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Feature Friday: Cameron Sogge
An Airman and his machine.
The sound of an impact wrench whizzed as the pit crew secured tires to a legend car; followed by a thundering roar as the engine exploded to life, and 16 cars bucked their way across the hot asphalt track and into the race.
The sun was low and the shadows drawn out at the Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, Texas, and Tech. Sgt. Cameron Sogge, 82nd Training Group unit deployment manager, sat nervously strapped into the seat of his B-52 legend car, waiting for the go-ahead to enter the track. A bead of sweat ran from his forehead and down his cheek. Of his competitors in the race, he only cared about one ... 007. The driver, Sam Jaber, was all that stood between him and the semi-pro championship.
A distant calling
As a child in Glyndon, Minn., Sogge would pass by a small dirt track only three miles from home every day on his way to school. Some days he could hear the sound of the cars howling in the distance when the wind would blow just right. It became his fascination.
"I would beg my parents, or whoever, to bring me home early from my grandparent's lake cabin so I could go to the races on Sunday nights," Sogge said.
His parents were his biggest supporters and he was doing everything he could to please them, but racing wasn't a sport they were willing to allow him to do freely. They began teaching Sogge the value of working hard to earn his gear - nothing they taught him is or should be freely given.
Sogge began working on his aunt and uncle's farm around age 10. When he turned 15, Sogge began eyeing a mini stock racecar that was for sale nearby. "My dad made me draft up a plan to get sponsors and told me that once I had commitments for $2,000 in sponsorships, my parents would buy the car so I could start racing," he said.
"My parents helped me finance and run a racing team and taught me what I needed to know about keeping it running on a limited budget," he continued.
Sogge began soliciting for sponsorships around town. The future competitor spoke with nearly every business he knew, but was turned down more times than he'd care to count. But persistence was key, he said, and eventually succeeded.
When he turned 16, he worked tirelessly to earn enough money to pay for his own gas and insurance to drive. Not long after, he was strapped in and started to race.
"I raced through the summer of 1998 and then I entered the Air Force," he said. "I liked racing ever since I can remember - much like my fascination with airplanes ... from 1998 to 2008, I didn't race much."
The Air Force took Sogge all over the world to assignments in Mountain Home AFB, Idaho; Kline Brogel Air Base, Belgium; Osan AB, S. Korea; and Minot AFB, N.D. Though he pursued another passing for a time, he still chased his dream and took advantage of every opportunity to race.
Once again, in 2009, Sogge began working on his car while stationed at Minot AFB, and found sponsors to support his racing until his deployment in 2012.
When he returned, he moved to Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas, where he continues his journey today.
The need for speed
Finally, the green flag dropped, and the gloves came off. Though Sogge was friends with a majority of the drivers, friendships were left in the dust, leaving only fierce competitors on the track. Sogge and 007 were neck and neck throughout the night.
Lap after lap went by as the crowd screamed for their favorite drivers. Tech Sgt. Buddy Ouimet, Sogge's girlfriend and racing crew chief, stood by the sidelines in raw angst over Sogge's performance - unsure whether or not he'd pull through and take home the championship.
A sudden and unpredictable event froze time, shattering 007's chances of winning.
Jaber's wife, Zad, who was also racing, collided with Sogge's left rear wheel which launched her through the air, flipping nearly eight times off the track. Rescue teams were on scene in a matter of seconds while the rest of the legend cars came to a chilling halt and waited to hear the news.
Though Sogge didn't take any direct damage, Zad did and Jaber quickly removed himself from the race to tend to his wife.
The accident and forfeit of 007, and his wife, sent Sogge into the winners circle for the 2015 Texas Motor Speedway Semi-Pro Legends championship. Although he was not first in the race, his collective points over the 18-race season left Sogge at the top of the heap by four points, beating 007.
"I'm glad she ended up alright," Sogge said after Zad walked away with only a scratch. "Now that I have won the 2015 Texas Motor Speedway Semi-Pro Legends Championship, I get to go to our banquet at the Speedway Club during the NASCAR Truck Series race in November and get the Championship trophy."
This would be the first time Sogge competed in any championship race and won.
Not only was racing his B-52 legend car was his passion, but was also a reflection of his love for the Air Force as a B-52 aircraft maintainer - two passions he continually pursues.
Editor's note:This is part one in a two-part series about a driver who answered two calls; the call to serve his country and the call to a spot on the track.
Article written by Senior Airman Kyle Gese
82nd Training Wing Public Affairs