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Moving into Duke and Our Most Exciting Win of the Year!
Aug 26, 2008 - updated Aug 26th, 2008 12:26pm
Web posted by Paul Harraka

Mooresville, NC. --

This week was certainly one that I'll never forget. As if beginning life as a college student when I moved into my dorm at Duke University wasn't enough, our Ruth's Chris / AiM Sports team brought our ninth win of 2008 home to BMR and Toyota after an extraordinarily exciting race.

After moving into my dorm on Tuesday, I spent Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday in orientation events at Duke. If first impressions are any indication: Duke is going to be perfect for me. In my class are an Olympic Medalist, a four year veteran of the US Marines, many Community Service Award Winners, and countless other accomplished and determined people. Beyond the student body, the professors and deans that I've met have been enthusiastic, excited, and ready to impart tons of knowledge! My classes are: Economics 51 (Intro to Macroeconomics), Engineering 53 (Introduction to Matlab in Engineering), Math 103 (Calculus 3), and History 111 (Modern American History).

I left Duke around 4 PM on Friday and headed to Raleigh-Durham International Airport. It was definitely tough to leave school (I never thought I'd admit that….), but I was extremely excited about the upcoming race. Upon arriving in California, I headed to Altamont Motorsports Park for a NASCAR Camping World Series test. I'm extremely fortunate in that, thanks to our success at the All-American Level, Bill McAnally has given my the opportunity to run one of his Camping World Cars at the last two Camping World races of 2008: Altamont and Roseville. Our team was only able to stay for half of the test, as I needed to get back to Roseville for our All-American Series race. I literally jumped out of the racecar and into the pickup truck of our engine builder, TOE Performance's Tony Oddo.

Upon arriving at Roseville, I found that my Bill McAnally Racing team had once again done a fantastic job of preparing our Toyota Camry. We ended up being the fastest car in both rounds of practice, making a few small adjustments to our Penske Shocks that helped us pick up even more speed. These adjustments were made based on data from our Aim Sports MXL Data Acquisition System, which has been a huge part of our success this year.

We qualified on the outside pole and then had a few hours of "down time" before the main. As soon as qualifying was over, my crew, Ryan and Travis, went to work going over every detail on the car, making sure that everything was ready for the main. With the top five cars being inverted for the main, we started fourth. Just as any other night, I knew that patience would be the key to success. I passed Bill McAnally Racing teammate Katie Hagar for third on lap eight and BMR teammate Beau DeBard for second at the half way mark (25). From there, I set my sights on leader John Moore. I sat behind Moore, close enough to jump on any mistake he might make and putting enough pressure on him, without actually touching him, to "get in his head". I got underneath him coming off of turn 4 on lap 37 and cleanly passed him for the lead by the end of lap 38. The next lap, Moore lifted the back of our car up coming off of turn two. I gathered it back in and managed to stay in front of him down the backstretch. Then, as we entered turn three, Moore hammered into the back of our Toyota again, knocking me over a lane up the track and allowing him to slide back by. I was able to get back down to the bottom without losing the second position.

From there, it was on. I like to pride myself on my determination and "never give up" attitude, as well as the fact that I'm pretty level-headed inside the racecar and I won't intentionally wreck someone. However, after Moore pulled antics like that, there was no way on earth I was going to allow him to beat me to the finish line. We worked to some lap traffic and, by the time we cleared it all, he had about a 5 car length lead. I didn't even look at the scoreboard to see what lap we were on. I focused all of my energy on running the absolute fastest laps I could in order to catch Moore. When I got within one car length of him, I looked up at the board and saw that we were on lap 44. Perfect, I thought, just enough time left to pass him cleanly. As much as the retaliation bug was eating at me, I knew that the win would be that much sweeter if I passed him back without contact. I got underneath him coming off of turn three with three laps remaining and cleared him within a lap and a half, all without touching him. Immediately, he went back to trying to wreck us. He hammered me in the middle of three and fourth, sending sparks everywhere and knocking us sideways. I kept the car in line and cleared him as we took the white flag. Going into turn one, I don't think he ever used the brakes, driving, literally, up our left rear quarter panel. It took all the car control that I could muster, something I learned while racing Briggs and Stratton go-karts, to keep from spinning out at that point. I was able to do so and retained the lead. I finished the final lap and we won! Moore, however, ended up spinning out in his last lap desperation move. Maybe he needs some time in Briggs and Stratton karts, too.

Following the race, I did my traditional celebration, standing on the door of the car. I've never been cheered for so loudly in my life. My team came out from the pits for some team pictures and they were more excited that I'd ever seen them. The whole team, especially Ryan and Travis, deserve every ounce of the credit for building a car that could withstand all of those beatings and still go fast! Then, after our pictures were done and I pulled into the pits to go to tech, a crowd of at least 200 people was waiting for me at the track exit, cheering and slapping me high-fives. It was an awesome feeling.

I would definitely say that this was one of the most exciting races of my life, and I get excited just watching the replay. If anyone would like to watch it, they can see the entire race (without the caution periods but including our post race celebration and interviews, 15 minutes) at http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=8123322473351839395&ei=8Ay0SJjgFIWyrgLq38jaDA&q=harraka+bmr. You can also watch the final 21 laps (where all of the action was, only 5 minutes) at http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=542305038050745952&ei=Mw20SPeYHoqGqwKyjeiOCA&q=harraka+bmr. I urge everyone to take 5 minutes and watch the last 21 laps. Please excuse the screaming in the background at the end, as one of my close friends and the travel coordinator at BMR, Paris, who took the video, got a little excited the last lap. A picture, taken by William "Billy the Kid" Ogas, from the win is also attached.

Moore ended up with an 11th place finish for the night, putting us only 8 points behind him for the season championship. We'll be going for the points lead this weekend!

Sorry for the length of this blog, but this was one exciting race!


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