It was tough, but during an emotional one-on-one date with The Bachelor star Brad Womack, Emily Maynard opened up about how her late fiancé, racecar driver Ricky Hendrick, died in a plane crash while she was pregnant with their daughter.
“It’s something that’s really private to me and something I don’t like to talk about a whole lot,” Maynard, 25, tells PEOPLE. “I never wanted to be the sympathy vote on the show. I never wanted to get a rose because that happened to me.”
But Maynard did receive a rose and a lot of thoughtful attention from Womack, whom she calls “a gentleman” and “the best guy.”
Following Monday’s episode, the Internet lit up in dismay and concern when previews for next week’s episode showed Womack taking Maynard – along with several of her costars – on a group date to a NASCAR racetrack to do some driving.
Now, Maynard is speaking out about the date. “I know there has been a lot of talk and concern recently over the upcoming episode of The Bachelor with the NASCAR-themed group date,” she says. “Although I appreciate everyone’s concern, I ask that you reserve judgment until after you’ve seen the actual episode, because, as you’ll see, the experience actually helped me gain some closure.”
In a clip from the episode (see above), fans can get a sneak peek at the date, how Womack treated the potentially uncomfortable situation and why facing the NASCAR racetrack and driving around it helped Maynard move on.
“The first few laps were for Ricky,” she says. “And the last lap was for me. And I’m just really ready to move on and find love again.”
• With reporting by MONICA RIZZO