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Chance.

I come from a country home. There isn’t a lot of noise, and when there is, you know something’s going down. The biggest fear is a bad storm. Otherwise, life is pretty serene and peaceful.

In this house, there’s been one constant for the last 16 years: Chance. Our cat joined the family back in 1998, when Dale Earnhardt was finally a Daytona 500 Champion, and John Elway was hoisting up the Lombardi trophy. We jokingly named him Chance, saying there was a chance he’d live and a chance he’d die.

That young cat got put through the punishments. He’s outlived 2 dogs, and lives with 2 more now. He’s been chewed on, bullied out of the way. The dogs have eaten from his bowl and left him nothing for a few hours between meals. He’s had to deal with jealousy, being pushed away from Mom when he goes up to get petted. He’s even taken a few licks from a young me that thought it was okay to practice WWF (yes, F!) wrestling moves on the small animals. I’m not proud of it..

He’s been through a lot, but he keeps going every day. He moans for his dinner at 3 every afternoon, and wakes mom up for breakfast every morning. He drops the occasional hairball, but is otherwise healthy. He toughs out his yearly trip to the vet. He’s content with life.

I never paid much attention to that in the past, but after years away from home, I’ve come to appreciate it. In college, and life in general, everyone looks for everything to complain about, every reason to convince themselves that their lives are miserable and they deserve better. I’m as guilty of it as everyone else, it’s just easier to bail yourself out by saying life sucks when things don’t go your way.

A pet with a good owner is happy every day. They greet you at the door, tails wagging and excited. They come up to be petted and play, and always stay content with life. Why can’t we be like that? What excuse do we have?

“Oh, my day was just horrible.” “There was nothing good to eat for lunch today!” “That prick was talking behind my back again!” These kinds of things happen all the time. The sad thing is, we let them ruin our whole day. I’ve even seen people let themselves sulk for weeks over a game they watched on T.V. or a night not going the way they planned. I know it sucks, but the fact is, it’s not a big deal in the long-run. There’s no reason to let little things ruin your life.

For every bad thing to happen to us, there are hundreds of good things. We just need to put things into perspective. We still get to live our lives out to the fullest everyday. We live in a nation that gives us freedom and opportunity, food on the table and thousands of ways to entertain ourselves. Life may have it’s swings, but over time it’s still an amazing, blessed ride. Enjoy it while you can.

Next time you come home on a bad day, upset and ready to take it out on the world, think of pets. Think of your cute dog at home, your fish chilling in their bowl. Never had a pet? Think of the ones at your buddy’s house. They can teach you something you may not have even thought about: How to be content.

IU: Still Much to Prove

 After a tough, 1-2 beginning to Big Ten play, the Hoosiers needed a win. Struggling and sitting outside of Lunardi’s bracketology, the Hoosiers needed a win. In a conference rivalry that recently included 12 straight losses against Bo Ryan’s Wisconsin squads, the Hoosiers needed a win. Desperately seeking a defining win over a top 25 team to prove their worth to themselves as much as others, the Hoosiers needed a win.

     
     They got it.
     
     After a courageous, nearly improbable 10-point comeback in the second half led by sophomore Yogi Ferrell, the Indiana Hoosiers pulled off an upset of #3 Wisconsin 75-72 on January 14th. As Wisconsin’s attempts to tie the game with 3’s failed and the buzzer sounded, overjoyed Hoosier fans and students rushed the court. They finally had the big win they wanted, over a team they’ve struggled so desperately against for the last decade. Their season had finally hit a high point. 
 
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     It all sounds much like the plot of a typical sports movie. The team won the big game, everyone celebrated and there was a happy ending. There’s only one problem with all of that: The season isn’t over yet.
    
     Lost in all of the happiness and celebration is the fact that Big Ten conference play is still at its beginning. The Hoosiers still have 14 more games of conference play, along with the conference tournament before March Madness. The Hoosiers are still unranked, still on the bubble for the NCAA tournament and still have troubles with turning the ball over, coughing up the ball and average of 15 times per game in Big Ten play. They still have a lot to play for.
     
     Now, don’t get me wrong, I was as excited as anyone else when they won. I’ve watched this team play since I was little. I’ve sat in the living room watching games on Saturday afternoons and screaming at the tv with my father. I listened to one of the games on their run to the NCAA championship with Mike Davis in a car on the way to Florida for spring break. I jumped up screaming as an entire residence hall went int a frenzy following their buzzer-beater over Kentucky in 2011. These Hoosiers have caused many a celebration. But what people always forget, lost in the moments of these big games, is that there’s another game to play.
     
