For decades, we have heard people debating whether racing is a sport or not. Like most involved in the racing industry, I have stood strong behind my reasons why racing is a sport. After all, Webster’s Dictionary defines a sport as “any activity in which athletes compete against one another.” However, in the face of tragedy, I must go back and adjust my stance. Racing isn’t just a sport, it’s more than that. It’s family, it’s friends, it’s… Life.
Racing is one of the few sports where week in and week out you have the honor, or not so much, of competing against the same group of people. Grassroots or at the professional level you get to know, respect, and befriend your competitors… until the helmet gets pulled on. The brotherhood this creates shows in face of tragedy as with the recent loss of Jason Leffler. Every racer understands the risks associated with racing. They have accepted that risk and chosen to continue racing, not for the money, because this is what they love… it’s what they live for.
Chances are you will never catch Tiger Woods at your local golf course playing in a scramble, just because he wanted to hit some balls. You won’t get dunked on by Blake Griffin in a 5 on 5 pick-up game at the rec center. Racers are a different athlete. On any given weekend, you never know when you might walk through the gates of your local short track and see some of NASCAR’s finest trading paint with the locals… just because.
When tragedy strikes the racing community, everyone associated feels it. It doesn’t matter if you race dirt, asphalt, as a hobby, or as a professional it is felt by all. In racing nothing is for certain, except that eventually you will wreck. Some more than others, some harder than others but if you do it long enough, it will happen. Racers cheat death more often than not, but when she rears her ugly head we all stop to mourn. We take some time to pray for the family, hug our kids, and slap a Rest In Peace sticker on the B post. Then we all climb back into the car and tell ourselves, it can’t happen to me.
It’s not the money fueling these drivers to get back behind the wheel. Some spend every last dime just to make it to the track, not for the prize money, but for the chance to get their picture with that black and white checkered flag. The Holy Grail racers spend their life chasing. They’re fueled by the excitement, the adrenaline, the friendships, and because… it’s their life! The next time someone tells me that racing isn’t a sport, I’ll tip my racing cap and politely state, ” You’re right… it’s bigger than that.”