I find a common theme when I interview drivers for this blog, and I think it is what separates racing from a lot of other hobbies. It is the relationships and friendships that are built through it.
Aberdeen driver Mike Stearns, who was featured in my latest driver blog, missed all but three nights of the 2017 season as he recovered from a significant head injury. One of the things he said he missed as much as anything was being around the racing family.
Many others have said this to me — the people you meet are the best part of racing. Yes, they like the competition aspect for sure, but racing goes beyond that. It is the thing that keeps them coming to the track and the thing that they’d likely miss the most if they stepped away. A lot of times that group steps up for others in times of need.
You don’t hear this frequently from some other hobbies. I have never heard how close-knit the golf community is, or the fishing community, for example.
I will use the Wissota Street Stocks as an example. If you walk to the pits at I-94 Speedway in Fergus Falls several of them pit together — Eric Riley, Ryan Satter, Kyle Dykhoff and Cory Dykhoff are usually in that group. Justin Vogel and Adam Burrows can be found in that vicinity too when they run there, although both race other regular Friday tracks.
Riley told me earlier this year how much help other drivers have helped him over the past few years, whether offering with setup tips or whatever. Here is a great example: Riley’s 51 car was having engine issues recently. Riley was leading the points at Madison and I-94 at the time. Cory Dykhoff offered use of his 3C machine to Riley so he could continue running for points. A great gesture.
I think of the Gierke family of Westport, Minn., and the tons of support the family received after Bob Gierke’s unexpected death in Aug. 2017. Several have stepped up to help Abby and Ryan Gierke keep their 26 midwest modifieds on the track, and many stepped up to help sponsor the Gierke Memorial race held at Viking Speedway in June.
I think of Wissota Midwest Modified driver Dan Wheeler and his wife Teresa Duda Wheeler, who travel all across the upper midwest (and even further out west) during the racing season. Wheeler told me they have friends all over the place now as a result. That is cool.
Walk around the pits at Red River Valley Speedway and you see drivers that are friends — I think of the younger drivers in the INEX Legends who you can see hanging out a lot.
My dad told me last summer, shortly before he passed away, that some of the friendships he built in racing went back 30 years or more. And he stopped racing in 1987.
My best friend and I, our connection is racing and has been since high school. We text/facebook message quite a bit during the summer about racing news and try to get together at least once a summer at some big race.
Truth is, through this blog, I’ve met some friends — and a few good friends even. A few drivers I even pull for and regularly Facebook to see how their night went. For an introvert who is NOT good at going up and talking to people I don’t know well, this has been a blessing. And it’s because of racing.
In the end, the friendships and relationships produced by racing are what matter.