On Thursday, February 15, 2018, West Iredell High School students and staff packed their gym to pull off an epic surprise, 6 months in the making for “Mr. West Iredell”, Tyler Bowie. After months of planning, and fundraising, as well as keeping a huge secret, the West Iredell Jr. Dream Team’s vision of the perfect Dream Sendoff became a reality. The gym was decked out – in NASCAR -themed decorations, gifts were set up, and students were rockin’ their “Chasing Dreams” T-Shirts, which they had purchased to help fund Tyler’s Dream Experience.
Chants of “Tyler, Tyler, Tyler” filled the gym as Mr. West Iredell jumped out of a huge blow up football helmet. The crowd erupted with cheers as Tyler waved to them, in awe. Fortunately, the Jr. Dream Team and WBTV’s Molly Grantham were there to clarify exactly what was happening. They explained to Tyler that he was going to live out his Dream of meeting Chase Elliot and other NASCAR Drivers at the biggest race of the year, The Daytona 500! Shorty after the big news was revealed, Tyler ran through a tunnel of his fellow classmates, teachers and friends to find a massive Hummer Limo waiting to whisk him away to begin his dream. The Jr. Dream team rode along to wish Tyler a sweet farewell. Waving goodbye to West Iredell, Tyler and his family headed to the airport to board an airplane for the first time. Little did he know that he would also be sharing the plane with true NASCAR professionals. Wheels up to Daytona!
Tyler and the team touched down in Daytona, and his Dream was officially off to the races! He spent his first full day exploring Daytona International Speedway, and the NASCAR stars were everywhere. Even cooler than that, they all wanted to meet Tyler – he felt like a total celebrity on Pit Road. Tyler was smiling ear to ear when he met NASCAR’s leading lady, Danica Patrick, and loved talking racing with the King, Richard Petty! He also met young star, Alex Bowman and practiced his sports reporting skills with Jamie Little of Fox Sports.
Day 2 had even more surprises in store! Like every day, Tyler started the day with a smile… appreciative of every moment. He and his family headed back to the track where his ultimate Dream came true when he met his sports hero, Chase Elliot! Tyler’s reaction was priceless and the moment will forever be stamped in his (and our) memory. Tyler truly felt like he was part of Elliots’s team when he got an exclusive tour of the NAPA Know How hauler. A little bit of “Dream Mojo” kicked in when Tyler was unexpectedly greeted by NASCAR legend, Dale Earnhardt Jr. The two became buddies instantly and this moment certainly became a highlight of the Dream Experience! The “Dream Mojo” continued well into the evening as Tyler became the first ever Dream Recipient to stand on Victory Lane and celebrate a champion. He and his family cheered on Tyler Reddick as he was crowned the winner of the Powershares 300!
Race day for the Daytona 500 was also a big part of Tyler’s big Dream, but it ended up being even bigger and better than he could have ever imagined. By this point in the Dream Experience, Tyler had met so many NASCAR celebs that some may have wondered “what could possibly happen next?” Well, Tyler met his all time favorite driver, Jeff Gordan, the President of NASCAR, Mike Helton and the President, and GM of Charlotte Motor Speedway, Marcus Smith. He even got the special honor of leaving his autograph on the Daytona International Speedway. Tyler’s autograph will forever stand out with his signature Micky Mouse sketch. As the green and yellow flags waved Tyler couldn’t contain his excitement! He cheered loud for his favorite driver, Chase Elliot. Although Chase didn’t pull out he victory, he will always be a winner in Tyler’s eyes. Tyler took in every last moment of the Daytona 500 and when the checkered flag waved, he headed back to the airport, reflecting on his Dream come true!