Pop quiz: Over the past three NASCAR Sprint Cup Series seasons, who has found themselves standing in Victory Lane more often than Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Busch, Matt Kenseth, Kevin Harvick, Kurt Busch, Carl Edwards, Denny Hamlin and Dale Earnhardt Jr. combined, several times over?
And yes, this is a trick question. Because the answer is not one person but two, and neither of them is a driver.
We’re talking about Julianna White, 27, and Madison Martin, 25, who have shared the title of Miss Sprint Cup since 2013; at each of the 36 series races, as well as exhibition races, one of them always is there to congratulate the winner in Victory Lane while repping the title sponsor in a flashy black and yellow firesuit covered with Sprint logos.
But they’re more than just pretty faces for the cameras. In addition to being a brand ambassador, White (a former in-house model for QVC in Philadelphia) and Martin (a former web producer/reporter for WSOC-TV in Charlotte) meet with fans and participate in fan-related events, interview drivers and celebrities, and generate content for social media.
This is, however, the last time the women will serve as Miss Sprint Cup for the Sprint All-Star Race (set for Saturday night) and the Coca-Cola 600 (on May 29) at Charlotte Motor Speedway, because this is the last season Sprint will serve as the title sponsor of NASCAR’s top-tier racing series.
“It’s weird – especially leading up to the All-Star Race,” White said. “That’s our event. So much goes into it, and we have a large role in it. It’s very bittersweet.”
One of the parts of the job they’ll miss most? Victory Lane. Which is what we’ll focus on in our Race Week chat with the pair. Questions and answers have been edited for brevity and clarity.
Q. What’s the most memorable experience you’ve had as Miss Sprint Cup?
White: I’d say Martinsville last year. It was the craziest race finish you could ever imagine, with Jeff Gordon winning his final race. I was in Victory Lane for that. ... He planted his feet in this sport forever, and so to be in that Victory Lane, and to witness people crying, and him crying – it was such a bittersweet moment ... it was deafening, the sound, and the emotion that was surrounding me was insane. I was like, “You’re a part of history.”
Martin: I always go back to my first race of the season, the Daytona 500, three years ago. I grew up watching Dale Earnardt Jr., and my mom’s a huge Junior fan, liked Dale Sr. a lot. It’s the first time the 3’s back, 3 gets on the pole, he goes out, he wins the race, comes to Victory Lane, is like half in tears – it was just a really, really cool moment. And when Dale Earnhardt Jr. wins, the fans are on their feet, just hollerin’, burnin’ the place down, and I remember being there and thinking, “Wow, this is my job. I get to be here for these moments now.”
Q. So basically Victory Lane is awesome, huh?
White: It’s so neat. You get a chance to see how every team celebrates, whether it’s very wild or a little bit more mellow. A lot of people who work in the sport work with a specific driver, or a specific sponsor; for us, we’re the title sponsor, so we’re there every single time no matter what. You get to see how Kyle Busch’s rowdy team celebrates, or Jimmie Johnson – who’s like the gentleman in the sport – his whole family comes in and it’s more that kind of an atmosphere.
Q. Do you actually get to watch the race when you’re working? I mean, will you get to watch the All-Star Race this weekend?
White: No. You’ll hear the crowd start cheering, and you’re on a golf cart heading to another appearance. So we check Twitter, or the NASCAR mobile app to see what happened. My mom will text me, “Did you see that??” “No, Mom; I’ll see the replay...”
Martin: My mom will see me on TV in Victory Lane and she’ll text me and say, “You’re killin’ it!” She should know I can’t see it – or respond!
Q. This kind of thing happens to both of you all the time, I take it?
White: Yeah. So, we have a little place for our phone in the sleeve of our fire suit.
Martin: They built it in for us, because we don’t have pockets.
White: We’ll be in Victory Lane doing our job, trying to get pictures of the driver’s family and the crew, and my phone will be buzzing to no end because my dad’s sending me pictures of me in Victory Lane or someone is texting to say, “I was flipping through the channels and I saw you!”
Q. Is that compartment weather-sealed, so that when you get doused with champagne...
Martin: Nope, our phones still get wet.
White: We just have to be careful. After the race, I have to see if all the buttons still work. Then I have to get some Windex out and clean it up.
Q. You two probably get hit with a lot of champagne.
White: Quite a bit, yeah. Gatorade, beer, water, Monster Energy – I’ve had to get all of that out my hair at some point.
Martin: Certain Victory Lanes are worse than others depending on how the car pulls in, depending on how aggressive they are about it, and depending on whether they want to drink what they’re spraying or not. It varies, how disgusting we get.
Q. The single most important thing, though, is being in the shot, right?
White: Yeah, we’re the first people to congratulate the drivers on winning because we’re the spokesperson of Sprint. So we have to obviously be visible for Sprint, as an ambassador.
Q. Have you ever been caught in the wrong spot?
White: Absolutely. It’s a little bit more difficult than you would think.
Martin: It’s a Catch-22, because some people think that that’s kind of the dumb part of our job, or it dumbs us down, and it’s actually one of the most difficult parts. With a camera lens, you can’t really tell if it’s zoomed in or zoomed out, so figuring out if you’re actually in it or if you need to be squeezed up next to them is pretty difficult.
White: I think it was Joey Logano, last year, his tires were all torn up and he was right up next to one o them. So I was leaning against a burning tire. I thought my skin was going to be in bad condition, but I had to be there to get into the shot. So you’re standing there trying to smile – whether you have champagne in your eyes or your leg is burning, you have to make sure you are there with the Sprint logo and being happy for the driver no matter what kind of situation you’re in.
Q. Madison, what do you mean some people think that that’s the dumb part of your job?
Martin: Oh, I mean, it’s like anything else. It is a job and it’s amazing, but occasionally you do have negative aspects. You’ll get that one person out of 50,000 that says, “All you do is stand there and smile.”
White: Yeah, some people don’t realize the full extent of our job. It really is hurtful when you see that one negative comment come up and you’re like, “I just worked my butt off all weekend. I had an amazing interview with somebody, and that’s what you focus on?”
Q. And it’s not like you’re standing around in Victory Lane in a bathing suit.
Madison: Yeah, I think Sprint did a phenomenal job with this program. I mean, there’s still a fun, girly side to it, but everyone who’s been a part of it has had to have a four-year college degree. (Martin was a mass communications major at Frostburg State University, White a communications studies student at The College of New Jersey.) So it’s more sophisticated than some of the other avenues out there (for models) – not that there’s anything wrong with those, but I don’t think either of us would be in this role if it was like that.
White: Yeah, it’s so funny: My dad thinks the fire suit is great, because it’s as covered-up as I can get.