By: Joe Piette

This past week a group of Stewart-Haas Racing pit crew members and myself got to enjoy an evening with approximately 100 campers at Victory Junction Gang Camp in Randleman, NC, a camp founded for kids in honor of Adam Petty. There were 19 of us, 8 of which had never been to the camp and for me, this was my 14th trip to NASCARnival Night. The camp opened in 2004 and with donations from NASCAR folks along with corporate and individual sponsors, it has been going strong ever since! As pit crew members, we are all very fortunate to do what we do so we love the opportunity to give a little back. Thru June, July and into August the camp hosts children who have serious illnesses that may create a challenge for them to enjoy a normal childhood (always at no cost to their families). This is where the camp’s magical ability is absolutely amazing! Each child is able to enjoy a week and spend time with other kids that may have challenges just like them. The environment becomes a place of smiles, laughter and very few boundaries. Every child has the opportunity to participate in many activities. Even after a week, most kids don’t want to go home!

For about 4 hours on Tuesday’s each of these weeks, the pit crews get to enjoy quality time with the campers. It starts out with dinner but with a camp twist. The entire time everyone is eating, a chant may fire up from one cabin group to a rival cabin and it’s on like Donkey Kong! I’m constantly amazed at how the campers know the chants and how fired up they get! After dinner there is music and dancing. Again, all the campers know the songs and the dances that go along with them. Some pit crew members know the songs and dances (not sure how) and keep with the beat like a fine tuned pit stop. Most of us are flailing around like a fish out of water, just watching the campers and trying to keep up with them! After dinner it’s on to the pit stop area. The camp has a full blown running pit car. The campers line up along the pit stall area and cheer on the crews as they perform 3 or 4 live pit stops, complete with wearing feather boas around their necks(a camp pit stop requirement)! When pit stops are complete, any camper that would like to try changing tires is welcome to do so on the pit car using the pit guns they just watched do live pit stops. Crew members will assist with this process and let me share something, I have seen some very impressive young tire changers! As this is going on there are many other activities for the campers to experience such as getting Tattoos, pitching corn hole, swimming, fishing(using the Catch/Kiss/Release process), throwing soft balls at the Dunk Tank target and dunking camp Counselors and pit crew members, zip lining, archery and even Hot Air Balloon rides! There is ice cream, Krispy Kreme Doughnuts, popcorn and slushies. The energy level is high then around 9pm, the campers are off to their cabins for the night. At this time the pit crews will gather up their pit equipment and head back to the Charlotte area, usually in a team van. The hour or so trip back is filled with stories and experiences from the night. It’s amazing how these kids can touch your life and open your eyes to things one may never think about.

Victory Junction Gang Camp is a very special place. They welcome pit crews from the Truck, Xfinity and Cup series and most teams have participated at one time or another. I personally want to thank the Petty Family and all the folks that make this magical place a reality and allowing us to be a small part of it. I urge everyone to check out Victory Junction because as they say, you really can “Feel Your Heart Race”

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