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Miss SprintCup

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Miss SprintCup

Post  Rick#3 on Thu Nov 05, 2009 9:08 am

Each week, millions of TV viewers see Miss Sprint Cup — bright eyes, wide smile, long brown hair — perfectly positioned over the winner’s shoulder during the postrace interview in victory lane. For 30 seconds or so, she lights up the screen — all without saying a word. After she’s been doused with champagne, water, Gatorade or beer, she’s always smiling and nodding along with the winner.

“I’m sure most people only see us in victory lane and think, ‘There’s Miss Bobblehead back there,’ ” says Monica Palumbo, one of the two women who wear the Miss Sprint Cup firesuit.

But being Miss Sprint Cup is a big job.

Palumbo and Anne-Marie Rhodes (right) are the faces of the sport’s biggest sponsor and have job descriptions to match.

While they are most visible during those fleeting moments after the race, victory lane is just another stop on a very busy schedule that now, with their recent forays into blogging and reporting, goes pretty much 24/7.

Their calendars — filled with appearances, interviews and photo shoots throughout the week and on race weekends — rival that of any Cup driver.

And at the track, they get about as much private time as a driver. Donning their black and yellow firesuits amounts to pinning a “talk to me” sign on their backs. They interact with fans at every turn and incredibly, always greet them with a smile. Miss Sprint Cup takes the title of Miss Congeniality to new heights. (And no wonder:

Palumbo was awarded the title of Miss Congeniality in the 2001 Miss USA pageant.)

But hanging out with fans is the heart of their job. While Sprint has about as much exposure in the sport as possible — it’s hard to beat having the Cup Series named after the company — Palumbo and Rhodes are there to win over people one smile at a time.

“Every second of our job involves talking to and connecting with fans,” Rhodes says.

Hard-Working Women

Fortunately, they don’t spend every moment wading through seas of fans at the track.

Palumbo, 28, and Rhodes, 29, share the burden of the crown, alternating weekends throughout the long NASCAR season. Of course, weekends like the Sprint All-Star Race, Daytona races, Speedweeks and the final race of the season require both of them at the track.

During a typical week, they report for duty at the Sprint offices in Mooresville, N.C., to plan their weekend schedules and handle any media obligations — radio shows, commercials, photo shoots and television spots.

On Tuesday mornings, they visit the winning team’s shop with breakfast to congratulate and celebrate with them. On Thursdays, they head to the airport to fly out to the race track and usually return on Sunday or Monday, depending on the day and time of the race.

Who’s That Girl?

So how did the two women get this gig?

Rhodes credits her agent, Marilyn Green, the original Miss Winston.

“She is like my second mother,” Rhodes says. “In 2007, when I moved back to North Carolina from Los Angeles [where I was modeling], I got a call from Marilyn and she told me they were looking for Miss Sprint Cup. I went for an interview the next day and they called me in the afternoon to tell me I got it. Ever since then it’s been a whirlwind and the best job I’ve ever had.”

A native of Sanford, N.C., Rhodes has been a race fan since she was a child.

“I can absolutely say hands down, I was born and raised a NASCAR fan,” she says. “I have a huge family and they all like NASCAR. My little brother raced late models.”
While Rhodes had close ties to racing, Palumbo, who was Miss North Carolina in 2001, was not quite as familiar with the sport.

“I was born and raised in Charlotte so racing has been the topic of conversation for many years,” Palumbo says. “I had never had the opportunity to go to a race until I started doing mobile marketing for Bobby Labonte. I fell in love immediately and haven’t looked back since. The weekends I’m not at the track, I feel like I am missing something. I’ve become a die-hard race fan.”

With a desire to work in television and film, Palumbo got a degree in musical theater from East Carolina University and then moved to New York City. It was there that she landed a guest co-host spot on “Live with Regis and Kelly.” She then moved to L.A. to expand her television experience into film and landed a small role in the movie
“Shallow Hal.”

That the two young ladies took such different paths to the job has actually turned out to be an asset.

“Their differing backgrounds and experience help them complement each other,” says Steve Gaffney, director of sports and entertainment marketing for Sprint. “Anne-Marie has a strong motorsports background and is a lifelong NASCAR fan, whereas Monica has a comprehensive background in television.”

Inside The Sprint Experience

Despite the fact that they approach the sport differently, both Rhodes and Palumbo shine when they work the crowd in the Mecca to all things Sprint: the sprawling Sprint Experience.

Located in the midway outside of the track, where anyone can visit, it’s a hybrid of rock concert, game room, party, race museum and Sprint store. There are hundreds of fans and it’s usually hot, but the energy is intense and it’s a good place to play games that offer up prizes like garage and pit tours, trips to victory lane and meet-and-greet sessions with drivers.

And when Palumbo or Rhodes are interviewing drivers in the infield, those interviews are broadcast live via Sprint Vision to large monitors inside the Sprint Experience.

There is a DJ playing music from a stage where Miss Sprint Cup conducts some of her interviews with the drivers and celebrities that make appearances at the Experience.

Before and after their arrivals, Palumbo or Rhodes toss out prizes like T-shirts, CDs and key chains to fans in pep-rally-style to get everyone excited for the race.

This is also where fans can play Digital Lounge, a music trivia game. Four fans are called to the stage, a spin wheel chooses the genre of music and the first of the four fans to guess five songs correctly from that genre (the DJ plays the tunes) wins a free rental of a Sprint FanView — a serious scanner with all kinds of bells and whistles like real-time stats, live race radio and in-car cameras and audio.

The most popular game — and the favorite of both Palumbo and Rhodes — is Sprint Plinko. Like the Plinko game featured on “The Price is Right,” fans drop chips down a large board and win prizes.

“The fans go nuts over Plinko,” Rhodes says. “We’ve had people run off with the chips.”

Fans who aren’t up for games can take a seat in one of the six racing simulators, put on a pair of 3-D glasses and test their skills behind the wheel.

When the duo isn’t playing game show host or chatting up drivers like Kasey Kahne and celebrities like Kevin Costner, they take photos with fans and sign autographs.

“There have been several times when we’re taking pictures [with fans] and the person will sneak in a kiss on my cheek right before the flash is about to go off,” Palumbo says. “I always get a kick out of it.

“A lot of people get confused because of the ‘Miss’ in the front [of the title]. They think there is pageantry involved but we’re a Sprint spokesperson for the sport.

There is no firesuit competition or bikini modeling — none of that stuff.

“We spend most of our time in the Sprint Experience hanging out with fans, showing them new Sprint products and moderating driver and celebrity appearances and interviews. That’s the fun part to me.”

Like Palumbo, Rhodes enjoys all the Sprint activities and hanging out with the race fans at the track.

“I love meeting the fans and making connections with them,” Rhodes says. “I try to spend as much time talking to fans as I can. I like that I meet and interact with real people.

“Years from now, it’s the people that I’ve met and the stories that I’ve heard that I’ll take away from this experience.”
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Re: Miss SprintCup

Post  Racing Rocks on Fri Nov 06, 2009 3:29 pm

Gotta say those girls are hot.... But it's also nice to see where they came from, and what they are about....

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