i rather die standing than live on my knees.
life is not a path of coincidence, happenstance, and luck. but rather an unexplainable, meticulously charted course for one to touch the lives of others and to make a difference in the world. live to the point of tears. but the struggles make you stronger and the changes make you wiser and happiness has its own way of taking its sweet time. life isn’t always lovely, but it’s a beautiful ride.
NASCAR’s regular season is officially over and now as we look forward to the first race of the Chase and the 12 drivers who will be giving chase to the coveted Sprint Cup, you can’t help but wonder just what the next 10 weeks will bring. A lot of drama spawned from the Wonderful Pistachios 400. Tempers flared, frustration grew, cars damaged (on accident and purposefully), egos bruised, and on track enemies made. Many of the drivers who were still mathematically eligible to make the Chase vocalized the need for a conservative approach on the track and to simply stay out of trouble, but Saturday night under the lights at Richmond International Raceway proved anything but. On lap eight the short track version of “big one” happened after contact made between Chase hopeful, Clint Bowyer and David Reutimann collecting Chase favored Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Denny Hamlin in the carnage. It was way too earlier in the evening to be feeling that kind of tension in the air, but it was palpable. The battle had begun and it wouldn’t be long before drivers picked their individual sparring partners. Kasey Kahne chose wrong, he fought the wall for the first time on lap 27 and then again on lap 51 after going three –wide with Marcos Ambrose and teammate Brian Vickers. The wall remained victorious as Kahne’s No. 4 Red Bull Toyota was towed off the track and the driver taken to the infield care unit. Physically Kahne was all right, but there was that bruised ego that I spoke of earlier to contend with. Vickers chose Ambrose to a duel, he let the driver of the No. 9 Stanley Ford know just how displeased he was by intentionally wrecking Ambrose under caution on lap 53 and purposely blocking his entrance to pit road. NASCAR won that one by effectively putting Vickers into “time out,” sending his No. 83 machine to the garage for bad behavior. He was allowed to return to the track 68 laps later after thinking long and hard about his actions. Earnhardt Jr. brawled with Travis Kvapil on lap 152 by giving him a taste of his own medicine. Kvapil made contact with Earnhardt Jr.’s No. 88 Amp Chevrolet earlier in the race and it was now time for some payback by sending Kvapil’s No. 38 Ford into the turn two wall. Earnhardt Jr., who was a lap down, may have thought he’d win that battle by getting the free pass to get back on the lead lap, but NASCAR saw differently. Since Earnhardt Jr. was involved in the incident that brought out the caution he was awarded the “unlucky dog” pass and stayed a lap down. Like Kahne before him, Paul Menard took his chance with the wall on lap 172. Once again the wall reigned victorious, sending he and his No. 27 Menards Chevrolet to the garage and ending any hopes of making the Chase. Kurt Busch started a feud with Jimmie Johnson on lap 185 that would prove to be an all night thing. Johnson’s No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet spun in turn two after making contact with Busch. On lap 246 the pair brought out the 11th caution of the night, Johnson in what looked to be a payback attempt, bumped Busch’s No. 22 Shell/Pennzoil Dodge sending Busch into a spin on turn two. Busch avoided contact with the wall and won the war, as Johnson’s so-called revenge was not so sweet after all, as his car spun out of control and hit the wall, sending him to the garage for repair. 33 laps later Johnson returned to the track on lap 278 and to Busch’s rear bumper by lap 283. However, no further contact was made between he two. Hamlin and Earnhardt Jr. fought the odds of making the Chase in their busted up racecars in the 392 laps that followed their crash on lap eight, but in the end proved triumphant. They earned they way into the Chase the hard way and victory never tasted sweeter as the two were all smiles in the Media Center. Hamlin maintained his streak of making it into every Chase since his full time Sprint Cup career began in 2006 and Earnhardt Jr. affirmed that he’s still got it and proved his naysayers wrong by making it back into the Chase after a two year hiatus. Tony Stewart, the third hopeful to make the Chase, did so quietly and consistently, clinching his spot on lap 103. Surprisingly, Stewart fought with no one, on of off the track in Richmond.
NASCAR’s regular season is officially over and now as we look forward to the first race of the Chase and the 12 drivers who will be giving chase to the coveted Sprint Cup, you can’t help but wonder just what the next 10 weeks will bring. A lot of drama spawned from the Wonderful Pistachios 400. Tempers flared, frustration grew, cars damaged (on accident and purposefully), egos bruised, and on track enemies made. Many of the drivers who were still mathematically eligible to make the Chase vocalized the need for a conservative approach on the track and to simply stay out of trouble, but Saturday night under the lights at Richmond International Raceway proved anything but.CIA Stock PhotoThe proof is in the stats. The caution flag waved a record 15 times that night. The poor flagman barely had enough time to take back the green flag from honorary starter Frank Siller, founder of the Stephen Siller Tunnels to Tower Foundation and brother of a NYC firefighter who died on 9/11, after whom his foundation is named before having to grab for the yellow as the first caution of the night came out on lap two. Driver s barely made it a handful of laps before another incident occurred. Green flag. Yellow flag. Repeat.
On lap eight the short track version of “big one” happened after contact made between Chase hopeful, Clint Bowyer and David Reutimann collecting Chase favored Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Denny Hamlin in the carnage. It was way too earlier in the evening to be feeling that kind of tension in the air, but it was palpable. The battle had begun and it wouldn’t be long before drivers picked their individual sparring partners.
