Not that long ago, I came across this incredible article about a thief who made more than a million dollars over the past few decades robbing people at race tracks across the Southeast. What was even more amazing about the story is that I’m 95 percent certain my dad was one of the victims.
In 1987, my father (who was also a driver) had his wallet stolen while he was racing at Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama. That was this guy’s M.O. — he stole wallets in bunches and immediately charged credit cards at places nearby, and he’d time his thefts around practice sessions or on race days, especially around preliminary events. That day, my dad was racing in a prelim, so he was a perfect target.
It was a pretty tough day for my family as I remember it, a little bit humiliating and a little degrading. And it definitely was the sort of thing that makes you lose trust in people.
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Reading that story really got me thinking — first, because the theft also affected me personally. At the time, I was still really young, and it made my parents reluctant to let me go out on my own. So whenever we were at a track and my parents needed to work on the race car or whatever, I’d be locked in the trailer or motorhome with my siblings to keep us safe from sketchy people.
But the other thing that story did was trigger a slew of memories. It got me thinking about the life I led as a kid, and how it revolved around life on a race track. It was a different kind of life from anyone else I knew growing up back home in Michigan, special and hard in ways that were totally unique.
ON THE ROAD
When I was a kid, my family’s life revolved around racing. I knew that was how my family made a living, and that’s the way it had to be.
In some ways, it was kind of frustrating. We never went on spring break because it was racing season, and we spent our summers on the road. But in other ways, it paved the way for me to be where I’m at now. So I don’t particularly have any regrets, but without a doubt, it shaped a lot of who I am.
I’ll start with the traveling. It wasn’t always great. There were a lot of bad stories of my siblings and me being cooped-up on car rides, and locked-in trailers with no AC, stuff that you’d probably get put in jail for today if you did it. And when we told people we were traveling, they always made the mistake of thinking that we’d gone on a vacation or something. If we went down to Florida, they’d say, “Oh, you must have gone to Disney World.”
Well, no. We went to a race track in Florida, and stayed at the track for three days.
Killing time on the road was rough, too. If I have to take my daughter Scarlett somewhere that’s more than a two-hour drive, it can be pretty miserable pretty quick. We traveled on six, eight, sometimes 24-hour drives. And what gets me through those drives now with my daughter is, “Here’s an iPad. Watch a video.”