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Tuesday
May212019

Coca-Cola bringing back 1985 'New Coke' formula for new season of "Stranger Things"

coldsnowstorm/iStock(NEW YORK) -- Coca-Cola is re-launching its 1985 "New Coke" formula in conjunction with the release of the third season of Stranger Things.

The beverage maker is partnering with Netflix to "immerse viewers in 1980s nostalgia," according to the company. New Coke will appear in several episodes of the upcoming season of Stranger Things.

Last year, Netflix executives visited the Coca-Cola archives in Atlanta to examine the packaging, memorabilia and advertising of New Coke in order to ensure that the script, props and visuals accurately reflect the time period, according to Coca-Cola.

"In a world of shifting media consumption, we continue to challenge ourselves to find creative and meaningful ways to participate in non-advertising platforms like Netflix to engage with the millions of fans who subscribe to streaming content services," said Geoff Cottrill, senior vice president of strategic marketing for Coca-Cola North America. "We’re excited to partner with Netflix and play a key role in recreating the summer of 1985 in a uniquely Coca-Cola way."

Netflix will release season three of Stranger Things on July 4. Coca-Cola will release a limited number of 12-ounce New Coke cans on May 23, as well as limited edition Stranger Things 8-ounce glass bottles of Coca-Cola and Coke Zero Sugar.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Tuesday
May212019

Memorial Day 2019 sales: All the best deals and how to save big

Baris-Ozer/iStock(NEW YORK) -- Memorial Day marks the unofficial start to summer, making it the perfect time to shop for the clothes, furniture and appliances you'll need to get you through the season.

Retailers know that too, and many are offering deals and slashing prices accordingly.

ABC News' Good Morning America has compiled some of the best deals around. Check them out below:

Anthropologie: Get an extra 25% off sale items for a limited time.

ASOS: Use the code SPRING4IT to get 25% off your order until 3 a.m. EST on May 22.

Banana Republic: Get 30% off regular-priced items and an extra 40% off sale styles. No code needed.

Best Buy: Save up to 40% off on appliances, and get a $100 gift card with qualifying appliance purchase.

Chico's: Until May 27, get 40% off one already reduced style with the code 93470; 50% off two or more already reduced styles with the code 68389; a free three-piece pouch when you spend more than $150; plus 40% off tees, shorts and dresses.

Cost Plus World Market: Save up to 50% on select outdoor items.

Credo Beauty: Get free shipping on all orders with the code SUMMERLOVE, from May 24-27.

Dell: Save up to 50% off PCs and electronics.

Express: Take an extra 50% off women's and men's clearance items.

Fossil: From May 23-27, take an additional 25% off sale items with the code READY25.

Gap: Get up to 50% off everything until May 23. Want another 20% off? Use the code WARMUP.

J. Crew: With the code HISUMMER, you'll save 35% on wear-now styles.

Kipling: Buy one sale item, get a second sale item for 70% off through May 30.

Mark & Graham: From May 24-28, save 20% off site-wide with the code SAVE20.

Net-a-Porter: Sale items are up to 50% off, with some brand exclusions.

Purple: Until June 3, get $100 off all Purple mattresses, except for twin and twin XL models, which are $50 off. Plus: free sheets with purchase. Other deals include $10% off all Purple products and a BOGO deal for Purple blankets.

Reebok: The shoe brand is offering a number of deals through May 31. One includes getting $5 off any purchase, $10 off a purchase of $85 or more and $20 off a purchase of $100 or more with the code SAVEMORE.

REI: REI is hosting its anniversary sale, and savings can be up to 30%.

Target: Save up to 30% off home goods with the code HOME. Plus, get women's swimsuits starting from $12, men and women's clothing starting from $5, and kids' clothing starting from $4.

True and Co.: From May 22-28, get 20% off site-wide with the code BIGSALE.

Ulta: Gorgeous Hair event, up to 50% off hair products through 6/1

Urban Outfitters: Take advantage of 30% off sale items through May 22.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Tuesday
May212019

Ford is cutting 7,000 salaried jobs

fredrocko/iStock(DEARBORN, Mich.) -- American automotive giant Ford said on Monday it is preparing to cut 7,000 salaried jobs in an effort to reduce bureaucracy at the company, flatten the structure of management and cut costs, according to a letter CEO Jim Hackett sent to employees on Monday.

