O’Reilly Auto Parts 500


By John Sturbin

Reality TV star Chip Gaines’ reputation as “risk-taker” proved a perfect fit Sunday for his next great adventure - honorary pace car driver for Sunday’s AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway.

Chip and wife Joanna , hosts of HGTV’s Fixer Upper, experienced a real speed fix around TMS’ high-banked, 1.5-mile oval a few hours before the start of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoff race (1 p.m. CT, TV: NBC Sports Network, Radio: PRN, SiriusXM, 95.9 The Ranch locally).

Chip strapped into a 2018 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 pace car for training with a NASCAR official and then hopped in with Cup regular Ryan Newman as a passenger for a spin in the track’s official 2017 Chevy SS pace car.

“I’m telling you, what a rush!” said Gaines, who grew up in Colleyville and graduated from Grapevine High School in 1993. “The first time, just to get up to 45 in one of those cars, I felt like a grandma, you know? I was like, ’What is wrong with me?’ You’d think you’d want to gun it. It actually took me a second to get up to 45 mph, but once you got out on that track the rush of it all really hits you.”

Joanna and the couple’s children toured the track in another Camaro driven by NASCAR Hall of Famer Terry Labonte, a two-time Cup champion with Hendrick Motorsports and native of Corpus Christi.

Chip and Joanna, who met at Baylor University, have been flipping, remodeling and fixing up homes together for the past 12 years as owners of Magnolia Homes in Waco. The high-energy couple has worked on more than 100 homes, combining Chip's instincts on real estate with Joanna's eye for design.

Sunday morning on pit road, however, was all about pressing pedal to the metal in one of Chevrolet’s premier performance vehicles.

“I grew up literally right down the street watching this place being built in the late 1990s,” said Gaines, who graduated from Baylor in 1998 with a degree in business. “To be out here today, what an honor. A total, total rush. I joked with all my high school buddies that the Grapevine PD…I’m finally getting to drive the speed that I always hoped to drive without the negative ramifications.

“It was just 45 mph when I was doing the pace car, so I could get acclimated. But when we jumped in the big car, he (Newman) said we were over 100. The banking…he got us way up in the top corner. You know, I had the honor to fly in an F-16 six or seven months back, and it’s got a similar feel to it. It really shifts your body in a way that you can feel the Gs kind of falling on your chest. Maybe my foot wanted to fall off the pedal and slam on the brake, but he said, ‘Don’t do that. Keep going!’”

Gaines said his next rush would be pacing the 40-car field before the green flag falls on the 334-lap, 501-mile Round of 8 Playoff race.

“Absolutely!” Gaines said. “He (Newman) said when you look in that rear-view mirror and there’s nothing but the most amazing pieces of equipment on the planet, it’s quite a rush. I can’t wait to feel it.”

About the author

The Texas Motor Speedway Media Relations Department is located on the 6th floor of The Speedway Club outside of Turn 1 of the speedway. 

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