Brandy Madrid, a 35-year-old mother of two, who spends her days grinding away at her day job as a nurse, knows that her daughter’s high school softball team needs a new scoreboard.
Despite putting in long hours at her day job, and even more working on her side hustle, Desert Smiles AZ (an open-air photo booth) at late-night events on the weekends, Madrid decided she would do volunteer work in the concession stand at Phoenix Raceway during the NASCAR Championship Race Weekend in an effort to raise money for Peoria High School to obtain enough money to purchase a new scoreboard for their softball team.
At the end of the race weekend, Madrid was exhausted. But the inventory of the concession stand still needed to be done before her team could leave for the night. Madrid opted to allow the rest of the team to head home, while she took care of the inventory herself.
Finally, at around 8:00 PM local time, Madrid, who had only had four hours of sleep the night before due to an event with her photo booth running well past midnight, finished inventory and it was time to head to her car. There was just one problem… the normal parking lot that Madrid is allowed to park in for the concession stand, which is near the light tower and the tram, was not an option for Sunday’s race.
Instead, she was relegated to a dirt parking lot, but in the haze of her tiredness, and the lack of lighting in the parking areas, Madrid could not find her car.
“Inside the track, I asked if someone could please drive me. I had probably already walked about three miles trying to look for somebody, and these two girls told me they couldn’t take me outside of the gate,” Madrid recalled in an interview with TobyChristie.com. “I was just so tired. I called my mom and I said I just wanted to cry.”
The Phoenix Raceway passenger tram, which was available to take fans and workers to the desolate dirt parking lot throughout the weekend, had shut down for the night. After searching in the dark, and not having much luck in getting any help, Madrid was starting to lose hope until she saw headlights.
“Then I see headlights coming at me, so I start waving like help me, please,” Madrid said. “The guy pulled up and I just started to cry. I’m not an emotional person, but I was like, ‘I’m so tired, and I don’t even know how far away I am from my car.'”
The driver told her to get in and that he would help her find her car.
Madrid, now with help from a good Samaritan, began the quest to find her car. After a few minutes, the driver and Madrid spot a man giving rides to people on a golf cart, and after a brief conversation, Madrid and the man find out that the golf cart driver is heading to the same place that Madrid needs to go.
The good samaritan asks the hired golf cart driver if they wouldn’t mind taking Madrid to the lot as well, and the golf cart driver responded with, “Oh no, I only take my employees.”
Madrid and the good Samaritan drove off and the man driving Madrid around expressed frustration as the golf cart driver was literally going where Madrid needed to be. Madrid responded, “I know! This has been my luck all day. This is what has happened to me.”
Things got quite confusing as they continued to search for Madrid’s car.
Along the way, Madrid and the man wound up driving into a campground somehow. At one point they also found themselves stuck in a lot due to some barricades. The driver had to get out and move the obstructions to be able to continue the search. Things hit a comical crescendo as they reached a dead end at a river bank.
Madrid, who was beyond apologetic to the driver at this point, was feverishly clicking her car’s keyfob hoping she’d be able to spot her car’s lights flashing or hear its locking chirp in the distance to get an indication of where they needed to go.
Finally, as all hope appeared to be lost, Madrid and the driver spotted her car!
Madrid, in absolute gratitude to the good Samaritan, offered to pay them via Zelle for the ride to her car. She offered up her bag of cookies that she had with her and she even offered the man a NASCAR Championship shirt that the volunteer concession team members were given for working the race weekend.
As Madrid was offering up anything she had on her as a reward to the driver, the driver turned his head toward Madrid, who was sitting in the right rear passenger seat, and it was at this time that Madrid was floored.
“Oh my god, it’s dark and I can only see the side of you,” Madrid said, “but has anybody ever told you that you look just like Jeff Gordon?”
The man turned all the way around and looked directly at Madrid and said, “I am Jeff Gordon.”
Madrid, who was already overly emotional due to the lack of sleep, the hard day, and the even more difficult journey to find her car, began sobbing again.
“I felt like such an idiot, like, such an idiot,” Madrid laughed.
After a few moments of chatting, Madrid asked Gordon for a quick selfie, which he obliged and then Gordon and Madrid went on their separate ways. Madrid chose to share the endearing moments with a driver, who she admits was her favorite growing up despite her father being a lifelong Rusty Wallace fan, on social media.
An old adage suggests that you should never meet your heroes because often times celebrities or athletes rarely live up to your preconceived notions of who they are. With 93 victories and four championships as a driver in the NASCAR Cup Series, Jeff Gordon was an undeniable legend on the track.
But Gordon proved Sunday night that he’s an equally legendary human being off of the track.
Sunday, at Phoenix Raceway, Gordon’s Hendrick Motorsports team was expected to be in contention for a NASCAR Cup Series Championship all race long. However, the team suffered a rough day when Chase Elliott was spun from contention in the final stage of the event.
In the end, Elliott finished 28th, two laps off the pace of the 2022 champion Joey Logano, who won the race. Even with Elliott’s day dashed, HMS had a chance to secure the owner’s championship with Kyle Larson, as the No. 5 team was still alive in that battle as well. But the driver of the No. 5 could only muster a ninth-place finish in the race.
After a disappointing day on the track for his Hendrick Motorsports team, it would have been easy for Gordon to do what so many did to Madrid that evening at Phoenix Raceway, but he didn’t. He didn’t choose to take the road less traveled and leave her stranded. Instead, Gordon chose to help the hard working mother of two, who was only at Phoenix Raceway in a volunteer effort to help her daughter’s softball team fundraise.
“He had a bad day, and a million things to do and he still took the time,” Madrid said. “I am so thankful.”
Gordon picked up a bucket of good karma with his kind gesture and Madrid now has the story of a lifetime to tell her friends and family.
While the parents of the softball team players volunteering for concession work at Phoenix Raceway did help raise money for the Peoria High School Lady Panthers Softball team to get a new scoreboard, they still have a ways to go.
If you would like to help Madrid and her quest to help her daughter’s softball team obtain a new scoreboard to their stadium, you can reach out to the Lady Panthers Softball Booster Club on Facebook.