Fellow Detroit-area automaker General Motors went through similar, but deeper, white-collar job cuts last year when it eliminated 8,000 non-union positions and 15 percent of its salaried and contract workforce, compared to Ford's 10 percent.

Ford's cuts largely focus on management in and around the company's Dearborn, Michigan, headquarters in departments including engineering, product development, marketing, information technology, logistics, finance and marketing. About 2,300 of these jobs will be lost in the United Stated through buyouts and layoffs and more than 1,000 have left voluntarily already or with buyouts, according to the company.

About 500 workers will be let go starting this week. All will get severance packages, Ford said.

"To succeed in our competitive industry, and position Ford to win in a fast-charging future, we must reduce bureaucracy, empower managers, speed decision making and focus on the most valuable work, and cost cuts," Hackett wrote.

"Ford is a family company and saying goodbye to colleagues is difficult and emotional," Hackett wrote.

This move -- designed to save $600 million -- is part of a two-year long process of cost cutting following slowing sales around the world. Last month, the automaker reported earning $1.1 billion in the first quarter. That's 34 percent less than the same period a year prior but an improvement over the expectations of analysts. About 1,500 jobs were slashed last year at Ford through buyouts with thousands of other cuts occurring overseas.

Ford revealed an $11 billion investment last year to refocus on overseas sales and a modernization of its fleet by focusing more on electric and autonomous driving technology.

Ford, long considered a healthy company in America's automotive industry, closed at $10.28 on the stock market on Monday, which is up from its $7.90 price at the beginning of the year.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Tuesday
May212019

Bloomingdale's employee files lawsuit, says she was accused of aiding man in committing fraud

JayLazarin/iStock(NEW YORK) -- A woman of Korean descent is suing Bloomingdale's and L’Oreal USA, alleging discrimination and false imprisonment.

Hye Sun Kang, who goes by Jennifer, was a sales associate at the L’Oreal counter at Bloomingdale’s flagship store in New York City.

Without any warning, her lawsuit said, she was detained by store security and accused of conspiring with and aiding a Chinese client in using fraudulent credit cards and forced to sign a written statement that she had violated company policy.

Upon exiting the room, she was immediately confronted by the New York Police Department who arrested, charged and processed her, and she spent the night in a prison holding cell, the lawsuit said.

Bloomingdale’s, in court papers, has denied the allegations.

According to the lawsuit, Kang, who had no prior criminal history, spent 12 hours at Riker’s Island before the district attorney ultimately dropped all charges. Kang was fired from her job and has what her attorneys called an unjustified arrest on her record.

Kang said she feels that she was singled out and targeted because of her Asian descent. Her co-workers, who also sold products to the same Chinese client, were not questioned, arrested or fired, the lawsuit said.

She is seeking damages against both L’Oreal and Bloomingdale's.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Monday
May202019

Nike to change pregnancy policy in athlete contracts after backlash

code6d/iStock(NEW YORK) -- After a group of female track stars alleged they were penalized by Nike for being pregnant, the company said it would do more to protect female athletes' pay during and after pregnancy.

“Last year we standardized our approach across all sports to support our female athletes during pregnancy, but we recognize we can go even further,” the company said in a statement. “Moving forward, our contracts for female athletes will include written terms that reinforce our policy.”

The change from one of the world’s largest and most iconic sports companies came just a week after track star Alysia Montaño spoke out in an op-ed video published in The New York Times, saying that Nike "told me to dream crazy, until I wanted a baby."

In the accompanying article, The Times reported Montaño "had to fight with her sponsor to keep her paycheck."

Montaño was heralded as a supermom of sorts when she ran the 800-meter race at the 2014 U.S. Track and Field Championships while eight months pregnant.

Just a few weeks later, the track star gave birth to a healthy baby girl. Years later, in 2017, Montaño ran in another U.S. Championship race while five months pregnant with her second child.

Other female track stars told
The Times that sponsor Nike did not guarantee them a salary during their pregnancies and immediately after having a child.

“Getting pregnant is the kiss of death for a female athlete,” Phoebe Wright, a runner sponsored by Nike from 2010 through 2016, said. “There’s no way I’d tell Nike if I were pregnant.”

Olympian Kara Goucher told the outlet she had to make a choice between training for a half-marathon so she could get paid by Nike to race again or stay with her newborn son in the hospital.

“I felt like I had to leave him in the hospital, just to get out there and run, instead of being with him like a normal mom would,” Goucher said. “I’ll never forgive myself for that."

