The smiles never stop coming when a driver wins the pole for a NASCAR race. Having the edge come race day and an added confidence level are just some of the perks for being the driver that will start first for an event.
Come Friday’s events for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and XFINITY Series, there will be a new face to greet the pole award winner. Since 2010, Rachel Rupert has been that person, but that will change as a new era begins at Richmond International Raceway.
Traveling the entire schedule for NASCAR’s elite divisions, Rupert has helped celebrate poles, along with waving the green flag for qualifying. Friday’s XFINITY Series qualifying will be the first time that a new woman will be in the fire suit, as her stint in the public eye has ended for a brief moment.
Taking over the role from Rupert, it is Amanda Mertz’s time to shine.
Mertz hails from Louisville, but moved to Nashville, and served as Miss Kentucky in 2012. According to her Miss Universe page, she was formerly a registered nurse prior to becoming a correspondent for a local country music radio station. Since then, opportunities have come about, which has led her to what she calls her “dream job.”
“It is definitely going to be different because I kind of have been a shadow for a couple of months,” Mertz told Speedway Digest. “Even though I found out I was going to become Miss Coors Light a couple of months ago, I haven’t fully taken on the position until now. It is going to be different without Rachel because she and I are such good friends. I am fully prepared, and the team helped me prepare up to this week. I am just excited to embrace the role by myself. Everyone loved and respected Rachel, and I am ready to bring my own twist for NASCAR fans everywhere.”
As she transitioned out of her role, Rupert grew a close bond with Mertz. Shadowing the seasoned Miss Coors Light for the first eight races of the NASCAR season, the rookie has been absorbing as much as she can.
Earning an opportunity to be the face of one of the largest brands in America, Mertz is set to also represent NASCAR. Traveling to every race, she will host guests during race weekends, hand out pole awards, wave the green flag for qualifying sessions and interview drivers. However, there is still a big learning curve for someone that didn’t become seriously involved in following NASCAR until 2011.
“It is definitely going to be different because I kind of have been a shadow for a couple of months,” Murtz explained. “Even though I found out I was going to become Miss Coors Light a couple of months ago, I haven’t fully taken on the position until now. It is going to be different without Rachel because she and I are such good friends.
“I am fully prepared, and the team helped me prepare up to this week. I am just excited to embrace the role by myself. Everyone loved and respected Rachel, and I am ready to bring my own twist for NASCAR fans everywhere.”
While Rupert will still be traveling to some NASCAR events with her husband, Austin Peyton, who is Denny Hamlin’s manager, her final tour as Miss Coors Light came to an end at Bristol. But the two will stay close, as Mertz continuously praised the woman that has opened up the doors for her new path.
“She is literally a pro,” Mertz said. “I have learned so much from her. She did it for four and a half years, so she has a really good relationship with the drivers, the pit crews and everyone involved in the sport. She has really helped me to jump in this and take it on full force without as much nerves as I probably would have had if I didn’t know anyone going into this.”
As Mertz steps into the limelight of the NASCAR realm, she understands the opportunities that this job can create. Former Miss Sprint Cup Kim Coon recently joined the Motor Racing Network (MRN) as a pit road reporter, along with additional coverage via social media. Her colleague, Madison Martin, plans to pursue a career in journalism as well after receiving a degree in communications.
“I think everyone has the opportunity with the position that I have now to venture off to do different things,” she said. “I know Rachel probably has endless possibilities now to do whatever she wants now that she isn’t Miss Coors Light. My goal right now is to be Miss Coors Light for as long as I can. Who knows what is going to happen? I’m excited about right now where I am at this exact moment.”
Officially your new Miss Coors Light & I couldn't be happier!!! Can't wait to meet everyone at the track this season! pic.twitter.com/gucyVmcvzw— Amanda Mertz (@amandamertz) April 23, 2015
Going from the four-month interview process to being named Miss Coors Light, Mertz is set to finally take over for Rupert on a full-time basis. She believes that the program is continuing to head in the right direction, with a basis already set and new ideas flowing in.
Being accepted into the NASCAR community will be the next step for Mertz. She has already seen how outstanding fans will be to her, but there are still butterflies now that she will go about her duties without help from Rupert. In order to make the transition as simple as possible – not only for herself but for fans that are adjusted to seeing Rupert as well – she will continue to do many of the procedures in a similar fashion to that of her mentor.
As she prepares for what she knows will be a strenuous job at times, she will be moving to Charlotte next year. With a hope of staying in the industry, she is thinking for the long-term. Currently, she is focused on the task at hand. However, she wants to make a difference in the NASCAR community, and she will step foot on a new era when she enters Richmond.
“I don’t know how we are going to be different, but I am fully prepared to take over the role as Amanda Mertz. I want everyone to miss Rachel and love Rachel’s stuff to do my own thing a little bit, and give it a little twist and make it Amanda Mertz as Miss Coors Light – not just a replacement for Rachel.”