Facebook pixel
Judi smiles and looks toward F1 race track Circuit of the Americas

Judi Leads the Race in a Formula 1 Pace Car

Have you ever met a race car super-fan? That’s what you might call Judi, age 81, who has been hooked on racing for as long as she can remember. She will be the first to tell you that she has not missed a Formula 1 race on TV in nearly 30 years!

Judi has had an exciting life and the opportunity to explore various places and careers—continually growing and learning new things along the way. She has worked for Proctor & Gamble, a helicopter service in the Bahamas, and Folgers Coffee. She was even a small business owner and ran her own tavern. Throughout all her different experiences, her love for racing remained constant.

Where did this love for cars come from? Since she was young, Judi shared this passion with her brothers—together, they always admired cool cars, watched races, and learned how to fix their own vehicles.

Around age 18, she started attending drag and midget car races around her hometown, and not too long after, she fell in love with the Indy 500. She loved talking to the drivers at events and meeting the people involved in racing. Judi remembers saving money all year long so she could travel to Indianapolis to see the races. That fed her need for speed even more, and eventually, Judi became an avid Formula 1 fan.

People describe Formula 1 as the pinnacle of motorsports— with teamwork at its core, it brings together innovative engineering, talented drivers, and fans from all over the world. Judi is proud to be one of them, and she takes every chance she can to learn and grow her knowledge about the intricate details that go into competitive racing at this level.

Judi smiling happily while watching race at Circuit of the Americas
Judi giving big thumbs up on the race track in front of cars at Circuit of the Americas
Judi gives thumbs up from inside Formula 1 safety car

But racing is not the only subject she has dedicated her time and energy to. When Judi learned that her younger brother had enlisted in the Marines during the Vietnam War, she wanted to understand more about his experiences. She dedicated herself to learning everything she could about Vietnam and the war, reading over 100 books on the topic.

This led her to become an active volunteer for the Vietnam Veterans Association. For over a decade, she traveled across the United States to different conferences, sharing information about Agent Orange, POW, and MIA resources available to Veterans. She even served on a board as the Oregon State representative, advocating for those affected by Agent Orange.

Judi’s dedication did not stop there. She also spearheaded a project to honor Vietnam Veterans. She helped plan, construct, and raise flags over 3 miles across Highway 101 in Oregon in recognition of their service. She is so proud that all 3 of her brothers are Veterans who bravely served their country.

When Wish of a Lifetime heard Judi’s story, we were honored to help make one of her lifelong dreams come true. Watching a race on the screen is one thing, but being on the race track in person is another—especially when it comes to Formula 1!

Judi sitting shotgun next to the pace car driver
Judi smiling in Ferrari Formula 1 team racing kit at Circuit of the Americas

Judi has dreamed of riding in a pace car. Also called a “safety car,” it is a unique, sponsored car that limits the speed of the cars on the track during dangerous conditions. It also ceremoniously starts the race by leading the rest of the cars on a lap around the track.

Judi’s wish came true at the famous Circuit of The Americas motor racing track. It is one of the ultimate destinations for motorsports fans in the entire United States. Judi flew to Austin, TX, to experience COTA firsthand and have the ride of a lifetime!

Proudly wearing her favorite Ferrari cap and shirt, Judi fit right in—especially when she had the chance to talk to the Ferrari team’s drivers and have her picture taken!

And then, it was time for her ride in the pace car. And we had another surprise in store for her!

“I thought I would ride in the car separate from the race,” she said. “But, we got to lead all the race cars on the track! I saw them behind us, zigging and zagging across the track—holy moly!”

Judi had a great time meeting the driver and speaking to him about her passion for racing. The car went so fast that Judi said she felt like the tires could fly right off the wheels!

When she reflected on achieving her dream, Judi could not stop smiling.

“It was just incredible,” she said. “Thank you so much! I am still on cloud nine! I don’t know what I can do to express my thanks… I can’t thank you enough!

Want to see more stories like Judi’s?

Sign up for our email list and continue to be inspired by the stories of older adults fulfilling their dreams.

Exterior view of the brightly colored Honda Formula 1 pace car Judi rode in

Wish of a Lifetime from AARP is changing how we age, one inspirational wish at a time.

Submit a life-changing wish in your community, and share your favorite wish story on Facebook and Instagram to inspire your network!