Despite rough childhood, magic can happen

A lifelong goal fulfilled: How I got to live out my dream of riding in a race car with Mario Andretti

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Ever since I was a young man, I have always had a major interest in car racing. I don't know what it was that drew me to the sport but I have always loved it. Back when I was younger, while other kids loved watching cartoons and animaes, I was different. What I watched was a VHS copy of ESPN's CART year in review from 1996. Every day, I sat next to the TV and memorized all of the finishes and the winners of the races. From that point on, I knew I was an Indycar fan for life. While I was watching the greats like Michael Andretti, Jimmy Vasser and Alex Zanardi, I promised myself that I would get to ride in an Indycar and now thanks to the great people at Sportsmap and Giant Noise, on Thursday March 21 I got to fulfill a dream of a lifetime.

For some of the people that don't know me, growing up I had a lot of trouble socially. While I didn't necessarily have a hard time talking to people, keeping them around was a whole different story. I struggled with paying attention to other people when talking to them because I could only think about one thing and usually that was racing,

This was especially difficult in my early years of elementary school. Due to my lack of attention span, my parents (especially my mom) did all they could to try and help me have a better time in school. They took me to psychiatrists and I was placed on multiple medications to no avail. In 2002 I was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome, a mild form of autism. This was very difficult for me because I was treated differently than anyone else by everyone at my schools due to my disorder. I was placed in smaller classes where the work I had to do seemed to be much less than anyone else. I felt horrible and I felt like I wasn't as smart or as normal as anyone else around me.

The one thing that helped me get through it though was my dream to hopefully ride in one of the indycar's that I watched so much of growing up. At a young age, I always told everyone I knew that one day, I was going to ride in a race-car and while there were many drivers that I told people I was going to ride with, one of the many names I mentioned was racing legend Mario Andretti. Flash forward many years later that time came. After getting into one of the fire suits and putting on one of their helmets I was summoned to which car I would ride in and guess who happened to be driving? Mario Andretti! When I strapped into the car while at that moment I couldn't believe that I had made it, I always knew that if I worked hard, met the right people and never gave up I would be able to achieve the dream I had hoped for and overall, riding in the car was one of the most incredible things to ever have happened to me!

As cliche as it sounds, life is a lot like racing in a way. No matter the obstacle, everyone has to keep going towards the checkered flag. Also like in racing It's essential to have a great team around you and I could not be more grateful for the people I met here at SportsMap, ESPN 97.5 and Giant noise. The people who did the most for me though where my mom,dad and my late grandmother. They did everything in their power to get me to where I am at today while they could have easily told me that there were other careers I should go into they always believed that I could cover motorsports. At the end of the day like in racing, there will always be minor setbacks but as long as you believe that you can win, you will find a way. Don't ever give up on the things you want to do.

NASCAR heads to Michigan for the FireKeepers 400

FireKeepers Casino 400 preview

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This week, NASCAR heads to Michigan for the FireKeepers 400. This is one of the biggest tracks on the circuit as it is exactly two miles in length and has wide 18 degree banking in the corners making it one of the fastest tracks on the circuit. With the track being as wide as it is, we should be able to see a lot of green flag runs that could very well bring for more pit road strategy.

Like last week at Pocono, it will be crucial for these drivers to make no mistakes in pit road if they want any chance at victory.

Of course the main point of intrigue this week is how these cars will respond to NASCAR's new rules package. It seems like every week, there is always a question about how these cars are going to run. Overall, it would appear that no one has any idea what's going to happen this week. We very well could see a big pack of cars that run together in a draft or we could see the field get spread out like we have been seeing at tracks like this. As important as this rules package is, many drivers and fans are growing tired of talking about it. When last week's winner Kyle Busch was asked how he would rate it, he responded by saying "STOP ASKING ME PACKAGE QUESTIONS! I'M DONE ANSWERING THEM!"

While many people didn't appreciate his attitude towards the question, I think that he is right for the most part about how difficult it is to race under these new guidelines on tracks like Pocono. Last week's race was not good as there was no passing. Kyle Busch lead a good majority of the laps and when it was all said and done the whole field was two or three seconds apart. Now in a 36 race season, I understand that there are going to be races like this, it has been like that since the sport began but NASCAR has continued to talk about how much closer the racing would be under these new rules and a lot of the time most people have been disappointed. It will be interesting to see how it works this week at a similar track in Michigan.

The driver that I have winning this week is Kevin Harvick. While it may sound like I am picking a favorite here, This season has been somewhat of a disappointment for these guys. While they are fifth in the standings and are doing a good job of collecting points, he has yet to win a race this season. While they have had the speed and have been able to run around the top five, they just have not been able to seal the deal. In his five years with Stewart-Haas Racing, this is the longest Harvick has gone without a win. By anyone else's standards, they would kill to have a season like this but for Harvick, I know that he is not happy with where they are right now so I look for them to come to Michigan and finally get their first win of 2019.

Another driver I see doing well this week is Austin Dillion. Despite his issues in the past couple of weeks at Charlotte and Pocono, he has shown good speed this season as he has been able to run around the top 15. Now if you look at the stat sheet, it would tell you that Dillion has struggled here but over the last couple of races at the track, he has steadily improved. In last year's Fall race here, he was able to finish fourth in one of his better races of 2018. It should be a bounce back week for Dillion as he looks to get back in the hunt to make the playoffs.

(All stats and information used in this article is brought to you by the good folks at driveraverages.com and Racing-Reference.com the best website for all NASCAR stats).

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