The women's claims are similar to what non-athlete women often face in the workplace when it comes to maternity leave in the U.S.

The United States is the only country among 41 industrialized nations that does not mandate paid maternity leave, according to 2016 data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) found that, in December 2017, just 15 percent of all private workers had access to paid family leave.

Nike expanded its leave policy in 2016, making mothers eligible for a minimum of 14 paid weeks of leave and all new parents eligible to receive eight weeks of paid leave.

The company said Friday it recognizes "we can do more" and hopes the moment is an opportunity for the "sports industry to evolve."

"Our mission has always been to support athletes as they strive to be their best. We want to make it clear today that we support women as they decide how to be both great mothers and great athletes," Nike's statement said. "We recognize we can do more and that there is an important opportunity for the sports industry to evolve to support female athletes."

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Sunday
May192019

US-China trade war could hit American pet owners in the wallet

iStock/Chalabala(NEW YORK) -- U.S. pet owners could soon feel the impact of America's intensifying trade war with China deep down in their pockets.

Earlier this month, President Donald Trump imposed a 25% tariff on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods. And China's Finance Ministry responded by placing a tariff on $60 billion worth of U.S. goods, starting in June.

These levies come on top of already existing tariffs that China and the U.S. have imposed on steel, aluminum and farm goods, such as soybeans.

Now it's things like pet food and goldfish -- which are currently available for as low as $1 -- that could soon cost more because they are frequently imported to U.S. pet store suppliers directly from China.

The sale of U.S. pet food and treats reached more than $30 billion in 2018, with nearly two-thirds of American households having either a dog or a cat, according to the Pet Food Institute based in Washington.

"In the short term, we'll have to bite the bullet on this," said Joe Hiduke, a sales manager in Plant City, Florida at 5D Tropical Inc., which imports thousands of exotic fish species from China. "We'll eventually have to sit down and talk with the major pet store chains and say, ‘hey we can no longer supply what you're used to buying from us at the price you used to pay us.'"

And even if pet owners buy pet food manufactured in the United States, they may still get hit in the pocketbook because most of the ingredients needed to create popular pet food brands are imported from China.

"Pet food makers have a decision to make," said Mike Tabor, vice president of regulatory and international affairs for the Pet Food Institute. "They have to decide whether to pass on the cost of these hikes to the consumer or to simply absorb them."

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Friday
May172019

Lyft says drivers tampering with surge pricing could be booted

Scott Olson/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Lyft said that riders who tamper with surge pricing face being deactivated after a report revealed that ridehsare drivers at a Washington D.C. airport coordinated to boost fares.

The statement came after a report from ABC affiliate WJLA alleging that Lyft and Uber drivers at Reagan National Airport organized to turn off their apps until the prices for rides surged enough to deem the fares worthwhile.

"All the airplanes, we know when they land. So five minutes before, we turn all our apps off — all of us at the same time," one driver, who did not want to identified, told WJLA on camera. "All of us, we turn our apps off. They surge $10, $12, sometimes $19. Then we turn our app on. Everyone will get the surge.”

The drivers who spoke to WJLA said they hack surge pricing because their pay has gotten so low they can't cover expenses.

"Uber doesn’t pay us enough. What the company is doing is defrauding all these people by taking 35% to 40%," one driver, who did not want to identified, told WJLA. On camera, the other drivers agreed.

“They are taking all this money because there’s no system of accountability,” another unidentified driver said.

Last week, Lyft and Uber drivers around the world went "on strike" by turning off their apps for part or all of the day on May 8 to protest low pay, lack of employee status and benefits, and other working conditions that varied from city to city. Two days later, the company debuted on the New York Stock Exchange.

The practice of manipulating surge pricing is not necessarily new, said Lior Zalmanson, a professor at the University of Haifa in Israel who researches the ridesharing economy. His team studied rideshare drivers from 2016 to 2017.

"Back then, we found some incidents where drivers attempted to coordinate online and create surges by avoiding certain areas, thus creating a shortage of drivers, which leads to an increase in prices," Zalmanson told ABC News.

Interestingly, the surge hacking was not denied by Drive United, an ad hoc union for rideshare drivers.

"For years, our wages have been declining, resulting in many drivers being unable to afford health insurance or to feed their families. Just last week, drivers in Washington D.C. and around the world protested to demand a living wage from rideshare corporations," Drive United told ABC News in a statement.

