NASCAR fans see Miss Sprint Cup in a firesuit and imagine a selection process not unlike the Miss Tri-Counties contest from a 1982 “The Dukes of Hazzard” episode. Winning that crown required proficiencies as varied as walking a stage in swimwear and rebuilding a carburetor.
“Everyone asked, ‘What kind of pageant did you have to do?’” Brooke Werner said of her season traveling the circuit during a recent trip to Manhattan. “And I tell them, ‘We had to change tires, we had to gas up a car…’”
She’s kidding, of course. The Miss Sprint Cup selection process involves interviews not dissimilar to that of a PR firm candidate. It was a natural for Werner, who worked in the field for four years before applying. While sitting down at the Flatiron District Sprint Store location she deftly rattled off the Sprint green promotion to collect cell phones so they won’t end up in landfills.
But a minute later the job’s nuances become clear, as she laughs while discussing the travails of autograph requests.
“There are always those fans out there who have had a little too much to drink and they really get excited about [me] signing body parts,” Werner said. “My favorite one to date probably has to be, ‘Sign my head.’ There’s always a race fan who wants me to Sharpie their forehead, or whatever. And I try it, but it just doesn’t stick, you know. Hot weather, drinking, forehead, not a good combination.”
Werner will return for her second year on the job in 2014, along with two other Miss Sprint Cup representatives, fellow vet Kim Coon and just-announced newbie Madison Martin. It’ll give her time to knock off a few more bucket-list items like actually driving around a track -- she's only gotten pace car rides from others so far -- and share more tidbits with fans.
When asked what people don’t know about her, she stayed true to her home state’s culinary culture by answering, “I put maple syrup on everything.”
It’s been a fun time but also a notable time frame for Werner -- a 27-year-old lifelong racing fan who won the Miss Vermont USA pageant in 2009 -- in that she joined the Miss Sprint Cup cadre the same year Danica Patrick debuted as a full-time Sprint Cup driver.
Werner, a blonde, hardly resembles the dark-haired Patrick. And yet, the green firesuit she wore while standing next to a replica Sprint Cup car outside the Flatiron store was close enough to Patrick’s GoDaddy.com racing attire to confuse some of Manhattan’s more lightly seasoned NASCAR watchers.
“Oh, my gosh, more times than I can count,” Werner said about people asking if she was Patrick.
Werner didn’t mind, though. She’s definitely a Patrick fan, dismissing the notion shared by some that she is more a product of marketing than talent by countering that no one could get to Sprint Cup sans skill.
She’d rather appreciate Patrick for all that she brings to the sport.
“What I love most about Danica is that she translates into other areas,” Werner said. “So, if we want to bring more eyes to our sport, which is always important, we have someone like Danica. She’s going to be on ‘Entertainment Tonight.’ And I think that’s why it’s so great is that we have that channel to bring in new race fans.”
On the track Patrick has had her share of detractors from fellow drivers, and close racing in a sport where give-and-take is crucial. When motocross legend Travis Pastrana made his Nationwide Series debut in 2012 he said one of his goals was to beat the two “girls” in the race, Patrick and Johanna Long.
“Hopefully, girls like those, it’s an inspiration to future generations, and it’s just a start,” Werner said of the challenges. “And I know we have this conversation now because there are so few female drivers in the sport. My hope is that one day it won’t be a conversation point. It’ll just be, alright, cool, that’s great, one of our contenders is a girl. Normal.”