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By LeAnn R. Ralph
COLFAX — For four-year-old Colfax resident Payton Brockmiller and his dad, Ricky, and his grandmother, Julie Bosshart-Stansbury, it was the chance of a lifetime to watch a live NASCAR race.
What they were not counting on was that Payton would receive the checkered flag from the winning driver, Ryan Blaney.
“We have family in the Concord (North Carolina) area. They invited us a couple of months ago out of the blue to come down for the race. So we did. We went down for a week,” Ricky Brockmiller said.
While Payton’s grandmother, Julie, was able to accompany them, his mother, Courtney was not able to get away.
Julie is the deputy clerk-treasurer for the City of Glenwood City.
The race was the Bank of America Roval 400 in Charlotte on Sunday, September 30.
“On race day, we were up kind of high (in the bleachers), and when it was getting toward the end of the race, the checkered flag was getting ready to fly in three laps. And (Payton) likes the burnouts from the race track, so we went down to watch that,” Ricky said.
“It was pretty cool … we had seats right at the start/finish line,” Julie said.
“I knew (Ryan Blaney) liked to give the checkered flag out. So when he was scanning the crowd, we were as close as you could possibly get to the track. There’s bleachers and then there’s a drop and the race track is a little ways away yet. I grabbed (Payton) by the hips and got him up as high as I could. Ryan picked us out of the crowd,” Ricky said.
“We got to go down by the racetrack, and he gave Payton the flag … After we were walking out from the racetrack, everyone was giving him high fives. Ryan Blaney has been posting stuff on Facebook about him. He’s been on ESPN. Fox Sports did a story on him. NASCAR.com did a story. He’s been all over. He’s had like a million shares,” Ricky said.
“It was very random. There are thousands of people at this race, and out of thousands, he points to my grandson,” Julie said.
Payton’s first live NASCAR race was the first anniversary of Blaney’s first checkered flag giveaway a year earlier on September 30 after a win in an Xfinity Series race.
“When we were walking out, people recognized Payton, and they wanted to get picture of him with the flag,” Julie said, adding that she offered to take the pictures for them so they could be in the picture with Payton.
And because Payton received the flag on television for the whole world to see, “people started texting and calling right away,” Julie said.
Payton, Ricky and Julie also visited Team Penske’s shop the next day.
Ricky said he was surprised by the “ties” to Ryan Blaney. Blaney’s main sponsor is Menard’s Racing, and Ricky works as a body mechanic at a truck equipment company located across the road from the Menard’s distribution center.
“We do stuff for Menards right across the street. The car owner is Roger Penske. We do a lot of work for Penske’s rental truck fleet,” Ricky said.
“The next day we went to Penske Racing. We went pretty early in the morning. We walked in, and there was a crew guy there. Payton was carrying the flag like he owned the place. And one of the guys said, ‘Hey, that’s the checkered flag from yesterday.’ I said, ‘Yup.’ He said, ‘Hold on a second.’ He left, and when he came back, he said Ryan would be in around 1:30. So me, my mother-in-law and him took off and had lunch and went to a couple of other race shops. We came back around 1 o’clock, 1:30. As soon as he saw us walk in, he stopped what he was doing and came up to see Payton and gave him a high five and fist bump. He signed the flag for us. So now, it’s in the process of being put in a big shadow box with pictures and our tickets from the weekend,” Ricky said.
The fact that Ryan Blaney signed the flag for Payton “really made it special” because the majority of drivers keep the checkered flags for themselves, Julie said.
Payton appears to be following in his father’s footsteps as a NASCAR fan.
“I grew up watching racing. When I was younger than him, my mom said I was in front of the TV screen screaming for Bill Elliott. I have loved racing since I was born. He’s pretty much the same way. He’s got a racetrack in the backyard,” Ricky said.
On the Sunday afternoon that Ricky and Payton spoke to the Colfax Messenger, they had been hauling dirt to smooth out Payton’s backyard racetrack at their home in Colfax.
