CONCORD, N.C. -- Last Sunday, Rob Lopes – tire specialist for the No. 88 team – was in Victory Lane after Dale Earnhardt Jr. earned a hard-fought win at Pocono Raceway.
With him was Captain “Wild Bill” Wichrowski of Deadliest Catch fame, a fan of the 88 team.
“He was also in Victory Lane with us in Pocono, so he got to experience that whole thing,” Lopes said. “That was the start of an awesome week.”
In fact, it was the start of Bill and Rob’s Excellent Adventure – according to their Twitter hashtag.
Wichrowski, a Pennsylvania native, devised the plan the previous week after the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He was already heading to Pittsburgh on a media tour, so he would take Lopes – a huge Pittsburgh sports fan – along for the ride.
To begin, Lopes and Wichrowski made their way from Pocono Raceway in Long Pond, Pennsylvania, to Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, where the Pittsburgh Steelers hold training camp.
There, a visit with Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin started the adventure with a bang.
“Getting to meet him and talk with him a little bit, that was pretty extraordinary,” Lopes said. “Chatting about racing with Mike Tomlin, there’s not a lot of people that can say that. That was probably the highlight of the trip.”
From there, the duo took a tour of Heinz Field and watched batting practice with the Pittsburgh Pirates before attending their game against the Miami Marlins.
“We’ve been trying to take a bunch of pictures just meeting people, shaking hands and seeing the sights,” Lopes said. “It’s been a great, great week.”
And it all started with a sweep of Pocono for the No. 88 team.
That, Lopes said, is a credit to the entire team. From Earnhardt to Letarte and the pit crew, the teammates back in the shop and those on the road, everyone plays a role.
“You go ahead and put all that together, and that’s the culmination – a little champagne shower,” Lopes said. “With us winning Pocono, it couldn’t have gone any better than that.”