WHY DO WE RACE?

Is it the thrill of speed? The competition? Or maybe just a little bit of stupidity? Of course, hitting a stupid white ball around a perfectly manicured lawn could be considered stupidity too. So could puttering around a body of water in a floating vessel considered some form of stupidity. Add in sticking a line in that body of water waiting for some dumb fish to grab on to it thinking they’re taking a bite of dinner instead of becoming dinner for someone, is yet another form of… what was it?... stupidity.

But really? Do you think John Force thought it to be stupidity after he cruised to his 150th win this past weekend? I honestly can’t say what was going through his mind when he became the winningest driver in NHRA history but he looked pretty excited to me. At least that’s what I saw watching the television show as I wasn’t in Seattle in person. But he seemed as excited to win his 150th as he probably was when he won his first in Montreal in 1987 after nine runner-up attempts.

Drag racing is a lot of things to a lot of people and maybe some might view it as stupidity, but in all seriousness, for most it’s a form of escape. Yeah there are some who are now doing it as a full-time living, but I’d have to say they all began in the sport as a way to possibly escape from the pressures of everyday living. And it really is no different than hitting that white ball or puttering around in a body of water.

I had a conversation years ago with a DOT enforcement officer who had a somewhat hard time understanding that there was anyone spending the kind of money we do on race cars and equipment merely as a hobby. This came about because he was of the thinking there was no one who wasn’t doing this as a non-commercial venture. I think most anyone can understand that our rigs going up and down the highways might border on the commercial side of the fence, but it really is a hobby. It’s our golf game, boat or house on the lake.

I wasn’t exactly great in sports growing up. Oh I could get by but working on cars and eventually racing was a drug I couldn’t shake and I think I became somewhat good at it. I had a wrestling coach in high school who instilled the fear of losing in me. Coach Tamagny insisted you become so ate up with that fear that losing is not an option. And it’s that philosophy which makes you want to win at no matter what you do in life. Of course I also blame him for my temper (okay maybe my kids too), but I don’t like losing. Unfortunately in this game we play, it happens more times than none. John Force won 150 national events but he lost far more of them. I’ve said this before, but a major league baseball player who only gets a hit 30-percent of the time becomes a hall of famer. Losing is part of the equation but you certainly don’t have to like it.

Yes, I like hitting that stupid white ball around a green pasture, but only as a way to escape. A number of years ago wanting to play more, I joined a local golf league. They played every Monday night during the warmer months of the year. EVERY Monday night. Rain, cold, whatever. And God-forbid you move your ball an inch out of an unplayable lie. Winning and losing to those gentlemen was everything. Me? I just wanted to hit the white ball and have a good time. Naturally you always want to do better than the week before but in reality for me, winning and losing is something I have to do 24/7. Hitting that white ball was my escape. I clearly remember one night when the sirens blew for lightning in the area just as we were putting on the third green. “Leave your balls on the green and drive back to the clubhouse.”

Shortly thereafter it began to rain fairly hard. For me, I was done. Oh, no. “You have to wait for the rain to stop and the sirens to blow once more signaling play can resume.” No, sorry. You can have my $2 golf ball, I’m going home. I always liked what the late Brian Olsen had once told me. “I play golf and I usually shot in the 70s. Of course if it’s any colder than that, I’m outta there.”

So why do we race? Okay, so I know why I do it. Why do you? -JOHN DiBARTOLOMEO