I was in a little brown box we called a ‘tower’ at the Cycle Ranch MX Park in Floresville, TX. We were preparing to officiate an intense Championship battle in the USAC / TORC Off-Road Series. You could feel the stress greater than the stupid dry heat. Then, in an instant, it all changed. It’s a moment I won’t likely forget; “Hey man, they’re saying Wheldon was hurt at Vegas. It’s bad.”
My stomach dropped. My immediate thoughts were with my friends who had an emotional connection with him. Then come the few brief moments we shared and his amazingly bright and sparkling personality. Then, the desire for hope comes; you hope it’s a false report, you hope it’s not as bad as you hear. You hope for a miracle.
Quickly, without conscious thought, I realize I’m in the middle of something bigger than my self. With knots in our throats, we fire up for our race. It came and went; but, in the scheme of things, it was inconsequential. By this point, I knew what was coming. In wasn’t long after that the news came in; we’d lost our Champion.
Ya know, this is something that you just can’t explain to a ‘normal’ person. ‘Normal’ people say “Did you know him?” or they say “He died doing what he loved”. Racers, we don’t see it that way. We say “Sh*t”. We say “F*ck”. We say “D*mn”. We feel a strong pain straight through our typically guarded hearts.
Ya see, for most of us, this is our life. It’s not just something that we “do”, it’s not a “hobby”, it’s not a “career”; it’s who we are. We’re racers. Like cowboys, outlaws or rebels, we’re a unique breed. All of us have different stories, but in the end, we’re all the same: we dedicate our lives to our shared passion.
It’s that shared passion that bonds us into a very tightly knit community. Sure, we spend our lives trying to be better than the guy next to us; but when that guy falls….we stop and pick him up. He’s not a teammate, competitor or friend; he’s a brother.
When we lose one of our own, we lose a brother.
Fast forward a few hours. I’m mourning the loss of my IndyCar brother while surrounded by a community of Off-Road racers. They don’t feel my pain, but they understand it. Then the bottom drops out. A phone call from one of their own to inform them they’ve lost one of their own; two in fact. 2009 TORC Champion Rick Huseman and his brother were involved in a plane crash, ironically, on a flight home from Vegas. Neither survived.
Instantly, the community around me sank to my level. Strike #2 into my heart. Just a few hours before I was wishing they could help me through my thoughts, now, I found myself needing to help them through theirs…
I didn’t know Rick personally, but again, my friends were his friends. Know him or not, he was my brother. He had a family, and his family is my family.
Although surrounded by tragedy, the next few hours will always be some of the most memorable of my life. I was surrounded by a couple of guys that not only shared my pain, they shared my exact thoughts. Remember that “shared passion” thing, yeah, that’s us. We did what any good racer would do, we drank beer. We reminisced. We cried. We laughed. We cried again. It was a fitting end to a sh*tty day.
So, now, it’s Today.
I’m up before the sun and on headed back to “real life”. My tears haven’t subsided and my pain still lingers for my motorsports family; but I’ve got another life and duty calls.
So, here I am. I’m sitting on a plane trying to ‘wrap up’ a sh*tty day so I can start fresh with a new one. Honestly, my first thought was “who cares”? I sell generators that make people money. It’s not life or death, there’s no passion; it’s just business. Just business. My family is hurting and I need to do whatever I can to support them. F business.
But then, my world became right again. I was looking for answers and I found them. I read an article by a close friend to Wheldon. This article wasn’t about Dan Wheldon, Two-time Indy 500 Champion. This article was about Dan Wheldon, husband and father…
At that instant, in the middle of the San Antonio airport, the waterworks started all over. That’s why. That’s why I’m on this plane and that’s why I’m going to work hard for something with no passion.
Ok, if you know me, you’re confused. I don’t have kids & I just ended a relationship with a woman I thought was going to be my wife. That’s ok, it doesn’t mean I don’t have a plan…
Ya see, this is something I’ve struggled with for a long time; “racing” versus “real life”. For the better part of 29 of my 34 years on this earth, I’ve dedicated my life to my passion. I’ve never really had a plan, but as long as I was doing what I loved, I didn’t need one…
Well, at some point, I learned different. I learned that there is more in life than just this passion for motorsports. There’s a whole wide world out there and it’s got a lot to offer!!!
Thankfully, DW was learning this lesson as well. The article that calmed my nerves explained that he was changing. He was turning down rides so that he could spend time with his family. He was finding joy in something besides Victory Lane. While he still ‘wanted’ to race, he didn’t ‘need’ to race…
‘Want’ vs. ‘Need’?!? Wow. Profound. That’s me. That’s why I’m on this plane and not still sitting at that bar reminiscing with my mourning brethren.
So, after a brief journal entry and a verbose blog, it’s time to turn the corner and face the world. Sh*t!, now what?
Wait. That’s easy. What comes after today? Tomorrow.
Tomorrow, I’ll live & learn. I’ve been working on balance and I’ll continue to do-so. Hopefully, I’ll remember the lost of my racing brothers and focus more energy on spending time with my families; biological, personal and professional. I’ll tell somebody I love them if I do. I’ll tell somebody if I’m upset so that we can focus on making it better. I’ll continue to push my energy towards those that contribute to my life and draw from those that detract from it…
I’ll continue to build a career so that I may have a solid foundation for my future family. I’ll also stay close to my roots and feed my passion as much as I can.
Somewhere in between, we’ll build the DD Foundation and we’ll change lives. We’ll find a way to heal broken hearts and ease worried minds. We’ll spread the Power of Positivity to the world, one person and one day at a time…
But, regardless; I’ll love. I’ll feel pain. I’ll succeed & I’ll fail; and I’ll be me. I’ll live life the only way I know how and when my checkered flag falls on this crazy ride, I’ll know I did the best I could; just like Wheldon and Huseman. Godspeed, brothers, Godspeed.