The recreational vehicle of Bernie and Charlene Lapensee might be on its last legs.
But the Lapensees hope their RV – the perennial winner of Charlotte Motor Speedway’s Coca-Cola-sponsored best-decorated RV contest – has enough to get them back home to Ontario, Canada after next week’s Coca-Cola 600.
The distinctively painted vehicle, which has a few thousand autographs on the exterior and 250,000 miles on the engine, has transported Bernie and Charlene to NASCAR races since 2013. But it suffered substantial front-end damage in an accident when they were pulling out of Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway in February after the Daytona 500.
Bernie and Charlene got the RV repaired enough that it could make the trip to Charlotte. They stayed in an RV park in Florida for a few months before arriving at the speedway on April 30.
Here’s what makes the RV so special: It is covered with NASCAR-related paintings done by Charlene, also adorned with autographs of drivers, crew members and fans picked up from their travels.
Hanging from the side of the RV is a 3-by-5 feet banner jammed with autographs, the centerpiece being Richard Petty’s. They also have a NASCAR fuel can that is covered with autographs, as well as several hats hanging nearby, also filled with signatures.
Petty was so impressed with the banner that he asked Bernie for it and said he would hang it in the Petty Museum in Randleman. Petty took the original after Bernie and Charlene had a copy made for themselves.
The RV doesn’t have every top NASCAR driver’s autograph – Jimmie Johnson is a notable exception.
But Bernie recalls getting the autograph of NASCAR vice chairman Mike Helton a few years ago. Before signing, Helton walked around and looked carefully at the RV for several minutes. He walked up to Bernie and said: “Seeing that really gives my job meaning.”
▪ NASCAR team-owner Joe Gibbs delivered the invocation for Saturday's all-star race. Mixed martial arts star Rampage Jackson drove the honorary pace car and rapper Machine Gun Kelly was the grand marshal.
▪ Country singer Cole Swindell gave a prerace concert outside the track. Perhaps as many as 4,000 fans enjoyed Swindell’s act, including several watching several floors up from the speedway’s condos across the street. Best-dressed fan at the concert might have been the guy wearing a Washington Nationals baseball hat, a blue U.S. national basketball team uniform (Kevin Durant, No. 5) and, of course, brown cowboy boots.
▪ Here’s how the infield grass gets painted at the speedway: a four-man crew from the Jones Sign Co., used 400 gallons to paint the Monster Energy logo, as well as other logos for the N.C. Education Lottery and General Tire.