from a feature article in NASCAR
The Right Girl for the Job
Renee Perks, a.k.a., Miss Winston, has more moves at a Winston Cup race track than Dale Earnhardt and Jeff Gordon combined.
One minute, she's in a hospitality suite, chatting amicably with sponsors. The next minute she's in the NASCAR trailer, talking with officials. Then, she's out strolling through the garage area, greeting old friends and making new ones.
Perks is beautiful, that much is obvious, but she's hardly a noe dimensional Barbie doll. Beauty is only one part of the equation for the "20-something" native of Livonia, Michigan. Perks has a Girl Scout litany of attributes: She's smart, personable, witty and perhaps most endearingly, she's also very humble. (She didn't even tell this reporter she had a website.) She realizes she's extremely fortunate to hold the title Miss Winston, and she's not about to take one bit of the job for granted.
"I am very lucky to be doing what I'm doing, " she says, "and I want to give it everything I have, to do the best job possible."
Her role brings a non-stop schedule of appearances, from meetings with corporate sponsors and friends of RJ Reynolds, to dinner parties and golf tournaments, to other official series functions, whether at the race track or the season-ending Winston Cup Awards Banquet.
Renee loves the excitement of her job, even if it's a far cry from her childhood. Her father, who is Scottish, is a nuclear engineer for Wiestinghouse. Her mother is Brazilian. Renee spent her childhood in Brazil and in the Philippines, which explains why she's fluent in both Spanish and Portuguese.
"I understand (Portuguese) perfectly, because I have to in talking to my relatives," she says. "But if you don't practice it all the time, it becomes harder to speak fluently."
After graduating from the University of North Carolina with a degree in exercise Physiology, she worked for a time in Physical Therapy, a job she calls, "very rewarding." She also worked as a model. Perks was modeling for a furniture company, when the owner of her modeling agency, Marilyn Chilton Green, told her that RJ Reynolds was looking for the next Miss Winston.
Marilyn Green should know a thing or two about RJR and Sports Marketing Enterprises, the company's motorsports PR firm, when they are looking for a Miss Winston candidate. After all, with only a couple of exceptions, every Miss Winston has come through Green's agency. Green herself was the very first Miss Winston, holding the post in 1971-1972. She says Perks was a natural for the role.
"Renee was a perfect candidate. She's a very pretty girl, she's very dependable, she's outgoing, personable and loves to travel," Green says. "She has a lot of great characteristics, but she has to, because that's what RJR is looking for.
Perks first race was the 1996 Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte. She admits she knew nothing about racing, or the Winston Cup Series, when she accepted the job. She literally learned everything on the fly.
These days, Perks can hold her own when the talk turns to Winston Cup racing. That comes from being on the raod for some two dozen races a year. It's hard not to get caught up in the excitement of the sport when you are celebrating week in and week out with the top Winston Cup drivers during their biggest moments.
Perks is well aware she won't be Miss Winston forever. It's a dream job, but whether you're a stock car racer, teacher, Wall Street broker or whatever, the day comes when it's time to move on to another job. She's already closing in on the record for Miss Winston longevity, which belongs to Margaret Claud Padgett, who held the post from 1981-1985.
Renee keeps a scrapbook, photos, newspaper articles and other mementos of her duties as Miss Winston, so that one day she'll be able to look back and relive the experience.
"People say to me all the time, 'Renee, you'll never find another job like this,' I answer, "I know."
For the complete article and photos, pick up a copy of October 2000 issue of NASCAR Winston Cup Illustrated. On newstands now!! Our thanks to Street & Smith's Sports Group for permission to publish this excerpt. No reprint or publication permitted without the permission of the author.