Kasey Kahne chose wrong, he fought the wall for the first time on lap 27 and then again on lap 51 after going three –wide with Marcos Ambrose and teammate Brian Vickers. The wall remained victorious as Kahne’s No. 4 Red Bull Toyota was towed off the track and the driver taken to the infield care unit. Physically Kahne was all right, but there was that bruised ego that I spoke of earlier to contend with.
Vickers chose Ambrose to a duel, he let the driver of the No. 9 Stanley Ford know just how displeased he was by intentionally wrecking Ambrose under caution on lap 53 and purposely blocking his entrance to pit road. NASCAR won that one by effectively putting Vickers into “time out,” sending his No. 83 machine to the garage for bad behavior. He was allowed to return to the track 68 laps later after thinking long and hard about his actions.
Earnhardt Jr. brawled with Travis Kvapil on lap 152 by giving him a taste of his own medicine. Kvapil made contact with Earnhardt Jr.’s No. 88 Amp Chevrolet earlier in the race and it was now time for some payback by sending Kvapil’s No. 38 Ford into the turn two wall. Earnhardt Jr., who was a lap down, may have thought he’d win that battle by getting the free pass to get back on the lead lap, but NASCAR saw differently. Since Earnhardt Jr. was involved in the incident that brought out the caution he was awarded the “unlucky dog” pass and stayed a lap down.
Like Kahne before him, Paul Menard took his chance with the wall on lap 172. Once again the wall reigned victorious, sending he and his No. 27 Menards Chevrolet to the garage and ending any hopes of making the Chase.
Kurt Busch started a feud with Jimmie Johnson on lap 185 that would prove to be an all night thing. Johnson’s No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet spun in turn two after making contact with Busch. On lap 246 the pair brought out the 11th caution of the night, Johnson in what looked to be a payback attempt, bumped Busch’s No. 22 Shell/Pennzoil Dodge sending Busch into a spin on turn two. Busch avoided contact with the wall and won the war, as Johnson’s so-called revenge was not so sweet after all, as his car spun out of control and hit the wall, sending him to the garage for repair. 33 laps later Johnson returned to the track on lap 278 and to Busch’s rear bumper by lap 283. However, no further contact was made between he two.
Hamlin and Earnhardt Jr. fought the odds of making the Chase in their busted up racecars in the 392 laps that followed their crash on lap eight, but in the end proved triumphant. They earned they way into the Chase the hard way and victory never tasted sweeter as the two were all smiles in the Media Center. Hamlin maintained his streak of making it into every Chase since his full time Sprint Cup career began in 2006 and Earnhardt Jr. affirmed that he’s still got it and proved his naysayers wrong by making it back into the Chase after a two year hiatus.
Tony Stewart, the third hopeful to make the Chase, did so quietly and consistently, clinching his spot on lap 103. Surprisingly, Stewart fought with no one, on of off the track in Richmond.
The day started off well, beautiful blue sunny skies complimented an emotional tribute to the tenth anniversary of 9/11, which included a planned moment of silence from laps nine through 11 to honor the victims, survivors and those who served in response to the attacks. Danny Rodriguez, the “singing New York City policeman sang “God Bless America, the 29th Infantry Division Band played the National Anthem and R. Lee Ermey, retired US Marine, Actor and Wonderful Pistachios spokesman gave the command, “Drivers let’s get crackin! Drivers, start your engines!”
CIA Stock PhotoThe cars rolled off the track at 7:46 pm and Wonderful Pistachios 400 began with three warm-up laps behind the pace car before Pole Sitter, David Reutimann brought the field to green. That’s where things started to get a little weird. Jaime McMurray quickly took over the lead, followed by Jimmie Johnson who then stole Reuity’s second place position.
Then came lap two where all hell just broke loose and never stopped.
The first caution of the night flew on lap two after Andy Lally got into the wall. No one hit pit road except Mike Bliss because well, the race just started ¾ miles earlier. McMurray led the field to green on lap six, with Johnson, Reutimann, Mark Martin and Clint Bowyer rounding up the top-five.
And then bam, another caution just two laps later after Bowyer and Reutimann got together in turn four, spinning Bowyer’s No. 33 Chevy and collecting Denny Hamlin, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Scott Speed , Robby Gordon, Matt Kenseth, Martin Truex Jr. Casey Mears, Marcos Ambrose, , David Gilliland and Travis Kvapil.
Seriously? Seriously! Two of the three hopefuls to make the Chase involved in a wreck! Gasps could be heard track wide as hearts immediately sank and speculation began. Could NASCAR’s most popular driver Earnhardt Jr. and his crew bandage his broken racecar enough to get him a 20th place finish? How about Richmond’s hometown boy Hamlin? Did he even stand a chance or we’re all hopes dashed at that very moment?
Both drivers took to pit road on lap 12. Hamlin for front and left sided damage, Earnhardt Jr. for serious front-end damage. Junior was back on pit road on lap 13, as were Kenseth, Truex and Mears. On lap 14 Hamlin went a lap down for an extended pit stop.
Lap 15 saw crash victims, Earnhardt Jr., Kenseth, Truex and Bowyer back on pit road for repair. Lap 16 brought Kenseth back again and Hamlin with his hood up; possibly dashing his chances of making the Chase. Lap 17 brought back Earnhardt Jr. and Kenseth and Hamlin once more on lap 18.
The green flag flew on lap 19 with McMurray in the lead, only to be taken over by Johnson on lap 20, but Kasey Kahne shook things up after a hard hit in turn two bringing out caution number three. The green flag waved four laps later with Johnson leading the pack.
