Never Quit – Someone’s Watching

I have a need for speed, I’m ultra competitive, I like taking risks, and love winning. I never fail because if I don’t win I learn and come back better and stronger next time. It’s a mindset. As Vince Lombardi said, “Winning is not a sometimes thing, it’s an all the time thing!” That doesn’t mean you never lose, it means that winning is a mindset. Same as quitting.

A few weeks back I was in a competitive kart race.  For those that don’t know what kart racing is, it’s what the Formula 1 drivers do to keep sharp, it’s how most of your top level NASCAR and Indy drivers honed their skills and it’s what thousands do every week globally on a very competitive scale. It’s fast, can be dangerous, takes a lot of time and dedication, and is incredibly fun.

A little over a month ago I entered in to a weekend series race that included 2 full days of racing.  I was entered to race 2 times on Saturday and 3 times on Sunday.  Luckily for me, this track was close enough to home that I could return home Saturday night and go back on Sunday. Sunday morning when I was leaving to go to the track my little girl was having a rough morning. She’s beautiful, she’s sweet, she’s smart, she’s kind, she’s 9 and she has autism. She’s absolutely amazing, she’s my hero and she struggles with some everyday things. She was having a rough morning so I took her with me. She’d never been to this track and much of it was new although there were some familiar faces she knew and some friends she made quickly, all basically adult friends of mine.  With her bright pink noise-blocking headphones I could easily spot her in the stands watching racing when she wasn’t with me at the race trailer. When I was on the track I could see her as well sitting just at the end of the front stretch before turn 1. I waved to her under yellow flags during a caution or before the race started.

For the 1st race of the day, I’m starting mid-pack and we pick up speed coming to the green flag. The place roars and the sound of the engines start to increase and we all roll through the 1st two turns headed to the inevitable checkered flag 25 laps away.  We’re about 1/4 of the way through the race, I’ve advanced a few spots, and I’m coming down the back stretch at the fastest part of the track. I’m going straight just before heading left into turn 3 when I get hit from the rear, turning me to the right and into the track barrier, which started a 6-second single kart wreck that included multiple flips that sent me down a small embankment. My thoughts as I tumbled uncontrollably at top speed were only to not die as my daughter needs me and she is watching. As soon as I came to a stop I could hear the track officials running to me and yelling to stay down and not move until the EMT’s get there. I didn’t listen because my daughter was on the other side of the track and probably scared. I needed to let her know I was OK. I stood, I collapsed, I mustered up everything I had and stood again. I looked in the general direction of where she was and gave two thumbs up. The crowd erupted in cheers and I collapsed again.  The officials were now there and pleaded with me not to move. I listened. They gently removed my neck brace and helmet to check for injuries.  I was OK up top but my legs were pretty ripped up and my back really hurt. I’m sitting on the ground, in pain and I look to my left. Here come my scared little girl accompanied by a track official. This great track official noticed a little girl start to run in my direction when I flipped and put 2 and 2 together.  She kept her calm and brought her over to me.

I limped my way into the tech shed where they closed the doors to check me out and bandage me up. They suggested I get in the ambulance and go get properly checked out. I declined. We got the kart, and went back to the trailer, both me and the kart damaged. After assessing the damage on the kart, I realized  I could get it fixed and get back out for the remaining races, although time would not be on my side.  I didn’t know if I could even drive or bend my legs but I would try; I just needed to give it everything I had. My little girl will have struggles, she will want to quit, she will want to walk away. This was a great opportunity to show her that you never quit. I just needed to get the kart back together, even if I only did one lap, just to show her you can never quit.

Help came from everywhere, we got the kart back together, got on the grid and made it onto the track. While I wasn’t as competitive as I was earlier, I ran every remaining lap that day and finished in the top 1/2 of finishers for each race. For a beat up kart and driver, that’s winning. For a lesson in never quitting and never give up, my daughter and I both learned something that day about what we are capable of. As I write these last sentences, I still feel the swollen part of my leg and the almost healed scabs. And yes, I will continue to race and continue to exploit any opportunity to learn or teach a life lesson. Never Quit!

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