Wineka column: Trinity Oaks sponsors race car, 14-year-old driver
SALISBURY — Billie Bryant says it’s one of those ideas that when you first hear about it, you’re not so sure.
Trinity Oaks, the retirement community where Bryant lives, announced its plans to sponsor a race car. On top of that, the primary driver was going to be a fresh-faced, 14-year-old kid from New York.
But the more Bryant and other residents wrapped their heads around the idea Wednesday, the more they liked it. Sponsoring a race car fits nicely with the Trinity Oaks motto of “Never Slow Down.”
And what a treat — having Tyler Dippel, a youngster who could pass for any of the residents’ grandson, representing Trinity Oaks on the track.
“We all have to look at new directions, and I’m very excited about it,” Bryant said.
Several Trinity Oaks residents gathered Wednesday afternoon outside the front door for the unveiling of Godfather Motorsports’ No. 1 car, with the fresh decals showing Trinity Oaks as a major sponsor.
Trinity Oaks’ slogan, “Never Slow Down,” was affixed prominently on both back fenders.
“Well, I hope it works,” resident Frances Rice said.
Moments later, Crew Chief Jim Gallison turned the ignition and the Ford Fusion Super Late Model car roared — yes, roared — to life.
Dippel and veteran driver Glenn Sullivan will be driving the car in a nine-race schedule this season in the Carolinas, Georgia and Virginia.
The Trinity Oaks Senior Living Community Ford was supposed to debut, with Dippel behind the wheel, Wednesday night in the Pro All Stars Series at Anderson Motor Speedway in South Carolina. But rain washed out the event.
It gave Dippel more time to schmooze with the Trinity Oaks residents. No one seemed to care about the age difference.
“We kind of got the whole gamut covered, don’t we?” said Dave “The Godfather” Moody, owner of Godfather Motorsports.
Both Moody and Ann Pressly, director of marketing and sales for Trinity Oaks, think the racing team’s partnership with a retirement community is the first of its kind in the country.
“I think it’s going to work out wonderfully for everybody,” said Moody, a voice heard often on the Motor Racing Network and Sirius XM NASCAR Radio.
Moody said Trinity Oaks lies in the heart of NASCAR country, “and a lot of us are getting older.” If you’re not 60 yet, Moody said, your parents and grandparents might be.
He toured Trinity Oaks last week.
“This facility has a real family feel to it, and racing does, too,” Moody said.
Pressly said a partnership with Godfather Motorsports allows Trinity Oaks to speak directly to the motorsports community “and tell them how easy it is to sell their existing home in today’s market and downsize to one of our cottages or apartments.”
It’s also a rally point for the residents and staff, she said.
Moody promised to arrange a date when some of the residents could take in a race.
“I’ll be one of the first to sign up, if they do that,” Bryant said.
Dippel will be entering the eighth grade this fall, and his mom, Jill, likes to mention he also is a National Honor Society student.
Tyler has been racing since he was 8 years old, when he ran Slingshot cars — something his 9-year-old sister, Carly, is doing now. At 10, Tyler won the National Slingshot Junior Championship, then graduated to the Senior Slingshot Class, Sportsman Class, Small-Block Modifieds and Legends cars.
He is used to lots of horsepower, going more than 100 mph and winning. Tyler has 20 “main event” wins under his belt and has donated half his winnings to St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital.
Jill Dippel says the hospital has received more than $10,000 from Tyler.
The family lives in Wallkill, N.Y. Tyler comes by racing honestly. His grandfathers raced in the Late Model series. His father, Todd, was a national champion in motocross, and his mom was an Enduro racer.
As you can imagine, Tyler and his family are completely immersed in racing.
“When I was like a kid,” Tyler said at lunch, looking back like a Trinity Oaks resident might do, “I played soccer and baseball.”
The Dippel family sought out Godfather Motorsports to see whether Tyler could race for the team. Crew Chief Jim Gallison said he and Moody did their research on his racing background and also found many people who knew Dippel and had top-shelf things to say about him.
Sullivan is serving as a mentor for the youngster, and Dippel said he’s learning a lot with Sullivan’s help. Dippel is expected to drive in the majority of the Trinity Oaks Ford’s races.
“He’s not just the average kid,” Moody said, watching Tyler pose for many pictures at Trinity Oaks.
Dippel has aspirations one day to drive in NASCAR’s Sprint Cup series. Even with all of his driving experience, Dippel is still a couple years away from a real driver’s license.
“He doesn’t like to parallel park,” Gallison laughed.
The rain didn’t stop Dippel from getting in some more practice laps with Gallison at the Hickory Motor Speedway later in the day Wednesday, but it looks as though his race debut in the car will have to wait until August.
“That’s a young man who’s very wise, very much older than his years,” said Trinity Oaks resident Raymond Gandy, who had heard of Dippel’s contributions to St. Jude’s. “He walks the walk and talks the talk.”
Gandy said Trinity Oaks’ sponsorship of the race car and its efforts on social media such as Facebook and Twitter are just examples of innovative thinking.
“As far as I’m concerned, we have a lot to offer,” Gandy said. He moved to a Trinity Oaks cottage 18 months ago from West Virginia.
Gary Molnar, who has lived at Trinity Oaks for three years, said the race car sponsorship is just another way to have people come to the community and take a look.
“I think it’s a great idea,” he said.
But come on, will this really work for Trinity Oaks or Godfather Motorsports?
“I’m 92,” Lucille Crowell said, “and I’m out here watching race cars, and I’m enjoying it.”
There you have it, the finish line.
Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263, or firstname.lastname@example.org.