Yellow flag number four flew on lap 37 after Earnhardt Jr. got into the back of Marco Ambrose, crashing him in the backstretch. Hamlin was the “lucky dog” putting the No. 11 Toyota back on the lead lap. At lap 40 both Ambrose and Hamlin were on pit road. Johnson once again led the field to green on lap 43.
Lap 51 brought out the fifth caution of the night and ended Kahne’s night after wrecking into the outside and inside wall. Kahne was three-wide with teammate Brian Vickers and Ambrose when Kahne and Vickers got together. Vickers expressed his displeasure with Ambrose on lap 53 by intentionally wrecking him under caution by slamming Ambrose’s No .9 Ford and blocking his entrance to pit road with his No. 83 Toyota. Vickers is told by NASCAR to park his Red Bull machine in the garage until further notice.
Kenseth stayed out on the track and took the lead on lap 61 before the restart. Lap 69 brought an unexpected pit stop for Kyle Busch, who thought he had a loose wheel, putting him a lap down and in the 33rd position. Harvick took over the lead position on lap 73 and by lap 93 was closing in on a 28th place Earnhardt Jr, about to put the No. 88 Chevy a lap down. Three laps later Harvick made that happen.
On lap 103 Tony Stewart quietly clinched his place in the Chase by riding in the 13th position. Earnhardt Jr. sits in 10th place but just 12 points ahead of Keselowski. Mike Bliss brings of the yellow flag for the sixth time on lap 116, nailing the wall in turn two after a tire goes down.
Vickers returned to the track on lap 120 after sitting in the garage for 68 laps. Harvick led the green flag restart on lap 122. Earnhardt Jr. delivered some earlier payback to Travis Kvapil on lap 152 sending him into the wall in turn two and bringing out the seventh caution of the evening. NASCAR deems Earnhardt Jr. responsible for the accident and did not grant him the free pass to get back onto the lead lap.
New leader Greg Biffle led the field to green on lap 160 but of course that was short lived because in just two short laps later as Harvick was passing the Biff on the frontstretch, you guessed it another caution! Landon Cassill spun on the frontstretch and the yellow flag flew for the eighth time. Earnhardt Jr. is the “lucky dog” for the second time. Harvick led the pack out again on lap 168.
History repeated itself again and again. Caution came out again on lap 172 as Paul Menard made hard contact with the wall and sent to the garage, ending his hopes to make the Chase. In a separate incident on the same lap, Regan Smith spun out but was able to keep it off the wall. Lap 185 we saw yellow again for the 10th time as Johnson spun in turn two after making contact with Kurt Busch. Montoya’s No. 42 Chevy was also involved.
Harvick once again led the field to green on lap 190 with Edwards in second, looking for a dog fight and overtook the lead on lap 201. By lap 224 it was looking a little bleak for Earnhardt Jr. has he rode in the 24th position and Keselowski took over the second spot, threatening to move from his Wild Card place in the Chase to a legit top 10, which in effect would have ended Earnhardt’s chances of making the Chase.
Edwards in the meantime is pecking off drivers one by one, putting Ambrose a lap down at 237 and Earnhardt Jr. down again at 242. But hey, guess what? Another caution came out on lap 246, number 11, after Johnson and Kurt Busch got together again in turn two. Busch spun out, Johnson hit the wall and sent the No. 48 Chevy to the garage. Earnhardt Jr. got lucky for the third time and got the free pass to get back on the lead lap. Green flag flew on lap 253 with Edwards in the lead.
And then something magical happened, the race made it 30 laps without incident, but on lap 284 Jeff Burton spun in turn three, slamming into the wall. It happened again on lap 296 for the 13th time as it’s Ambrose’s turn to take a spin. On lap 297 Joey Logano’s engine blew, forcing him to the garage. Edwards lead the field again on lap 301 as the race went green.
Eight laps later, yep, another caution, we’re up to 14 folks! Reutimann sustained heavy damage after contact with Bowyer and sending him into the wall. Lap 313 Edwards led the field again. Feels a little like “Groundhog Day” doesn’t it? Harvick stole the lead from Edwards on lap 314 and it went down hill from there for him as he started to slip back in the pack and then on lap 355 was told that he would be ten laps short on fuel.
Harvick fights to keep the lead as Jeff Gordon makes a hard charge for first place on lap 366. Gordon makes the pass on lap 378 and took over the lead. Earnhardt Jr. went a lap down at 381…again. Just when we thought we’d make it to the end without another caution…surprise! Caution 15 came out on lap 384 as Menard, who returned to the track on lap 254, 79 laps down, spun on the frontstretch and with that, Earnhardt Jr. got lucky once again with the free pass.
Harvick won the race off of pit road, with Edwards, Gordon and Kyle Busch holding up the rear. Harvick held Edwards off to the finish line and won this emotional, roller coaster of a race in what felt like a fairy tale ending, everything fell into place exactly as predicted. Despite the many hardships that each of the drivers endured during the Wonderful Pistachios 400, some more than other; Dale Earnhardt Jr., Tony Stewart and Denny Hamlin made the Sprint Cup Chase and we all lived happily ever after.
Earnhardt Jr. moved up to 17th position at lap 327, enough to lock him into the Chase.
Unofficial Race ResultsWonderful Pistachios 400, Richmond International Racewayhttp://www.speedwaymedia.com/Cup/race.php?race=26
On Saturday, Sept. 10th, I spent my entire day at Richmond International Raceway. I literally went from tailgate to trackside, something that I’d never done before, something that I’d never even thought to attempt. It’s always been one or the other, fan or journalist, but never both. I generally make the trek from Washington DC to Richmond on my own and do my job from the confines of the media center and infield. I have not seen a race from the stands or mingled in the crowd in over three years.
