Gift to Servia from soldier Oriol Servia didn't achieve the result in the Firestone 550 at Texas Motor Speedway that he sought in his first race in the No. 4 National Guard Panther Racing car.
Following the 228-lap race, Servia was debriefing with race engineer David Cripps when a wave of perspective tapped him on the shoulder.
SPC Rodsun Rodrigo, Panther's "Hometown Hero" for the Firestone 550, approached the Spanish driver to say thanks for the weekend. They had met earlier in the day when Rodrigo sat next to Servia during the IZOD IndyCar Series driver autograph session.
Rodrigo, who enlisted in the Texas National Guard in 2000, presented Servia with his uniform top.
"I want to give this to you," he said. "To say thank you for the weekend."
The disappointment that had defined Servia's face since the end of the race was instantly replaced by astonishment.
"Are you kidding me?" Servia said. "Are you really giving this to me?"
Rodrigo said that nothing would make him happier than Servia accepting his gift.
"I wore that when I was deployed in Iraq," Rodrigo said. "It's been through a lot. Right before we came home we got ambushed and there was a sniper trying to hit our guys."
Rodrigo specialized in wheeled vehicle mechanics, and later completed his airborne qualifications at Fort Benning (Ga.). After being reclassified to infantry tactics, he deployed to Iraq in 2008 to support Operation Iraqi Freedom. Now assigned to the 698th Military Police (Criminal Investigations Division), Rodrigo frequently volunteers for both Army and civilian schools to develop his skills.
"This just puts everything in perspective," Servia said. "I thought I had a bad day out there, and then you hear about him being ambushed and having a sniper after him. I can't imagine something like that. Not only am I proud to represent the National Guard, but hearing about what these soldiers do for us is amazing."
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