Madison car detailer's story earns him a free trip to the Indy 5 - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Madison car detailer's story earns him a free trip to the Indy 500

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MADISON (WKOW)-- Cars are commonly seen as a way of getting from point "A" to point "B", but for some it's much more than that. Ryan Edgren sees them a little differently than most.

"This isn't just a job this is a work of art. We take stuff that was completely destroyed and make it brand new again," Edgren explains.

Being a car detailer at Russ Darrow Kia in Madison, Edgren's job is to fix the customer's car and get it sparkling like new. He tackles every project that comes in like a unique piece of art.

"You've got to have somebody who can see what most people don't look at," Edgren says. "It takes an artist's eye sometimes."

Art has always been a part of Edgren's life, but it wasn't until high school that cars became his medium for expression.

"I was working construction and I got in a fight with a table saw and almost took my thumb off. Ever since then I get tremors so I shake. I kind of lost the whole motivation to draw and to paint," Edgren says.

That's when he decided to trade in the pencils and brushes for spray bottles and car tools. His new passion for cars quickly drew him closer to his cousin who also shared the same interest.

"The second we started talking about cars we just hit it off from there," Edgren says.

Together he and his cousin Jake would spend countless hours fixing cars, cleaning them and sometimes just talking about them until the late hours of the night. The two cousins saw each other often when they were growing up, but their love of cars took that friendship to a whole new level.

"I mean, it's amazing that something like that, a car, can bring you two closer as a family," Edgren says.

A closeness that made it all the harder to deal with when Jake took his own life just when their friendship was taking off.

"I lost it. I mean, right now I'm choking up. It's hard to even just remember that day," Edgren says.

The loss devastated family and friends, but Edgren says Jake's younger brother Jason had an especially difficult time dealing with his passing.

"It just hit him extremely hard, as it did with all of us. I mean, I remember being at the funeral and he didn't leave the casket for an hour and a half," Edgren says. "It's one of those things where you just don't know what to say to make a person feel better. It's just one of those moments in life that you have to deal with."

Edgren says the loss is still as strong as it was eight months ago, but he's hoping his love of cars will once again have the power to bond two family members together and help them move on.

"Something like this will be able to not only get his mind off of stuff, get my mind off of stuff, but maybe build that relationship back up between us. Get that friendship going again."

In May, the two cousins will share a once in a lifetime experience. The pair will get to see this year's Indy 500 live and in person with behind the scenes access to the pit. It's all thanks to a nationwide contest Edgren won after sharing his story of why he loves cars.

"I didn't expect a little guy like me to win," Edgren says. "I guess my passion and love of cars really touched people. It's something that people could relate to I guess," Edgren says.

The trip will be a fun experience, but Edgren says it's so much more than that.

"It will be a great opportunity to bring my cousin down there and just let loose you know. Have fun in his brother's honor," Edgren says. "My cousin was such a great guy."

Edgren's car story was chosen from thousands of entries online. To read his winning entry and to watch his video visit:


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