Lotto Winners: Woman Keeps Waitressing, Man Buys Nascar Teams

Two lottery winners share very different experiences.

March 30, 2012 — -- Joe Denette owns two Nascar teams. Alexandra Char is a waitress making about $400 a week.

If you think these two don't have much in common, think again. Both are lottery winners and, despite their very different choices, both say they are happy.

Denette's story is your classic tale of a man down on his luck who hit it big ...and then spent big too.

Watch the full story on "20/20: Lotto Frenzy" online here.

The Virginia man was laid off from his job in the construction business in January 2009. Life was rough, he said, but it would get better -- much better -- in May 2009.

That was when when Denette stopped at 7-11 convenience store and bought $23 worth of Mega Millions tickets. He didn't think twice about spending the scant cash he had on the lotto.

"Gotta take a chance," he said. "If you win, you don't work anymore."

Taking the chance paid off: One of his tickets was a winner, yielding a jackpot of more than $75 million.

In the next three years, Joe quickly spent $20 million of his winnings on charitable donations, a four-carat diamond for his wife, six houses and a collection of grown-up toys most men can only dream of: eight cars, a fleet of ATVs, jet skis, a boat, and two tour buses.

But the biggest thing he bought was his Nascar teams. Long before he won a cent, Denette was a passionate Nascar fan.

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."

Megan Denette, meanwhile, hasn't lost her pre-lotto frugality. She still clips coupons despite the couple's millions and says she still worries about money.

"I just want to make sure that we're okay and our kids are okay," she said.

But Joe Denette said he feels secure.

Winning the lottery, he said, didn't buy him happiness -- at least, not directly.

"It makes me financially independent. And with all of that comes happiness," he said. "It's nice to be able to get up in the mornin' and say, I don't have to go to work."

Unlike Denette, Alexandra Char wants to work -- so much so that after she learned she won $1 million from a scratch-off ticket, the 21-year-old waitress gave herself just one day off before heading back to her job at a Mexican restaurant.

"It's my little home away from home," the Clearwater, Fla. woman said of the restaurant. "They've become my little family so it's more than just work."

It's not just her work life that's stayed the same: Char hung on to her pre-lotto living arrangements. She shares an apartment with her four roommates, her boyfriend and her dog Murphy.

Char has made some changes thanks to her winnings, however: She's using the money to pay for her college tuition, as well as a couple of splurges: a new car and a camera.

"I ask myself why is it me that won the lottery, the million dollars," Char said. "Why me, when I'm happy working all the time and supporting myself? I believe it was given to me because I'm gonna do something great with it. I just feel like this is the opportunity to start a new chapter."

Watch the full story on "20/20: Lotto Frenzy" online here.

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