"With that demand still unanswered, it should surprise no one that drivers are finding ways to work together within Uber and Lyft’s terms to make enough money to cover their basic needs. We encourage the media to look deeper into Uber and Lyft’s unsustainable business model and the difficulties drivers face every day," Drive United continued.

In a statement, Lyft told ABC News, "Lyft takes any allegations of fraudulent behavior very seriously as it violates our community guidelines and can lead to deactivation from the Lyft platform."

Lyft also took issue with complaints of low pay, saying most drivers make on average $20 per hour.

Uber told ABC News that “this behavior is neither widespread or permissible on the Uber platform, and we have technical safeguards in place to help prevent it from happening.”

Zalmanson agreed, saying "only the Uber company can detect these patterns for (something close to) certain. Given their machine learning capabilities, I would have to assume they might know when a surge feels produced and when it isn't."

He added that there are reasons that drivers may feel compelled to take matters into their own hands

"When drivers feel isolated from both company and peers, when they feel the company calls them 'partners' but keeps increasing their [company] commission. When they feel the system is an opaque black box whose choices they can’t understand, and they interpret it as if it tries to hurt their wages — it sometimes ends up in them regaining a sense of control by attempting to game the system for their benefit," Zalmanson said. "It’s not always the case of course, and with Uber’s strict surveillance, there’s not a lot they can do... but they do try."

 

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Friday
May172019

3 money-saving travel sites you can't afford to miss

Pruvo(NEW YORK) -- Memorial Day is fast approaching and with it, the unofficial start of the summer travel season.

If you haven't booked your summer vacation yet, here are three sites worth checking out.

Pruvo

Pruvo turns hotel booking on its head by saving the consumer money after they've already booked their room. According to the site, hotel prices drop, on average, 40 percent after a person has already booked.

But who has the time to keep checking back, cancelling and rebooking the same hotel room? That's where Pruvo comes in.

After you've made your free cancellation/fully refundable hotel reservation on any web site, email the confirmation to save@pruvo.com.

If the price drops, the customer receives an email. The company helps them rebook their exact same room at a cheaper rate.

The savings for the customer is the difference between the original price and the new price Pruvo found them. The company claims more then $2 million in savings so far.

One recent example included a hotel reservation at the Courtyard Daytona Speedway. Originally booked on Booking.com, Pruvo was able to find the customer the exact same room for $125 less.

Under Canvas

If you love the idea of camping but hate the ideas of, you know, actually camping, Under Canvas is for you. The company runs luxury campsites around national parks.

Each luxury campsite is made up of safari-inspired canvas lodging tents, which can hold up to seven people and are furnished with plush mattresses, luxe linens and a wood burning stove.

Locations include: Yellowstone and Glacier in Montana; Moab and Zion in Utah; Mount Rushmore in South Dakota; Great Smoky Mountains in Tennessee; the Grand Canyon; and Tucson, Arizona.

Rates starting from $189 per night.

Under Canvas has launched a #paywhatyoucan social campaign to make travel more accessible and affordable this summer. Anyone can apply on the Under Canvas site and the company said all applications will be considered for a reduced-price "glamping" vacation.

Applications are due June 4. Follow @undercanvasofficial for more details.

Cruisesheet

Cruising is unlike any other form of travel and, for the novice, the pricing structure and add-ons can be hard to untangle. That's where Cruisesheet comes in.

The site claims to be the only cruise agency that shows the actual, total price, including tax and port fees, avoiding surprises at checkout.

For those looking for the lowest possible prices, Cruisesheet is the only cruise agency that lets you sort by cost per day, including taxes and fees. The site currently has cruises from $32 per day.

A current list of the best deals can be found here.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Friday
May172019

Facebook bans Israeli company that it says tried to manipulate elections in Africa, Asia

Facebook(NEW YORK) -- Facebook has banned an Israeli company and taken down hundreds of its accounts that were aimed at manipulating elections in Africa and southeast Asia, the company announced on Thursday.

The social media company said that the Israeli company, Archimedes Group, tried to conceal its identity in setting up fake accounts with false information. In all, 265 Facebook and Instagram accounts, Facebook Pages, Groups and events "involved in coordinated inauthentic behavior" were taken down, Facebook said.

"This activity originated in Israel and focused on Nigeria, Senegal, Togo, Angola, Niger and Tunisia along with some activity in Latin America and Southeast Asia," Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook's head of cybersecurity policy, wrote on the company's site Thursday.

