For those who have met me, probably one of the first things that you learned about me was that I love auto racing. Yep, I love watching cars go fast in circles. For as long as I can remember, I have been a die hard fan of NASCAR as well as other forms of motorsports such as sprint car racing and Formula 1. It is one of the things that I am most passionate about.
The best way that I can explain it is this: What little boy does not think that race cars are cool? What little boy does not want to be a race car driver? For me, I just never grew out of that phase. I fell in love with racing when I was first taken to the local dirt track and, as they say, the rest is history.
For years, if you were to ask me, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” I would have told you very matter-of-factly, “I’m going to be a NASCAR driver”.
Yet, as I grew older, that dream never became a reality. My parents did not have the money nor know-how to ever put me behind the wheel. Besides, my life’s calling was elsewhere. So, somewhere along the way, I gave up on that dream despite the fact that my love for motorsports nor my desire to climb behind the wheel never decreased. And for 22 years, I never drove a race car.
That is, until last Friday night.
The local race track has a race that they do once a year: “The Preacher Feature to Find the Faster Pastor”. The administrative pastor at my church signed up and let me know that there were more spots open. Being a licensed minister, I was eligible. The track organized a ride for me and on Friday night I suited up and climbed behind the wheel to run my first race.
No, I did not climb in to an 800 horsepower sprint car. It was what you might call a “hornet” or a mini hobby stock. Basically, a compact, 4-cylindar street car that has been transformed into a “race car”. Still, I got to hold the petal to the medal and race wheel to wheel on the track.
As far as the actual race, I unfortunately cannot tell you that I drove into victory lane; however, I can say that I had some of the most fun that I have ever had.
Nope, I did not grab victory or even a podium in my race, it was a far cry from that. I started third in the main event and struggled to find a rhythm as I found myself sliding back in the pack. More than once I began sliding through the corners on the verge of wrecking. When the first caution came out, I knew that I was in trouble. I tried to calm down and think about what I was doing and think about how I could improve my lap times. It was time for me to take advantage of the countless hours of racing that I had watched over the course of my life.
When the green flag waved again, I changed my line and became one of the faster cars on the track. I began moving up to the fifth position and was ready to pounce on the third and fourth place cars. Then, they got side by side and almost wrecked down the front stretch forcing me to back off to ensure that all three of us didn’t wad up our borrowed cars.
On the final lap, I was able to overtake one more car to cross the line fourth — one spot off the podium.
I may not have won, but I let out a victorious scream as I crossed the finish line. After all, I had a blast, worked hard and finished in the top-five, and made and aggressive last lap pass — what more could I want in my first start.
This was certainly a far cry from my dream of becoming a NASCAR champion as a little boy. Still, I cannot be more excited about fulfilling my dream of driving a race. Besides, something tells me this won’t be my last.
I told Amanda, my fiancee, after the race — as soon as we get a little extra money, we’re buying one of these cars and going racin’!