The year was 1992. My father was racing an ARCA car on an extremely fast circuit near Salem, Indiana. I played in the infield while the race was going on when it happened. After a serious collision, a driver’s vehicle was severed in half. “Did you notice that?” I inquired, knowing how large it was.
On the way home, I overheard my mother and father discussing how sad they were that a man had been killed.
“That was the person who was killed?” I enquired further. They claimed the driver caused the accident. (I’d never figure out what his name was.)
I got shivers for the rest of the ride. I started to remember my father. After something like that, how did he manage to keep his heart beating? What would he do if he faced a similar situation? In this case, what would I do?
For the next seven or eight years, that stayed with me. I used to be nervous when I saw my father race because it made me feel sick.
Dustin Long, a senior writer for Motor Racing Network, recently inquired about the 20th anniversary of Ayrton Senna’s death (which falls this week) and what I remembered from that day. As I began to respond, my mind was flooded with various notions, far too many to communicate during a media interview.
On May 1, 1994, Ayrton died when I was ten years old. My father was an avid Formula One fan, and he’d get up early every Sunday to watch the races and wake up my brother, Brian, and me.
The word got around quickly. It was the morning before a NASCAR race in Talladega, where we are now in the season. I recall Dale Earnhardt exiting his car after winning the race and offering his condolences to Ayrton’s family. Dale would have turned 63 years old this week, on April 29.
“Only three sports exist bullfighting, motor racing, and mountaineering; the others are merely racing,” Ernest Hemingway said. We might debate what constitutes a sport, but I believe the phrase is accurate as a race car driver. We are almost constantly at risk of mortality when behind the wheel, which sets racing apart from the vast majority of other sports.
Fans commonly inquire, “How do you overcome the fear of death as a driver?”
It’s a great question. The answer comes from my own experiences with death and grief, and it’s also a major factor in my desire to compete.
As more women become involved in auto racing, both on and off the track, a new generation of drivers is emerging, taking control and showcasing their abilities to spectators and competitors. With so much attention on Danica Patrick in stock car racing, these three women are attempting to find a spot in NASCAR and the ARCA Racing Series. All you have to do is play online and bet on their races to express your support for these strong, independent women building a name for themselves in racing.
Mike Wallace’s daughter, Rusty and Kenny’s niece, and Steven’s cousin is Chrissy Wallace. She is a Wallace racer from the following generation. When he was nine years old, Wallace started racing and progressed via Bandoleros, Legends, go-karts, and Late Models to NASCAR and ARCA. Since 2008, she has competed in the Camping World Truck Series, Nationwide Series, and ARCA Racing Series, becoming the first female driver to win a Late Model race at Hickory Motor Speedway in North Carolina in 2007. Wallace and her father were the first father-daughter team to compete in a Nationwide Series race on February 13, 2010.
Alli Owens — At the age of eight, Owens began competing in BMX bike races. At 13, the Daytona Beach, Florida, native moved to Volusia Speedway Park, where she won twice and finished sixth in points. Owens raced in Mini Stocks and Late Models at New Smyrna Speedway before joining the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series at Hickory Motor Speedway in 2007. Owens was signed to ARCA in 2008 after being sponsored by ElectrifyingCareers.com. In 2010, her assistance will benefit Venturini Motorsports, the ARCA frontrunner.