     I think this win could be huge. The Hoosiers could use this as momentum and have a strong conference season. They could end the year ranked and make the NCAA tournament. They could go on a run and finish strong. There really is no ceiling for this young, talented team. But they could also struggle with inconsistency, keep turning the ball over and finish out the year horribly. One marquee win may not be enough in a year where upsets are as consistent as ranked teams winning like they should. They follow this win up with a game against Northwestern, a team that just beat Illinois. If you can remember, Illinois beat IU recently in Champaigne. What I’m trying to say is this: There’s still a ways to go, and things aren’t going to get any easier. This team still has a lot to prove.
     
     I sure hope they prove themselves to be as good as they looked last night. 
 
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A Time to Give Thanks

Thanksgiving comes every year, and with it comes a thousand posts on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Everyone shares a picture of their favorite parade float, tweets about how cute (or ugly) Taylor Swift looked when she performed. Pictures of food flood the internet (as if we aren’t all eating the same thing) and everyone puts into 140 characters how full they are. It all floods together much like a perfect storm, as happens every holiday.

One tradition on Thanksgiving makes me happy, though. Hidden amongst the food and found between naps are post after post of thanks. People post how thankful they are for their family, for God and for the nation they live in. Each of these posts get likes, favorites, retweets, etc. For one day, everyone puts their sadnesses away and cherishes all of the little things in life. It’s beautiful. Overall, there’s only one thing wrong with it.

It only happens one day per year.

Now, I’ll be the first to say that I love the tradition of giving thanks on turkey day. It’s one of my favorite holidays. However, we have all of these things to be thankful for during the other 364 days of the year, too. So why do we only acknowledge them for one day of the year? 

The easy comparison for this holiday is Valentine’s Day. For one day of the year, every loving couple takes some time to show each other how much love they have. It’s a cute holiday, albeit a commercial one, and leads to a lot of happy couples and families for a day. However, unlike Thanksgiving, couples still show their love outside of the holiday. Any good significant other shows their love how much they mean to them every single day.

The title of this blog was sort of a joke. We always call Thanksgiving a time to give thanks, and it is. But in all actuality, everyday is. We always have things to be thankful. We’re blessed beyond belief. Why, I’m blessed to be alive and able to write this blog.

I’m not saying change tradition. I look forward to seeing all of the posts for thankfulness and smiling again next November! I just hope that I’ll see a few showing of thankfulness along the way, too. I know I’m sure thankful for all of you. 

With love,

AarBear

A Quick Reminder

We all need reminders from time to time. We all forget things. That’s why we have calendars on our phones, laptops, walls and everywhere else. That’s why we make events on Facebook, spam things on twitter. Forgetfulness is why we have schedule books and assignment planners. But honestly, events and assignments aren’t the only thing we forget. They aren’t the only thing we need reminders about. 

I’m here today to give you all a different reminder, one you probably don’t get enough. It’s a reminder that we all should hear everyday, but very few do. 

I just want to remind you all that you’re beautiful.

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I mean it, every single one of you. We may not all be as pretty on the outside as we want to be, but we’re all the creations the Lord wanted us to be. We’re all blessed with the figure we were meant to have. We’re all beautiful in our own way.

More importantly, we’re all beautiful on the inside. I’ve had the privilege of meeting thousands of people over the course of my life so far, and I can honestly tell you that I’ve seem something beautiful in all of you. Whether it’s an infectious smile, dance moves that make everyone else want to bust a move with you, amazing hugs that can make pain fade away for a while, or even just being a good listener, you ALL have something inside of you that makes you great. You’re all unique, and also all amazing. 

In my time here I’ve seen people help others for no reason. I’ve seen elderly people walked across the street. I’ve seen people talked out of depression and suicide. I’ve seen a little boy pick dandelions to give to his kindergarten crush. I’ve seen all sorts of beautiful things happen every single day. You’re all responsible for it, too.

I don’t intend on making this post longer than it has to be. It’s just a simple reminder for you all. The next time you want to doubt yourself, to think that you aren’t good enough for something or aren’t worth anything, just remember, you’re beautiful. You were made unique and special, precious. You mean the world to somebody out there, and for good reason. You’re amazing.

So now that you remember that, go remind someone else. 

