All Of These Tracks Closing Has Got Me To Thinkin’

Okay, so I’ve kept quiet about my thoughts about all of these race tracks going under in the past years, and the fear of some that hit pretty close to home most recently. I’m not a political debater or one to get into a confrontation, so I typically shy away from opening up about certain things because sometimes you just want to say something, not to open it up for discussion, but just to get your thoughts out there. If you’re a writer, you’ll know that that’s pretty much what a lot of writing is all about. Just your thoughts, feelings and ideas about things for no other purpose than to just be able to free your mind of them. Sure, I wouldn’t have to publish it, but that kind of defeats the purpose, cause it’s still like it’s sitting in my head somehow. So here’s my take.

As I sit back and see the hundreds of Facebook posts over the past few years declaring yet another short track in distress, my heart kind of twists each time. So when I see pictures of overgrown grass, tracks torn up, grandstands completely empty, and no life left, it definitely makes me feel like we are losing the game. But…..I can close my eyes and see it all come back to life. It’s kind of like the movie Titanic when they are searching the ship in the bottom of the ocean. It is rusty and crumbling, but it slowly comes back to life as Rose begins to share yet another part to the story when the ship was in all its glory.

When I close my eyes, it’s kind of like playing a movie in reverse. First I see the empty stands, the overgrown grass, the cracked and sometimes torn up track, but then I start to see the track coming back together, the grass going back into the ground, the stands filling with fans and the activity flowing in the pit area. Ah and then, the sites and sounds of the cars on the track fill my ears once again. Amazing what the mind will do when you close your eyes and shut everything else out. My heart is actually beginning to pound with the anticipation of the green flag dropping.

And then, victory lane, oh sweet, sweet victory lane. I can feel the excitement we all have of the victory and the flashing of cameras in our eyes. My smile begins to look more and more forced the longer I keep it on my face, and I say under my breath, “are we almost done smiling yet?” and my dad responding under his flashing smile, “just keep smiling.” And yes, I just caught myself smiling in that manner as I typed this. Haha! It’s a good thing I do my writing when I’m alone.

I could probably write an article about every single track that I have been to in my lifetime that has closed and all of the experiences I had there. The longer I sit here, the more memories flood into my mind. Like I-70! Now come on, if you don’t have memories of that place that are full of excitement, and maybe even a little fear, you were never really there.

I don’t know all the reasons why tracks are closing. I’m not behind the closed doors, so I try to keep my assumptions at bay. I don’t have the answers on how to save the tracks or our sport. Of course it starts with the support of your local short track. We all know that. But we could all literally go in circles trying to come up with answers (pun semi-intended). But you know what, maybe by sharing the memories of those tracks that we loved so much, and I mean really bringing those memories back to life, people will feel what we felt when we were there. It’s not likely going to bring that track back, but at least we don’t have to lose some of ourselves with it.

When I lost my dad, I thought that meant my life in racing was over. I went through your normal stages of grief losing him as a father. But what keeps my dad alive to me is listening to the stories that so many people have to tell and sharing my own stories about him. Is that going to bring him back? Of course not, but I’ll never stop thinking about, talking about, and listening to all of the great memories of him. I also went through similar stages with what I thought would be my forever loss of racing.  It has taken me about the last ten plus years, and thanks to some amazing people throughout these past years, I’m gradually getting it back. It will never be the same, but it won’t stop me from continuing on. The more stories I hear, the more I want to be at the track. The more I am at the track, and the more I am around the great friends that bring racing to life for me, the more I understand those stories even more.

Whenever I go to these Hall of Fame banquets, I sit and listen to the stories of guys who raced at tracks I never even knew existed. I just sit back in awe at some of the things they share and I watch their faces and eyes light up talking about the memories they made with their crews, families, friends, and competitors. Race tracks closing isn’t anything new. It might be a little more prevalent right now, but I bet if you sat down with some of those Hall of Famers, they’d share how hard it was for them to see one of their favorite tracks close, too. But then they’d get right into the stories and that’s what makes you want to stay and listen.

It breaks my heart every time I see a picture of yet another shutting its doors, and yes I immediately think, “man, we are losing the battle. What more can we do!?” But I don’t have the answers or the resources to do anything myself. Yeah, my initial response will be disappointment and a little bit of heartbreak, but I don’t want to dwell on the reasons why it had to close. I want to hear about all of the great history and battles and cool stuff that happened in its day. I want to be able to smile when I hear the name of the track instead of shaking my head at another lost fight. I know that if my dad were still here, if one track closed, he’d go find another one to support.

To me it’s not about one track. I don’t put all my eggs in one basket in terms of my support. I realize there are logistics when it comes to racing itself, but what I’m talking about here is the overall support as a fan and family member of the racing community. Of course the hope is that doors that have closed can be reopened someday, or those in danger of closing the gate will find a way to keep it open. But in the meantime, I’m going to ride it out on the memories that were made at each and every track and not hesitate to talk about them, laugh about them, and yeah, maybe even shed a tear over a few of those memories.

I don’t know about anybody else, but the more I remember about the past, the more I get excited about the future. So please support your local short track and continue to support the entire racing community by keeping all of the memories alive so that more and more can be made.

Great, now I totally want to sit here and write about all of my closed-track experiences. I may have to start a side-blog.