Auto Club Speedway is the Backdrop for Several Stories in The Weekend Starts On Wednesday: True Stories of Remarkable NASCAR Fans

Barbie Robbins of San Diego, an avid Dale Earnhardt Jr. fan.
The Weekend Starts on Wednesday: True Stories of Remarkable NASCAR Fans is not your typical racing book.  Instead of using historic races or champion drivers, author Andrew Giangola explains the history and popularity of NASCAR through the eyes – and the converted school buses – of the fans.  

Giangola scoured the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series circuit, sleeping in those buses, and finding fan stories that are hilarious and heart breaking.  

It’s no surprise that Auto Club Speedway, which holds some of the largest sporting events in California, is the setting for some of the book’s most memorable tales of over-the-top fandom.  

Among the most avid denizens of “NASCAR Nation” is Barbie Robbins of San Diego, an avid Dale Earnhardt Jr. fan.  Robbins, 49, who lives in San Diego, became a NASCAR fan in a most unusual way – she was literally taken by Earnhardt after seeing him in a TV interview.  

She became hooked on NASCAR and took the name “Junior’s Baby 88 Girl,” never to be bothered on Sunday even during family emergencies, always eager to display her Dale Junior tattoo covering one shoulder blade.  Ask Barbie about her life, and she’ll flatly tell you, “It’s all about Junior.”  There’s a twinkle in her eyes, and she’s not joking.

“I’ve had the pleasure to meet Barbie several times at the race track, and I will say she is one of the most boisterous, passionate, fun NASCAR fans I’ve ever seen,” said Gillian Zucker, President of Auto Club Speedway.  “NASCAR is known as a lifestyle rather than ‘just a sport’ and Barbie really embodies that.  She has an enormous amount of fun at the track, and that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it?”

Another big NASCAR fan, Tava Miyata Stanford, had a more conventional introduction to NASCAR. She learned about racing through her dad.  But that’s where convention ends.  Wayne Miyata, the famous California surfer, also raced funny cars on local Southern California drag strips.  He put little Tava in his race car in 1968 when she was two years old.  Wayne rounded up the smallest he could find, put it on Tava’s head and strapped her in.  Father and daughter then blasted down the drag strip.

“I couldn’t see a thing; I was so little and the helmet fell over my eyes,” Tava said.  “I remember it was loud, very loud, and I felt the vibrations.”

A love affair with racing began.  

When Roger Penske built Auto Club Speedway in 1997, Tava decided to give her dad a big surprise – season tickets at the new race track. The best part of the present was they’d attend the races together.

The full story of Tava and Wayne’s love affair with NASCAR through many weekends at Auto Club Speedway, and their love for one other, is recounted in the chapter “Good Vibrations” in The Weekend Starts on Wednesday.

“NASCAR truly is a family sport, and it’s so rewarding to see families bonding at the track,” Zucker said.  “I look forward to the days when Tava’s children are bringing their own kids to watch NASCAR race at Auto Club Speedway.”

The Weekend Starts on Wednesday: True Stories of Remarkable NASCAR Fans”(Motorbooks, 304 pages with 99 color photos) will appear in stores Feb. 12. It’s now available for preorder on and the NASCAR.COM SuperStore.


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