The Never-Ending Goal of Bettering Yourself

   Life is crazy. We’re constantly doing something, struggling with the limited time we have to accomplish all of our ambitious goals. We try to blend family, friends, personal time, religious time, and for some time with significant others all together in a mash-up that’s nearly impossible to pull off. To put it quite simply, we’re always working towards something. Whether it’s forging relationships, getting money growing closer to God, or just feeling relaxed, we always work toward a goal. Well, I have one thing to push you all to work towards this week. 

   Bettering yourself.

   It sounds so simple as a challenge, doesn’t it? We all know that we’re capable of it. We all have flaws, things that we wish we could change about ourselves. The trick, though, is that we aren’t all willing to work toward that change.

   What a shame that is. We are all capable of SO much. A single person can change the world if the opportunity comes. We just try to tell ourselves it couldn’t be us, that we’re not capable of such a feat. We all know someone will spring forth and do the big things that this world needs, but the probably is that we all think it will be someone else.

    Well, I’m here to tell you that that someone should be you. With a little effort, we can all make big things happen. We can all work together to change the world around us. But first, let’s start small.

   My goal for you all this week is to find one flaw that you have, one little thing you would like to improve about yourself, and work to fix it. Are you struggling to make friends? Go out and talk to someone new. Sick of downing empty calories? Try to cut pop or coffee out of your life. Having an issue in a class? Devote and extra couple hours to studying for it. Just try to fix something you want changed. 

   I’ll tell you, I’ve been working on something myself. I had been struggling to talk to new people this year, letting myself get trapped in the group of friends I’ve had for the last 2 years alone. While I have nothing against any of them (I love you guys!), I’m always interested in meeting new people. I rekindled my desire to make new friends, and over the course of this week have went out of my way to talk to as many new people as possible, and try to make them all smile. It’s been a major success for me!

   We all have our issues, but the good thing is we have plenty of time to work on them. Now, I’m not saying we’re going to make ourselves perfect. No one on this earth is perfect. I’m just saying that with a little effort, we can be the best people possible. You guys are all already amazing as it is, so why not push to be even better? 

A Little Late Night Writing…

The past consumes me, spreading like a house fire.

I try to stop the flame, smother it with a blanket of positivity.

But in these bleak moments, these nights of similarity

The lingering thoughts are unavoidable.

 

The fire is spreading.

 

It can’t be stopped. It swells, engulfing whole rooms. 

I run upstairs, but to no avail.

Worthlessness, selfishness, sadness,

Negativity floods the house, filling it up much like smoke.

 

I run to the doors, looking for an escape, a reprieve.

But they’re all blocked off by the rubble of past mistakes.

Painful memories seared into my brain. 

Things I couldn’ve done and didn’t.

Things I did do that I shouldn’t.

One thing I nearly did.

They all flood my brain, burning my heart.

 

Before I know it, the whole house is ablaze.

The smog of negativity darkens it all.

It expands everywhere, filling my lungs.

I struggle, choke. I can’t breathe.

I’m dying.

Save me! 

 

 

 

 

 

I wake up. Open my eyes.

I lay above, facing the remains of a home.

A life left behind. 

The flames are gone, ashes flow through the air.

 

A tear escapes my eye as I stare at the crumbled building.

Black, charred, empty. 

My past life symbolized.

Then I feel a warm embrace from behind.

The gift of a life still occurring.

The opportunity to make a better future.

Build a new home. 

 

No matter how dark the day,

The light of another day will come.

In the remnants of a fire,

A new home can be built.

Placed on a stronger foundation.

Faith, love, and hope. 

A Week at the Track (Last updated 7-21-13)

Note: I’m taking pictures all week at the tracks I’ll be at. I don’t know when I’ll have time to look over them, but when I do I’ll post some in this blog and on my Flickr. I’ll link to the pictures when they’re up. Thanks for being patient! I’m very busy or I’d get to it quicker.

7-17-13: Intro

It’s almost here: My favorite week of the year. For 51 weeks of the year, I just stay positive, have fun with everything, and get through life. However, for 1 week of the year, everything comes together. I have the most fun of my life, and I’m at bliss for the whole time. I spend a lot of quality time with family, going to my favorite place in the world, on my favorite day of the year.

I’m talking about the day of the Brickyard 400.

The legendary Pagoda at IMS.

The legendary Pagoda at IMS.

Whenever I’m asked about this coming week, I call it my Christmas. While I’m in no way ever even going to consider the day more important than Christmas, I do look forward to it that much. It’s been the highlight of my summer (and year) since I was a little boy.