This weekend was different though, as we all know, this race fell on the same weekend of the tenth anniversary of 9/11. For many this was more than just your average race day, this was a time to also reflect and pay tribute to those we lost in those terrible attacks a decade ago. So, when several of my coworkers expressed interest in going to the race, I changed my normal routine to give them the best race day experience they could hope for. For many of them this would be their first experience with NASCAR. I wanted them to be hooked, to feel what I felt at my first race, I wanted them to want to come back for more.
We arrived at the track at 10am and staked our ground by parking six vehicles to form a virtual square. In the center we set up tents, tarps, tables, chairs and grills. We strategically placed the coolers, cranked up the CD player and even hooked up a flat-screen TV complete with a DirecTv dish in the back of an SUV to catch some College football before heading into the track. The perfect setup for the ultimate tailgating party.
There were 16 of us in total. We varied in age, gender and race to form a perfect little melting pot. You see, we are more than just mere coworkers, we are also great friends. Anyone who has had the opportunity to attend a race knows that you may come with the friends you know, but you leave a race with even more. A NASCAR race is the perfect setting to hang out with thousands of the closest friends you never knew you had. We ate until we felt that it was impossible to take another bite and then we ate some more. We played cornhole and ladder-ball. Some relived their college days by playing competitive Flip Cup and Beer Pong. Some watched Virginia Tech beat East Carolina from the bumper of a Chevy Trailblazer, while others laid in the sun, just soaking it all in. We mingled and met new people. We shared our stories with them and they with us.
After several hours of hanging out next to our crazy brood, a gentleman with his own large group of friends finally mustered up the courage to ask just how in the world a group like us came to be at a NASCAR race together. “I don’t mean this to sound rude or disrespectful by any means, but I’ve been trying to figure out what your connection is with each other other,” he said. “I’m looking at you and you’re from all walks of life, it is an interesting combination of people you’ve got here.” I hadn’t given it any thought until he said something, but by looking at us we did look a bit like a United Colors of Benneton ad.
I told him that we all worked together. He questioned what it was that we could possibly do that would accommodate all of the varying personality types. I explained that we were all healthcare providers that worked in the Emergency Department in the suburbs of the Washington DC metropolitan area. It’s funny when you say that to someone because you can actually see when the light comes on, that moment that it suddenly makes sense. The moment that they think “Oh man, they work in the ER, that explains the craziness!” It’s true, one has to be a little crazy to do the jobs that we do. We’re made up of Nurses, Paramedics EMTs, Registration Clerks and medical school students. In any other world, in any other profession who knows if we would have made a friendship connection, but in our world it just makes sense.We know what it’s like to see the worst of the worst. We all had our own 9/11 stories to tell, what we went through and experienced not only from a personal point of view but from a medical one as well. Many of us waited on that day in 2001 to help victims that would never arrive. We share a unique perspective of that day. We were at the track this weekend not only to watch what would turn out to be one of the best races of the year but to commemorate an anniversary of a day that everything changed and will never be forgotten. A day that for many of us was the worst day of our lives.
I listened to countless stories on Saturday of where people were, what they were doing and how they reacted. Sometimes you can’t remember what you ate for breakfast but everybody vividly remembers exactly where they were ten years ago today. On Friday I listened to drivers being asked the same question, each of them had a story to tell, each of them a little different than the next. It is easy to forget at times that NASCAR drivers are “people too.” Their larger than life personas that play out on our television screens weekly affect our way of thinking, but under their flashy firesuits and fast cars there is someone that we can genuinely relate to. Our so-called racecar driving heroes have heroes too.
On the last race of the regular season, on a night that sets the Chase and makes for huge headlines in the sporting world, drivers respectively took a backseat to the memory of the 343 New York firefighters who lost their lives, not in the name of heroics, but simply because they were “doing their jobs,” to the 184 souls killed at the Pentagon, to the 33 passengers and seven crew members on Flight 93 who bravely gave their own lives in an attempt to stop the hijackers from crashing into another building, to all 2977 innocent lives lost and to to the families left behind and to the servicemen who fight everyday for our freedom and protection.
NASCAR not only said “I will,” they united and delivered. Then asked the question, “Will you?”
As I made my way from the parking lot to the infield before the start of the race and was handed a tiny American Flag, I knew the answer to that question. I along with over 100,000 others that night at the track said a resounding “Yes!” The pre-race ceremony was like none I’d ever witnessed before. It was emotional and gracious. Crowds cheered when former Mayor Mayor Giuliani appeared on the video scoring tower screens to offer his appreciation, tears were shed as New York City police officer Daniel Rodriguez sang “God Bless America” and respect was given to wounded warriors, USMC Corporal Todd Nicely and US Army Specialist Brendan Marrocco led us in the Pledge of Allegiance. Flags waved in unison in the stands as fans and broadcasters paused for a moment of silence between laps nine and eleven. It was patriotism at it’s finest.
I left the track at 1am, some 15 hours after I arrived. Exhaustion was beginning to set in as I made my way to my car. Something on the ground caught my eye, a cutout of a yellow star mixed in with celebratory confetti that littered the infield. I instinctively picked it up and was holding it in my hand when it occurred to me that it was now officially Sept. 11th. I reflected for a moment on the events of the day, the race had been one heck of a wild ride, arguably one of the best of the season, but it was more than that. Richmond International Raceway, NASCAR and the fans got it right on a day, 10 years ago that was filled with such wrong.
NASCAR will never forget and neither shall we.
