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Paul Harraka's Winter Wrap-Up
Feb 12, 2008 - updated Feb 12th, 2008 9:12pm
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With the 2008 Daytona 500 so rapidly approaching, I decided I've decided that now is the most appropriate time to wrap-up the winter and start on 2008. Trying to write about everything that has happened since September in one short blog will certainly be tough, but here it goes. The winter officially began with All-American Speedway's year-end awards dinner. Shortly thereafter, I learned of my official acceptance to Duke University; one which I promptly accepted. Following that came an awesome holiday season that moved from my home in New Jersey to the World Karting Association's KartWeek in Daytona. With the end of my first semester at Lake Norman High came the beginning of college, as I am taking a few classes at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. In addition to all of that, the announcement was made that I am the official spokesperson for The Academy of Motorsports. Two days after that announcement, we announced that I will return to Bill McAnally Racing in 2008 at the NASCAR Research and Development Center Media Day. The final event of the winter was this past Thursday, where I was recognized at NASCAR's annual Diversity Luncheon with an award recognizing me as Driver of the Year. Between all of that, I appeared on TV a few times, too.

Everyone at All-American Speedway did a fantastic job of organizing their 2007 banquet. The event was extremely well attended by competitors, sponsors, congressmen, and officials. NASCAR's Kevin Green was also in attendance, as they announced that the first race of the 2008 Camping World Series West will be held at AAS. We received a trophy that's about 4 feet tall for our second place points finish, which as awesome. I was also fortunate enough to be honored with the NASCAR Rookie of the Year award at the banquet, as my second place points finish was the highest of any rookie. That award came complete with a certificate of regognition from the California State Assembly! Overall, the banquet was an awesome night and I'd like to again thank everyone at BMR for an awesome 2007 season.

Yup, I'm now a "Dukie!" On December 14, 2007, I received my official acceptance letter from Duke University. Although I was given good indication long before than that I'd gotten in, I cannot express how excited I was once it begame official. During my entire college search, there was never any clear-cut #1. I had considered everything from Boston College to Georgia Tech, from Maryland to Perdue, and everything in between. However, when I visited Duke University, spending time on campus and with other students, I could not help but fall in love with the place. It's absolutely amazing, and that day my decision was made: Duke was where I wanted to be. I applied and was accepted. I have decided to major in Mechanical Engineering and minor in Markets and Management. I believe having a background in both will be extremely beneficial to my career. I know that it's going to be a lot of work, but when else do you get an opportunity like this?

I was able to spend Christmas at home and with family, and then made the trek to Daytona Beach for the World Karting Association's Annual KartWeek. The World Karting Association's Triple Crown is the highest honor in American karting. I was fortunate enough to win the Triple Crown way back in 2000. I was invited to WKA's Manufacturer's Cup Series Banquet to present the 2007 winner, Cody Robinson, with his award, which was extremely special to me.

While in Daytona, I was invited to appear on Fox Business Network on January 28, which was extremely exciting. It was my first experience in live television where the person interviewing me was 900 miles away. I ended up really enjoying the time I spent on FOX, and was invited to come back on January 31. I was on two different shows and was able to speak about my racing, being accepted to Duke, my Future Business Leaders of America New Jersey State Championship, and a whole host of other things. I was also able to get in a huge plug for Simpson Safety Equipment J.

In an effort to try and spread out my college courseload, I have begun some classes pre-Duke. Moving from NJ to NC, I was able to set up a high school schedule at Lake Norman High (LNHS) that has allowed me to not be physically in the LNHS building during the second semester. I did that so that I could begin my college career a bit early. I am currently taking Calculus 2, Chemistry 1, and Chemiustry 1 Lab at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. So far, it has been an awesome experience (300 students in one lecture hall is way different than the 25 I'm used to!), and I am really happy to be getting this done before I head up to Duke.

After that was WKA's Kartfest, which is an annual trade show for the karting industry that is held in Hickory, NC. There, The Academy of Motorsports was officially announced, with yours truly as spokesman. The Academy, or TAM, is a corroboration of The Carlisle School, which is an International Baccalaureate private school, Virginia International Raceway, Virginia Tech, and Old Dominion University. TAM combines a top-notch academic education with a world of opportunities for an education in motorsports, both on and off of the racetrack. It is designed for students from grades 7 through 12. More information on the academy is available at http://www.theacademyofmotorsports.com/.

I am extremely excited to be back with Bill McAnally racing in 2008. We were fortunate enough to have a great deal of success together in 2007 and will use that as the foundation for a championship season in 2008. Bill and I have a great relationship and have been working through the winter to have everything in place to make 2008 a season to remember. Being one of the eight drivers in the 2008 Drive for Diversity program is an awesome opportunity. The program has without a doubt been a big stepping-stone in my career by allowing me to work with BMR and learn under Bill. On my off weekends from racing for BMR, I will be running a L:ate Model on the east coast and I'm working on running some races in the Camping World Series.

Don't worry! The end of this blog is near. Wow, I didn't realize my winter had been so busy.

On Thursday, NASCAR regognized individuals and corporations who accomplished a great deal in the area of diversity in 2007. At a luncheon held in the Bill France Room at the Daytona 500 Club, Coca-Cola, North Carolina A & T, Dr. Richard Lapchick, Shawna Smith, and myself were recognized. I received an award as Driver of the Year in recognition of both on-track results and off-track events and programs I was a part of in 2007 to bring youth to motorsports. Dr. Lapchick gave probably the most captivating speech I have ever heard, discussing his past work, current problems, and the power that the sports world has to change the world. If you ever get the chance to listen to him speak, then do it! I've attached a picture of myself, along with NASCAR President Mike Helton and NASCAR Vice President of Corporate Communications Jim Hunter, when I received the award.

I am proud to announce an entirely new www.PaulieHarraka.com and am excited that I will now be able to post my blogs up on my website, so check the site for updates often! I believe I have hit all of the points from this winter. Thanks for reading, sorry for the length, and I am looking forward to an awesome 2008 season.


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