I got to go down to Phoenix this weekend to see the NASCAR race. It was a great race with a lot of drama, and the typical NASCAR fare. I really don’t want to play it down, this was an epic weekend; an eliminator race, taking place right after the “Keselowski Incident“. But the race isn’t what I’m thinking about right now.
It was lap two on Saturday afternoon, just as the tires were really getting sticky, that I smelled the race fuel, and that acrid stench from the tires. I was immediately taken back to Tustin California, 1996-ish. My uncle had brought me along to a race that he was driving in, (SCCA – He drove a Formula Ford Lotus 51, for anyone interested) and it was my first real race track experience, and I was IN PIT LANE! Paul Newman was three cars ahead of my uncle, and I had just met the guy that invented IMAX. At 15, I was in WAY over my head, but it was absolutely that weekend that, if it wasn’t destined before, sealed my automotive fate. I still get the chills when I think about hearing the roar of a Lola coming down the back straight at 120mph.
It was also that weekend that I drove my uncle’s brand new XK8 around the track during an “open session”. In hindsight, it was a terrible car; mushy suspension, terrible slushomatic gearbox, etc, etc. But I won’t ever forget what it felt like. I was passing other cars on a race track! To put this in perspective, I didn’t even have a driver’s license yet. I had a learner’s permit. I still had to have an adult in the car with me when I drove on the street.
Evidently I did very well, because my uncle wanted to put me into racing school right away and put me in a car. Alas, as family matters often go, things happened and people stopped speaking and I haven’t been on a “real” track since. I often wonder where I’d be now if that would have been my path…
Looking back now, that weekend did something else that shaped my entire life. It brought the race track closer to me. It didn’t seem like some far away, unattainable fantasy. It was something that I, even if I never made it as a Formula 1 champion, could be a real part of. It has literally shaped every car purchase I’ve ever made. Whether it be the race track, rocks, mud, motorcycles, or the car show, everything I do with my vehicles is done to be a part of that culture, even if I’m just sitting in my garage admiring my work (Or watching Top Gear episodes for the 12th time…)
I don’t know if there’s a moral to today’s story. Harvick ended up dominating the entire race, and I think I’ll start following Kelselowski. He’s got a chip on his shoulder, but damn if he isn’t an awesome driver.