and Wayne were inseparable.

Andrea Sophia, a college friend of Jessica’s, wanted to do something nice for Wayne, whose birthday was the day after Nancy’s funeral.

Sophia reached out to the Richard Petty Driving Experience to see about purchasing an experience for Wayne. To her surprise, a representative contacted her and said they wanted to provide the experience to Wayne at no cost.

“It was just something nice to do,” said Sophia. “I wish a lot of people would give back.”

She lives in Atlanta, but she immediately called her friend to tell her about the experience.

“I was blown away that she would consider getting something for him,” Jessica said.

Jessica, her boyfriend Matty, and Wayne made the roughly hour and 15 minute drive from High Point to Charlotte Motor Speedway on Saturday, April 12.

Jessica was impressed that they were able to stay with Wayne until he got into the car.

“When we got there we were able to see everything,” she said.

There were 14 people in attendance of that timeframe’s experience. They took a class to prepare participants for what to expect on the track. Then, Wayne was fitted for a suit and helmet.

He then headed out for his rookie experience. For this particular one, a driver rides around with participants inside of the car. Wayne posed for pictures with the No. 43 car, listened to instructions, and then took off around the track.

The No. 43 car belonged to Richard Petty, who lost his wife Lynda earlier this year.

Click here to watch raw footage from Wayne's experience, courtesy of the Richard Petty Driving Experience.

“He did it like a pro; he was in and out of (the driver window). He said how awesome (the experience) was. Said he didn’t know if he’d do it again,” said Jessica with a laugh.

Jessica said there is a board on the wall at Wayne’s work that says “What makes you happy today?” Wayne recently wrote on the board, “The NASCAR Experience.”

Nancy’s family has set up a team in her honor for the upcoming Raleigh PurpleStride Awareness Walk for Pancreatic Cancer on May 17. If you would like to learn more about Nancy, or donate to the team, click here.

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