Friday
Apr172015

FLASHBACK: Whatever Happened To 2009 Mega Millions $75.6 Million Winner Joe Denette?

Joe Denette is presented with his win by Virginia Lottery executive Paula Otto.

It started with a $75 million Mega Millions win for the longtime NASCAR fan, and ended when Joe Denette bought his own team.

The then-48 year-old had spent most of his life living and working in and around Fredricksburg, Va.

Joe loves his family.

But his passion was racing. He always had NASCAR to serve as a welcome diversion to the everyday grind, and looked forward eagerly to the start of each season.

He told NASCAR.com that he began collecting die-cast cars and other memorabilia, and soon built a small shrine dedicated to the sport in the basement of his home -- complete with a black-and-white, checkered tile floor.

Then the housing boom went bust and he was laid off from his job.

"Around this time of year in 2009 I was unemployed and basically waiting for the race season to start, because that was always something I looked forward to," Denette said.

Inside Joe's garage where he can work and play whenever he wants.

On his way to the Richmond airport to pick up his younger brother, Joe Denette participated in another one of his passionate hobbies.

He bought 23 Mega Millions lottery tickets, picking three sets of numbers himself and letting the computer determine his fate on the rest.

And it did - to the tune of more money than he had seen in his lifetime.

When he hit the $75.6 million jackpot, Denette opted for the one-time lump-sum payment. After taxes, he said he was left with roughly $31 million.

Joe Denette (l) talks racing with his driver Jason White at the Camping World Truck Series at Martinsville speedway.

Even before cashing in the ticket, he hired an investment attorney to help him look after his money, and said he has no intention of coming anywhere close to losing it all in the black hole that can be stock-car racing.

In the back of his mind was the idea that one of those things he wanted to do was own a NASCAR race team.

Come the following Monday morning, when the lottery office opened, Joe Denette's life and the lives of many of those closest to him were about to change.

In addition to buying the Truck Series race team, he has spent some of the money on various other ventures, frequently for others.

He paid off his sister's mortgage, and a nephew's. He gave brother Fred $1 million "off the top" as promised. He bought three houses in the same neighborhood, but already is planning on selling two of them.

He bought a Shelby Mustang GT — the first car he’s never been ashamed to own — and a couple pick-up trucks. He also remodeled his basement in a racing theme, complete with checkered flag tile.

Joe Denette was interviewed by Barbara Walters. ABC television.

His Nascar investment has cost him $1.5 million and counting.

"I was scared, at first," said his wife, Megan. "but I knew that he's always loved Nascar and that's what he wanted to do."

And he still buys lottery tickets each week, but instead of 23 tickets he now buys 123 every week.

“I haven’t cashed another ticket since I won,” he said.

He also hasn’t worked, which, he said, is priceless.


Joe Denette talks about his 2009 win and what he did afterwards with the money.


Joe is interviewed by ABC's Barbara Walters.

READ MORE: NASCAR.com

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