“Why do you like racing?”
That’s the question you hear the most when you’re an African American fan of the fastest sport on earth. While simple on paper, it’s never been an easy to question for me to answer. Where did my love for racing get it’s start?
Was it on a ordinary day when I was a child, watching children’s VHS tapes in the living room, when suddenly an off road race popped on the screen? Did the images of trucks taking massive jumps and sliding through the dirt capture the imagination of a child, like it did for so many others? Or was it those warm Summer nights spent at Capitol Raceway with my father, watching the weekend warriors push their home-built hot rods to the absolute limit.
Was it at the age of six, when I got my first autograph from 15 time Champion John Force at the Pennzoil Nationals. Later that day I would be knocked from my seat when the 8,000 horsepower Funny Car he made famous roared off the line down the quarter mile. Or at the age of 12, when the American Le Mans came to DC for the first and only time, when the Cadillac Grand Prix of DC took to the temporary circuit. Was I captivated when the Champion Audi team, who started in the rear due to an accident, knifed their way through a field of Grand Touring and Prototype machines in the early running?
Or did the experiences of my youth only served as the foundation that my love of the sport was built upon. Like my yearly trips to the Dover International Speedway, where I experienced Martin Truex’s First win, Kurt Busch and Tony Stewart airing out their grievances on pit lane after an early race incident, or and a simple mistake triggered a 12 car crash that put race contenders in the garage all too soon. Was my love cemented on a February Sunday, at American racing’s holy grail, The Daytona International Speedway. Was I filled with joy when a kid, no older than myself, fought off series veterans in the final laps. Did I scream my lungs out when Trevor Bayne came off turn four, holding off Carl Edwards to become a champion of stock car racing’s greatest achievement.
While I could take one of these experiences and use them for my answer, I can’t narrow the starting point down to just one moment. All of these moments were special because they taught me about the world around me. That man and machine together could achieve incredible things. That even with all of the age and experience in the world, that there is more than enough room at the table for youth to be served. That when the deck is stacked against you, the only thing standing between victory and defeat is the strength of your will.
My love of racing can be summed up like this… Racing has an emotion that no Hollywood script writer can ever create. Their agony, their joy, their anger, and their sadness is more gripping than any Hollywood actor can give. And why should that be a surprise? Under the fire retardant suits plastered with sponsor emblems and decals is a real person. Their responses are canned, pulled from a memory bank to fit a certain role. They didn’t sit in a trailer rehearsing for hours on end. Every reaction is immediate. There emotion played out in real time for the entire world to see. Their emotions, paired with the steel beasts they pilot, come together every Sunday in a spectacle that no other sport could hope to recreate.