The Virginia 529 College Savings 250 at Richmond International Raceway Friday night was pretty much Carl Edwards’ for the taking, after dominating most of the race. The fateful blow came when Edwards lost three positions during the final round of pit stops under caution.
Kyle Busch won his 51st Nationwide race of his career, his eighth this season in 19 starts by edging Edwards out at the finish line by just .696 seconds., followed by Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Ryan Truex and Kenny Wallace rounding out the Top-five.
“Carl was certainly really, really god there, and I thought at first we were probably a third- or fourth-place car, and then kind of worked on it and made it a second- or third-place car,” Busch said. “We were keeping up with Carl, and then, on that final pit stop, my guys really put the pressure on, knowing how quick they’d been on pit road all night — and they did it once again.
“We were able to get off first, and I think Carl came off fourth, so when we had the restart there, he got mired up in traffic there, and that gave us some room to get out … [crew chief] Jason [Ratcliff] and these guys made some awesome adjustments all night, making the car a little bit better — just be able to make it a little more drivable. Every run we got closer, and then, there on that last run, we had track position and a good car.”
The battle between Edwards and Busch started on lap three as the two battled for second place behind race leader Brad Keselowski. By lap seven Edwards took over the lead and left the other drivers in his dust.
The first caution flew at lap 65 after Black Koch spun on the frontstretch after a nudge from Aric Amirola. Edwards resumed his lead on lap 79 as the green flag restarted the race. Brad Keselowski, Kyle Busch, Trevor Bayne and Steve Wallace rolled out 2nd through fifth respectively.
The second caution waved on the very same lap of the restart as Keselowski brushed the wall, followed by a crash in turns three and four between Kevin Harvick and Jason Leffler.
Busch took the lead coming off pit road on lap 85 with Edwards behind in second place. Edwards took back his lead position on lap 87. Daytona 500 winner Trevor Bayne takes the second position from Busch on lap 114 and has his sights on Edwards.
The yellow flag flew for the third time after Danica Patrick locked up her breaks heading into turn three and spinning Keselowski in the process. The race restarted on lap 143 only to have the caution flag thrown again on the same lap for the second time in the race after Brian Scott and Michael Annett crash in turns three and four. Scott’s car was turned by Amirola, who proved to be none to pleased and attempted to make his way towards Amirola’s car before being retained by a NASCAR official.
Busch retook the lead off of pit road on lap 153, followed once again by a second place Edwards. Just six laps later the yellow flag flew for the fifth time after Eric McClure hot the wall. Busch reigned supreme by taking the lead from Edwards once again on lap 170 but Edwards would not go quietly and reclaimed his number one spot on lap 175.
Kevin Harvick slammed Tevor Bayne, crashing him on the backstretch bring out the race’s sixth caution on lap 209. Busch once again exited pit road in the lead on lap 220, Edwards however exits fourth behind Stenhouse Jr. and Truex. With just 30 laps to go, Edwards would have to give it everything he got to try to regain his lead.
Edwards’ hard charge looked promising as he moved into the top three by lap 226. By lap 235, he dove under Stenhouse Jr. in turn two to move into the second position. It looked as if Edwards would catch Busch as the margin between them whittled down to about eighth tenth of a second by lap 239, but in the end Edwards’ car would not sustain the power to propel him to the finish line first.
Busch celebrated in victory lane, scoring his 51st Nationwide Series win, extending the driver’s own record for the most in the division’s history. All eyes should be on Busch for the Sprint Cup race Saturday night. He won it last year and is a favorite to sweep the weekend at RIR.
Unofficial Race ResultsVirginia 529 College Savings 250, Richmond International Racewayhttp://www.speedwaymedia.com/n2s/race.php?race=27
If there is a NASCAR race being run in Richmond, you will generally find me in the Media Center moonlighting from my “day job.” It allows me to put on a different hat for a couple of days and see the world in a completely different light. Writing about NASCAR is not only a passion, but, at times, a much needed distraction from my full-time career. I am a Paramedic with a background in firefighting. Rarely do my worlds collide, but this weekend, commemorating the tenth anniversary of 9/11 at the track, they did just that.
I listened to drivers share their personal accounts of where they were on Sept. 11, 2001. Denny Hamlin was putting an exhaust on a new car, Kurt Busch was testing in South Carolina and Ryan Newman was listening to a waterproof radio that hung from the shower head while he was bathing that morning. You can’t help but be transported right back to where each of us was that day.
I lived in Arlington, directly across from the Pentagon, I watched it all play out in real time before my eyes. Not knowing what could possibly happen next, I choked back tears as I said my “good-byes” and “I love yous” to my parents on the phone that morning. It seems almost melodramatic now but at the time I was terrified and truly unsure if I’d make it out alive. The anniversary brings back painful memories for me. It remains the worst day of my life.
Today in the Media Center I was reminded of loss, as Mary Siller Scullin recounted her brother’s life, a New York Firefighter who died on Sept. 11, 2001. Stephen Siller was off that day preparing for a game of golf with friends when he heard the news that the World Trade Center had been attacked. Instinctively, he grabbed his gear, threw it into his truck and made his way towards the burning towers. When he arrived at the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel, it had already been closed to vehicular traffic, so Siller put his 75 pound gear on his back and ran through the tunnel to the towers to help rescue his fellow New Yorkers.
Siller lost his life when the towers collapsed leaving behind his wife, five children and five siblings to carry on his memory and share his story. The Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation, was started by his brother Frank to honor his fallen sibling. It is a charitable organization set up to follow in the footsteps of this true American hero.
