Cupid's Arrow Strikes at the Summer Shootout
The two met during a Summer Shootout event in 1999, were married two years later and recently celebrated the birth of what they expect to be yet another generation of Summer Shootout competitor.
Michael Van Wingerden is a manager at Metrolina Greenhouses, a 90-acre facility just north of Charlotte that ships nearly 10 million plants and flowers each year. He has been racing a Legends Car in the Summer Shootout Series since 1997.
Courtney¿s father, Bobby Pence, was one of Michael¿s on-track rivals, but she had never made the four-hour trip from her family¿s summer home to Lowe¿s Motor Speedway until opening night in 1999.
¿I had always gone to the beach during the summer,¿ Courtney recalled. ¿But after I met Michael, I was at Lowe¿s Motor Speedway every Tuesday night.
¿He was good looking, had a great personality and was very tall,¿ she said, recalling the first time she met her future husband. ¿I was very impressed.¿
Meeting women came easily for Michael Van Wingerden, but at the track his focus was on racing and he never thought twice about finding romance in the pit area. That changed when Courtney caught his eye.
¿The first race she came to we started talking and by the end of the summer we started going out,¿ Michael said. ¿We¿ve now been married for two years and we just had a baby nine weeks ago¿
When asked if young Brayden could be a future Summer Shootout competitor, Michael said. ¿We¿ll see. Hopefully, in about six years he will be in a Bandolero.¿
Courtney is also excited about Brayden extending the family¿s racing heritage. ¿I can¿t wait for Brayden to start racing¿ she said.
The Summer Shootout Series is truly a family affair for the Van Wingerdens, who reside in Huntersville, N.C. Not only did Michael and Courtney meet at the track, but on most Tuesday nights there are four family members on the track.
Michael competes in the Legends Car Pro division along with his brother Thomas. Their father, Tom, races in both the Legends Car Masters and Thunder Roadsters divisions while Michael¿s father-in-law, Bobby Pence, is a Masters division competitor.
¿The best thing about the Summer Shootout Series is sharing it with family,¿ said Michael Van Wingerden. ¿We can come out here and spend five or six hours with my dad away from work. I¿m one of six children, we are all in the family business and we all do stuff together. It¿s nice to get away from work and just have some fun.¿
Running each Tuesday through Aug. 12, the Summer Shootout Series features three classes of Legends Car racing, three divisions of Bandolero action and the Thunder Roadsters.
Admission is just $5 for adults. Children 6-12 are admitted for $3 with kids under 6 free. Tickets are available in advance at the speedway ticket office and at gates 4 and 5 the night of the event. Parking is free. Contact the speedway ticket office at 1-800-455-FANS for information or to purchase tickets.
Spectator gates open at 5 p.m. with preliminary action at 5:25 p.m. Feature racing begins at 7:30 p.m. and will conclude by 10:15 p.m.