JOLIET | Bill VanRamshorst admitted that one of the last things a NASCAR fan would expect to see at Chicagoland Speedway is a ministry, but the Beecher resident doesn't mind catching people off guard.
VanRamshorst, the co-director of Windy City Raceway Ministries along with Schererville resident Glenn Spoolstra, has been part of the organization for seven years. Both are members of Grace Reformed Church in Lansing.
The ministry offers many different services to race fans, such as a lost and found, chapel services during the day and aid to handicapped fans who would otherwise have trouble getting around the Speedway. Their tent also offered free food, pop and water to any fan who stops by.
VanRamshorst, a NASCAR fan himself, often finds himself getting into the thrill of a race.
"It's easy to get caught up in the excitement," he said. "It's loud, and it's an experience you don't get to see on TV."
Though the ministry tent has been a mainstay at the speedway, there was a new draw for fans to stop by for a visit this year. An Interstate Batteries Toyota Camry stock car was parked outside the tent. The car was race ready, meaning Interstate Batteries employee Travis Sturt fires up the engine occasionally throughout the day, which drew many more people to the ministry tent.
"I think this has been our best year," Spoolstra said. "I love it (helping people). To me, there's nothing more rewarding than being able to help -- particularly on the ADA carts."
LOCAL FAN GETS INTO THE ACTION: Crown Point resident Mari Rudnick attended the second Sprint Cup race of her life during Saturday's Lifelock.com 400 at Chicagoland Speedway. Rudnick and several of her friends chose to camp out from Thursday through today in the infield area reserved for RVs.
"It's very exciting -- very thrilling. I finally found the driver I like (Kasey Kahne)," said Rudnick, 27, who has been a NASCAR fan for six years. "The infield is awesome. I love the infield compared to the bleachers. You get an adrenaline rush watching the race. I am an adrenaline junkie -- I love the speed."
SHORT TRACKS CLOSING AROUND THE COUNTRY: Though he's one of the most successful NASCAR drivers today, Tony Stewart acknowledged he, or any NASCAR driver, wasn't born with the talent needed to immediately succeed at the top level of auto racing.
Stewart believes short tracks need to stay open despite the economy and other issues.
"Some of them have gone away because of the economy, and some of them have gone away because housing developments a mile away from it are built," he said. "It's important, because if we lose that, we lose the feeder system to get to this level."