I’ll admit that I’m a city boy. Being born in Massachusetts and living in Los Angeles will do that to you. I’d go so far as to call myself a Yankee but I’m a Red Sox fan and can’t stomach it. In the northeast you root for professional team sports. You speak quickly and directly and regularly offend others. Distance is measured in minutes, time is currency and watching NASCAR and listening to country music is something that other people do. I do not say things like “y’all”, “race day” or “we have to get to the start line before they wave the green flag”.

At least I didn’t before this week.

Indianapolis isn’t exactly Arkansas but when NASCAR comes to town you’d never know it. Biscuits, gravy and twang for breakfast, smoked meat and greens for lunch. Country music and freedom rock ride the breeze and shirtless men with denim cutoffs are everywhere you look. Had she been there I would have had to restrain my beautiful wife from applying sunscreen to strangers.

I’m not joking.

Yet when the news came down that MANjr founder Chris Stout was unable to attend his 3rd consecutive Crown Royal 400 I leapt at the chance. If you’re even a casual follower of the lifestyle blogosphere you know that this annual event is one of the biggest invites of the year. Cryptic messages and hashtags bounce around twitter for months prior to the race. A #ReignOn here, a #teampurplecup there. Pictures and videos from trackside bubble up from some unlikely sources as dozens of bloggers descend upon the Indy Motor Speedway with fully credentialed hot passes hanging from their necks.

The purpose of this trip is to highlight Crown Royal’s sponsorship of the Brickyard 400. More importantly, Crown Royal’s “Your Hero’s Name Here” contest and winners. Every year Crown Royal holds a nationwide search for an everyday hero in someone’s life. They then name the Brickyard 400 after this person and help them tell their story to the world. This year’s winner was a man named John Wayne Walding. His story is one that deserves to be told.

John was a Green Beret. He fought in Iraq and then returned to combat duty in Afghanistan for another campaign. His medal chest holds a Silver Star, a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart. Should be enough, right? Not quite. While being a total bad ass in Shok Valley, Afghanistan, John took a snipers bullet to his leg with such force that it severed his leg below the knee.


John proceeded to tie his severed leg to his thigh and return fire for over 4 hours before he and his unit were extracted.

You got that right. Instead of laying on the ground and clutching at the space where his leg once was John tied his leg to his thigh and continued firing at the enemy for over 4 hours.

John’s heroism doesn’t stop there. Upon rescue and rehabilitation, John took his prosthetic leg and graduated from Special Forces Sniper School. He hand cycled the Boston Marathon in under two hours.

Did I mention he was born on the 4th of July?

John proceeded to start a rifle manufacturing company in Texas that hires wounded veterans and become an advocate for veterans with PTSD.

After seeing this man in action I came away impressed by more than a list of his achievements. John is a funny and generous man. His charisma and authenticity was on full display and he carried the day with grace and humility. A fine and worthy choice by Crown Royal as a hero among us.

The Race? As in the annual scavenger hunt and race I had been invited to attend? Well #TeamHailey was pretty stacked. We won the first challenge on the strength of Z Smith’s extensive NASCAR knowledge and finished second in the next thanks to DJ Foothill and Victor Macias leading us on a half mile jog back to the cart. So much for sitting behind a keyboard in safety, this years Capture the Crown was full contact. Don’t buy it? Ask Katherine Fotinos about her run in with a moving golf cart. By the time we were eliminated I was grateful for the rest.

Ohhh… that race. Right. Well now that I’m this big time NASCAR reporter I can tell you that Jeff Gordon won for the fifth time at the Brickyard, overtaking Hendrick Motorsports teammate Kasey Kahne on a restart with 17 laps to go. The visibly pumped Gordon later said that winning the race was “as good as it gets”. He lingered over the traditional kiss of the brick finish line with his family and seemed to relish the moment. The day itself was blessed by weather as violent thunderstorms spared the region. The sun even poked it’s head out for a spell.

A successful trip to say the least. Good times, great people and all the Crown Royal I could drink.

Responsibly of course.

Got a hero of your own to nominate? Keep your eye on MANjr for information on next years “Your Hero’s Name Here” contest.


Related Posts

  1. Capture the Crown
  2. Going Back to Indy to Capture the Another Crown
  3. Crown Royal Presents the “Your Hero’s Name Here” 400 at the Brickyard
  4. 2013 Capture the Crown Recap
  5. Capture the Crown – Curtiss Shaver Brickyard 400