This week we have been talking a lot of what makes drag racing great. We have talked about classes, about organizations, about racers, and about marketing. Today though it's time to talk family, the drag racing family that is.
Earlier in the week PDRA Pro Nitrous & Radial vs. The World racer Keith Haney announced that he would be skipping the PDRA event in Maryland this weekend to spend time with his son and his son's baseball team in Texas over the weekend. This got me to thinking about family, and more specifically, my drag racing family.
Over the years I have had the pleasure of meeting thousands of people in the drag racing world, whether it was while I was a spectator, a racer, or a member of the media. I can tell you without a doubt that there is no family like a drag racing family. I have played sports for most of my young life, basketball, baseball, & football, yet none compare to drag racing. So let's look at why that is.
When you are involved in drag racing at the level that we are, or as a racer, and even the casual fan, you have to realize that race weekends mean you are spending up to 20 hours a day with these people even not even more. You are relying on each other for everything. Most will say, the same can be said when you are at home. I look at it differently though. If you are one that has a regular 9-5, chances are you see your family a few hours a day before going to bed. In drag racing you see them all day.
The kindness of people in drag racing are second to none as well. I didn't always realize this until a few years ago. I had been out of racing a car for a few years and was in my second or third year covering races. There were a handful of us at Holly Springs in Mississippi for Tyler Crossnoe's first race there. It was hot and there was no shade for the photographers. I was at about half track most of the day, and I am not the type of person that ever leaves track side for fear of missing something. That is when some spectators that I have never met before. They knew that it was hot out and starting offering me water and Gatorade. They even offered me something to eat while I was out there. I thought to myself "these people don't know me, why would they care like this?" and that's really when it hit me, it's because we are all there to enjoy the sport that we love, drag racing. Now it seems like I can't go to an event without people offering me water, beer, or food, and trust me I am not going to complain about that.
Another example that sticks out to me about the racing family is something that happened to me more than a decade ago when I was at Joliet for an NMRA race. Those in the Midwest know that Joliet in the middle of the summer is bound to get storms and that's exactly what happened. When I was racing it was just a slow 12 second street car, but it was fun. We were there with an open trailer and a few of us in the same pit area. A huge storm came rolling in and we had no where to go. As we tried to saved our eazy up canopy, there was another racer trying to do the same. We went over to help them, in the down pouring rain and wind. After we got everything down it was still storming and the four of us had no where dry to go. That is when former Truck & Lightning Champion Mark Morales, his wife, and former Truck & Lightning Champion Keith Kohlmann invited us into Mark's trailer to ride out the storm. They offered us something to drink and offered us food as we stood there absolutely drenched from the rain. Since that day I consider Mark and Keith friends. At the time they didn't know any of us.
Recently, Ellen and I were at Memphis for Tyler's OSCR and I saw another act of family. Ellen had been shooting the starting line all day, and never one to leave the starting line, it had gotten pretty cold and Ellen didn't have a hoodie. That's when all of a sudden I noticed that she was wearing a Menscer Motorsports hoodie. I talked to Mark after that and thanked him. He said that she looked frozen, but refused to leave the line, so they got her a hoodie to wear and keep warm. It's simple gestures like that showing that we really are all a big family.
Lastly, instead of talking about the parts call outs that we all see at every race, I want to talk about the things that we do for people traveling. Numerous times over the last few years I have seen media members, vendors, or racers broken down on the side of the road. First it was Angie and Matt Smith after the tongue on their trailer broke last year, or Jeff Salvato broken down on his way to a race, or Hans and Jennifer of Free Life Films having transmissions issues with their truck. All those situations showed the caring of the drag racing family. People on the phones, on social media, etc all trying to find help and solutions for them. It doesn't matter if you knew them or not, and it didn't matter what time of day it was, you knew as I did that we had to do all we could to get them the help they needed.
In a day and age where it seems like everyone wants to divide and be divided, all I have to do is remember that I am part of the best family in the world and that's the drag racing family. We never care what your skin color, gender, financial status, or even what kind of car you drive, we are going to lend a hand to help. We come together in times of need, and we come together when we lose someone in this family. We celebrate together and we cry together. The one thing that we don't do is allow someone to drive a wedge into our family. I think there are a lot of people that could take a hard look at the drag racing family and learn from it. I am a better person because of my drag racing family!