Filed under: Feature Articles
Stop me if I’ve told ya this story before, but my first memory of speed comes from the late 70′s… I was three, maybe four at the time. My dad had a heavily hot rodded, twin-turboed Corvette that he cherished. I can vividly remember sitting on the car’s console, grabbing the shifter with both hands and pulling hard every time my dad belted out, “Shift!!!!” Third gear was a bitch, but I got pretty good at hitting second and fourth.
As I got older, my interest increased. There were accidents… Like the time I accidentally ran my folk’s Cadillac through the garage door. Errr, that happened twice, but who’s counting? But there were also glorious moments as well. My dad made it a point to take me to the Indy 500 every year. He was the medical director for VDS Racing (they’ve built more Indy winning engines than anyone else) and that relationship presented some pretty incredible opportunities. At the age of six I was hanging out with Michael and Mario Andretti, already hating on Al Unser Jr., and taking in every little thing I could about going fast.
During one of the last Dallas Grand Prixs, my pops was invited as a guest of the Ferrari team and I got to tag along. I think I was around seven or eight at the time… Before the race started, I got lost in the “infield” trying to buy a hot dog. Once the race did start, the gates closed and there was no way for me to get back to where my dad was. I approached an officer, told him my story, and he used it as an excuse to get pit entrance. The next thing I knew, I was watching one of the last real US Grand Prixs while parked on the pit wall half way between the Ferrari and Toleman pits.
Amazingly, about half way through the race a young driver named Ayrton Senna crashed out. His team must have filled him in on my situation as he came over and invited me to sit in his now broken race car. I jumped at the opportunity (which was a really big deal for a shy kid like me) and have never been the same since. The cockpit of that car taught me what speed really is… what speed should look and feel like… That was the day my passion sparked.
The rest of my childhood was spent getting as close to speed as I could get. A year or so before driving age, my dad was sneaking me into drag races as a participant. As I got older, I did more and went faster… I now look back on all those first hand encounters as a religious experience of sorts.
Most kids go to college thinking about being a doctor, a lawyer, a business man. I think I fell into that mold for a bit, but I now I realize that I am what I am… A car guy. And I’ve become that because of where I’ve been. I don’t sit in million dollar race cars anymore, but I get the same feeling when sitting in my a-coupe or my ’38.
kills brings life.