It all started when I was little, only 4 years old. My parents took my to qualifying day at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. I laid my eyes on the legendary race track for the first time, and I instantly fell in love with it. I got to see all of my favorite drivers, my heroes, fly around the most legendary track in the world. I watched them slide through the tricky turns of the rectangular track, and then roar down the front straightaway, sliding over the famous brick finish line and beginning another lap.

Ever since that fateful day, I’ve looked forward to the weekend at the Brickyard every year. It started with just the qualifying day. I would watch the Truck Series race at nearby Indianapolis Raceway Park (My favorite short track in the world) on Friday night. I’d then try to sleep, get up early on Saturday, and go to the track, though not until we had breakfast at McDonald’s. There, I’d watch my favorite drivers qualify, telling my Grandfather every single driver’s name, number, sponsor, the team they drove for, and about where I thought they’d qualify. We’d all laugh together as the old announcer would say the same simple phrase as every driver started their qualifying run: “And heeeeeeeeeeeeee’s ON IT!!”

After qualifying, we’d be in the mood for some of the track’s french fries. They’re delicious, but half the fun of eating them is the satisfaction in FINDING them. See, only a few of the concession stands sell them. So my grandfather and I would walk sometimes up to nearly a mile down the front straightaway to buy some fries for ourselves and my parents. When we finally got back to our seats, I would demolish my fries even quicker than we found them. The salt would burn the little cuts on my hand, but it never stopped me from eating them quick enough to wonder if I’d even tasted them.

I would sneak down to the merchandise haulers with my mother as some point during the day. We’d go, I’d beg for Dale Earnhardt Jr. shirts, hats, diecasts, and Mom would spoil me rotten and buy most of it. We’d then go through the painful process that is finding a hat my father will wear. When in down, camo or black, and make sure the hat has a mesh backing. It was always hit or miss, but we always got him a hat regardless.

We would then sneak up to our seats again, usually sweaty and burning up from the long, hot walk. I would show off all of the stuff I’d gotten to Dad and Grandpa (Who’d stayed in their seats and people watched). Grandpa would smile and tell me it was cool, while Dad feigned a smile behind the pain in his wallet.

We would then watch the IROC race, a series of old in which championship drivers of all racing series would race identical cars. Indy was the last race of the year for it. More often than not, Mark Martin would win the race, but Dale Earnhardt would win the championship.

We would end up leaving the track around 6 p.m. I would always run when I saw the car, as I simply had to be the first to touch it! I would play with all of my awesome new die casts and drift off into a doze on years I went on lower-than-usual hours of sleep as we headed for Anderson. We would all stop at Texas Roadhouse (Closest thing to an Outback Steakhouse in Anderson) and get a texas rose and some steak. We’d drop Grandpa off at about 8:30-9 p.m., then head back to our quaint little country home. We would end the night watching the then-Busch Series race at IRP and drifting off to sleep.

As the years have gone on, some things have changed. I’ve started going to the actual race, my favorite day of the year. IROC stopped running, and now the Nationwide (formerly Busch) series runs at IMS on Saturday in its’ place. We’ve had a bad dinner at Taste of Texas replace Texas Roadhouse once. Grandpa’s sadly missed 2 years, one year that we didn’t even to to qualifying day. I’m very glad to say that he’ll be back this year though! Mostly, though, the tradition of Saturday and Sunday has stayed the same for all of the years I’ve gone. I look forward to it not just for racing, but for all of the quality time that I get to spend with my family.

This week just means so much to me. Saturday and Sunday are the best days I could ever ask for. However, I’ve taken to expanding the week and getting as much out of it as I can. It started in 2011, when my friend Joey and I went on Friday, to watch the Cup Series practice at IMS, then went to the last ever Truck Series race at Lucas Oil Raceway (formerly IRP). Last year, I went crazy with it. I won tickets to the Truck and ARCA Series’ racing at Chicagoland Speedway the weekend before, so I went with my friend Dray to Joliet, Illinois. I followed up with trips to IMS on all 4 days, Thursday through Sunday, seeing the inaugural races at IMS for the Nationwide Series and Grand-Am, along with trips to Lucas Oil Raceway on Thursday and Friday as the ARCA CRA Series, USAC, and ARCA Racing Series all hit the short track. It was the most incredible experience I’d ever had as a racing fan, and also the least sleep I’ve ever had… It was all worth it though. i saw great racing, and even got Danica Patrick’s autograph for my mother.

Son of the Year?

Son of the Year?

