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Remembering one of our own at season’s end

Photo by Dominic Aragon/TRE

The drop of the checkered flag in Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series championship race at Phoenix Raceway will leave more than just the 2021 NASCAR season behind.

2021 marks the end of the Gen6 car, the end of Chip Ganassi’s involvement (for now) as an owner and, for us personally, a time to bid farewell to dear friend of ours at The Racing Experts.

In mid-September, we unexpectedly lost our chief photographer, Cheri Eaton, who considered Phoenix Raceway to be her home track. Phoenix was one of the first tracks she attended after joining the site three years ago. 

“My bandmate and TRE photographer Chris Madrid got us in touch after he told me that she might be interested and shooting some NASCAR races,” The Racing Experts owner Dominic Aragon said. “He had told me Cheri had prior experience shooting local sports and that she wanted a chance to try her hand at motorsports photography.”

Cheri attended races across the country taking photos for us and capturing the motorsport of NASCAR as a determined fan-behind-the-cam with an eye for important moments.

For example, her favorite driver was Kyle Busch and even being at Homestead-Miami Speedway for his second NASCAR Cup Series championship in 2019, she was focused on the critical shots to provide the highest quality content possible. 

Photo by Cheri Eaton/TRE

Cheri was born Nov. 24, 1967, to Penny and Don White.

Away from the world of NASCAR, Cheri served the world well.

She graduated with honors from Arapahoe Community College in 1991. She was a part of a four-member team that received the only 100 percent grade in the Registered Nurse program’s history, where they addressed the effects of healthcare on underserved populations in an oral and written presentation.

Cheri was one of the top nurses in New Mexico, working her way up to being a nursing manager. She worked as an athletic trainer for 30 years, starting at age 19.

“As a volunteer athletic trainer, I often served as the only medically-trained person at various sporting events,” Cheri had said. “Because of the skills I had gained from a student athletic trainer program, I was able to attend as a high school student.”

Cheri’s progression as a trainer followed her progress as a nurse as, after she became a registered nurse, she stated,  “I was able to assess, treat and stabilize injuries that student-athletes were receiving and, more importantly, I was able to teach techniques to coaches and athletes alike to use to prevent sports-related injuries.”

Cheri’s big heart went beyond her profession. She was known to help people and personally at the site, opened her home for me, Dominic, former reporter Matt Courson, a friend of the site Tyler Jones and others to come to stay and accommodate. 

Photo by Cheri Eaton/TRE

From my own personal experience of being a Minnesota boy moving to New Mexico to further my career, Cheri just letting me live at the home she owned had a big impact on making the move possible but she went the extra mile of calling herself “commodities queen” with bringing food over, instructing me how to perform house-specific maintenance projects and making sure I was taken care of wherever needed, all without any questions asked.

It would be unfair to simply be thankful for her only for what she did for me, as she also provided wisdom and light to me and everyone she met. 

“When I think of Cheri Eaton, I think of a big racing fan with an even bigger heart,” Aragon said. “I only knew her for three years, but I will remember her impact over the course of the rest of my life.” 

To her kids, Andy and Cassie, her grandkids, her father and TRE photographer Don, her mother Penny and especially her significant other Richard – and all her loved ones – we are blessed to have experienced a fraction of the impact she had on your world and we are thankful that impact was broadcast to each of you in the articles featuring her photos

Enjoy these photos here, including notably Jimmie Johnson’s final career NASCAR Cup Series pole.

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