Vaught's Views: Kentucky Speedway honored local high school personnel at NASCAR race
The Kentucky Army National Guard honored local high school personnel for their work with kids during the Quaker State 400 at Kentucky Speedway on July 9. Pictured are Casey County football coach Sam Marple, Garrard County football coach Mark Scenters, National Guard SSG Brian J. Mangum, Garrard principal Kevin¿Stull and Casey athletics director Victor Black. (Photo Submitted)
The National guard recruiter lined up officials at Casey County and Garrard County high schools, including football coaches Sam Marple and Mark Scenters, to go see the race and wanted to make sure they did not miss anything — including a prerace opportunity with popular driver Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Mangum knew traffic might be a problem — no way he could have anticipated the nightmare it turned out to be for so many — and planned accordingly.
“We got about three miles from the track at 12:30 that day and hit bumper-to-bumper traffic. We had a meet time of 1:30 at gate 10 (with other people), so we used our government vehicles and military ingenuity to get out of the traffic mess and into the race track by 2:30. It still took us two hours to go that three miles,” said Mangum without elaborating exactly what his “ingenuity” might have involved to make his two-hour delay much shorter than it was for most race fans.
Fortunately, Mangum’s group still had plenty of time to do the meet-and-greet with Earnhardt, who continues to rank in the top 10 in the points race.
“Dale Jr. was kind enough to see us before the race because we are one of his main sponsors,”¿Mangum said. “It was pretty cool to do the Q-and-A session. At the end of the session he raffled off two autographed die cast cars and Casey County coach Sam Marple won one of them.”
Hopefully, that will maybe be a sign of good fortune to come for Marple in his first year as head coach after taking over from Andy Stephens, who is now an assistant coach at Southwestern.
Mangum’s group set up next to the track on turn 1 and got to walk through pit row, an experience he says they will all remember.
“The experience overall was absolutely flawless. Everything went great from meeting Junior to walking pit row, and to being within a stone's throw of the cars during the race,” Mangum said.
“The race itself was a bit boring. Kyle Busch pretty much owned the thing from the start (and won). The funny thing about that is he got booed like no other during driver announcements, and I remember thinking that would just be motivation for him.”
It was just like enjoying himself so much was motivation for Mangum to want to take another group back next year if Kentucky Speedway does not lose the race.
“It's hard to tell if this will be something we get to do next year. I know the past two years the National Guard has offered these race packages for different races on the circuit, but I only recently took advantage of it because it was a Kentucky race,” Mangum said. “If they do, it will definitely be something we do again, maybe with representatives from Boyle County and Danville this time.”