Drivers David Gilliland, Danica Patrick, Greg Biffle, Trevor Bayne and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. joined Howard Hitchcock, Vice President of Lionel NASCAR Collectibles, to present a $125 thousand dollar check to Mary Suller Scullin, Vice President of the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation.
One of the primary missions of the Foundation is to help military members who have been seriously injured and sacrificed the quality of their lives in the line of duty. The Foundation is currently in the process of building “smart homes” for three servicemen who suffered the loss of both arms and legs during combat but lived to share their stories.
Two of the three gentlemen were on hand, US Army Specialist Brendan Marrocco and USMC Corporal Todd Nicely. Scullin earmarked the donation to be used for the construction of a customized home for Nicely. Marrocco’s home was finished in June.
“It’s not every day that you get to do something so important for America’s finest heroes on an anniversary that’s so meaningful to our country,” said Hitchcock. “I’m proud of our team, we worked extremely hard to put the Honoring Our Heroes program together and we hope this donation and the funds that follow it will go a long way towards finishing Todd’s new home. “
The check was the first installment of the proceeds from Lionel NASCAR Collectibles “Honoring Our Heroes” die-cast program. Eight drivers will run a special “Honoring Our Heroes” pain scheme this weekend. Each of those cars will honor those who lost their lives in the 9/11 attack as well as our nation’s military heroes. During the Nationwide race, look for the special paint schemes on the cars of Danica Patrick, Carl Edwards, Trevor Bayne and Ricky Stenhouse Jr.. David Gilliland, Greg Biffle, Tony Stewart and Jamie McMurray will their “Honoring Our Heroes” cars on Saturday night’s Sprint Cup race.
“When we first talked to Lional NASCAR about the possibility of drivers racing with out Foundation’s name on the cars, we had no idea it would be this big,” said Scullin. “Today, as I see these drivers and all these cars I am overwhelmed with emotion. On September 11, 2001, my brother Stephen sacrificed his life for his fellow Americans and he would be honored to know that his legacy is making such a difference in the lives of young men like Brendan and Todd.”
After the presentation of the check, Scullin presented each of the drivers a small piece of metal from the World Trade Center stamped with the words “W.T.C. 9/11 Never Forget” and the number 343 in honor of the 343 firefighters who died that day. She reminded the drivers that the metal was special because her brother’s body was never recovered, so each piece of that metal held a piece of Stephen’s spirit and hoped that it would help to keep each of them safe.
Each of the drivers acknowledged the “gift” with great humility and thanks. They not only recognized the lives lost, but applauded the fact that even though all those firefighters lost their lives running into the face of danger, the disabled servicemen who sat before them knew that they could face death or dismemberment but they still signed up to simply “do their jobs” and if given the chance would do it all again.
It is refreshing to see that our NASCAR heroes have heroes of their own.
As NASCAR’s last race of the “regular season” draws near, we can’t help but to be cognizant of the fact that Richmond’s September race always falls on or near the anniversary of 9/11. We will never forget that horrific day in 2001, just three days after Ricky Rudd claimed victory in the Chevrolet Monte Carlo 400 at Richmond International Raceway (RIR), when terrorists systematically attacked our great nation and life as we knew it would change forever.
In the eight races that have run in the Fall since the attack I’ve seen some pretty amazing tributes at the track. RIR has always made a it a point to honor that day, the men and women who were lost, their families who were left behind, the brave Military who fight for our freedom and all First Responders who do the unthinkable each and every day by running into danger while everyone else is running out.
This year as we remember the tenth anniversary, RIR will honor America with what will no doubt be an extremely emotional ceremony. Hundreds of volunteers will be on hand to pass out American flags to all race attendees as they pass through the gates, collect donations for “NASCAR Unites”, part of the 9/11 “I Will” campaign and assist with the distribution and collection of post card messages for First Responders nationwide.
During the pre-race ceremonies, fans will stand in unison with Wounded Warriors, US Army Specialist Brendan Marrocco and Marine Corps Corporal Todd Nicely; who were the first and second Americans to lose all four limbs in combat and survive, as they recite the Pledge of Allegiance. Danny Rodriguez, who has become know as the “singing policeman from New York City” will sing God Bless America and the U.S. Army’s 29thInfantry Division Band from Ft. Belvoir, will perform the National Anthem. Fans are encouraged to wave their flags to show their respect and patriotism during the entire pre-race, as well as during the special moment of silence between laps nine and 11.
“Richmond International Raceway is unique in that every year since the 9/11 attacks our September race weekend has fallen on the weekend closest to 9/11,” commented Richmond International Raceway President Dennis Bickmeier. “It has always been important to us to recognize 9/11 and remember the victims and survivors, but even more so this weekend as we remember the 10th anniversary of 9/11. We are proud of our military and first responders; active, former and retired, and we are honored to have so many join us this weekend. I think our fans will find that this will be the most patriotic pre-race ceremony they have ever been a part of at Richmond International Raceway.”
During driver introductions, each of the Sprint Cup racers will cross the stage and exit into a tunnel of First Responders from Virginia. Each driver will then be partnered with a member of the “Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans for America” in a Chevrolet Silverado for a lap around the track, each carrying an American flag.
Virginia’s Henrico County Fire Department will display a large American flag from their ladder truck on the apron of the frontstretch, while the Charlottesville Fire Department ladder truck will be on display on the backstretch of the track. Five color guards will present our nations’ flags; Ft. Lee Army will be positioned on the pre-race pad, Central Virginia Combo Fire Team in Turn One, Virginia State Police in Turn Two, Newport News Police in Turn Three and the Naval Ocean Processing Facility in Turn Four.
