84-year-old man has been to every Daytona 500

By Kristen Hampton - bio l email

LEXINGTON, NC (WBTV) - When Jack Hege first started attending the Great American Race, the grandstands were only 15 rows deep. "You could see everything," says the 84-year-old die-hard Daytona fan.

Jack made the 9 hour drive some 50 times before finding someone to drive him the last few years. This year however, some medical problems threatened to break his 53 year streak. Jack wasn't going to go until his doctor gave him the ok and Richard Childress called.

The Welcome, NC based team owner flew Jack on the team jet and treated him like a King while at the track.

Jack got to sit in on the driver's pre-race meeting and watch from the Caterpillar sponsored tower.

Jack remembers almost every significant event that turned the Daytona race into the race-heard-round-the-world. He was there when Lee Petty took a soaring crash off the guardrail and ended his driving career.

Jack was there in 2001 when the 3 car went head-on into a wall. "It didn't look any different from the crashes you see every day," Jack said.

He didn't find out until a rest-stop on I-95 headed home that Earnhardt had died.

From the worst moments to the most recent win of a 20-year-old kid who's name no one knew until now, Jack has seen it all.

"I'm so proud of that young man for what he came out there and did."

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