Friday, March 30, 2007

Remembering Why...

Movie Scene, "Wakin' Up In Reno," with Penelope Cruz & Billy Bob Thornton... He puts his shoe on the bar with a line to the effect of "Know what that is? That's two months' rent, what's that tell ya?" She answers back with a very sultry delivery of "Rent must be very cheap.."

That's all I could think about while I sat here listening to this know-it-all tell me how in Missourri, or anyplace other than Oklahoma, you can make a living in racing. Now, I've never raced in Missourri, but it seems to me that in the small-time world of home-town racing, things can't be that different a state away. Those NASCAR guys are making a living off the NASCRAP marketing empire, sure, they can make a living off it -- but most of us regular grass-roots summer weekend racers are definitely not able to race as a sole means of keeping the bills paid.

I bought my first car because it was something I'd always wanted to do; I had no idea what I was getting into, and I'd done almost no homework as to what to look for when buying an Outlaw Stock, but by-gawd, I had a little money, so the deal went down. The first time I started it up, it was the biggest, loudest thing I'd ever had my hands on and it lit up every nerve in my entire body -- a night at the races was heavenly, even when it was hell.

The first year I raced, I was stunned to find that they were handing out checks at the end of the night. Gettin' paid for something I'd always dreamed of doing; if that ain't a sweet deal, I'll kiss yer ass. That first season was quite an experience, and I did come out ahead financially, with the exception of what I spent on the car itself. It wasn't exactly a banner year, but the weekly checks took care of what I spent on B-32 and oil & filters anyway. I didn't figure in the $20 a week that it cost to get in 'cause I'da been spending that on "entertainment" whether I was racing or going to a movie or whatever. The other major consideration is that the Camaro, never a front-runner, ran that one motor and one transmission for the whole season and was only involved in one crash which only required pounding a fender back out flat.

I know that there really is no way to make a living at dirt track racing in Oklahoma, and most likely not anyplace else either. The only way to come close would be MLRA, TORA, or possibly WOO; but even then, the only real way to make a small fortune in racing is to start with a large fortune.

What pissed me off was when he said "Some people race for trophies; I ain't racin' for trophies, I only race for money."

Don't get me wrong, I need all the money I can get; but that's not what racing is about -- Money is why I have a Monday-thru-Friday Job.

All the work that goes into my racing is for that feeling that's so hard to put into words. Money won't motivate me to crawl under a car on a dirty trailer floor with my hair and bare skin exposed just to unhook a chain that I can't quite reach from outside the fender. Money isn't worth forcing a helmet down over a hooded sweatshirt just to stay warm in the car. Money isn't what makes me willing to get dirty and sweaty and skin my knuckles on greazy parts.

I do what I do for that feeling, for the way it feels to climb in, set the belts, and put the helmet on, for The Holy Time. For the way it feels as I head over the rise and out the gate onto turn four. For the way it feels when the guy at the cone points toward the flag stand. For the way it feels when the Green Flag drops. For the way it feels to be out there in the middle of it all with my heart pounding and my eyes watering. For the way it feels when it comes easy, and even for the times when it seems like it's just not going right at all.

For the way it felt to come under the Checkered for my first win, and for the way it felt to climb out of the car afterward, go to the front of the truck, and almost puke. For the way it felt to jump out of the car and hug My Dad. For the way it felt when two little boys I'd never even met before asked me to sign their T-Shirts. For the way it feels when my friends' kids want their picture taken with my car. For the way it felt when Tommy said "Well, ya can't tell which one's got the girl in it." For the way it felt the night I saw Shonda stand up with a huge orange 20 on a posterboard, and for the way it feels every time I look at all the messages that were written on the back of that posterboard that night after the races.

My other favorite movie quote is from Smokey & The Bandit -- "For the good ol' American Life, for the glory, for the money, and or the fun. But mostly for the money..." Two outta three ain't bad.

Here's to the Fun and the Glory, and with God's Grace we'll come up with enough Money to keep it happening in '07!

More Later... _\,,/



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