Sports Center Saturday: Me, My Dad, and Our Love for Speed

The Indy 500, or the Daytona 500, or really just anything that had wheels and went fast. That was our thing. I don’t think it’s our thing anymore because my dad just seems tired of it now. I have to catch up on YouTube, if the races get uploaded, because my dad hogs the TV.

Anyway.

I do miss it. We really didn’t do anything special, but it was our time. We didn’t talk much. Mostly we had our faces glued to the TV watching the cars go round. Our favorites were the Indy 500 or anything NASCAR.

I often say I’ve seen the Indy 500 from the womb, the first being the one in 1982. From what I’ve heard, I wish I’d seen it. The closest finish at that point in time: 0.16 seconds. That’s nothing.

Gordon Johncock leading Rick Mears to the finish line

I’ve seen the spin and win by Danny Sullivan in 1985.

Emerson Fittipaldi spin out Al Unser, Jr. in 1989.

Al Unser, Jr. in the wall after contact

Emerson court controversy in 1993 by drinking orange juice instead of milk.

Emmo and the juice

We were there for the open wheel split in 1996.

Buddy Lazier, 1996 winner, was a midpack runner before the split

We saw the rise to national fame of Indiana’s Tony Stewart, long before he touched anything with a roof and fenders.

Tony Stewart as reigning Indy Racing League Champion

Memorial Day was our holiday. ABC Wide World of Sports our ritual.

But NASCAR was what we did week in and week out. My most vivid memories are from the early 90s, when men like Dale Earnhardt, Darrell Waltrip, and Davey Allison were at the height of their game.

Confession: I had a ten year old’s crush on Davey Allison. So when he died in the summer of 1993, I cried for days but it felt like months.

Davey Allison in 1992, battling for the championship

But my best memory is getting to see Darrell Waltrip’s car up close and personal. His sponsor was Western Auto and one of his cars that had been wrecked too hard to be repaired enough to race was on tour and it came to our Western Auto store.

I remember being so excited and I remember my dad being excited to see inside the car and under the hood. He’s way more mechanical than I am.

That’s me!
Me again!

But what excited me most was that I was with my dad. My dad was my hero and still is, really. He’s bent by arthritis and disease, but not broken. He never will be because he’s my dad.