We got home today from an unbelievable weekend! Thanks to my good friend, Patrick Gantt, we were able to secure four tickets to the Nationwide and Sprint Cup races this past weekend at TALLADEGA Superspeedway for free! Some folks wanted to see Caleb get a chance to go and Patrick made it happen. Thanks again, buddy!
Holly has used all her sick and personal days this year helping out with Caleb, so she was not able to miss any work to go. Not that she was excited about going anyway! She has a history of breaking out the crocheting material at races. Therefore, I took my good friend and new NASCAR fan, Josh, with us. We waited until late Friday evening to leave because Caleb wanted to walk the Survivors’ Lap at the Jefferson County Relay For Life event, which he did. It was so exciting to walk with him as a SURVIVOR! People all around the track cheered for him and the others walking. It was amazing and humbling to know what God has done in his life.
We got to Talladega in the wee hours of Saturday morning. We quickly got the camper set up and went to bed. Saturday was full of activity as we got to the track and had lots of fun. The boys each bought a hat with the money that Uncle Wayne gave them specifically for that purpose. We went and watched the Nationwide race (the Nationwide series is kind of like the minor leagues of NASCAR). We really had a great time.
We got back and went to bed early to make up for the previous night, but also because we had pit passes and the pits opened early. We awoke early Sunday morning to the sound of thunder and lightening. We made our way to the track and were all soaked by the time we got there. We made our way down to the pits thanks to the guest services cart that helped when Caleb’s leg started hurting from all the walking we had been doing over two days. We walked the pits and looked at the haulers and the pit boxes of the teams. We got to watch the 48 Lowes team prepare the tires for the race. We also saw Dale Earnhardt, Jr and Jeff Gordon’s pit boxes and crews up close. It was awesome to be that close.
We were trying to get somewhere so that we could see Jimmie Johnson. I sent a message to someone in close contact with him earlier in the week and they said they would see what they could do, but no promises. When my texts that morning went unanswered, we got a ride back around to the grandstands as they were closing the pits up and getting ready for the race to start. As we were about 2/3 of the way back, my phone buzzed and it was my contact! They said he was going to the Hollywood Hotel – FOX’s broadcast booth during the race – at 11:00, and still no promises, but that we should make our way over there. I looked at the time and it was 10:39. I asked the driver to take us back to the pits which he did. We had patiently allowed him to make a detour for an errand with us on board, so he was more than happy to return the favor. I’m glad we said yes to his request!
He drove us back into the pit area and we started looking for the Hollywood Hotel. We finally found it, but we did not have the credentials to get in to the area. But we had favor! It’s amazing how you can go anywhere you want when on one of the track’s golf carts driven by track personnel! He drove us right up and dropped us off. I sent the person a message that we were in place. It was 10:52. I did not hear any reply, but at 11:10, I got punched in the side by Josh who announced, “There he is!” I turned around and there was Jimmie Johnson getting off a golf cart with his hand extended! My heart sank to my stomach. I had prayed when we got the earlier message that God would allow my boy to have a chance to meet one of his heroes – a five time champion in NASCAR and clean-cut family man. And here it was coming to pass. Of course, I have been a fan of his since he entered NASCAR in 2002 – right when I became a big fan of the sport, so it was a huge deal to me, too!
I shook his hand and thanked him for taking time with us. He walked over to Caleb, looked at his 48 shirt and said, “Go Jimmie Johnson, huh?” He told Joshua – who was wearing a Jeff Gordon hat – that it was OK for him to pull for the 24 since Jeff is a teammate and actually the car owner of the 48. He talked to all of us and posed for a photo. He was so gracious with his time; I know he is super-busy. It meant the world to me that he worked it out for 5 minutes with us.
I was trying to upload he photos for Holly, my mom, and to Facebook, but the cell network was overloaded with 130,000 extra people in the area. It took me a few minutes of trying and so we saw Jimmie came back out. He posed for another photo with us then another fan. I asked him a favor – if he could get us a win today. He said, “That’s why we’re here, bud!” And then he was whisked off in his golf cart and gone just like that. We were all still in shock that what had happened really HAD happened. It was pretty surreal and a moment that none of us will EVER forget! It really didn’t matter that he blew a motor about halfway through the race and was knocked out. After our experience, little else mattered right then. Caleb was on cloud nine!
We also had numerous opportunities to share of God’s mercy and healing on the many tram rides back and forth. We can only pray and ask that God send someone else to water the seeds that were planted in those people with Caleb’s testimony.
So tomorrow it is back to reality. We start 5 days of outpatient chemo that will run through Saturday. Holly is winding up the school year, so soon she will be able to help more with the boys and I can hopefully get some work done. Thanks to those that donated to help us get to Talladega. On one income, there is NO way we could have made it without you and Caleb would have not had a dream come true. We are so grateful for that. Thank you so much for your continued support and prayers. We can feel the strength that comes from people standing in prayer and agreeing with us. Our God is greater!
Today’s verse – “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase.” – 1 Cor 3:6-7