Christmas Joye Abbott got that name from her mother, who was delighted with the daughter who was born on Dec. 20th after the mother had to go through a number of weeks of bedrest to sustain the pregnancy. (Photo by Corey Lowenstein/News & Observer)
I have written a number of stories about NASCAR hopefuls over the years -- Charlotte attracts them, as it is the epicenter for most of the best teams in the sport.
The one I've been working on the last couple of weeks with photographer Corey Lowenstein and is being published here is pretty different, though -- it is about a tough, driven, 30-year-old woman named Christmas Joye Abbott who is in incredible shape, has absolutely no NASCAR background and is now trying to become an over-the-wall member of a NASCAR pit crew.
Christmas Joye Abbott is no publicity stunt. She's an elite athlete who specializes in fitness workouts and co-owns her own CrossFit gym in Raleigh. Turner Motorsports convinced her after seeing her at a pit crew challenge in January to come to Charlotte and try to make it as a pit crew member (women have been in the pits before, mostly at NASCAR's lower levels, but it usually hasn't lasted long. Christmas's goal is to latch onto a Cup team by 2014).
This story came about first through Lowenstein, who shoots great pictures for The (Raleigh) News & Observer. Once bitter competitors, The Charlotte Observer and the News & Observer are now brothers in arms, as we are owned by the same company (McClatchy) and frequently share content. We provide Raleigh's sports section with most of its Panthers coverage, for instance, and Raleigh generally provides our sports section with ACC coverage of the Triangle-area teams. When I covered the Olympics this summer, it was with an eye toward stories that would benefit both newspapers.
Lowenstein had happened upon Christmas because the gym Christmas co-owns was near the N&O. Once she visited the gym with an eye toward a possible story, Lowenstein was told that Christmas was actually moving to Charlotte in hopes of joining a pit crew. Lowenstein believed this would be a great story to tell journalistically, and I volunteered to be writer assigned to the story after seeing some of the first photos.
We'll continue to check in periodically with Christmas as she progresses (or doesn't progress) through NASCAR's ranks. She's only at the beginning stages of this journey now, but she's a very interesting and charismatic young woman, and how this all turns out will be something to see.