Wednesday, July 23, 2014


Bradley Blackburn, 14, of Middlebury, heads to the pits Saturday, May 18, 2013, at M-40 Speedway in Jones, Mich. Blackburn began racing when he was 12 and now in his second full season is racing to raise money for the American Cancer Society. (Truth Photo By Ryan Dorgan) (AP)

Bradley Blackburn, 14, of Middlebury, preps his car for adjustments after warm-up laps Saturday, May 18, 2013, at M-40 Speedway in Jones, Mich. Blackburn has been racing since he was 12 and sells ribbons on his car to raise money for the American Cancer Society in honor of friends and family who have battled cancer. (Truth Photo By Ryan Dorgan) (AP)

Bradley Blackburn Sr. polishes his 14-year-old son's stock car Saturday, May 18, 2013, at M-40 Speedway in Jones, Mich. The yellow ribbons, honoring two of Bradley Jr.'s friends and his cousin, are just a few of the many ribbons on Bradley's car that people can purchase for as little as $5 with proceeds going to the American Cancer Society. (Truth Photo By Ryan Dorgan) (AP)

Bradley Blackburn, 14, of Middlebury, speaks with his mother Chris before his qualification race Saturday, May 18, 2013, at M-40 Speedway in Jones, Mich. "It's a good thing I don't have a doctor's appointment after this," Chris said nervously. "They'd definitely put me on some sort of medication." (Truth Photo By Ryan Dorgan) (AP)

Bradley Blackburn, center, 14, of Middlebury, takes a moment to relax along with his future brother-in-law Terry Lombardi, right, Saturday, May 18, 2013, at M-40 Speedway in Jones, Mich. (Truth Photo By Ryan Dorgan) (AP)

Bradley Blackburn, 14, of Middlebury, breaks for a pre-race dinner before his pro stock class race Saturday, May 18, 2013, at M-40 Speedway in Jones, Mich. Blackburn wears four wristbands, two in honor of his friends who battled cancer, one for a young neighbor and one from Lance Armstrong's Livestrong foundation. (Truth Photo By Ryan Dorgan) (AP)

Bradley Blackburn, 14, of Middlebury, waits to race in a pro stock class race Saturday, May 18, 2013, at M-40 Speedway in Jones, Mich. Blackburn has been racing since he was 12 and sells ribbons on his car to raise money for the American Cancer Society in honor of friends and family who have battled cancer. (Truth Photo By Ryan Dorgan) (AP)

Bradley Blackburn, 14, of Middlebury, suits up before racing in a pro stock class race Saturday, May 18, 2013, at M-40 Speedway in Jones, Mich. Blackburn has been racing since he was 12 and sells ribbons on his car to raise money for the American Cancer Society in honor of friends and family who have battled cancer. (Truth Photo By Ryan Dorgan) (AP)

Chris Blackburn talks with her son Bradley, 14, before his pro stock class race Saturday, May 18, 2013, at M-40 Speedway in Jones, Mich. (Truth Photo By Ryan Dorgan) (AP)

Chris Blackburn shows her nails painted with her 14-year-old son Bradley's number 47 during his pro stock class race Saturday, May 18, 2013, at M-40 Speedway in Jones, Mich. "I shake through the whole race," Blackburn said. "That's my baby out there. I can hardly keep still." (Truth Photo By Ryan Dorgan) (AP)

Bradley Blackburn, 14, of Middlebury, prepares for his pro stock class race Saturday, May 18, 2013, at M-40 Speedway in Jones, Mich. Blackburn has been racing since he was 12 and sells ribbons on his car to raise money for the American Cancer Society in honor of friends and family who have battled cancer. (Truth Photo By Ryan Dorgan) (AP)

Bradley Blackburn, 14, of Middlebury, heads to his car before his pro stock class race Saturday, May 18, 2013, at M-40 Speedway in Jones, Mich. Blackburn has been racing since he was 12 and sells ribbons on his car to raise money for the American Cancer Society in honor of friends and family who have battled cancer. (Truth Photo By Ryan Dorgan) (AP)

Bradley Blackburn, 14, of Middlebury, listens to his dad before taking the track in a pro stock class race Saturday, May 18, 2013, at M-40 Speedway in Jones, Mich. Blackburn has been racing since he was 12 and sells ribbons on his car to raise money for the American Cancer Society in honor of friends and family who have battled cancer. (Truth Photo By Ryan Dorgan) (AP)

Hannah Blackburn brings her son Hunter and his friend to wish her little brother Bradley, 14, good luck before his pro stock class race Saturday, May 18, 2013, at M-40 Speedway in Jones, Mich. Blackburn has been racing since he was 12 and sells ribbons on his car to raise money for the American Cancer Society in honor of friends and family who have battled cancer. (Truth Photo By Ryan Dorgan) (AP)

A sticker above Bradley Blackburn's dash reminds the 14-year-old stock car driver to stay patient during his race Saturday, May 18, 2013, at M-40 Speedway in Jones, Mich. Blackburn has been racing since he was 12 and sells ribbons on his car to raise money for the American Cancer Society in honor of friends and family who have battled cancer. (Truth Photo By Ryan Dorgan) (AP)

Race fans watch as Bradley Blackburn, 14, of Middlebury, takes the track in his yellow number 47 car Saturday, May 18, 2013, at M-40 Speedway in Jones, Mich. Blackburn has been racing since he was 12 and sells ribbons on his car to raise money for the American Cancer Society in honor of friends and family who have battled cancer. (Truth Photo By Ryan Dorgan) (AP)

