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Wyan-Pine Grove student Cameron Jackson shows off the sign he held up last weekend at Bristol Motor Speedway. TOP PHOTO (submitted): Stewart picked Jackson out of the crowd and the two spent time together Friday night.

Ever since he was 5, 9-year-old Cameron Jackson has been a fan of race car drivers, especially Tony Stewart — or Tony as he affectionately calls him.

“I’ve always liked Tony because he’s funny, he drives fast and he’s awesome,” Jackson said.

Last weekend, Jackson and his parents, Chris and Melinda, set out on a trip to the NASCAR races in Bristol, Tenn., as they do every year.

This year, Jackson was determined to meet his hero. He held up a “Pick Me Tony Your My Hero!” sign for 4 1/2 hours.

“My arms got a little tired, but my mom and dad helped me some,” Jackson admitted.

The wait paid off.

“When he did get picked, he was the happiest child,” Melinda Jackson said. “There were tears running down his eyes. You would have thought he had won the lottery because he was so happy. Ever since he was 5, he loved him. If the race is on, he doesn’t move. He sits there from start to finish and tells you statistical stuff about the race I have no clue about. Tony was very nice to Cameron and wasn’t pushy to get him out of his way. He answered any questions he had.”

Jackson told his friends earlier in the week at Wyan-Pine Grove Elementary School he was going to see Tony Stewart.

“I told him you can’t be sure that you’re going to get to meet him,” Melinda Jackson warned. “He told me he thought it was really going to happen.”

Jackson played in a rock band with Stewart Friday night and then he took him backstage and talked to him for about 35 minutes.

“He talked to me about how fast race cars go,” Jackson said. “I showed him my red and black braces on my teeth. Those are the colors of his car. He asked me how long I’ve been a race fan and what I wanted to be when I grew up. I told him I wanted to be a race car driver. He asked me who I was going to race for and I told him, ‘you.’”

“He said I was a big NASCAR fan and a four-foot mini-me,” Jackson continued. “He autographed a race T-shirt for me and the sign I held up. He also gave me a ‘Smoke’ T-shirt that has a skull with wings on it because that is his nickname. I told him that if I could chose to go to Disney World for one month or stay the whole day with him, I would chose to stay the whole day with him.”

Friday was the qualifying race and fan night, Saturday was the Nationwide Series race and Sunday was the NASCAR race.

“We thought about coming home on Saturday, but we definitely did after Cameron got picked and was going to be on the prerace show playing in a rock band with Tony,” Melinda Jackson said. “We came back to set all the VCRs, just so that we could have the memories. These are memories we can never get back.”

Staff writer Carol Mills may be reached at cmills@sentinel-echo.com.

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