Instead of rallying around the Oregon National Guard, 38-year old racecar driver, Mark Fox is literally rallying for them.
He finished the 2009 Rally America racing season as Rookie of the Year, driving his #54 Subaru, dedicated to the National Guard.
"It brings a lot of camaraderie with people that are in the Guard and definitely draws a lot of attention," said Fox, a resident of Salem, Ore.
Fox is not in the military, but said he has great respect for what soldiers do. His grandmother retired from the Oregon National Guard, and several of his friends are in the National Guard.
But it wasn't until he watched the independent documentary film, "This is War"--a video diary about the experiences of soldiers from the 2nd Battalion, 162nd Infantry, who were deployed to Iraq for a year in 2004--that he felt compelled to do something more.
"It was so powerful and emotional that after I watched the documentary, I decided I wanted to do my part," Fox said.
He wrapped his Subaru completely in National Guard digital camouflage graphics and logos.
"I think it's a great patriotic way to support us," said Col. Alaine Encabo, Recruiting and Retention Commander with the Oregon National Guard.
Fox said he and his co-driver, Jake Blattner, took several top spots throughout the 2009 racing season, earning him the Rookie of the Year title.
"It was a great honor to get Rookie of the Year and we did it with a rookie co-driver," Fox said.
Fox said he relies on his co-driver for directions, much like soldiers rely on their "battle-buddy" in combat, he said.
"It builds a bond between us because you trust each other so much," said Fox.
A bond Oregon National Guard soldiers can relate to.
"The sport is gaining momentum and is extremely popular among our recruiting pool," Encabo said. "We are grateful for the support Fox is giving us."
Col. Alaine Encabo, Recruiting and Retention Commander with the Oregon National Guard (right), speaks with independent rally race car driver, Mark Fox (seated). Fox, who had a successful 2009 racing season, was voted "Rookie of the Year" by the Rally America Series. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Nick Choy, Oregon Military Department Public Affairs Office).
Rally races take place on all surfaces and in all conditions including asphalt, gravel, snow, and even ice, said Fox, who is a self-professed 'adrenaline junkie'.
Fox races in one of the rally competitions in 2009. He and his co-driver, Jake Blattner, placed high in the standings for this racing season. Photo courtesy of Matthew Poppoff.
"Rally racing is fast cars on real roads," he continued.
"We have multiple stages over the course of two or three days, generally about 350 state miles," he added.
The season took Fox and Blattner all over the country, often driving a truck to haul the race car and supplies from Oregon to the east coast and back again. The pair completed the race season entirely as "privateers", which translates into racing without any outside funding.
"It's very expensive," said Fox.
Fox said he hopes to improve on his wins this season by doing even better next year.
"I'd like to continue competing and have properly funded season, and go to battle for the championship.
We imagine the battle will be fierce--and like a true warrior, Fox will prevail.
Story by Kim Lippert,
Oregon National Guard Public Affairs Office