IN THE PITS

Nicole Lunders (of THE GREG BIFFLE foundation)

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

I am 29 years old and from Chehalis Washington I graduated high school in 94 and then went to Western Washington University and finished at Washington State University. I intended on being an elementary school teacher, but...

What inspired you to start THE GREG BIFFLE FOUNDATION?

I was noticing on the news a lot of abuse and neglect cases. We already had Foster at the time, so I couldn't see how anyone could mistreat an animal...we love Foster and Gracie like children!! I knew that fans would pay more attention to someone like Greg before me, so I figured I could "speak" through him!! Race fans are loyal to their drivers so I knew if I did a calendar of people like Dale Jr. and Tony Stewart, and of course all of the drivers we used, I would gain interest.

I know the mission statement is posted on THE GREG BIFFLE FOUNDATION web site, but can you restate it here?

To create awareness and serve as advocates to improve the well-being of animals by engaging the power and passion of the motor sports industry.

How difficult was it to facilitate the creation of the NASCAR PETS calendar and why?

The difficult part was getting started. I was working with a group in the NASCAR charity division and after working out all the "bugs" I was finally able to start asking drivers to be in the calendar. There was only one person (a spouse) who was somewhat difficult and they are not in the calendar. Other than that I had great response. I found a photographer who was willing to do it for free and we started...of course it did take a year to complete...this has been a very long process.

I'm dying to know if the four-legged stars of the calendar were easy to work with?

I can't really answer for any of the pets, but ours. I didn't go to any of the other photo sessions, but Walter said it was fine. Now my two love to have their picture taken...especially Foster (our oldest). Whenever there is a camera present he sits up and "poses". Gracie does well, but like a typical girl turns her head at the last minute!! Our session took about an hour and by the end of it Gracie had fallen asleep...so not too hard!!

How has the general public responded to the calendar?

The public has been WONDERFUL! We have sold a lot of calendars not only through our web site, but NASCAR's. Wal-Mart just picked it up as did QVC. We also have a deal with Pet Supplies Plus a 200 store chain. People are very positive and excited that someone is taking an interest in animals well being. We have done two autograph signings, one in Daytona with the Kenseth's, Leffler's and Kurt Busch, and of course Greg and me. We just did one in Indy, where the proceeds went to Hamilton Co. Humane Society and we signed as well as the Newman's. I get emails all the time saying thank you and great idea, so I'm really excited about that!! I have also gotten a lot of requests for help from various groups across the nation.

Are you pleased with the media's response to NASCAR PETS?

I am very pleased about the media's response...NASCAR Nation has done A LOT for us and are about to air another segment of the photo shoots and the signing in Indy. We were also told that at our press release in Daytona that it was the most attended event non race related!! We have gotten a lot of press, which I am thankful for.

Do you plan to do a 2006 calendar?

This is a 2006 calendar and we are starting on 2007.

Can you tell us a little about your own pets?

Foster and Gracie are the best dogs ever!! Foster is four and gorgeous! Greg brought him home to me as a surprise when he was six weeks old and we both fell in love instantly!! Gracie is his daughter, she is one. We bred Foster with a black and white boxer and knew we wanted a girl. Our Gracie was one of two girls that lived so we've been able to watch her grow from just a day old, what a great experience!! They both have wonderful personalities. Foster is very laid back and somewhat sensitive. He is very intelligent and can open doors for himself as well as do great tricks!! Gracie is spunky, she is energetic, but not hyper. They both are very loving, but Gracie is a kisser!! They are both more like kids to Greg and I rather than pets. They go everywhere with us!! Oh, and they are famous!! They have been on tv more than some drivers!! They are always shown on rain delays, which is good for the grandparents to see!!

The following are questions from a few race fans. My thanks to Nicole for graciously agreeing to answer them. And my thanks to Kiki, Sherry and Crystal of the JVL Posse Yahoo Group for coming up with them.

How long have you and Greg been together?

We have been together for eight years....

Is he a romantic kind of guy?

Not like in one of your books. He is sweet and very caring to me, but romantic, maybe once or twice, he likes to surprise me with things.

What do you guys do for fun?

We just got back from the Bahamas, but we usually hang out at home and play on the lake with our jet ski's or boat. We also have mountain property we go relax at and ride four wheelers. We go to Mexico once or twice a year where we have a place for Greg to fish at. On normal days though we enjoy being home with the dogs and cooking out with friends.

Which track is your favorite to visit and why?

I like Bristol, it is so exciting!! I also like Michigan right now because he has been doing so well there. I like the tracks in bigger cities so us girls can go shopping!!

What's it like being the girlfriend of a famous race car driver? Any stalker fans?

It's good and bad at times. It's great that his fans want autographs and things as long as they respect my space. I don't like being shoved out of the way so they can get to him. I was physically knocked down one time because someone thought it was that important to get to him...

We really haven't encountered too many weirdoes. I have gotten a few emails that are strange and I think a lot of people know where we live on the lake. They come and float off our dock and stare, that IS annoying!

I also feel lucky because I have had so many great opportunities to go places and meet people that ordinarily would not have had. I also like not having to have a nine to five kind of job. I love running the foundation and being at home. I'm glad this is where my path has led me!!

For further information on the NASCAR PETS project, visit www.thegregbifflefoundation.com