Young cancer warrior drives race car to victory lane
OSKALOOSA, Iowa —
"Get away from my car," Caleb Hammond joked to the race official.
When he woke up Saturday morning, Caleb didn't know how to drive a stick shift. But before lunchtime came around, he drove the Olivia to victory three times.
After a perfect start to his career, did he feel like a rockstar?
Oskaloosa's 11-year-old cancer warrior got the full race day experience at Southern Iowa Speedway.
He became a racing fan with his Uncle Chris who lived across the street from the speedway.
"We'd pull up lawn chairs and watch 'em race," said Chris Playle, Caleb's uncle. "We could only see the backstretch back there but it was good enough for us at the time. When he got a little older I started bring him over here."
Caleb isn't sure why he loves racing, but it's just natural.
"I don't know, it's just.... been in my blood since I was a kid."
In less than a week, the community and Team Kids With Cancer pulled this event together to show their support for Caleb and give him a chance to race.
"It's been amazing," Playle said. "I can't believe the turnout of cars and, shoot, the stands are filled pretty well too. Yeah, it's great."
The event produced the one thing everybody wanted to see - a smile on Caleb's face.
As the cars bolted around the track it was easy to forget for a moment that Caleb is battling leukemia.
But even just the idea of seeing him in victory lane was enough to get his biggest fans choked up.
"Probably overwhelming a little bit," Playle said. "But it's gonna be great."
As for Caleb, the racing provided some lessons.
"I guess I was going a little to fast and just spun out."
And some serious highlights.
"Drifting on the turns."