Racing is so much more than just cars going around in a circle. And I was reminded of just that tonight at Eldora. It’s hard for me to put into words what racing, and the racing community, is really all about. For the person who’s never experienced it before, it’s difficult to explain why we love it as much as we do. Drivers, fans, owners, sponsors – We’re all here because we love it. We have a passion for it.
The buzz in the air when the gates open and the crowd starts to arrive. The excitement in the stands as Johnny Gibson yells “Quiiiiiiicktime.” The anticipation and build up to the main event topped off by the four-wide parade lap. I love all of those things, but what I truly love the most about racing is that it’s so much more than all of that.
Shared passion for this sport unites all of us in a way that can’t be easily described. Regardless of who you’re cheering for in the stands, we’re connected. I’ve had the opportunity to meet so many awesome people over the years. Some of the people I look forward to seeing the most, I don’t even know their names. I know them as “the couple who sits in front of us at the Knoxville Nationals” or “the team who pits across the aisle from us at Chili Bowl.” I don’t know most fans’ names. Or where they went to school. Or what their favorite food is. But I know them. I know what races I’ll see them at, where they sit at big events, and who their favorite driver is.
I was reminded of all of this tonight because I saw a special fan – Ina Morell. Ina’s husband, Jeff, recently lost his battle with cancer, but she was at the races tonight because she knew he would want her to be. Jeff and Ina might be the biggest sprint car fans I have ever met. When I first met them, they were diehard Brady Bacon fans, but I’m happy to say I slowly opened their minds to being Bryan fans too. I know if Bryan and Brady were racing for the lead, Ina would cheer for Brady to win and that’s ok. The point of this story is this: I saw Ina tonight for the first time since she lost her husband. I don’t know where Ina lives. I don’t know how many kids she has or when her birthday is, but I do know she’s a race fan. She loves the same sport I do, and that connects us. I gave her a big, long hug tonight and told her I was very happy to see her here. I shared a moment with her that had more emotion and genuine feeling in it than most people have with their family members.
Winning is fun. Running to victory lane to congratulate Bryan is fun. Cheering for your favorite driver is fun. Giving high fives to random people in Bryan Clauson shirts; I like that too. But what I like most about our sport is the fact that strangers become friends and fans become family. I don’t know for sure, but I don’t think there’s anything else quite like the racing community and I’m happy to be a part of it.