Archimedes Group "has repeatedly violated our misrepresentation and other policies, including by engaging in coordinated inauthentic behavior," Gleicher wrote. "This organization and all its subsidiaries are now banned from Facebook, and it has been issued a cease and desist letter."

One example of activity by these inauthentic accounts showed that one of them had posted an incendiary statement about a critic of the president of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Facebook said.

"Faithful to only himself, Martin Fayulu criticizes and rejects the results of the presidential election, which has unfolded transparently and in an exemplary calmness. It is time for him to admit his defeat to president Tshisekedi who has been elected in a democratic way."

A representative for Archimedes Group did not immediately respond to requests for comment from ABC News.

Archimedes Group operated 65 Facebook accounts, 161 Pages, 23 Groups, 12 events and four Instagram accounts, Facebook said, with 2.8 million accounts following at least one of the Pages, 5,500 accounts joining at least one of the Groups and about 920 people following one or more of the Instagram accounts.

Gleicher said the Israeli firm spent approximately $812,000 for ads on Facebook paid in Brazilian reals, Israeli shekesl, and U.S. dollars from December 2012 to April 2019.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Friday
May172019

NASCAR champion Joey Logano teaches journalist how to drive stick 

Ford(CONCORD, N.C.) -- Learning to drive a car with manual transmission is intimidating no matter what the circumstances.

I was about to get a lesson in driving stick from Joey Logano, the reigning NASCAR champion.

We were parked in an empty lot on a sunny Tuesday afternoon in Concord, North Carolina, a few miles away from NASCAR's offices. Our test car? A Ford Mustang Bullitt.

“This is perfect. The only thing you can hit are these lights,” Joey said, pointing to the parking lot's metal lamp posts.

Being able to drive a manual car is a challenging skill that very few people learn. In fact, the overwhelming majority of vehicles manufactured today are built with two pedals -- not three.

As a journalist who writes about cars, it was imperative to learn all the tricks of the trade. But who was going to be my coach, my patient guide?

Joey, who races for NASCAR's Team Penske, has been competing professionally since he was 15. His father, Tom Logano, taught him how to drive stick at the age of 7 on an old Honda Civic, taping blocks to the pedals and placing a stack of pillows behind young Joey as he mastered the footwork.

Joey said he would spend hours cruising and shifting in that Civic, blasting an AM station that played back the static of the engine. He was in heaven.

When I learned that Joey had agreed to be my driving instructor, I was floored. A bit intimidated, too. And definitely nervous.

 

 

I asked Joey before our lesson if he had taught others to drive stick. His wife, Brittany, was a former student. But, he cautioned, “I kind of run out of patience sometimes."

“I wasn’t the best teacher,” he acknowledged with a shy grin. “But I am going to do my best today.”

I laughed out loud. Oh boy, this was going to be an adventure.

I took a deep breath, visualized my feet on the pedals and carefully watched the RPM (revolutions per minute) on the tachometer increase.

“Lift your foot off the brake. Give it just a little bit of gas," Joey told me. "Now let out the clutch slowly. A little more, a little quicker.”

 My hands were tightly coiled around the wheel, my brow furrowed.

“Let out the clutch slowly. Just a little bit of gas,” I repeated back to Joey.

The Mustang lurched forward and bucked. I glanced nervously at Joey.

“There you go,” he said with a laugh.

“But we’re jumping,” I replied, mostly relieved the car had not stalled yet incredulous with how it was responding.

“Push the clutch in when the car is bucking,” he instructed.

We tried again. Same result. More bucking.

“Just go a little slower on the clutch,” he said. “So when you were letting the clutch out, you were going really, really slow and then you went fast. So you kinda want to ease it out slowly, the same speed all the way out.”

The car crawled to a stop, my feet synchronous in action as I stepped on the brake and clutch simultaneously.

“You got the stopping part figured out good,” he teased.

 I regained focus, staring intensely at the black asphalt in front of me.

“Just a little bit of throttle,” Joey explained. “Then just sloooooowly roll out.”

The car inched forward and bucked slightly. I stepped a little harder on the accelerator. Shift to second gear, Joey coached. The car seemed to be struggling.

“It’s revving out, right?” he noted. “You don’t want to go on the highway in 5,000 RPM.”

“Go to third, let the clutch out, now back to the gas,” he said. “That was perfect.”

