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Monday, July 11, 2011

The Last Day At The Brickyard

Saturday was the final day of the 2011 USAC Mopar .25 Battle at the Brickyard. The event was four days long and by the last day my body was wanting rest, but I was loving every minute of it.

Before the races began on Saturday I walked over to one of the trailers in the pits as I wanted to ask a question. I kept hearing a name that was familiar to me and I heard it last year as well. I wanted to ask this last year, but didn't have the nerve. This year though I did. What I wanted to know was if the parent of these two drivers was the same guy I sort of worked for in 2003.

Asking anyone anything is a difficult task and is something I don't normally do. Well, it is easy for me to ask a question about an event, but anything that is personal or has to do with something that isn't task or event related is something I avoid at all cost. However, I was feeling confident so I went to the trailer and asked. Turns out it is the same person but he didn't fully remember me. He did say I am an excellent flagger though.

The day then progressed on with just 18 races to be ran. With each race that passed I kept dreading the moment of the final checkered flag. It's one thing to flag a two day event, but to work a four day event at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, well, I wish time could have stood still and that I could have lived in those days forever. Alas, time moves on.

What also made the event more special, and it's been this way all season, is the feeling of belonging. Last year I was new, highly anti-social, and avoided talking to anyone. I enjoyed my isolation at the finish line. This year I have traveled with the USAC staff so much that there is a sense of safety talking with them. Gone is the anti-social Aaron and I look forward to being part of the crew instead of the silent figure with the flags.

A sense of belonging is a strong emotion for a person on the spectrum. I feel as if I grow the most when feeling like I belong as it gives me energy I didn't know I had. It gives me the motivation to step outside my comfort zone. I do want to say it took a while. I think that feeling of belonging doesn't just happen and can't be forced. Perhaps everyone, spectrum or not, has this same thing, but when that feeling is there for me it is something I wish would never leave.

But leave it would. The days races were coming to an end and my body was getting ready to go on strike as four days in that heat had taken its toll. When race 18 was over and the final checkered flag flew I did everything I could to avoid feeling anything, but that didn't last long. It was over. Four days at the Brickyard were now over and all that was left was to tear down the temporary track. I helped the best I could, but I was physically and mentally drained. It was a sad sight to see what had been a track get turned back into a barren parking lot.

A couple hours later when it was time to leave the staff was talking about what to do with the victory wreath that was used in the pictures for the winners. It's been a thing with the staff that they get me to try something new each race and a person came up with the idea that I should wear that in a picture. Before I knew what was going on I was wearing a wreath being pushed towards the victory lane area that still had our banner up.

Those moments were special. The photo originally was going to be just me but then it turned into a group shot. I've written in the past about how difficult it is to smile in photos, but in this photo there was no hiding it. I was happy, elated, and felt like part of something. It may have simply been an impromptu photo, but that smile in this photo is something that will be with me forever.


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