He Was Just Like You
Every year I think there’s no way that I could get more excited about the Joe Shear Classic. But every year…I do. My feelings for this weekend are beyond excited, ecstatic might be a better word. I’ve been trying to figure out why. Is it just because winter seemed a little extra long? I don’t know.
It seems that there is so much more energy and support for racing in general right now than there has been in recent years. Maybe everyone is tired of complaining and decided to just give in and go back to the track, I don’t know. There have been so many people talking about this Sunday’s race. There are even buses coming from different areas in the state of Wisconsin to Madison International Speedway! What!?! I don’t know whether it’s because they just want to go racing or if it’s because it’s the Joe Shear Classic. I’m cool with it either way, because if they are supporting short track racing, to me, they are celebrating everything that my dad was.
I prayed this Sunday would be a day that would be worthy of my dad, and a day that my dad would race…hence the beautiful forecast. 😉 When I look at this race, my thoughts are…Would my dad want to race in this race? Absolutely 100% he would. Would he want to race against the competition in this race? Absolutely 100% he would. That’s why I support this race as much as I do. It is an honor to have a race named after my dad, for my dad to be considered a legend, for my dad to be remembered as a great guy and with such respect because of who he was. But I’d be lying if I didn’t tell you that that’s not all it’s about for me.
I want this race to be a race that honors his legacy by bringing the racing community together to make memories of their own. For kids to play in the dirt and on the playground and pick their favorite driver to cheer for at race time. Fans to eat too much popcorn and fill themselves up on concessions, then flock to the pit area to shake their favorite driver’s hand. For families to leave talking about what a great time they had and planning when they are going to attend their next race.
I want the drivers and teams to come to this race not because Joe Shear was some sort of Superman, but because, this is where it gets personal, he was one of you! He was a race car driver. I want everyone to know that while, yes, he had an amazing career, he still did what every single driver still does today. He spent the hours and long night’s in the shop wondering if it was all worth it. He threw plenty of wrenches and said a few words that are not appropriate for this blog. He pulled into the race track scanning his competition as everyone unloaded. He thought he had the car perfect….until he hit the track. He threw everything but the kitchen sink at it, sometimes successfully and other times just throwing up his arms and moving on to the next one. He loaded up the car as fast as he could and left the track before the race was even over if something happened. He celebrated the victories and learned from the losses, just like every other driver does today. It doesn’t matter what has changed in racing from then to now. There’s a saying that says, “the more things change, the more they stay the same.” Things have changed since he was around, but let’s face it, racing has stayed the same.
When I walk through those gates, it never fails that I have flashbacks…seeing where our trailer was usually parked, car unloaded, and my dad standing there doing what looked like staring at the ground. It wouldn’t take much to figure out he wasn’t really looking at anything at all. He was thinking. It always amazed me that he would spend countless hours at the shop getting the car ready, but he could unload the car, stand there looking at it, and within a few minutes he’d head up to the trailer and grab a spring or tell the guys to jack the car up all before he even got on the track.
Then the flashbacks continue as I walk around the track. The times we stood in victory lane and I would stand next to him smiling, and under my smile say “my face is starting to hurt” and he would laugh and say, “it’s almost over,” all while keeping his own smile on his face. And oh the memories of being kids playing up in the stands…those were some of the best. We would play under the bleachers for hours coming up only to either go to the bathroom or ask for something to eat. When the races were over, we would freely walk around the pits and get autographs even though we probably already had 100 of the same ones at home. We actually had to wait in line to get some of those autographs because so many fans would flock to the pit area after the races. We would step on pop cans so they got stuck on our shoes and walk around until they fell off because we liked the sound. I wouldn’t head back to the trailer until I saw the car was loaded and the taillights on. That was the signal that the day was done and we were going home.
And of course there are the memories that I have shared so many times before of he and I meeting at the track every Friday night the years before he died.
Sometimes it seems that memorial races can become just another race with a name on it. So after six years, I kind of started to wonder if that is what the Joe Shear Classic will become. I recently ran into someone that was a very important part of my dad’s life. We hadn’t seen each other in probably 15 years. When we saw each other, we both just started to cry. That was it, no words…just tears. I can tell you that I hadn’t experienced that in a very, very long time and there was good reason for it. When he told me that he was going to be at the Joe Shear Classic because there’s no way he would miss it this year, I slowly, and somewhat comically, lowered my sunglasses so as to hide my tears at that point. We left it at that and went our separate ways. Why do I tell you this? Because it lifted my sense of insecurity that it may become just another race with a name on it.
I look forward to what Gregg McKarns has in store for the series and the track this weekend and the entire this season. For those who are making every effort to be there on Sunday…you have no idea how much that means. I hope that everyone at the track will make it a day to remember. Do I think that is what my dad would want for a race named in his honor? Absolutely 100% he would.
See you Sunday!