This year is shaping up to be even more special. I’m going to be starting it this Friday and Saturday, with trips to Anderson Speedway for CRA Series racing. I’ll then be watching the Nationwide and ARCA Series races at Chicagoland with my family on Sunday after church. I’m taking Monday as a racing-free day, getting my braces off after about 3 years with them on!

Tuesday and Wednesday are going to be spent experiencing history, the first NASCAR race on a dirt track since 1970, as the Camping World Truck Series hits the dirt half-mile Eldora Speedway in Ohio. I’ll then be going to the Brickyard from at least Friday through Sunday, with Thursday as an option. I’d like to run in the Hauler Hustle 4k, which features a course that actually has you running on the track, so I may go on Thursday, too. I’ll be there by myself on Thursday if I go, and Friday. Saturday will be with my parents, grandparents, and very brave girlfriend! Sunday will be just me and the parents, with our usually family day. Yeah, we bond with NASCAR.

Ultimately, I’ll see at least 11 races, not including heats, B-mains, and segments. It’s going to be a wild, wild ride. I’m going to be going at it with my camera and an itch to write it all down.

Ever wonder what I’m like during race week? If so, just keep following this blog. I’m going to be updating this entry with all of the news on the week, including pictures and my reactions to things. To see how the week of racing goes, or even just to track me on my desperate journey to get Dale Earnhardt Jr’s autograph, just follow here. It could be worth it everyone, I think this is going to be the year I get it. Either way, I’ll keep you all up to date.

Enjoy the ride.

Nothing beats the start of the race

Nothing beats the start of the race

Sincerely,

AarBear

7-19-13

I woke up at 4:45. Yes, I mean a.m. I don’t know if I was excited, nervous, or just in pain from my jank futon mattress, but I woke up super early. And the best part? I couldn’t get back to sleep.

It was okay, though. It kind of helped me. See, it was finals day for my summer classes. I had an Accounting final at 9:15, and an Econ final at 12:45. Getting up early helped me study. I crammed for the whole 4 & 1/2 hours until Accounting, stopping only to get a shower and use the restroom. I then went to class, aced that final, and came back to the house.

That’s when the fatigue finally hit me.

I had to lay around until my Econ final, suddenly exhausted from my already long day. I barely woke up in time to take my second final. But thankfully, I was able to trudge my way to class through the heat and ace it, too. And thus, my finals week was over.

It was finally time for some fun. Finally time to go racing.

Friday night was the start of my week of races. I started the journey at the smallest track of the week: Anderson Speedway. The track, located (obviously) out by Anderson, Indiana, is a 1/4-mile high-banked paved oval. It’s the ultimate grassroots type of track, a short track with racing into the night. Laps fly by, passing as difficult, and tempers flare as races go on.

I decided to have some fun on the way there. I chose a scenic route on Google Maps. The drive took me peacefully through the beautiful campus of Anderson University. I slowly crawled through downtown, staring at the pretty old buildings. I passed by all sorts of small towns before I even got to Anderson. It was a nice, peaceful cruise after a rough day.

I got to the track at about 4:30, right as gates opened. I roamed around the track, found a good place to sit at the top of the turn 1 grandstands, and relaxed until the start of practice. I people-watched, looked around. I fiddled with my camera, texted my girlfriend. I honestly got a little bored. I’d waited all week to see cars on the track, and much like a child on the final minutes of Christmas Eve, the anticipation in the final seconds was killing me. I waited, waited, waited…

Then finally the time came. Cars from the Jegs CRA All-Stars Series took to the track for practice. Their engines roared as they drove through the infield and onto the steep banking of turn one. They weaved their cars back and forth on the track through caution laps, heating and cleaning off the tires. Then, finally, the flagman waved the green flag, and the cars were off.

I don’t know if you’ve ever been to a short track, but it’s a lot to take in. At Anderson, drivers turn laps in the 12-13 second range, sometimes even slipped into 11.9 times in the higher Series’. With drivers flying around the track like that, it can be hard to keep up with. Your eyes dart left, right, up, and down quicker than you can even really think about it. It’s something else.

The practice sessions flew by. Qualifying came next, and both Series’ running went through them in a hurry (The CRA Sportsman Series was running too). The highlight of qualifying was a new track record for the Super Series! Bubba Pollard, a driver with more feature wins than anyone over the last 3 years, qualified p1 with a 12.231 second lap. He was in his own zip code, nearly 2 tenths of a second faster than the 2nd place qualifier. He seemed like a shoe-in to win the race.

