Jaime Carlin has been director of the Texas Chapter of the Speedway Children's Charities for four years. Not once, she joked, has anyone asked her to be taken for a 180 mph spin around Texas Motor Speedway.
But put two-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Tony Stewart in the driver's seat, and you have the makings of one day that can bring in $200,000 or more for charity.
The fourth Tony Stewart Smoke Show is scheduled for Aug. 16 at TMS, and it's an event that has raised more than $675,000 for the Texas Chapter of SCC in its first three years.
Consider the Smoke Show a NASCAR fantasy camp. Participants get to spend the day with Stewart going through a NASCAR driver's race day, from a driver's meeting with Stewart to actually driving a race car and celebrating TMS-style in Victory Lane.
The idea began as a one-time media event with Stewart in 2007. Now it's a staple on Stewart's and TMS' calendars and has become the charity's largest-grossing annual event.
"We are so fortunate that Tony chose us," Carlin said. "We didn't go out looking for him. We're fortunate that he found us and is willing to come back every year and spend the time that he does.
"And he doesn't get any of this. All the money that's raised in this event goes to our charity, and that's extremely gracious of him."
The combination of Speedway Children's Charities and Stewart is why Marc Centanni of New Jersey is attending the event, billed as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, for the fourth time.
Centanni, 48, owns a publishing company and sees the Texas event as a way to give to an event in which all proceeds go to the children.
"We've used a lot of our revenue that we've made in order to give back to the community," Centanni said. "It doesn't matter that we're from Jersey and they're from Texas. They do such a good job."
Then there's the Stewart factor for Centanni, who said the driver makes the event "what you want it to be."
"Tony is about as approachable as anybody could be at his fame level," Centanni said. "He'll answer any question you want to ask, unless it's too personal or it's business he can't divulge.
"He's always around us. He doesn't migrate to where we can't have access to him. He just hangs out with us all day."
Stewart enjoys spending time with fans in the unique setting, and giving them the thrill of a trip around the track with him driving a stock car.
"Folks get a fire suit, gloves, shoes -- even a pair of Oakleys to wear when they fire off the guns in Victory Lane," Stewart said. "It's as close to the real thing as you can get.
"And when they're on their laps with me, I make sure they remember what it's like to be in a Sprint Cup car at Texas Motor Speedway. And the best part is that it raises a lot of money for charity. Pretty good deal all around."
Centanni was asked for one highlight of his three times through the Smoke Show. He named two.
First was his ride with Stewart.
"The very first time that you climb into the car and he takes you for a ride is probably the most exciting experience you ever will have in your life," he said.
Second was a Smoke Show dinner that included SCC beneficiaries.
"The father of one of the children receiving directly from the program came up to me and thanked me personally," Centanni said. "That kind of stuff weakens your knees. It gives you great pride that you've been put into a position to be able to help."
David Thomas, 817-390-7697