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Minnesota National Guard
Racing for the Red Bulls

MIAMI, Fla, -- While deployed in Iraq, Spc Brandon Small of Company C, 2nd Combined Arms Battalion, 136th Infantry Regiment, watched as many NASCAR Nextel Cup Series races on TV as he could despite the time change Most of the races started after 10 pm Iraq time

On Nov 17-18, Small of Clouquet, Minn, and several other Minnesota Army National Guard Soldiers and their spouses had the best opportunity in the world to watch a NASCAR race: Live from Homestead-Miami Speedway

And the group numbering more than 15 Soldiers also witnessed NASCAR history This was the last race for the Nextel Cup Series and Busch Series Sprint replaces Nextel Cup and Nationwide Insurance replaces Busch next season It also was the season finale where Jimmie Johnson won his second consecutive Nextel Cup points title

"(The experience) was overwhelming," said Small "It was very exciting and a very fun trip" He said one thing that he will remember is shaking Casey Mears hand Mears, the nephew of four-time Indy 500 winner Rick Mears, drives the Nextel Cup and Busch Series National Guard Chevy

The event is part of the National Guard Bureau NASCAR program The Bureau in conjunction with Hendrick Motorsports and Docupak honored a different National Guard brigade or division that deployed during Operation Iraqi Freedom

For this race, Minnesota Army National Guard's 34th "Red Bull" Infantry Division was honored It was the 22nd brigade or division honored on the car this season The division or brigade's unit crest was painted on the hood and the car's quarter panels

The division's 1st Brigade Combat Team was deployed in Iraq from March 2006 until July 2007 for one of the longest tours of any Army unit The BCT had several missions, including escorting supply convoys across Iraq and civil military operations

For someone who wasn't a race fan like Lt. Col. Jacob Kulzer, commander of the Minnesota Guard's Recruiting and Retention Battalion, he said even after the experience he still was "a (temporary duty) race fan"

For another avid racing fan who has attended NASCAR's "Super Bowl", the Daytona 500 several times, Sgt Maj Curtis Jasper of Oak Grove, this trip was one of his better temporary duties His temporary duty assignments include Hawaii and Norway

Small and the contingent also were able to visit with Mears He also signed his autograph on every one of the group's die cast models of his car given to them This 1/24 scale model also had the Red Bull on its hood and quarter panels

"It's been a lot of fun representing the National Guard," said Mears "It's definitely a little different than your average sponsor

"The amount of support you guys have given us on the backside has been awesome too," he continued

Mears also was presented the 34th Division coin by division commander Maj. Gen. Richard Nash and the 1st 1/34 BCT Command Sergeant Major coin by Command Sgt Maj Doug Julin of Wyoming, Minn

The group also watched the Busch Series race from the Guard's motor home parked near the speedway's turn one and was able to tour the Busch garages and pits Along with their "great seats" they were given radio scanners which enabled them to listen to veteran racer Mark Martin during the race Some of the contingent also was on pit road where they watched Mears' pit crew at work during his pit stops

For the Nextel Cup Series race the next day, several of the Soldiers attended the race free and sat among the 65,000 fans and watched the race

As Sgt Jaimie Edenloff of Osakis said, "It was awesome"

As for next season when NASCAR's most popular driver assumes duties as the Guard racer, it is still undecided if the program will continue

Staff Sgt Jeffrey Bogaards, one of the Guard representatives, said, "We're trying to do it in some capacity"

By Sgt. 1st Class Clinton Wood
1/34 BCT PAO

On Nov. 17-18, Small of Clouquet, Minn., and several other Minnesota Army National Guard Soldiers and their spouses had the best opportunity in the world to watch a NASCAR race: Live from Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Photos Sgt. 1st Class Clinton Wood

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