That held true as the race began. The CRA Super Series race was 100 laps, and they went by fast. In what seemed like only seconds, the field went from firing their engines to 30 laps into the race. They ran side-by-side at a blistering pace until finally something gave and there was a wreck.

From then on, the wrecks never stopped. The cars, side-by-side on restarts, would beat and bang on each other in the turns. When single-file, drivers would dive in deep in the turns trying to pass and get cut off by the car in front of them, or try to fly around the outside and have to choose between potentially wrecking whoever they were passing, getting pinched into the wall, or backing off and getting passed by who was behind them.

Bubba led the first 70 laps of the race, when a caution led to another restart. Trent Snyder, a winner of 2 of the last 3 editions of this race, had driven to 2nd in the early laps of the race, and challenged Bubba on 3 consecutive restarts, slamming against him and trying to steal the lead. It hadn’t worked so far, but if the third time wasn’t the charm, it was the fourth.

Snyder started on the outside of Bubba. As the field roared into turn one, he slammed down into him, rubbing him and making both cars spark. This slowed Bubba down and let Snyder carry momentum onto the backstretch. He cut Bubba off going into turn 3, and the lead was his. From there on, he just held on. The race went green to the finish, and Snyder was able to pull off the upset.

Up next was the Sportsman Series. They ran a 75 lap race, one I thought would be quicker. I mean, it was 25 less laps. I figured it would be over in a half-hour and I could head back to Muncie. But boy, was I wrong.

The race was a debacle. Crash after crash ensued from the drop of the green flag. The race started with around 20 cars in it. By the end of the race, there were about 8. The race had to be red-flagged twice for oil cleanup. It was more like a demolition derby than a race.

Eddie VanMeter took advantage of this. He got spun in the first 20 laps, but survived the carnage and drove his way back to the front late, riding off to the win. Or so he thought, at least. Turns out, his car failed post-race inspection. His celebration was for naught, as 13-year-old Chris Hacker was given the win, his first in the series. Yes, a 13-year-old won. I feel old.

Overall, the track was entertaining on a (very) hot day! While at times the young field showed its inexperience with wrecks, everyone drove their best and put on a good show for the fans at the track. I will admit, though, that I was a little disheartened by the lack of attendance. These tracks can’t put on these big races with good purses if we don’t go to the races and support them. I hope more people go to the tracks in the future. I know I’ll be there!

7-20-13

Another day, another trip to Anderson Speedway. I slept in after a good night at the track before, and then immediately got to work. See, I wasn’t just going to a race today, I was also moving. I lived in a house in Muncie just for the summer while I was taking classes. Now that I was done, it was time to head home. I packed everything up, cleaned the room out, and got ready to go. My parents came at around 1:30 to help me get all of my stuff, and we loaded their Envoy and my Sonoma. I turned in my key, and headed to the house.

It was a fun drive. See, I was nearly in a wreck. I was following a car on 69, going about 75, 2 seconds behind the guy in front of me. He was cruising along, and went into the hammer lane to pass a truck that was carrying about 8 vehicles. Well, I pulled over into the lane, too, hoping to follow him by. Next thing I know, the truck puts on his left turn signal. He swerved over halfway into the lane, pushing the car in front of my clear to the left of the rumble strips, before realizing what he was doing and swerving back. Close call.

But I made it home safe and got everything moved into the house. I got home just in time to leave. I snagged Mom’s car (It gets better gas mileage) and got back on the road. One hour later, I was back at Anderson Speedway for its’ main event, the RedBud 300! The race was what sold me on going to the track for the weekend: 300 laps around the 1/4-mile oval. The entry list included CRA Stars like Johnny VanDoorn, Kenny Tweedy, T.J. Reid, and Bubba Pollard, as well as Erik Jones, coming off of a 2nd place showing in the NASCAR Truck Series race at Iowa Speedway, and Ross Kenseth, the son of NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champ Matt Kenseth.

I got to the track early, right as qualifying started, just to get my seat from yesterday. I watched them all qualify, then waited around until 6. At that time, all of the drivers took their cars to the track and had a full-field autograph session. It. Was. AWESOME! As a big racing fan, I love being able to go up and talk to the drivers. I had a full conversation with Erik Jones before getting a picture and moving on. I talked to Ross Kenseth and found out he’s just as quiet as his dad. I talked to all of the CRA Drivers about their cars. Most complained about being too tight in the center of the turn, a typical short track problem. It was just really neat to be able to go up and get to know the guys I watched race, something I always love to do.

