A year ago, Tyler Church could count on one hand how many times he’d been on an airplane. This week he’s working in Le Mans, France as a body fabricator with the Garage 56 entry.
“The other night I spoke up at the team dinner and told everyone that this meant a lot for me from where I came from,’’ said Church, acknowledging his family’s humble beginnings to the opportunity he has earned now as a member of the Hendrick Motorsports team. When he told his father about his chance to travel to Europe, he said his dad cried in happiness and pride.
Church, 34, of Hickory, N.C., smiles recounting the experiences he’s had since joining the Garage 56 crew – from flying on a private aircraft with Jeff Gordon after a test session to simply crossing the Mississippi River for travel the first time.
“I got to the plane later than everybody else so I walked in and all the seats were taken except one beside Jeff Gordon,’’ Church recalled. “So, I looked around and asked, ‘is it okay if I sit here?’ And everyone was like, ‘sure, sit down, sit down.’ So I got to eat pizza flying on a plane sitting next to my hero Jeff Gordon.
“That was pretty cool,’’ he said with a wide smile, “Eating pizza with Jeff.’’
Although Church has been enjoying his experience in France, but concedes he misses his family – wife Heather and sons Dawson, 5 and Heather, 4. As for the culture, Church says he has not picked up much of the French language, adding with a smile, “I’ve been telling everybody, they’re gonna have to learn Hickory.’’
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