One Year.

I’ve backspaced so many times because I couldn’t find the right words to type, to give a glimpse into how much this day really means to me, to describe what I feel when I think about the past twelve months.

There aren’t any words at all, I guess. There aren’t the perfect adjectives to explain how much I love this site, or why I’m tearing up at this very moment.

They haven’t created those words yet. But I’ll try my best to delve into my frantic heart.

January 19th, 2012 turned out to be the greatest day of my life. As confident as I may seem, it’s surprising I am able to write this post; I never thought Up Top The Pit Box would ever take off or grow into what it is today. Three-hundred and sixty-five days ago, shaking fingers tapped and clicked and set up a WordPress site for all to see. The crafter, who claimed these fingers, didn’t expect much. Actually, she didn’t assume anything would happen.

The first article was riddled with errors and fallacies. Thankfully, I’ve gotten better. My eyes look back, and all I can do is feel confused. I found mistakes. I found crumpled up facts.

Most importantly, I found a voice that wasn’t my own.

I would write to please the fans. As many of you know, that isn’t me. Back in the beginning, it was the NASCAR writer I wanted to be. It took me forever to realize there are so many drones in the business already, saying what NASCAR wants the fans to hear. This urge to be liked by every sort of fan resulted in unoriginal, Saltine cracker-esque work.

My niche seemed to be unknown for a while. I’d flop between pieces that just came from the heart and products that screamed opinions nobody else had even thought of putting on a public forum. Readers and NASCAR fans alike took well to everything I posted.

That’s when I realized it: my niche . . . Is no niche at all. All I have to do is be me, let my voice shine through. I never thought my personal voice would be the same as the other NASCAR fans’. However, I’m so elated that it is. If I can help cut through the constant stream of media B.S., I consider it a good day.

So, my aim is to be different. Writing for myself makes me awkward enough, apparently. I am perfectly fine with it. I’m not sorry if you aren’t.

This site has brought wisdom, tears, notice, and, strangely enough, confidence. I’m not afraid to put myself out there. I’m not afraid to piss people off. I’m not afraid to tell you I broke down at Mid-Ohio or after my interview with an ESPN giant.

I’m simply not afraid.

You never know how far bravery can get you until a limb is found to go out on. Though it bows and quivers, you put enough trust in this branch to hold your weight -and enough trust in yourself to do something if it should crack.

My first limb was an interview with Emma Blaney.

The next one? Mark Martin.

Then Justin Wilson.

And Kaitlyn Vincie.

And Marty Smith.

Those chances you take can turn into a journey that isn’t close to being over. That’s what I see this as. The day I stop writing is the day my casket is put six-feet under.

I mentioned that this site has brought notice, and that is notice I have never dreamed of gaining. I never write for publicity or popularity. I never post press releases from other sources. There’s no salvation in that; sitting at the laptop, sipping on a glass of sweet tea, letting your thoughts racquetball around is salvation. It’s freedom.

You think I ever daydreamed about getting interviewed by a newspaper, having people contact me to write for them? No. Never in a thousand years.

This is a year that has taught me so many lessons, and there is a whole other year I’m ready to tackle. One endeavor I’m excited to share with you is my new position at SkirtsandScuffs.com as a contributor. Everything posted there won’t be on here, so I hope you follow me over there also.

Lastly: Thank you.

To the readers who are scanning this right now. You make this what it is, and I write -in addition to me- for you. You are a part of me, and I will never take your dedication for granted. I promise.

To my parents. Mom, you’ve helped me so much this past year. You’re the greatest mother and rock in the world. Dad, you’re the reason I love this sport as much as I do. To be honest, this wouldn’t exist without you or your constant support. I love you both.

To every person I’ve interviewed. Whether you are a spotter, driver, sibling, or another writer, you have helped me realize how much I want to accomplish my own dreams while telling me about your own. What you saw as a small questionnaire made my year.

I pray I make each and every one of you proud, because, for once, I’ve made myself proud.

May the next year be a beautiful extension on what I have done so far.

Hopefully, it just adds more branches to the twisted, imperfect tree this has grown into.

I need somewhere to climb next, after all.

~Kristen

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