After the autograph session, it was time to get serious. We had the invocation, a constant in racing. We all prayed over the drivers, in thanks for the beautiful day, and for the troops overseas. We all stood to attention as the national anthem was played, and then cheered loudly as the drivers were told to start their engines! The cars all roared off behind the pace car as the race was about to start.

The green flag finally came after about 7 pace laps, and instantly the track came to life. The loud roar of 21 ARCA CRA Series cars echoed across the lands. The smell of gasoline filled the air. Dust from the track sifted up above. 21 drivers got busy doing their jobs.

And what a job they did.

Ross Kenseth led early on, stretching out about a second over the 2nd place car. Meanwhile, the battle for 3rd saw 5 cars all over each other. It was intense! They traded spots back and forth, swapping paint a much as positions. The first 40 laps went green, then wreck slowly began to happen off and on. Bubba Pollard got wrecked by a young driver early, knocking him out of contention and making him angry enough to flip the guy off. Some drivers used their stuff up too much, and began dropping spots by lap 125. Ultimately, VanMeter looked to avenge his penalty last night and led the race to the mid-race break at lap 150.

That break turned out to be huge. Drivers and crews got 15 minutes to work on their cars. The running order for the 2nd segment was determined using a trick I’d never seen before: Number of tires taken. Cars that took no tires would start ahead of cars that took 1, and 1 ahead of 2, etc. This strategy led to new faces out front, and ultimately the winner of the race.

Johnny VanDoorn restarted the 2nd segment in 4th and quickly drove to the front. He would lead the final 146 laps, including the entirety of a 75 lap green-flag run that ended the race. T.J. Reid was right behind him in 2nd the whole last run, but never got a chance to pass him. Erik Jones was wrecked by an angry driver with about 130 to go, taken out while working his way into the top 5. Defending race winner Ross Kenseth brought his car home 3rd, just too tight after the sun went down to compete for the win. VanDoorn was just too get, and now gets a chance to complete a triple crown for the ARCA CRA Series. If he wins the Winchester 400 in October, he’ll net an extra $100,000. How’s that for incentive?

Overall, the racing this weekend was great! I had been jonesing for some left turns all month, and this finally gave me the fix I needed. I’m going into a week where I’ll see races on every type of track, but I couldn’t think of a more fitting start to it than some old-fashioned short track racing, watching the kids trying to fight there way to the top before seeing the top drivers themselves. The weekend saw hot temps, fear of rain, a lot of wrecks, and ultimately, great racing.

Now I’m just ready for Tuesday. I’ll be off to Eldora to witness history!

7-21-13

Not too much to say today. This was my free day, staying at home. I had originally dabbled in driving to Chicagoland Speedway for the Nationwide and ARCA Races, but I chose against it. Instead, I went to church and saw my mother sing, then watches the races with her & dad on tv. It was worth it! I haven’t had a day to do nothing in a few weeks at least. I’ve mostly just sat around all day, and it was nice. Joey Logano, the only Sprint Cup driver in the Nationwide race, won it (of course). Corey LaJoie, son of 2-time Nationwide Series champ Randy LaJoie, won in only his second ARCA race. I spent some quality time with my family, and danced in the rain. Ultimately, it was a nice day, and I can’t complain.

7-22-13

Once again, there were no races today. However, that doesn’t mean the day was uneventful. See, there was something I’d been looking forward to and working toward for nearly 3 years, and after a lot of effort, sadness and difficulties, it finally happened today: I got my braces off!

Yes, I’m FINALLY done with them! I got up super early, at about 6:30, and headed out to Gorman Orthodontics at 7:30 to get the things removed. For those that don’t know, I got them in early August of 2010, right before my senior year of high school. It’s been a struggle at times, I’ve had to stop eating some of my favorite foods, but it all paid off in the end. They took off the braces and I was happy to see that I have good teeth! Finally!

You’d think that would be cause for celebration, a reason to come home and treat myself to something nice, or maybe even just nap since it was so early, but that wasn’t the case today. You see, I had another surprise coming when I got home. I drove the 15 minute drive back to the house, contemplating laying back down. I sleepily roared onto my home road, pulled up the hill to our driveway, and turned the left turn signal on. Right about then I noticed an issue…

One of our trees was down in the road!

Our crab apple tree in the front yard had become so full of apples this year, that it made the old tree fall over. Branches reached over halfway out into the street, and apples littered the ground all over. I couldn’t believe it. Just when I thought I was going to enjoy a peaceful day at home, hours of work were placed before me.

