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Grimm to share portion of loot from race

February 15, 1999|By BRENDAN KIRBY

Ray Grimm returned home Monday thrilled at winning the "Winston No Bull 5" auto racing contest, but not quite a millionaire.

[cont. from front page]

Grimm said he and the other four contestants in the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. contest agreed before Sunday's Daytona 500 to share some of the winnings if one of the contestants won the $1 million pot.

Five fans, who were randomly selected from entry blanks, were paired with the top five NASCAR drivers from last year's race at Talladega, Ala., for a chance to win $1 million.

Grimm, 46, won the prize when his driver, Jeff Gordon, crossed the finish line in first place.

Grimm said the five contestants decided not to divulge how much they agreed to share, but said it was not an even five-way split.

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"We made a pact that if one of us won, he would give a monetary amount, but it was nowhere near $200,000," he said.

Jennifer McCann, a contestant who was paired with Jeremy Mayfield, said the contestants bonded over the weekend and during an earlier trip to Winston-Salem, N.C., when the fans picked their drivers.

McCann, who lives in Grand Prairie, Texas, said the other four contestants were elated for Grimm.

"It's really, unbelievably fantastic," she said. "We were in competition, but we got to know each other so well that if one won, we all won We wanted to win ourselves, but it didn't matter."

Grimm praised the "first-class" treatment he and his wife, Sharon, received from R.J. Reynolds. They stayed in a fine hotel and were chauffeured in a limousine wherever they went, he said.

McCann said the families clicked during the time away from the race track as well.

"We pretty much did everything together," she said.

Grimm, a longtime Dale Earnhardt fan, jumped for joy when Gordon won the race.

Grimm's daughters watched the race from back home, or at least they tried to.

"It was the best and the worst race I think I've ever had to watch," said Melissa Grimm, 26, who finally peeked at the screen on the last two turns. "I was totally overwhelmed."

Ray Grimm said he felt the highs and lows with his fellow contestants, who watched the race from the infield.

An early crash took three drivers out of the race: Dale Jarrett, Terry Labonte and Jimmy Spencer. That dashed the millionaire dreams of three of the contestants.

"I really did feel bad for them," Grimm said.

All they could do from then on was hope that one of the remaining two No Bull drivers, Gordon and Jeremy Mayfield, would win the race.

"They were the last two hopes," Grimm said.

The race also appears to have unified the Grimm family behind Gordon. Before the contest, Grimm's wife had rooted for Gordon while Ray Grimm was an Earnhardt man.

"I would say I've switched allegiances somewhat to Jeff Gordon," Grimm said. "But there will always be a spot in my heart for Dale Earnhardt."

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