There’s an image that we happened upon and shared on our Facebook page a few weeks ago that has delivered an incredible response and that I believe really hits right at the heart of what drag racing should be all about. Emphasis on the should.
Somewhere in America, a racer will load his race car into a double-decker trailer, grab a beer from the refrigerator of his motor coach, settle onto a leather sofa and complain about the high cost of racing.
Somewhere else in America, a racer will load his car onto a battered open trailer, pull some cold ones out of his cooler from the back of an old truck and talk about what a blast he just had!
As we go through our often busy daily lives, it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that, above all else, we’re highly fortunate to have the freedoms we have to drag race at all, but not only that, but that we’re a country with the general wealth (and trust me, anyone reading this right now is “wealthy” in relation to much of the world population) to afford such an expensive hobby. And for that, we should all be thankful for what we do have.
That, I feel, is the very point of the statement. Just like the world needs investment bankers and lawyers, it also need its janitors and ditch diggers. Likewise, the sport of drag racing needs competitors at every level, from professionals like John Force to John no-name in his ragged-out Chevy Nova running 7.80s at the local 1/8-mile strip. Ultimately, none are any more or less important or integral to the success of drag racing, but the difference is often in how those in the two spectrums approach racing emotionally.
For those at the top who have made significant investments in their racing operation, it’s often their competitive fire and the outright need to win to recoup and justify that investment that causes them to lose sight of the greater purpose and, ultimately, sap all the joy out of racing. That isn’t to say that winning isn’t important, that dedicating oneself to bettering their program isn’t necessary, or that nobody should spend big dollars on drag racing anymore, but it’s a reminder that there are thousands — perhaps even millions — of people on this giant ball hurtling through space that would love to be in their shoes … to have the discretionary income to drag race, even if they never won anything at all. And that it’s not about how much or how little you spent, but that you had fun and made memories doing it.
If you don’t think there are racers taking things too seriously at every level, I’d invite you to spend some time at the top end of a Junior Dragster race as a parent and his son or daughter shout at one another after losing a race. One day, that parent and his grown-up child will wish they’d laughed more and worried about winning and material items less … because no matter how much money they have, they can’t ever get or buy that time back.
Our friends John and Camp Stanley and partner Axel Weiss exemplify what drag racing is all about perhaps better than anyone else. They’re true ‘salt of the earth’ people who have far more dollars invested in drag racing than most with their 5-second Outlaw Pro Modified car; but win, lose, or draw … even if they blow up everything in the trailer … they’re as happy to be at the track doing what they love with their family and fellow competitors as that low-buck racer baking in the sun and sipping a beer from the cooler of his pickup. They want to win, but they want to have fun more. That’s how it should be, folks, and we all need to remember that when things don’t go our way.
As I’ve gotten a little older, a little wiser, and the years begin passing by a little faster, I’ve come to realize that, at the end of the day, we’re only on this earth for so long, and we’re all pretty damn lucky to get to do and be a part of this sport — why waste it being so concerned about how nice our racecar and hauler are, or so mentally wrapped up in winning that we forgo the simple joy of drag racing? The accolades of winning are great — never stop trying to win — but the fun you have and the memories you make with those around you in the process will outlast the trophies and the big plastic checks.