To culminate the events and recognize the anniversary, fans at the track, television and radio broadcasters and the track announcer will go quiet for a moment of silence between laps nine through 11 to pause and remember the events that unfolded on Sept. 11, 2001.
“NASCAR takes great pride in the patriotism that the sport showcases every race weekend, and the 10th anniversary of 9/11 is a special opportunity for NASCAR to unite and recognize those we lost and honor those who responded with courage,” NASCAR chairman and CEO Brian France said. “Bringing together the various 9/11 tributes with the NASCAR Unites platform collectively demonstrates the giving nature of NASCAR fans and those who work in our sport.”
Join the 9/11 tribute movement at http://foundation.nascar.com/netcommunity/unites to view gratitude and remembrance by drivers, crews, sponsors, tracks and fans as they honor the tenth year anniversary of 9/11 or to create your own accolade by thanking a First Responder for their service and dedication by sending an online post card.Never Forget.
This weekend Richmond International Raceway will play host once again to the “Last Race Before the Chase.” Since the introduction of “The Chase for the Sprint Cup” in 2004, Richmond’s September night race has served as the “regular season’s” finale. It generally proves to be one heck of a show as the drivers vie for one of the top-10 coveted Chase spots and/or two of the “Wild Card” positions that will ultimately make up the top-12 who will go on to compete in the season’s 10 race showdown that ultimately determines who the 2011 Sprint Cup champ will be.
Heading into Richmond, nine drivers have already secured their place in the Chase. Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Busch, Carl Edwards, Matt Kenseth, Jeff Gordon, Kevin Harvick, Kurt Busch, Ryan Newman and Brad Keselowski, who currently hold ones of the two Wild Card positions. While technically, any driver currently sitting 23rd or better has a chance at one of the remaining three Chase spots, all eyes are focused on a handful of drivers who are expected to get the job done.
As the points stand now heading into the weekend, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Tony Stewart and Denny Hamlin are the favorites to secure those last coveted positions, but fans know that in NASCAR anything can and will happen, nothing is guaranteed. In order to process it all one must turn to higher math and perhaps a perfect alignment of all the planets to get it a full understanding of just how things could turn out.
With three victories under his belt, Keselowski has clinched himself a safe haven in one of the two Wild Card positions, but depending on his finish in Richmond is still eligible for a Top-10 spot, potentially knocking Earnhardt Jr. and Stewart out of one of the ninth and 10th spots in which they currently sit.
In order to clinch his spot in the Chase, regardless of how any other driver finishes, Earnhardt Jr., who has failed to make the Chase since 2008, must secure a 20th place finish or better, 21st or better and leads at least one lap or 22nd or better and leads the most laps. Regardless of any other driver’s finish, Stewart will clinch his spot by finishing 18th or better, 19th or betting leading one lap and 20th or better leading the most laps.
Got that? Good! It gets a little trickier from here.
Hamlin can seize his Wild Card spot by winning the race on Saturday night. Paul Menard could potentially take that Wild Card should he win the race. Other hopefuls include Marcos Ambrose and David Ragan, who are also eligible for the Wild Card, but each of them would need to take their car to victory AND advance their point standings into the Top-20.
The best of the rest would require a win, a position in the Top-20 and a variety of scenarios and various finishes from the other drivers in order to earn their place in the Chase.
The Chase can be a tough nut to crack, but just as the race, aptly named the “Wonderful Pistachios 400,” will prove in the end; once the tough outer shell has been cracked, the delicious goodness inside makes the fight for the checkered flag that much more worthwhile.
So who’s it going to be? After a two year hiatus, will Earnhardt Jr.’s performance prove worthy of a Chase spot, will Stewart channel that old school intensity that we know and love to hang on to 10th place and will Hamlin, Richmond’s favorite son, kick it into high gear to bring home a win at his hometown track for the third year in a row?
Only time will tell, so have at it boys, Saturday night’s alright for fighting, so get a little action in and give the fans a night to remember!
With R. Lee Ermey serving as the Grand Marshal and Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi from MTV’s hit show, Jersey Shore originally selected to wave the green flag at the start of this weekend’s Sprint Cup race in Richmond, it seemed fitting that Wonderful Pistachios was the sponsor because it got fans wondering if NASCAR had gone nuts!
The “Wonderful Pistachios 400” takes to the track at Richmond International Raceway on the very same weekend of the tenth anniversary of 9/11. Fans want patriotism and respect in remembrance of a day that changed our lives forever, not a comical farce!
It just so happens that both Ermey and Snooki are spokespeople for Wonderful Pistachios, so along with the race naming rights, they probably come as a packaged deal. The company also employs a variety of other personalities in their commercials, such as Chad Ocho Cinco, but with the NFL season kicking off this week he was probably too busy focusing on his new team and all. Wee-Man couldn’t commit unless he was given a guarantee to wave the flag in a “Jackass” worthy stunt, say from the track’s actual start/finish line and not the actual flag stand and that Keyboard Cat probably had a gig somewhere at a local ASPCA. So we get what we get.
That being said, I actually do get Ermey, who is best known for his portrayal of Gunnery Sergeant Hartman in “Full Metal Jacket.” Before becoming an actor, Ermey served in the US Marine Corps for 11 years. He rose to the rank of Staff Sergeant and after injuries forced to retire in 1971, he was later bestowed the honorary rank of Gunnery Sergeant after serving 14 months in Vietnam and two tours in Okinawa, Japan.