We did it again and again. My lack of clutch control was frustrating.

“You don’t have any patience, do you?” Joey said with a laugh. “You’re like, ‘I just want to let the clutch out.’ That’s funny.”

Joey couldn't stop laughing. At that point I was happy he hadn't walked out on me. I worried that the bucking was making him sick, but he reassured me that he was feeling fine. Then he spotted my problem.

“You know what I think is happening?” he said. “You’re letting the first part of the clutch out with your ankle.”

“And then you’re running out of range on your ankle,” he continued. “You’re moving your leg and you’ve got no control. Try letting the clutch out the whole time with your foot, with your heel not on the ground.”

With the car in neutral and the emergency parking brake on, I practiced releasing the clutch, this time with my heel inches off the floor.

“See how smooth you were?” Joey said, watching as I moved my ankle. “Because you’re using the same muscle the whole time.”

We decided to take the lesson to the next level: Going in reverse.

I pointed to the concrete wall a few feet away.

“I am not going to hit it, I promise,” I said.

“Famous last words,” Joey quipped.

Turns out I am a pro at reverse.

“Oh, that was money,” he said with a laugh. “Why can’t you do that all the time?”

The conversation veered to braking. He then made a confession.

“I’ve rolled a car down a ditch before without me in it,” he said sheepishly. “And it’s a bad feeling. I learned the hard way. Always put it in gear even if you think the parking brake is on. The car rolled down the hill and into a tree. We fixed the car but it was pretty bad. It was a bad moment in my life.”

I burst out laughing. Even Joey Logano – race car driver, NASCAR trophy winner, driving god – has made mistakes.

 With my confidence starting to rebound, I shifted to first gear and did exactly as Joey told me.

A smoother start.

“See, you started to go fast and you stopped yourself. That was perfect, that was good. We’re making progress,” Joey hollered, encouraging me to pick up the speed.

He waved to our small audience -- PR handlers, my father -- in the parking lot, a big grin on his face.

“We’re doing good!” he yelled out the window.

But we weren’t done. There was still one key lesson to learn: launch control.

“So this is really simple, you’re going to be really good at this, I promise,” he said in jest. “This is going to be the easiest thing you’ve done all day.”

We switched seats and showed me how to rev the engine in first gear. He released the clutch and the car took off like a rocket.

I let out a small scream.

Now it was my turn.

“This is the moment I regret everything,” he said as we exchanged laughs.

 I buckled the seat belt.

“You’re just going to push the clutch in, hold it all the way down, just dump the clutch,” he instructed. “No finesse.”

The Mustang squealed. The tachometer moved closer to the dangerous red line. Four tires spun ferociously.

“All the way down, all the down, dump the clutch, OH YEAH,” he exclaimed as the Mustang galloped at full speed.

With my hair flying in the wind, I shifted to second, then third gear. I was in control. The rush was exhilarating.

Joey was smiling. “It’s pretty fun, isn’t it?” he said.

I looked at him and shook my head in agreement, forgetting for a brief moment that he’s a celebrity race car driver.

The lesson concluded with a burnout. The smoke and fumes from the burning tires were overwhelming; I asked how he could tolerate the repugnant stench.

“What, you don’t like the smell of burning rubber?” he jabbed.

I looked down at the shreds of rubber that were strewn on the pavement.

“No,” I said with a laugh.

Then it was time for Joey to be Joey. He got behind the wheel of the Mustang and I braced for what was about to come: spinning circles of donuts, the Mustang tearing up the parking lot as I hung on for dear life.

Our time together was running out. So how’d I do? I asked. Joey didn’t hold back.

“You went from not knowing how to let the clutch out to doing a big, bad burnout by the end of the day, so I mean, that’s great improvement in my eyes,” he said, clearly proud of my progress.

“Would you feel comfortable with me driving you around on the roads here?” I asked eagerly.

“Yeah. You only stalled it a couple of times,” he said. “You got a lot smoother letting the pedal out. We know you’ve got a lead foot. And we know you want to go fast. It’s just hammer. That’s OK.”

I waved goodbye to Joey as he climbed into his 1991 Mustang, revving the engine and doing a few more circles of donuts before racing off to his next appointment.

Was I pro now at driving stick? Not quite. Was I more determined than ever to perfect my skills? Absolutely.

Will I forever be grateful to a NASCAR champion for giving me the confidence to achieve what I always thought was the impossible?

Always.

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