ERLANGER, Ky. — The time has finally come.
A month after finding out that he won Crown Royal’s “Your Hero’s Name Here” contest for his heroism, decorated Marine veteran and Howland native Samuel Deeds and wife April will spend the weekend at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the Crown Royal presents the Samuel Deeds 400 Sprint Cup race on Sunday afternoon.
Deeds beat out a group of five finalists in a vote of fans for his heroic exploits in Iraq. He was a gunnery sergeant setting up a vehicle checkpoint when he noticed a pile of rocks that hadn’t been there earlier in the day.
Two members of his platoon were approaching the rock piles, Deeds heard a suspicious noise and ran to warn them. He saved their lives but terrorists detonated an improvised explosive device that seriously injured Deeds, who has retired from the Mariners. He required 40 surgeries.
Years later, when on vacation, he helped rescue three swimmers caught in a riptide in North Carolina.
His wife submitted his name to the competition.
“We’ve got an extremely busy schedule that started with the hauler parade [Thursday],” said Deeds. “We’ve got a full weekend of racing. It’s going to be fun.
“There has been a huge build-up for it,” added Deeds. “It didn’t seem that long ago that they had the reveal [announcing Deeds as the winner]. It has all gone by pretty quickly. It was overwhelming at first but now I’m taking everything in.”
Deeds and his wife toured the Indianapolis Hall of Fame on Friday and Deeds will drop the green flag for Saturday’s Sprint Cup qualifying and also watch the Indiana 250 Nationwide Series race.
On Sunday, he will meet the drivers, crew chiefs and owners. Deeds will be on the stand when the drivers are introduced to the crowd and then will take a few laps in the pace car, celebrate with the winner and kiss the famous Brickyard bricks with the winning team.
Deeds, a lifelong NASCAR fan, took in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck race at Cup driver Tony Stewart’s Eldora Speedway in Ohio on Wednesday night. It was the first NASCAR series race on a dirt track in 43 years.
“It was unbelievable,” said Deeds. “I had a great time. There was a lot of bumping and banging, but nobody got mad at each other. They were getting sideways on the turns.”
Austin Dillon won the race.
Deeds said he hopes they add the race to the Truck series.
Deeds said he would like to see Kurt Busch, who has a strong affiliation with the Armed Forces Foundation, or Jeff Burton win Sunday’s race.
There will be a public watch party attended by Deeds’ mother, Lisa Haskell, on Sunday at 12:30 p.m. at the Red Barn Campground in Holden. The race will be shown on a big screen in the pavilion.
Those interested should bring their own food and beverages.
Party organizer Lynne Noyes said Crown Royal is donating merchandise, and they are hoping to raise money for Deeds’ charity to help fallen heroes and their families.
Wiscasset Speedway has a special Saturday night card.
Wilford Cronk, who built the raceway in 1968 and who died in March 2013, will be honored in prerace ceremonies. During the intermission, there will be a driver recognition event honoring more than 50 current and former track champions and popular drivers.
The June Napa Auto Parts Driver of the Month will also be honored.
In addition, all seven classes will race and there will be a fireworks program at the end of the card. Prerace activities begin at 5.
Admission is $5 for those 7 and older and is free for children 6 and under.
Phippen/Fletcher race resumes
The John Phippen Jr./Allen Fletcher Memorial Late Model race that was suspended by rain July 18 will be resumed Saturday at 6 p.m. at Hermon’s Speedway 95.
The race was divided into two segments. There was a 23-lap segment in honor of the No. 23 car driven by Milford’s Fletcher and a 59-lap segment in honor of the No. 59 car driven by Town Hill’s Phippen.
Fletcher died of injuries following an accident at Unity Raceway in 2002 and Phippen died of a heart attack after a race at Speedway 95 in 2010.
The 23-lapper was completed and the field was inverted with the winner, Hermon’s Mike Hopkins, starting at the back for the 59-lapper. Only two laps were completed in the 59-lapper, so 57 laps will be run Saturday.
The driver with the two best finishes will win the event and the $1,200 first-place payout.
Hopkins won the first two Fletcher/Phippen Memorial races, but both were 100-lap events.
The race will be followed by the Street Stock feature which was also rained out.
After the Street Stock race, there will be an intermission before heat races for all five Saturday night series will be held. There will be another intermission before the features.