Bradley Blackburn Sr. watches as his ,14-year-old son races in a pro stock class race Saturday, May 18, 2013, at M-40 Speedway in Jones, Mich. "I know the car's safe," said Blackburn, who works to keep his son's car in shape. "He's really good with his car and the other drivers trust him." (Truth Photo By Ryan Dorgan) (AP)

Bradley Blackburn, 14, of Middlebury, races in a pro stock class race Saturday, May 18, 2013, at M-40 Speedway in Jones, Mich. Blackburn has been racing since he was 12 and sells ribbons on his car to raise money for the American Cancer Society in honor of friends and family who have battled cancer. (Truth Photo By Ryan Dorgan) (AP)

Chris Blackburn leans over for a breath after pacing the infield pits during her 14-year-old son Bradley's pro stock class race Saturday, May 18, 2013, at M-40 Speedway in Jones, Mich. "It's a good thing I don't have a doctor's appointment after this," Chris said nervously. "They'd definitely put me on some sort of medication." (Truth Photo By Ryan Dorgan) (AP)

Bradley Blackburn, 14, of Middlebury, crawls out from underneath his car after a pro stock class race Saturday, May 18, 2013, at M-40 Speedway in Jones, Mich. Blackburn has been racing since he was 12 and sells ribbons on his car to raise money for the American Cancer Society in honor of friends and family who have battled cancer. (Truth Photo By Ryan Dorgan) (AP)

Bradley Blackburn, 14, of Middlebury, relaxes after his pro stock race with Elizabeth Wolkens, 15, and her sister Richele, 17, Saturday, May 18, 2013, at M-40 Speedway in Jones, Mich. Blackburn has been racing since he was 12 and sells ribbons on his car to raise money for the American Cancer Society in honor of friends and family who have battled cancer. (Truth Photo By Ryan Dorgan) (AP)
Racing to help friends
Posted on May 19, 2013 at 1:00 a.m. | Updated on May 19, 2013 at 6:40 p.m.

MIDDLEBURY — Bradley Blackburn Jr. would love to one day throw his modified race car into the turns on the dirt track at Eldora (Ohio) Speedway and win a big race.

Or perhaps drive a NASCAR Sprint Cup car at Daytona against Jimmie Johnson and Kasey Kahne.

But right now, at age 14, Bradley would really love to find a way to help doctors find a cure for cancer and he’s using his racing talent to try and raise some money.

The Northridge Middle School eighth-grader is racing at the M-40 Speedway in Jones, Mich., and at the Mottville (Mich.) Motor Speedway this year in the Sportsman class — just one division down from the top class of late model stocks.

And yes, he’s 14.

And a three-year racing veteran.

And in 2012 he was a track champion at Mottville.

But all that takes a backseat to what Bradley is doing off the track to help support two close friends battling cancer, while also helping raise money for the American Cancer Society.

Bradley grew up with Sam Grewe and has known Will Mishler for several years. Both teens are currently fighting cancer. Bradley also has two grandparents battling the disease, while the tragic death of a first-grader at Jefferson Elementary due to cancer also hit him hard

Then one day an idea came to him while in math class.

“I decided to dedicate my car to beating cancer,” Bradley said. “I thought it would be a good way for people donate money to the American Cancer Society, while also having their name on a race car.”

So Bradley’s mom, Chris — a racing junkie and former trophy girl at several local tracks — went to work. She found a designer to work and he came up with a great-looking car that also has a strong message.

Bradley’s No. 47 car is filled with cancer ribbons, two of which carry the names of Sam and Will. For a donation of $5, which will go to the American Cancer Society, anyone can have a name written on one of the ribbons to recognize a friend or family member that is battling or has battled the disease.

So far, the response has been overwhelming.

The Blackburn family has had the car on display a few times this spring, while word of the teen’s selfless act has been spreading like wildfire through Facebook.

“I think it’s just awesome how many people are talking about the car and what we’re trying to do,” Bradley said. “I’m just trying to find a way to take a real negative and turn it into something positive.”

Back on the track, Bradley’s career has also been pretty amazing.

Chris Blackburn grew up around the local small-track racing scene, spending entire weekends watching races at tracks in Mottville, New Paris and Plymouth. So it seemed very natural that her son would pick up the love of racing quite easily.

“Almost from the moment he could talk, he could tell you the names of every NASCAR driver,” Chris Blackburn said. “His favorite driver was Dale Jarrett, so when he was about two, we cut out a cardboard box, painted it UPS brown and put an 88 on the side (Jarrett’s sponsor and number at the time) and that became Bradley’s first race car. He even had a UPS uniform on and when we sent it to Jarrett, he autographed it and sent it back, which we sure weren’t expecting.”

When Bradley was 11, his parent were going to put him in a mini-cup car to try his hand at racing, but the deal fell through. Fortunately, the owner of the M-40 Speedway had a Sportsman car and offered Bradley the opportunity to test it.

About 50 laps later — after he figured out how to drive a stick-shift — Bradley looked like a natural. He drove several races at the end of the season at M-40 at the age of 12 and although he didn’t win, he also didn’t get lapped, as he was able to keep up with most of the top veteran drivers.

Then last year as a grizzled veteran of 13, Bradley won the Sportsman Division at Mottville by more than 1,000 points, while also taking home Rookie of the Year honors at M40.

Back in a Sportsman car this year, Bradley has plenty of time to consider his racing future. Right now, his No. 1 goal is to race the powerful modified cars on dirt, eventually reaching the legendary Eldora Speedway in Ohio, which is owned by NASCAR star Tony Stewart.

If he reaches that level of racing or perhaps gets behind the wheel of a Sprint Cup car, Bradley will be cheered by thousands every weekend.

But what he’s doing to raise funds to fight cancer as a 14-year-old, deserves the respect and cheers of all of us.