NASCAR Sprint Cup Series star Kyle Busch is accustomed to coming out of Turn 4 at Texas Motor Speedway with the crowd roaring on the frontstretch, but on Friday it was a completely different electric atmosphere.
Busch came out of Turn 4 in a helicopter for his grand entrance in front of more than 4,500 screaming elementary school students and joined the 11 local-area schools to crown the champions of Texas Motor's Speedway's "Speeding To Read" educational program.
The 11 schools, representing three districts, eight communities and more than 6,500 students overall, combined to read 1,020,207 books in the competition known as the "Lone Star 500" since the outset of the school year. The Frontstretch Division consisting of Argyle/Lantana's E.P. Rayzor, Trophy Club's Samuel Beck and Keller's Kay Granger elementary schools led the way by combining to read 445,746 books of the overall total.
Busch, the defending champion of Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Duck Commander 500 as well as tonight's O'Reilly Auto Parts 300 Nationwide Series race, enjoyed a Q&A with the students, handed out trophies and posed for photos with the winners and sign plenty of the students' "Speeding To Read" t-shirts as a memento of their special day.
Students were rewarded with numerous prizes ranging from Duck Commander 500 tickets to Six Flags over Texas passes to a Domino's pizza party for the entire championship-winning school. The top teachers and principals also were honored with Duck Commander 500 tickets and dinner and spa certificates for The Speedway Club at Texas Motor Speedway.
"It's certainly a packed house here this morning," Busch said. "It's really exciting that there's this many kids that are excited to have the opportunity of reading and how many books they can read and achieving something for themselves individually, for their schools, or for their divisions and for their grades.
"There were a lot of different awards that were handed out today and although there were individuals that achieved awards, I think that the school awards were pretty special that all the kids knew they were a part of."
Roanoke Elementary, the Pit Road Division champs, won the overall school title with 97 percent of their 760-student enrollment meeting or exceeding the pre-set competition reading goals for all the schools. The Rangers barely edged out Rayzor at 96.1 percent as six schools had 83 percent or more of their student bodies meet or exceed their reading goals. E.P. Rayzor (Frontstretch) and Clara Love (Backstretch) were the other division champions.
Rayzor first-grader Ethan Harmon and Beck third-grader Madison Williams captured the top individual reading honors for their respective grade categories. Harmon won the K-2 division by reading 4,605 books during the school year while Williams read 453 chapter books to earn the Grades 3-5 crown.
Rayzor swept the classroom titles with Melanie Peterson's first-grade class being named the K-2 champions and Stephanie Wilson's third-grade class taking the 3-5 title. Peterson's class averaged 1,307 books per student while Wilson's averaged 136.3 chapter books per student.
"For Texas Motor Speedway to have the opportunity to enhance education in its local communities through the NASCAR-themed 'Speeding To Read' program is a tremendous feeling," Texas Motor Speedway Vice President of Media Relations Mike Zizzo said. "Reading is an important aspect of education and judging from the number of books read - more than one million combined - these students have all benefitted in some form or fashion."
In addition to the overall individual and classroom champions for K-2 and 3-5, Texas Motor Speedway also honored the division champions in both categories as well as the top individual readers at the other eight schools that did not have a division champion.
The K-2 individual school champions were Brooke O'Brien of Beck; Jackson Cotten of Granger; Thatcher Hochstetler of Clara Love; Kyler Leveridge of J.C. Thompson; Jayla Adams of Prairie View; Zoe Stein of Chisholm Ridge; Lillian Smith of Roanoke; T.J. Guiterrez of Sendera Ranch; Madison Morgan of Haslet; Zachary Pospisil of Carl E. Schluter; and Harmon of Rayzor. Of that group, the division champions were Harmon (Frontstretch), Hochstetler (Backstretch) and Smith (Pit Road).
The 3-5 individual school champions were Nicholas Wilson of Rayzor; Maddie Lewis of Granger; Isabella Rubio of Clara Love; Haylee Lemoine of Thompson; Trinity Hayes of Prairie View; Shelby Hansen of Chisholm Ridge; Logan Otremba of Roanoke; Emma Benson of Sendera Ranch; Kiara LeMaire and Madison Gray (tie) of Haslet; Abbie Franklin of Schluter; and Williams at Beck. Of that group the division champions were Williams (Frontstretch), Rubio (Backstretch) and Benson (Pit Road).
The success of Texas Motor Speedway's "Speeding To Read" program was boosted by the partnerships and generosity of aai Trophies and Awards, ADBO Publishing Company, Domino's, Kid's Beach Club, NASCAR, NASCAR Authentics, Score A Goal In The Classroom, Six Flags Over Texas, Speedway Children's Charities, Spin Master, SMI Properties, Sprint, The Speedway Club of Texas Motor Speedway and Toyota of Fort Worth.