C.J. Mirkhani is riding along with Ryan Newman in Sunday’s Quicken Loans Race For Heroes 500 at Phoenix International Raceway. Mirkhani won the right to have his Twitter handle displayed over the door on the No. 31 CAT Mining Chevrolet SS through NASCAR’s #MyChaseNation Twitter contest with a creative No. 31 carved pumpkin.
Mirkhani, 22, from New Milford, Connecticut has followed the No. 31 RCR driver since his NASCAR debut in 2001. We sat down with C.J. at Phoenix and learned why he was a fan of Newman and what the No. 31 CAT Mining driver inspired him to do.
Q: Why are you a NASCAR fan?
A: “All the people around me were NASCAR fans, my grandfather was a NASCAR fan and he got me into it. I just appreciate the atmosphere, right now I’m talking to RCR in front of Ryan’s hauler – you can’t do that at a baseball game.”
Q: What was your reaction when you found out your Twitter handle would be on the No. 31?
A: “I don’t know if there’s a word to describe it. I was absolutely astonished. That was amazing especially when I was already coming here. My uncle invited me to the race, so I was planning on coming out here anyway. When I found out that I was going to be on the car I was shocked.”
Q: How did you become a Ryan Newman fan?
A: “I was an Ernie Irvan fan, but when he retired I didn’t have a “driver”. I turned on the TV one day, NAPA Online 250 (Newman’s first career BUSCH Series victory) and the announcers said, “watch for this Ryan Newman guy, he’s going to be something someday.” That ended up sticking with me and I made up my mind that I was going to be a Ryan Newman fan.”
Q: You met Ryan in September and shared a letter with him; do you care to share what the letter said?
A: “I originally told him the story about watching that race. My grandfather was my best friend, we were NASCAR buddies and Ryan Newman fans together. We watched Ryan win the Daytona 500 together. Those are the memories of how we bonded over NASCAR and Ryan.”
Q: What did Ryan inspire you to do?
A: “I wasn’t necessarily sure what I wanted to do when I graduated high school. I remember reading an interview where he said his parents put an emphasis on getting an education in case the racing thing didn’t work out. I wasn’t going to be a racer, but that taught me an education was important no matter what and no matter how successful you’re projected to be.”
Q: Where do you go to school?
A: “I go to Western Connecticut State University and will graduate in May with a degree in accounting, then plan on getting my CPA.”
Q: What would be your dream job when you graduate?
A: “If I could have any job, I would probably work for Richard Childress Racing.”
Keep up the good work C.J.!