A Birthday Wish 100 Years in the Making

Thursday, Apr 28 2017

Rachel Gilbert of Laconia, N.H. proved that the need for speed can hit at any age, by taking a spin around New Hampshire Motor Speedway, in the tracks pace car, to celebrate her 100th birthday.

Gilbert’s centennial celebration got off to a flying start today, when she hopped in a Toyota Camry pace car, similar to the one that will set the field for the LENOX Industrial Tools 301 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race on July 17.

"This was such a surprise," said Gilbert.  "I had such a great teacher, I loved it."

Jerry Gappens, the speedway’s executive vice president, general manager and driving instructor for the day was able to ride shotgun, as this lifelong race fans dream was fulfilled.

“Rachel is a true pace setter,” said Gappens. “We wanted to take the opportunity and celebrate this special occasion with her and her family.”

Her life in the fast lane accelerated as early as 1960 when she followed her husband and "the good ole' boys" to Loudon, N.H.’s, Bryar Motorsports Park.  Nearly two decades later, while Gilbert’s family was vacationing in Florida, they attended the Daytona 500 where she saw stock car legends Richard Petty and Bobby Allison fight to the finish.  Then she was hooked.

As part of this ultimate birthday celebration Gilbert and her family will receive suite passes overlooking “The Magic Mile,” where they will enjoy every lap of the LENOX Industrial Tools 301.

Gilbert will also have the opportunity to rub elbows with the stars of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series during the Sunday morning drivers’ meeting.

The longtime race fan was surprised with this once in a lifetime opportunity from her family and Gappens. When told she would be riding around the speedway in the pace car, she was ready to leave for Loudon immediately.

Included in her birthday package was a race car cake, an official LENOX Industrial Tools 301 hat, NHMS jacket and birthday card. Her favorite driver Carl Edwards even signed and sent an official crew shirt and birthday wishes.

“My mom has always been a major race fan. She doesn’t miss a race on TV,” says daughter Marie Anne Mills.

Marie also had the opportunity to ride around the track with Gilbert. “I was more nervous than she was,” she said. “This was so wonderful.”