FONTANA -- It was the lap of a lifetime Friday afternoon for Margaret "Marge" Golbeck at Auto Club Speedway.

The 94-year-old Los Alamitos resident, a cancer patient, got to scratch another item off her bucket list - zipping around the racetrack at a 120 miles per hour.

"I'm thrilled to be here," Golbeck said after arriving at pit road with three of her four daughters in tow.

Golbeck rode shotgun in a sedan as she was greeted by two lines of Speedway executives and staff that made up her pit crew for the day.

"Well, shall we get you in a race car?" said Speedway President Gillian Zucker, who also acted as a crew chief for Golbeck.

Golbeck wasted no time ambling toward a pace car in her white sneakers, blue sweatpants and green shirt with matching green jacket.

She wanted to hop into a NASCAR vehicle, but officials thought better of it. At her age and in her condition, it would have been difficult to get her inside one of the doorless cars.

Still, the thrill of the track awaited, but first, she got to hear a special message from NASCAR driver Tony Stewart.

The famous racer was at Homestead-Miami Speedway but took the time to film best wishes to Golbeck, who sat at a table surrounded by her daughters and watched the clip on a laptop computer.

"Have fun in your pace car today," Stewart said.

He then reminded her to buckle up and thanked her for her service - Golbeck did clerical work at Camp Pendleton in Oceanside in World War II.

Not surprisingly, she gave the ol' Marine Corps yell, "Oorah!" before sitting next to driver Brian Geye in the pace car.

Golbeck was as cool as her sunglasses.

Among the many cheers by those who wore pink in support of her fight against cancer, there were tears of joy as Golbeck took off in the pace car, with its engine roaring and lights flashing.

"Can you believe it?" said daughter Kris Harris, wiping away tears as she looked to her sister, Carole Purtell.

Purtell jumped up and down and punched her fists in the air.

With the windows rolled up, Golbeck and Geye drove several laps, averaging around a minute and six seconds per turn.

Harris and Purtell joined their sister, Paula Golbeck, in cheering on their mom. Golbeck's other daughter, Liz Ruhl, wasn't in attendance.

The daughters said the two things Golbeck is most proud of are her time at Camp Pendleton and that she raised four girls.

"She was tough, fair," Harris said. "She loved us no matter what and we knew it."

Golbeck was born on Oct. 16, 1918, in Kingman, Kan. After Camp Pendleton, she became a homemaker and an award-winning knitter.

She is legally blind and her body is racked with cancer, including her lungs and liver.

But Golbeck's spirit is strong, and her eyes were alive with excitement as she gazed upon not only the pace car, but the Auto Club Speedway race car as well.

"Oh, that would be fun," she said.

After several laps around the track, Golbeck and Geye pulled into pit road, and switched out passengers. During one stop, she yelled, "We won again!"

The Speedway worked with the Santa Ana-based Southern California Hospice Foundation to make Golbeck's dream come true.

The foundation provides medicine, patient assistance and the granting of final wishes to terminally ill children and adults.

"I feel like I'm doing God's work," said Michelle Wulfestieg, executive director of the foundation. "It's just truly a blessing to meet the needs of our patients."

Wulfestieg said she initially offered Golbeck the opportunity to cruise the neighborhood in a race car donated by an acquaintance.

But she said Golbeck has "the need for speed."

Golbeck's race around the track was documented by the Showtime cable network, which is producing an as-yet untitled series on the end of life.

Golbeck's husband, playing-card salesman Wallace Henry Golbeck, died in 2006.

Asked what he would think of his widow's speed-demon ways, Harris said "he would not be surprised."

She said her mother wants to skydive in January. 


josh.dulaney@inlandnewspapers.com 909-386-3894