Drivers found romance in speedy fashion

Posted: Thursday, July 26, 2001

As race drivers, Brett Bodine, John Andretti and Buckshot Jones have to make decisions in a split second. At 180 mph, there's no time for second-guessing.

But as quickly as all three are accustomed to making decisions in the fast lane, nothing compares to how fast they fell in love.

''The second I saw Diane, I knew she was the one for me,'' Bodine said. ''All the bells and whistles went off in my head, and I knew.''

Racing and romance apparently make a good combination. Like mustard and ketchup. Brooks and Dunn. Golf and polyester. Men who don't flinch at restrictor-plate racing have melted at the mere site of a special woman. For most, the attraction was quicker than hitting the wall at Richmond International Speedway.

''I love to tell this story,'' Andretti said. ''I went to high school with my wife. When I first saw her, that was it. Even at that age, I knew it was her.''

It wasn't easy for Andretti. She went nearly four years before she accepted a date with the aspiring driver. And once they went out, it was another year before she went out with him again.

''I think she finally went out with me because her mother told her it might be a good way to get me to leave her alone,'' Andretti said.

Four years of futility in high school was followed by another couple years of frustration in college. Andretti moved in with his uncle, Mario Andretti, in Nazareth, Pa., while attending college. But on weekends, he drove 1,500 miles roundtrip to go racing near Indianapolis. Looking back, speed was the excuse. Love was the reason.

''OK, I also wanted to see Nancy,'' he said.

They were married in 1987. Andretti popped the question at the Golden Gate Bridge during a racing weekend.

Jones, who tied the knot two years ago, got some help from a friend to make a unique proposal. Jones took his date, a high school friend, to a concert featuring Tracy Byrd, and the popular country singer invited the couple on stage. Once Jones was facing the crowd in Atlanta, he took the microphone and proposed.

''I wouldn't have asked if I didn't know she would say 'yes.' It was a pretty good surprise,'' he said.

Jones and his wife, Jina, have been happy since.

Bodine courted his future wife for only four months before they got married.

''I met Diane at the pay line at the Pocono (Pa.) Raceway after a modified race. I went up to her and introduced myself. That was October, and we got married in Janaury. I told her if we didn't get married in January, I was going off racing in February. So we got married and we spent our honeymoon racing at the New Smryna (Fla.) Speedway. Actually, I won my first race ever during that honeymoon.''

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