California Chrome Has Ties to Roanoke

As California Chrome galloped down the homestretch winning the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness, you may not have realized that he was also spreading the message: "Call before you dig!"

Rick Pevarski , is President and CEO of Virginia 811,  "It's been incredible.  It's been incredible.  The media impressions, the amount of excitement over California Chrome -- the "Chromies" that are out there.  It's been unbelievable," he said.

If you look closely you can see how Pevarski is tied to the super horse.  There, on jockey Victor Espanoza's silks – the message, "Call 811."  It's the national campaign to persuade homeowners to call before digging in their yards and potentially damaging utilities.

If you are not familiar with Chrome's background you might not know that he is owned by Steve Coburn, his wife and another blue collar couple.  A far cry from more typical blue-blooded racing royalty. 

They call California Chrome "The People's Horse…"  And were more than happy to accept 250-thousand dollars in sponsorship from the Common Ground Alliance, sort of the corporate Board for 811 call centers. They are Chrome's only sponsor.

Roanoke's Rick Pevarski is a member of that board – and has a newfound love for horse racing.  Recently he found himself home with only his dogs watching the Kentucky Derby.

"California Chrome is in third place, edges up to second, gets around that last turn and starts going toward the straightaway...  I'm jumping up and down screaming and my dogs are looking at me like I'm absolutely crazy," he said.

The Virginia call center -- based in Roanoke, contributed a modest 5,000 dollars toward the $250,000 total sponsorship.  All of the employees will soon receive a t-shirt with the special California Chrome logo, as the call center takes this promotion right down to the wire.

"In watching the Preakness in the pre-race -- everything was about California Chrome and every single image of Victor Espanoza -- the jockey all had 811 on his leg, on his boots, on his collar on his hat... Every single picture you see -- our logo is in it."

As for Pevarski – he and other board members are headed to Belmont on June 7, betting their investment in America's horse can take their message to the winner's circle one more time.  If Chrome wins the Triple Crown, there's no telling how many people will get the message to call before they dig.

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