I went and woke my Dad up as soon as I got into the house. He couldn’t believe what I was telling him, so he sleepwalked outside the front door and discovered I had been telling the truth. The things he said next I’ll leave off of this blog. You can probably guess them.

Tired, wet and grumpy, we both went outside and began the process of taking the tree away from the road. Dad cut the branches up with a chainsaw, and we loaded the bed of our old red Chevy with the branches until there were too many to keep filling it. We would then drive back to our field and throw the branches in it. It took about 5 trips (and 5 hours) to get them all. Exhausted, sweaty and dirty, we went back into the house around 12:30.

Just my luck, I got to get a shower, eat a quick lunch, and immediately drive back to Gorman to get my retainers. When the worker there asked me if I’d had a relaxing morning, I couldn’t help but laugh! Thankfully the rest of the day was much easier. I got to relax, and now I can look forward to going to Eldora tomorrow!!!!!

7-23-13

Wow. That’s all I can say. I witness NASCAR history today, and had a great time doing it! You see, NASCAR hasn’t been on dirt in 43 years, a race that Richard Petty won in 1970. That’s a long time.

Well, the wait for them to come back is over.

NASCAR’s Camping World Truck Series hd 4 hours of practice on the legendary dirt track Eldora Speedway, owned by Tony Stewart. I wanted to witness the history, so I got up and drove the hour and a half trip to the track. Let me tell you, it was worth it!

The trucks are very heavy, heavier than any other vehicle I’ve ever seen race on a dirt track. They don’t control real well on the slippery surface, and the drivers can’t drive full-throttle on it. That means the track is all about finesse and driver control, something a far-cry different than most tracks these vehicles (or any others) race on.

I got to the track right as gates opened, and it paid off for me! I went to the RCR merchandise hauler, and much to my surprise my 2 favorite drivers were there! The Dillon brothers (Austin and Ty) were signing autographs, so I bought a shirt and hat for them to sign. It was nice! I plan on wearing the hat quite a bit.

Afterwards I got into a line over by Eldora’s multipurpose building, and after a 30 minute wait I was happy to see over half of the truck field go into the building for an autograph session. Getting in line so early meant that I was one of the first ones to be a part of the session. I met and got autographs from drivers such as Ryan Blaney, Jeb Burton, Ryan Newman, Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr, and many more. It was an experience that I loved and was glad to be a part of.

After that, though, there was nothing to do for about 2 hours. I went to my seat on the front stretch and just kind of relaxed and enjoyed the day. It was beautiful out sunny and not-too-hot. I people watched, messed around on my phone, took a few pictures, and got lunch. It was honestly a quick 2 hours, at least until the final 5 minutes.

Those final 5 minutes killed me. I got up, stretched, and listened impatiently for the announcer to say practice was on. I looked over and saw my favorite driver, Austin Dillon, would be the first one to go out onto the track for practice. It’s only fitting that he would be, as he was the first one to test a truck on the racetrack when they tried to see if these trucks could even race here.

Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, Austin’s 39 truck pulled up onto the dirt track and began making laps. The half-capacity crowd cheered heavily as many other drivers followed him. Before I knew it, dirt was flying around and many drivers were running 4 different lanes around the track. Austin Dillon looked good, Scott Bloomquist, a legendary dirt track ace, ran the low lane in his first ever truck ride. It was neat to see. I’ll tell you what, though, one driver impressed me more than any of them: Kyle Larson. The kid was in his own zip code, riding his truck right against the wall and flying around the track. He, along with every other driver, would actually get into the wall on more than one occasion, but it was still fast and didn’t hurt the truck.

The practice sessions flew by. Many drivers would spin out, but the yellow flag would come out only long enough for them to get back going straight. The only noteworthy crasher was John Wes Townley. The poor kid just couldn’t figure it out, and he spun 4 or 5 times over the course of the 4 hours of practice. It was hilarious!

Mixed in with the truck practice was a 25 minute late model invitational. That’s where the real fun for the day came! Those cars ran laps 5-6 seconds quicker than the trucks, and raced all over the track. The last event of the day was their invitational, and it was a treat. 3 drivers all fought for the lead, diving in and out of lap traffic trying to pass each other. One driver raced his way to the front with about 5 to go, only to have his day ended when a lap car spun out in front of him and took him (and the 2nd place driver) out. Ultimately, the driver that ran 4th for much of the race would steal the lead on the restart and win it.

Overall, the first day at Eldora was a treat, and I can’t wait for the 2nd!