Why We Race

A shimmering golden door hides a giant corporate machine that produces the next racing star of tomorrow. Once the door is opened the legendary machine guarantees racing fame and a long money filled career. Mesmerized, parents forget the comforts of home and stand in an endless line in hopes of placing their offspring in the proficient golden gadget located near a 2.5 mile oval Florida shrine. Reputation convinces parents to try and they are certain the elusive hardware will do all of the work instantaneously transforming their child into the next racing hall of famer. Nearly all youngsters would be better off honing their skills at their home track but Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart and Kasey Kahne are rumored to be products of the wonderful machine. Jeff, Tony and Kasey know the golden door is a myth, yet history shows that the racing gods in Daytona Beach create new legends in lock step with the fall of an aging and once bright star.

Parents believe that when a young kid is given the key to the golden door the corporate machine can magically stamp out the next budding star of tomorrow regardless of their experience level. Many kids with whitened teeth and hair from the cover of Fashion Quarterly enter, but only one in a million emerges with the needed poise and skill of a true champion. With what seems to be an ever younger child inside, the pristine machine shakes, steams and vibrates working magic and applying mythical power to the chosen few. At last, a shot at the big time – it is all so easy or so says the legend.

Years ago I was at my home race track in Monroe Washington. Evergreen Speedway was located smack downtown and the grandstands doubled for racing and cow judging at the yearly fair. Richard Petty, Bobby Allison and Cale Yarborough were the racing gods of the day – corporate America allowed few gods back then. Legends in the era of black and white photography earned their time in the sun with actual grit, determination and plenty of beer.

By the age of ten I had been to the Evergreen Speedway many times. My dad would load me into his Chevy van with blankets to sit on and an Igloo cooler packed with his two beers hidden under a layer of ice and our PBJ sandwiches. Dad’s van was a true California special complete with crushed velvet seats and a stereo system that could rattle the windows out of an Army tank. Since we lived in Washington State, and not California, Dad’s ride really turned some heads. BF Goodrich T/A radials and 5 spoke mag wheels were the perfect accent to the airbrushed scallops that ran down the sides of the highly customized Chevy van. Riding to the track in style was a required part of racing back when I was ten. Mini vans weren’t allowed in the parking lot then. Little did I know I was learning why people race while chatting with my Dad on the 40 minute trip to Monroe.

We were regulars at Evergreen so even at ten I knew my way around. We sat in the exact same spot every week and nobody would even think of invading our turf. Eagerly, I would lead the family to the base of the grandstands turning left to look up at our favorite spot - 8 rows down from the top, 7 seats to the left of the isle and just past the start finish line. From there we had a perfect view of turn 1.

Turn 1 was where all the action took place and early in the year the turn 1 pond was still full - a beautiful combination of soupy water mixed with authentic northwest mud. Our bellies ached from laughter when drivers spun into the pond creating a giant brown splash. Thoughts of the billowing puff of steam filled the long Saturday night drive home with plenty of laughter. On special occasions, a rookie push truck driver would park too close to the pond and a muddy tsunami would cover his freshly waxed truck – real racing right here at home complete with material for America’s Funniest Videos.

Go Forward – Move Ahead
Jeff Butcher
Courtesy of JOES Racing Products