“He’s got a little four-wheeler. And what do you do in the backyard with the four-wheeler?”
“I race in the dirt,” Payton said.
Payton has had the four-wheeler for two years.
“I like watching it go up in the air,” he said.
“He likes throwing dirt. Do you like going fast?” Ricky asked.
“Yeah,” Payton replied.
“Do you like it when the four-wheeler goes sideways on you, too?” Ricky asked.
“Yeah,” Payton said.
Ricky said his mother-in-law was not always a NASCAR fan.
“When I first met Courtney, my wife, I don’t remember Julie being a big race car fan. They liked racing, but now I think she’s a bigger fan than I am. She’s a big fan,” Ricky said.
Julie said what she especially appreciates about NASCAR racing is that the drivers are down-to-earth and approachable.
“You can go right down into the pits and talk to them. They are normal people who appreciate their fans,” she said.
Ricky Brockmiller grew up in Madison, and his dad worked at a race track.
“I was always at the track. There’s a track called the Madison International Speedway. A lot of the big drivers used to race there. Dick Trickle, who was the best asphalt racer in Wisconsin. Maybe further. I grew up watching him. We’d go to LaCrosse and I’d watch him a lot. Mark Martin, Matt Kenseth. Rusty Wallace. Ken Schrader,” he said.
“Maybe this is going to be Payton’s story. Maybe one day he can go and race with Ryan Blaney or maybe one day for Ryan. We’ll have to see what happens,” Ricky said.
Ricky also works at Thunder Hill Speedway south of Menomonie doing track prep, and he is the “corner 1” official.
“I’m out there every Saturday. Now it’ll be Wednesdays. They’re going to start racing Wednesdays out there,” he said.
“We were hoping to get him a cart this year. I haven’t made my mind up. But it’ll be soon that he’ll start racing out at Thunder Hill,” Rick said.
Youngsters can start racing at Thunder Hill at at the age of five.
“We just got lucky. Out of all those people there. There’s one checkered flag. And a lot of drivers don’t give up their flags … the first time he actually did it was a year ago from when Payton got his. He did it for a nationwide race at Dover. He gave his flag away earlier this year, I think in Texas. There’s only three of them out there that gives the flag away. It’s not like everyone can get their hands on one,” Ricky said.
Fortunately or unfortunately, depending upon your perspective, Ricky’s cell phone was not working on the day of the NASCAR race, so Julie ended up taking pictures of Payton and Ricky in the stands and Payton receiving the checkered flag from Ryan Blaney.
Blaney’s public relations person talked to Julie about permission to use the pictures she had taken, and of course, she said, “yes.”
The PR person put Julie’s pictures up on social media, and the pictures also were used by Fox Sports and other news outlets.
Julie said her husband was not able to accompany them because he had just started a new job and could not get the time off.
“But we always tape the races, so we have that one recorded,” she said.
Nowadays when Ricky asks Payton, “Who is your best friend?” Payton answers, “Ryan Blaney.”
The day of the race in Charlotte, Payton was wearing Kyle Busch gear and has considered himself a Kyle Busch fan for a while.
In fact, people were giving Ryan Blaney “a hard time” — albeit in a good-natured way — because Payton was wearing Kyle Busch clothing, Julie said.
“I can’t say we were never not a fan (of Ryan Blaney). We liked him. Now I can tell you we’re his fans. Payton’s favorite driver is still Kyle Busch. But he says Ryan Blaney is his best friend. I think that’s better than a fan,” Ricky said.
“He also says when he gets his first trophy, he wants to give it to Ryan,” he said.
Payton met many drivers that weekend in North Carolina, including Martin Truex Jr., Kurt Busch and Kyle Busch. He visited Kyle’s pit box, and he got to sit in a race car. He received a signed hat from Kyle Busch and a race car, M&Ms, and sunglasses, Ricky said.
“And here we are, in the little town of Colfax,” he said.
“That’s pretty good for two little small towns, Colfax and Glenwood City,” Julie said.
“It was a once in a lifetime, that’s for sure,” she said.