CONCORD, N.C. – It was one of the most memorable moments of last Saturday night’s pre-race festivities.
With the drivers gathered on the grid prior to the All-Star Race, FOX Sports’ Michael Waltrip made his way to Jimmie Johnson’s No. 48 Lowe’s for Pros Chevrolet Camaro ZL1.
But rather than the typical interview, Johnson headed to his car, grabbed a bag and handed it to Chris DeMarchi, who took it from there.
The former cycling champion pulled out an engagement ring and proposed on live television to his girlfriend, Rachelle Jorgensen.
“She didn’t have a clue, not even one percent, so she was super surprised,” DeMarchi recalled. “And probably the coolest thing was having Jimmie involved.”
So how did the spectacle all come together?
It started with a friendship between DeMarchi and several Hendrick Motorsports team members, including No. 9 team crew chief Alan Gustafson.
DeMarchi mentioned that he would be in town for the All-Star Race and might want to surprise his girlfriend with a proposal. He wondered if he would be allowed to pop the question during a tour of the Hendrick Motorsports campus.
Gustafson said they might be able to do one better and make it happen at the track. From there, FOX Sports got word of the potential proposal, and eventually it became apparent that it might even be able to happen on live television.
“Then, it just blew up. And I mean, it really blew up,” DeMarchi laughed. “I was like, wow, this thing is big. I just kept getting more nervous.”
Friends with Johnson through the cycling community, DeMarchi reached out to the driver to see if he would mind getting involved, and he didn’t hesitate.
“Jimmie was super stoked,” he said. “He was like, ‘I’m definitely doing it.’ Everybody at Hendrick Motorsports was so awesome.”
Mere hours before the big proposal, when it was confirmed that it would happen on national television, DeMarchi gave a call to some important people.
“The only people I told was my business partner, my best friend, her parents and my parents,” he explained. “I said, ‘Just watch.’ I didn’t tell them what I was doing.”
As the moment approached, the cyclist could feel the nerves.
“What was nerve-wracking for me was I didn’t realize how many people on the track actually knew,” he said. “Even Jamie McMurray was right next door and he’s looking at me, giving me the, ‘Go get ’em, man!’”
But he was ready, thanks to a little help from his friends.
“Hendrick Motorsports, you guys were amazing,” he said. “We just couldn’t have pulled it off even down to putting the ring in the car. NASCAR officials had to give me permission to go touch the car to put the ring in the car.”
Johnson pulled out the ring, handed it to DeMarchi, and the rest is history.
“Just the way it all came about, it was just super sleek how everybody just came together and made it happen,” he said. “It ended up turning out good!”