HomeNews and EventsA Sobering Luncheon of Hope

A Sobering Luncheon of Hope

An emotional event for a great cause


I was up at 4:16 a.m. on Tuesday. Normally if I’m up at that hour it’s due to a few different things: my dogs woke me up with some barking, I’m giving my wife a lift to the airport for a business trip, or it’s work related. I had similar wake up calls for my drives to and from Monterey Car Week.

My early rise was for work and was also the rare time I dressed stylish for work and shaved. Dry cleaned and pressed shirt with a sport coat and some dress shoes. This ensemble is a stark contrast to my preferred polo shirt, jeans, and Adidas Gazelles. One last look in the mirror, a kiss goodbye to my wife, espresso in a travel mug and I’m out the door.

Gotta’ look good when you interview Chase Elliott and Dale Jarrett, but I’m still half asleep as a I drive 15-minutes to the Arizona Biltmore. The interviews are to promote the NASCAR Championship Ignition Luncheon benefiting Phoenix Children’s Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders.

DPC and the Bill France Cup

My nervousness was offset by fatigue, but I’m still edgy. Maybe some Oasis will mellow out my psyche and wake me up? With Champagne Supernova heading towards its fifth minute, I park and attempt to find a conference room at a large hotel that I’ve been to once.

Scurrying through the hotel I’m lost with no idea of where to go. The joint is empty, except for a few employees starting their shifts, but a nice gentleman points me in the right direction when I ask where the NASCAR thing is. It’s 5:45 and I’m scheduled to interview Chase Elliott at 6:00. Our videographer shows up a minute later and we go over what we need to do, how to do it and I complain about being tired.

It’s ten to six and Jeff Gordon is doing a Zoom interview at a table across the room. Dale Jarrett is on the phone to my right and Chase Elliott sips coffee while talking to a PR rep. Energy is low, but positive for all parties.

We’re set up and will go after a local news morning show finishes up. With our turn up next my nerves kick in and I am miraculously alert. Is nervous energy a better means to wake up than espresso?

Any nerves during the interview with Chase were placated because it felt like chatting about racing with a random, friendly dude. A few minutes passed and we were done. He was a pleasant interview and through off the ‘jet lagged’ vibe. Big ups to Chase for being here at an early hour for charity.

Ten minutes later I’m interviewing Dale Jarrett. This is the second time I’ve interviewed him, but he laughs when he tells me he doesn’t remember the first go around. I can’t blame him, it was 10-years ago and over the phone. I guess I didn’t make a memorable or magical impression, and this is a similar concept from my dating history.

The interview went well. He did all the talking when I threw a few questions his way and was incredibly charming. Our chat was free flowing and I learned a lot about the Next Gen car.

It wasn’t almost 7:00 a.m. and that part of my day was over. At 11:30 a.m. I’ll get the privilege to cover the charity luncheon, but in the interim I headed home to knock out some work and let Mrs. Castro know how the interviews went.

This will be my first luncheon as a guest or reporter and I didn’t know what to expect, but I figured there would be good food.

The guests and we reporter types headed to our table at 11:30 after being beckoned by a xylophone. An enticing spread and good company greeted me. Introductions and pleasantries were shared by everyone at our table. Dale Jarrett took the stage as master of ceremonies and provided his North Carolina charm to the attendees.

Dr. Mario Otto took the stage first and spoke of his research in adaptive immunotherapy for pediatric patients and how it can make a difference in treatment that was once unthinkable. The guest of honor was 10-year-old Daniel Sanchez and we learned of his courageous spirit as he battled osteosarcoma, a form of bone cancer that cost him part of his leg. His bravery was felt by everyone and he received a well deserved standing ovation. The NASCAR Championship Ignition Luncheon raised more than $40,000 for the Phoenix Children’s Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders.

Phoenix Children’s Hospital is very dear to me. They do great work and they saved my son.

My son was born 13-years ago and spent the first three-weeks of his life at the Phoenix Children’s Hospital at Banner Good Samaritan Hospital. It was the most difficult experience of my life and I wouldn’t wish it upon anyone.

The NASCAR Championship Ignition Luncheon
The NASCAR Championship Ignition Luncheon (Photo by David P. Castro)

I’ve never written about those trying times where I watched my son sleeping with a feeding tube up his nose in an innocent slumber completely oblivious to the world. He was the strong one, everyone else was a mess.

The staff at PCH was incredible. They were supportive, let us vent and offered endless compassion. I spent every night at the hospital, occasionally sleeping and trying to figure out why my namesake had to start his life in such a manner. PCH saved my boy and now he is a happy and healthy teenager.

It was an emotional morning. I had the pleasure to interview a pair of NASCAR champions and partake in a luncheon that benefitted a great organization.

I was mentally drained as I headed home from the Biltmore around 12:30 p.m. Witnessing the courage and toughness of a child dealt a horrible hand of cards was inspiring but led me to a dark place.

But then I had a simple realization that there our kids out there that will be saved by the efforts of Phoenix Children’s Hospital and an afternoon luncheon helped a great cause.

David P. Castro
David P. Castro
The Santa Rosa, California native is an experienced automotive and motorsports writer with a passion for American muscle cars. He is a credentialed automotive, NASCAR, and IndyCar reporter that graduated from the University of Nevada-Reno. A devoted F1 and NASCAR fan, he currently resides in Phoenix, Arizona with his wife, son, Siberian Husky, Mini Cooper, and 1977 Chevrolet C10.


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