Despite his larger than life, often abrasive on screen persona, he was first and foremost a decorated soldier who fought for our country, he deserves to be honored as well as honor those who continue to fight for our freedom. But Snooki? That’s a whole other situation all together.
By right, Virginia is known as one of the Southern states and no matter how hard NASCAR tries to diversify the image; it is a sport that originated in the south and still carries with it a certain charm found only in it’s culture. The mere presence of Snooki, a girl whose ultimate dream is to “move to Jersey, find a nice, juiced, hot, tanned guy and live her life” could prove unsettling to your average NASCAR crowd, but look a little deeper and you will find a heart of gold in that pint-sized pixie. Snooki, the daughter of a volunteer New York firefighter will “pay tribute to to firefighters by passing the flag-waving duties to Frank Siller, founder of the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation,” as stated in a RIR press release on Thursday.
Stephen Siller was a FDNY firefighter, who died after running through the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel to Ground Zero on Sept. 11, 2001, left behind five children. Frank Siller honored his heroic brother by starting the Tunnels to Towers Foundation bearing his sibling’s name to help children who have tragically lost parents.”My brother dedicated his life to helping people, and he lost his life helping people,” said Frank Siller, “If he was still here, he’d be doing more than any of us.”
Thank you Snooki for doing the right thing, you’ve made a lot of us NASCAR fans proud.
To be fair, this self-professed “Guidette,” (the feminine form of “Guido’), who will still be in attendance on behalf of her sponsor, was probably wondering just what she had gotten herself into as she prepared to do her thing in front of what she probably viewed as thousands of rowdy rednecks. Look, by stereotype alone, born and bred in the south with an inherent love of NASCAR and all things that involve a tractor, I could easily be type-casted as a “redneck.” I know that we’re a tough crowd, but are we really all that different?
Yankee vs. Rebel. “Yous guys” vs. “Y’all.” Sure, they’ve got Springsteen and we’ve got Skynyrd, but the truth is both bands rock in the name of the USA and isn’t that what it’s really all about? By God, we’re Americans, free to express ourselves as we see fit. So instead of hating on all of the little idiosyncrasies, let’s celebrate our similarities.
We both have funny accents.
We both have the potential for big hair. Seriously, you think Jersey girls are bad? Try visiting Texas sometime!
We’re both loud, unruly drunks. They call it a bender, while we lovingly refer to it as tailgating.
They have their trashy tanning salons and well, we have Wal-Mart.
On Jersey Shore they like to throw out the phrase “G.T.L. Baby! Gym, tan, laundry.” We ‘necks prefer “G.T.O. Darlin’! Grand Turismo Omologato.”
Snooki has friends named “The Situation,” Jwoww and Pauly D. While some of us have a father, who also doubles as our uncle, first and second cousin, as well as a nephew.
In 2010 Snooki was arrested for “disorderly conduct.” How can we possibly judge knowing that many of us have been witness to some foolish girl being escorted out of a race for taking her top off and whipping it wildly, lasso style above her head.
So let’s find away to all get along this weekend people and save making fun for when it really counts, on Sept. 18 when a Caveman will serve as Grand Marshal for the Geico 400 in Chicagoland. Ah, he makes it look so simple doesn’t he?
Growing up I was always known as the calm one, my sister on the other hand was the hot head. I was the pillar that people leaned on and expected to hold it all together whenever there was a crisis. I was Switzerland. I rarely took sides or placed blame. I processed things logically and was a voice of reason. I was always cool and collected, almost laid back to a fault, just drinking it all in without judgement.
My sister’s reactions to the very same things were always much different, almost comical. She can fly off the handle at the drop of a dime and cause a whirlwind of drama in seconds flat. She is the eye of the storm that takes out everything in her path. She is in no way a horrible person but when triggered can say some of the most heinous things imaginable. I learned quickly not to take any of it personally, it is just her way of dealing with stressful events. Who am I to say that it’s wrong, it’s just her way. I’ve come to understand it and accept it in the name of sibling love.
She was always the fighter in the family and I was the lover. I could impartially work out the difficulties and be the peace to her wartime. Push me to my limit, I can take it every time…well almost every time. I have a great ability to internalize stress. I’m like a great dam inside capable of holding back even the roughest of waters. But on occasion, even my so-called impermeable concrete shell fails for one reason or another and I find myself overwhelmed with anger and spite.
There is no rhyme or reason to what sets me off. It could be a deliberate act of sabotage by an outside influence, inadequate emotional maintenance on my part or simply because I’ve exceeded my capacity to hold it all back. Everyone has their triggers and individual boiling points. It’s not something that I am proud of and I take no pleasure losing control, but sometimes even the mightiest fall.
When the breaking point comes there is no stopping the rage. It’s an uncontrollable frenzy of hostility. It shocks me to know that I am capable of such contempt and disrespect. It’s only when I become so frustrated with a situation that I resort to this kind of behavior. It is a point when I can no longer rationally “do the right thing.” Usually that is all it takes, a few minutes of mayhem and it’s out of my system for good. My reserves have been emptied and I’m free.
I never thought of myself as someone to hold a grudge or allow myself to become so consumed with negativity that it left me all black and sullen inside. It’s not who I am, yet it is something that I’ve let become a part of me lately. I’ve allowed it to change my psyche and crush my spirit.
That’s unacceptable and I’m moving on. I’ve surrendered and I’ve got to let you go. As much as I may love the idea of you, I love myself more.
Thank you Siddharta for reminding me that it really is that easy to forget.
“Anger will never disappear so long as thoughts of resentment are cherished in the mind. Anger will disappear just as soon as thoughts of resentment are forgotten.”