Emotions, Racing, and Life: We Can’t Avoid Them No Matter How Hard We Try

Whether it be anger, excitement, sadness, or emotions that sometimes can’t be described…racing is a place that we all have experienced them, sometimes together, sometimes against one another, and sometimes right alongside each other. Just like passion and perspective, emotions are impossible to ignore.

As I write this, my mind is flying in a million different directions and this article could go in just as many. If I had the time, I could write about every single one of them, and you never know, maybe I will someday. Emotions in racing come from every single aspect of the sport, from the intense feeling of just getting to the track, to that indescribable feeling as the car slowly rolls out of the trailer on a cool, crisp morning. Then the chill that comes as the cars make their way onto the track. The entire day is filled with an emotional bucket that overflows with each passing moment.

I sat in the stands this past weekend trying to suppress any heightened emotion I was feeling. Telling myself that I could just sit there, completely relaxed, watching the cars fly by and feel nothing, absolutely nothing. Guess what, it’s not possible. It’s pretty easy to sit and watch a race without much else than for the pure enjoyment of it….if I’m not personally invested. As I sat there with anticipation on what might happen lap after lap, I realized heightened emotions are impossible to avoid in racing. Impossible.

Since my dad died, it’s been fairly easy for me to just sit back and watch a race. Don’t get me wrong, I can get into it if it’s one of those nail-biters, no doubt. Overall I remain calm and just watch things play out. Now I say this as a general statement. If I allow myself to be personally invested, meaning I have a particular driver that I am pulling for, whether they or anyone else even knows it or not, I do one of two things. I either sit intently, usually knees up, elbows rested on them and watch every single move until it’s over. Or, I get extremely tense, muscles tightened, teeth clenched, and hands shaking, as happened to me this weekend. I discovered I even bite my tongue, weird. Both are emotionally charged circumstances that I don’t think many people would ever even notice.

I’ve never been one to wear my emotions on my sleeve and I’m totally okay with that. In fact, I’m not a highly emotional person in general. I’m easy-going, go with the flow, don’t worry about things that are out of my control, yada, yada, yada. There are a few people out there who can somehow strike something in me that an emotion may surface, but that is few and far between. So when it comes to racing, I tend to be of a fairly calm demeanor, at least I think so anyway. I’m not saying that I don’t feel the heart-pounding excitement of racing, I mean, come on, that is not even physically possible.

But growing up with Joe Shear as my dad, I kind of learned that talking and getting overly excited were a bit overrated. However, I’ll let y’all in on a little secret, quite often my dad’s emotions ran high, really high! He was just really good at not showing it, well most of the time. I know there’s a small group of people out there who shared in a few experiences we just won’t talk about right now.

I think watching my dad race all those years taught me more about watching and learning, and focusing on things other than just the race that was going on. I watched every move he ever made, how he made it, how the car appeared to be handling, and yes, even when he made a mistake, but of course, that rarely ever happened, (insert proud daddy’s girl, he could do no wrong, expression here). Because of that, intense emotions escaped me. I was so intent on absorbing everything else so that I could listen to my dad and understand his perspective of the race, cause his was likely the most accurate.

Whether it’s because I inherited his personality or just taught myself, I have always prided myself in staying out of emotionally charged situations. When something happens on the track or even in the pits, my mouth shuts like a Ziploc bag and I usually silently disappear and try to find a place I can get away from it all. A lot of times that means talking to a driver or friend far away from the situation.

When I first started writing, I was just thinking about the high-strung emotions that people get when things aren’t going their way or something happens on the track. The anger that can build between the competition, and of course the pure uncontainable excitement of racing in general. But as I started to write, the idea and definition of emotions started to open up and I realized that there is more going on on an emotional level than us racers can even begin to comprehend.

After my dad won and the fans came flooding into the pits for autographs, (cause, yeah, remember when it used to be like that?), I would silently sneak away. My dad and I had already shared our victory hugs and exchanges of I love you’s, and that was really all I needed. Many times I choked back tears as I walked back to the trailer because of the intense emotions I had held inside. Maybe it was everything I was holding back during the race all trying to come out at once. I don’t know, but either way, my emotions were high, I just got really good at not showing it, and I’m totally okay with that.

As I write this closing paragraph, I am fighting back tears. A couple years before he died, we hugged goodbye after a race that he had finished, I believe, second in. Now, I always wanted to cry when he and I went our separate ways, but this particular moment made me realize that some of the greatest emotional moments in racing and in life come at the most unexpected times. As we hugged, he said in my ear, “I’m sorry I didn’t win for you.” (and the tears are flowing now). I didn’t know what to say. For me? Seriously, for me? Why would he say for me? Why would he want to win for me? To this day, I still have no idea what he meant by that. I just started to cry and told him he never has to win for me. This was, and apparently still is, one of the most emotional moments in my life, and imagine that, it involved racing.

Emotions…..racing…..life. We can’t avoid any of them no matter how hard we try, and I’m totally okay with that.