LarrE Ervin

                                   SO WHY DON’T WE ENJOY IT?

The Indy 500 was almost won by a rookie that lost it on the last turn of the last lap. Then Earnhardt jr runs out of fuel on the last turn of the last lap in the Charlotte 600. Folks, it don’t git no better! Local dirt track racing is as good as it has ever been. But the seats are not filled. I was at Indianapolis for the qualifying week end in mid May. The crowd was up from previous years, maybe because it was the 100th anniversary of the 500, but not great.  All the cars were so equal that even the low buck single car teams could keep up with the Penske, Ganassi and Andretti teams. It was thrilling to see that “everyone” had a chance to win this year. A big reason for this was that the IRL rules have not changed for a few years and the weak teams had caught up to the strong teams. Next year new chassis will mean that money will have an advantage…testing, wind tunnel, scientific knowledge…and the other teams will be playing catch up again. But what I noticed most glaringly was the age of the fans.  A large number of old men, all more than willing to tell you how great it was in the old days. They also told of how their fathers brought them to the track when they were just kids. They were being treated to a father/son thing, of which memories are made. The only kids I saw this year were in family groups, where the parents ignored them and their sisters teased them. They probably will not be back. These kids have more fun racing with their friends on the X box’s and 360’s.

     Sorry to say, racing used to be a blood sport. Women didn’t go and didn’t want their kids to go. But Dad took the young boy to give him a life lesson… men can die. Yes, I’ve been to races and seen a few people die. But those days are over, thank God. Because you can pick a nice young driver and follow his career without wondering when he would perish, the mothers started coming out. Women and kids were coming out because it was safe. That’s why Dale Earnhardt’s death affected so many people so hard. They had forgotten that it is still a dangerous sport.

It is only June and all ready this year there are over twenty people killed participating in racing. Last year the total I collected was over 100 deaths! Yes, that is world wide, cars, motorcycles and some boats. The total recorded deaths since men started racing (about 1900) is over 9,500!  As I was growing up I had several drivers that I called my heroes. Many of them were killed. I remember when they had NO seat belts in Indy cars. You know what NASCAR did after Dale sr died…made them wear head and neck restraints. A kid with a hero driver today will most certainly be meeting him again as an old man, an expectation that we didn’t have.

        Why do we not enjoy it? I think because we don’t see the danger. It is not exciting…it’s boring, we say. We’ve seen were fans get up and left after their favorite driver dropped out. I don’t have a favorite driver. I respect all of them when they race. I understand that each one is working as hard as he can to get that car up front. A driver in 10th place is more than likely fighting harder than the leader is.  A rookie in 4th is a nervous wreck and a past winner running in 15th is a very unhappy person. All of them from Indy to a ¼ mile dirt know that a driver can get hurt …they also know that it won’t be them. None want to crash…all will.  It takes a lot of time and money to put a car back together. And a lot of pain and worry to get a body back together.  Why do they do it? To show off for us? For the money? To show that they are better than the other drivers? I have always attended races to watch the driver prove to themselves that they are better than they thought they could be. Why are they so excited in victory lane? They would be calm if they had expected to win. They proved to themselves that they could win and they celebrate that personal victory. I enjoy every race because IT’S NOT BORING TO WATCH PEOPLE BEING BETTER THAN THEY THOUGHT THEY COULD BE.

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