You see her in victory lane after every race and sometimes you see double. Both Anne- Marie Rhodes and Monica Palumbo have been the faces of the reincarnation of Miss Winston, playing a similar role for mobile giant Nextel and then Sprint after Sprint bought out the company and assumed the title sponsorship of the Cup Series. Rhodes sat down with Frontstretch’s Doug Turnbull at Talladega Superspeedway back in April to discuss the coming All-Star weekend, how she got the Miss Sprint Cup job, if she ever wants to get behind the wheel of a racecar, and the wildest things she has seen in victory lane.
Doug Turnbull, Frontstretch: How did you become Miss Sprint Cup?
Anne-Marie Rhodes: For about eight years, I lived in Los Angeles and I decided to move back to the South, to North Carolina, where I’m from. A month later I get a phone call saying that they’re [Sprint] going to begin this program, I went in the next day and that afternoon I got the job position. It was a pretty tough interview and this is my third year. It’s been amazing ever since.
Turnbull: Is there a limit on how long you remain in the position, kind of like with a beauty pageant winner?
Rhodes: No, it’s just a regular job. It just is what it is.
Turnbull: You obviously share Miss Sprint Cup duties with Monica Palumbo. How does that work? Do you rotate? How do you decide who does what?
Rhodes: We both go to bigger races. For example, we’re both here this weekend, we both love Talladega. We’re not gonna split those up. But we do split it up. Sometimes we go two and two. She’ll do two then I’ll do two. We just sort of rotate back and forth. We get along great; we have a ball together. We’ve always said we both want to be at every single race together, because we have so much more fun when we are together at the race. We’re kind of goofballs together.
Turnbull: We mostly see you in victory lane, so tell us about a race weekend, beginning from when you arrive at the track to what you do during the race when everyone is watching it.
Rhodes: It’s very, very busy. Our job is certainly not just victory lane. We spend most of our time at the Sprint Experience. It’s totally free and it’s something the fans can do before they go. I talk to so many fans and they tell me that’s one of their favorite stops they go to. We also do a lot of appearances – a lot of driver Q&As at the Sprint Experience.
We basically market anything and everything that Sprint has going on for NASCAR. So right now, we have the Sprint Fan Vote, you can vote on who you want to see in the 25th running of All-Star Race. We’re ambassadors for the sport and we’re running from place, to place, to place.
My favorite part of the job is that we’re hanging out with race fans. I get to hear their stories all weekend and get to tell them mine – because we are so close to victory lane. Fans want to be in victory lane – more than anything else. Since I get to be there, they get to hear my first hand scoop.
Turnbull: During the race, there aren’t that many people in the Sprint Experience, so where do you and Monica get to watch the race from? Do you sit on top of the Sprint hauler in the infield, or what?
Rhodes: We’re still working during the race. If we’re lucky, we get to see the whole race. A lot of times we get to see only bits and pieces, so I’ll have to record it and watch it at the beginning of the week. We’re usually going on suite visits and visiting customers or hanging out with fans, again. I love to be in the grandstands, I really do, so I always try to go watch the race from somewhere in the grandstands or with somebody.
Turnbull: You mention the inside scoop from victory lane, but Sprint is also offering another way for fans that are Sprint customers to see an aspect of the sport during the All-Star weekend, that they do not usually get to be a part of, right?
Rhodes: This is big, big, big news – it has never been done before. The driver’s meeting is something that fans have always wanted to be a part of and what Sprint has done, in bringing all of their technology into the sport, is actually let fans listen in on the driver’s meeting May 16th for that 25th running of the All-Star Race. So, they have to get NASCAR Sprint Cup Mobile to do so. It’s gonna be live on NASCAR Sprint Cup Mobile and on the Sprint Fan View at the track. That’s something that has never been done – it’s almost sacred.
Turnbull: Can you vote a driver into the All-Star Race via cell phone?
Rhodes: For the Sprint Fan Vote, you can vote right now. If you don’t have a Sprint phone, you can go to Sprint.com/speed and vote there. If you’re at the track, you can vote at the Sprint Experience, but the NASCAR Sprint Cup Mobile vote counts double.
Turnbull: Since you are a race fan, are there any drivers that you are pulling for to win that vote?
Rhodes: I will say that I am pulling for AJ Allmendinger for the fan vote. I can’t say that I have a favorite driver, since I am in victory lane so much. I can’t pull for a favorite – that would just not be fair. I honestly change it every single week. I’m there one week with one driver and I think he’s my favorite then the next week another will be your favorite. I can’t pull for just one.
Turnbull: Is there a particular story that you can share from victory lane that we wouldn’t necessarily know?
Rhodes: When we’re standing there, we see the drivers pull in and see that initial look on their face when they arrive. I cannot put into words the smile on their face at that very moment. It is a moment I wish I could take a picture of. I remember last year when Dale Earnhardt Jr. won in Michigan, the look on his face when he won on Father’s Day – it is just so incredible. That’s something I think that I’ll remember from victory lane.
The most memorable for me was probably day one on the job, when I got to kiss the bricks at Indy, when Tony Stewart won in 2007. It was incredible. My dad told me I had to kiss the bricks and I thought that I would never get to do that. And Tony and them were like, ‘C’mon!’ So, I got to kiss the bricks. That was probably the coolest thing that I have ever done.
Turnbull: Have you ever gotten to the Richard Petty Driving Experience and/or gotten behind the wheel of a racecar?
Rhodes: My brothers have done that tons of times and they keep telling me that they are going to get me that for my birthday. They haven’t done it yet. I think they think I am going to be a chicken. I’d rather ride. I don’t want to do the driving thing. I did get to ride in a Corvette at Indy and that scared me to death. I wouldn’t pass up the opportunity – absolutely not.
Turnbull: What are your thoughts on the changes to the All-Star Race format, with the re-addition of the 10-lap shootout at the end?
Rhodes: I say bravo – bring it on! Let’s go green for 10 laps and see what happens – absolutely.
Listen to Doug on The Allan Vigil Ford Lincoln Mercury 120 Racing Show with Captain Herb Emory this Saturday from 2-4 p.m. on News/Talk 750 WSB in Atlanta and online at wsbradio.com.