Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin. Our driver for this week is a young, rookie driver from Michigan. Throughout the weekend he has slowly impressed us and gained our confidence. I am proud to say, even amongst all of the veterans he is one of the few drivers to not get off track during the "Test Day."
Shadowing by his side all weekend has been his Dad. Helping him buckle in. Giving him needed pep talks. Handing him water. A constant support system. He is completely content to stay in the background, as long as his son knows he is there. Most of the Harrys probably don't even notice him. I do. It's special to me because he reminds me of my own support system.When I was racing my Dad was right by my side. Every race. Every lap. Every win. Every failure. I credit him for my success in every aspect of my life.
There are so many stories about my Dad and I that I could share but there is one in particular that stands out. I was about 16 years old and I was racing in Pennsylvania at Big Diamond Raceway. It was one of my favorite tracks. It was a fast, 3/8 mile clay oval. I remember it had been a good night for us. We had been one of the top five cars all day. We were running in third place, with about 3 laps remaining when I got hit. A lap down car trying to make up time drove far deeper into the corner than his car could stand. He slid up two groves and slammed into me. Then together we went flipping. Due to the fact that I had, at this point, wrecked many, many other times and I was a daredevil by design I was rarely spooked by a flip or two.
I wrecked a lot in my sprint car days. Well everyone did. It's what sprint cars do. Any contact at all usually ends violently. I remeber waking up, still up side down. My brain was like pea soup. I attempted to gather my thoughts when sudden fear shot through me. I realized I couldn't feel
my arms or hands. I began to jumble through the possibilities of what had just happened. Neck Injury. No more racing. How will I make a living? Better yet, How will we tell Mom? As the safety crew began to extract me from this mangled mess, my mind was running rampid. I looked up to see my Dad. He was knelt down in front of the crinkled up race car. He was calm and collected. He didn't say anything or make any gestures he just stared at me. He was focused on my eyes. It calmed me. He became my security in the midst of the hurricane, that was my mind. And somehow, I knew everything was well on its way to being ok.
Obviously the loss of feeling for a minute was either shock or a pinched nerve because I regained all of my feeling within a few minutes. I never voiced that I was nervous but Dad knew. He didn't panic, over react or try to take control of the situation. He was everything that I needed at that time. He was my shadow. Right there to show his support. We were in a huge mess, but we were there together.
This weekend our driver never got hurt. He had a very unfortunate race and his Dad was right where he was supposed to be, by his sons side. Equipt with water and pep talks.
As young adults we rarely appreciate or acknowledge that support system. I know I didn't. But I do now. And all too often in this flashy, highly publicized sport of auto racing there are Dad's who step in front and demand the attention and publicity that, they believe, their son/daughter deserves. I am fortunate enough to have had a Dad who stood back. He allowed me to be front and center. His only concern was to make sure that I knew he was there.
In lieu of fathers day, I'd like to thank my Dad. He is been my biggest fan, my sounding board, my hero and most importantly, my shadow.