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From skydiving mishap to hot laps in Roseville, Oakdale woman living a thrill ride

By: Bill Poindexter, Roseville Press Tribune Sports Editor
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Laverne Everett survived a tandem skydive nearly gone awry at the age of 80, and she’s been on a thrill ride since.

On Thursday afternoon, she was taking hot laps with three-time NASCAR K&N Pro Series West champion Eric Holmes of Escalon at All American Speedway in Roseville.

And for her next thrill-seeking adventure, “Now it’s a hot-air balloon,” Everett said after exiting through the passenger window of a new two-seat ride-along Late Model racer.

Everett has become somewhat of a celebrity and has made the talk-show rounds since her first skydive at the Lodi Airport went terribly wrong.

Celebrating her 80th birthday in May 2011, she slipped almost completely out of her harness just after jumping from the plane. Her tandem partner held onto Everett — literally — for dear life. Another skydiver, with a camera mounted on his helmet, floated over to try and help. They struggled to hold onto each other all the way to the ground and, ultimately, a safe landing.

The video, of course, went viral.

Last May, a year after the heart-pounding skydive, Everett was a guest on the “Today” show with co-anchor Matt Lauer. Asked what was next on her wish list, Everett answered, “Probably go in a race car. I think maybe that’s the next thing.”

Roseville race team owner Bill McAnally happened to be watching the show, and Everett’s wish was granted. Holmes, who lives in Escalon, made a 15-minute detour to Everett’s hometown of Oakdale on Thursday and served as her chauffeur to Roseville.

They switched to something a little more powerful after arriving at the speedway, and when Everett, with sparkling fingernails, gave a thumbs up, Holmes hit the gas and sped around the one-third-mile paved oval.

“I remember hearing about it,” Holmes said of Everett’s skydive, adding he didn’t know he’d be Driving Miss Laverne around the speedway until McAnally called him Thursday morning. “She enjoyed it. She’s been all over.”

Holmes said he topped out at about 90 mph. Everett said the curves were sharp. Holmes said he asked Everett if she wanted to drive.

“I don’t drive,” said Everett, who laughs a lot.

She will, however, go up in a hot-air balloon, on Maury Povich’s dime, apparently. She shared her next wish as a guest on “Maury” last week — “People that had accidents” was the theme, according to Everett.

“He’s paying for it,” said Everett, who wore a blue and yellow NAPA Auto Parts jacket over a leopard top with black slacks and green, blue and red Coach shoes.

At the time, though, she was still enjoying her track time with Holmes.

“Yes, I loved it. That was great,” Everett said, still wearing a racing helmet over her auburn hair. “I could have went faster.”

She’ll get the chance. McAnally named Everett the Grand Marshal for the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West Toyota/NAPA Parts 150 on Saturday night at the speedway. She’ll give the command, “Gentlemen, start your engines,” and she’ll get more laps around the track, too.

“We’re excited to have her as our Grand Marshal,” McAnally said. “She’s a very nice lady. I’m glad to help her capture her dreams.”

Contact Bill Poindexter at billp@goldcountrymedia.com. Follow him on Twitter at BillP_RsvPT.