NASCAR – Racing season is here!

The NASCAR season has started with the running of the Daytona 500 on Sunday. It was a bitter sweet day with it being the 10th anniversary of the death of #3 Dale Earnhardt and the winner of the race being the youngest driver ever to do so. Congratulations to Trevor Bayne and a happy belated birthday. He just turned 20 on Saturday. Wow, what a birthday present. I’m not a sports writer so I won’t be writing about the race, and I don’t know young Mr. Trevor Bayne personally so I cannot write anything about him that hasn’t already been written. However, what I do want to talk about is where or how does it begin for these drivers. We can all look them up online and read their bio’s, but how did the fascination of the automobile enter into their lives.
Being in my early 50’s, I remember watching my older brother Jim, put plastic model cars together. I would pester the crap out of him by asking what each and every part was, where it went, what is did, and why is it silver and not white like the rest of the pieces? He would tolerate me for as long as he could until he would finally yell for mom. She would make me come to the kitchen and leave him alone. My brother was 5 years my senior, and like most older brothers, he never wanted his little brother tagging along, “cramping his style”.
I also remember back in the mid 60’s, my brother got the brilliant idea to enter into the Soap Box Derby. He was 14 or 15 years old at the time, and thought this may launch his racing career. My brother talked our grandpa into helping him “build” his derby car. I somehow recollect that the rules stated the car had to be built solely by the participant, however they could ask for advice and assistance when using the power tools and during assembly. Our grandpa was more honest than Abe Lincoln. He made my brother “build” the car himself. It didn’t turn out too bad. It looked decent, it did roll, but there was one minor imperfection in the assembly. Just a minor one. . . the steering was backwards. Yes, the way the axle’s were mounted using a kingpin and cable steering, the cable was wound around the steering shaft in the wrong direction. If he wanted to turn right, he would have to turn the steering wheel to the left If he wanted to turn left, yep you guessed it, he would have to turn the steering wheel towards the right. Thank goodness the brakes worked perfectly. Race day came, and down the hill he came. . . a little shaky but he made it without incident. He finished 3rd in his heat. . . out of 3 cars. The day was over.
We somehow got the car home, and it sat outside the garage for several weeks. One day some friends and I were playing wiffle ball in the back yard when someone said, “hey, I’ve got a great idea. . .” Doesn’t almost everything bad start with that phrase? This time was no exception. Four of us decided we would take the derby car out on the road and push it up the small incline just down the way a piece. Then we would all jump on it, in it, etc. and ride it back to the house. Sounded like a “great idea”. It started out perfect. We got it up to the top of the little hill, made sure there wasn’t any cars for miles, and down we went. Two of us in the back were pushing to gain speed before we jumped on. We were all over that poor derby car. riding it like a horse with one of us, and I can’t remember who, was sitting in the cockpit steering and ready to apply the brakes if needed. We just didn’t think things through very well, because whoever was steering, couldn’t reach the brake pedal, and I forgot to explain the backwards steering situation also, but by the time we all realized our error in judgement, our situation was getting bleaker by the second. I (in my infinite wisdom) decided to bail off the back. Not the smartest decision I’ve made in my lifetime. To put it into perspective, have you ever started running down a hill. At first, it is fun, exciting, going faster until your legs can’t keep up with you any longer? Sploot! Yep, I took about three steps before this gravity/momentum thing “face-planted” me right into the gravel asphalt. I was lucky, if you want to call it that. I didn’t really “rawhide” my face, just a little skinned nose and chin, but my chest and stomach had one of the worst cases of road rash I have ever seen even to this day. Three weeks before I could wear any clothing on my front side. At 9 years old, my racing career was over.

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