Thursday, February 14, 2013

Thoughts While Waiting For A Plane At 6 AM

Well… here we go again.

It’s 6 AM in a dark parking lot on the far end of North Carolina’s Charlotte-Douglas International Airport. I’m almost an hour early (as usual) for the charter flight that will carry me and a group of Richard Childress Racing, JTG Daughterty, Swan Racing and other team members southward to the first stop on the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series schedule; Daytona International Speedway.
Two thoughts are wrestling their way through my brain.
First, I wish I had stopped for a breakfast sandwich and a gallon or two of coffee to charge my neural batteries for what promises to be a very long day.
And second, do I really want to do this?
Don’t get me wrong, I love my job. Ever since I saw my first stock car race as a six-year old boy, I have never wanted to do anything but surround myself with race cars. The speed, the noise, the color, the danger; to me, racing has always seemed to be the ultimate in human sporting endeavor. If you screw up in baseball and go all Bill Buckner on a slow-rolling grounder, you lose a game. Maybe a World Series. Screw up in racing and you lose your life.
Big difference.
I have been wildly fortunate to spend my entire adult life working in the sport I love. I learned my craft from the greatest motorsports announcer ever to lift a microphone, Ken Squier, and followed his lead to a life and a career I never could have imagined as a kid sitting in the grandstands at “The Nation’s Site of Excitement,” Thunder Road. I have met and interviewed champions from the earliest days of the sport, and grown to call many of them friends. I have called many of the biggest events in motorsports, and lent my voice to some of the most notable calls of the last 25 years.
I am blessed and I know it. But I’m still not sure I want to get on that airplane.
Used to be, I couldn’t wait for the next race. I would count the minutes until time to head for the track, and once the checkered flag fell, I’d begin counting the minutes until next week’s race. Lately, however, I’m doing a lot less counting.
This was the first offseason in, well… ever that I didn’t get antsy for the road right after the holidays.  As I’ve grown older, my priorities have begun to change, and my sense of what’s really important has changed right along with them.
Traveling the NASCAR circuit is no picnic. I know, I know, there are thousands of people across NASCAR Nation who would trade places with me in a heartbeat and do my job for no pay, just to see the things I see and talk to the people I talk to. I get that, and like I said, I understand how fortunate I am to do what I do.
But there’s a price to be paid, is all.
I married young, then spent ridiculous amounts of time on the road chasing race cars while my wife tended to her career, our home and our two young daughters. Perhaps predictably, we divorced young, as well, and I left my now ex-wife to raise the girls while I continued chasing checkered flags. A few years later, another long-term relationship suffered the same miserable fate, still without me catching on to the fact that nobody dreams of spending their life with an absentee partner.
I swore off marriage for good, then met Kelli; a stunningly beautiful, amazingly intelligent, career-oriented woman who loved NASCAR, and eventually, me.  I convinced myself that I could make it work this time, that I had learned enough from my earlier mistakes to effectively balance career and relationship for the first time in my life. There have been a few missteps along the way, every single one of them my fault. But shockingly, the guy who once couldn’t focus on anything but the next race has somehow discovered the incredible value of a comfortable chair, a loving wife and a good dog or two.
As I hurtle headlong into my second half-century, I’ve finally begun to see the big picture. I’ve seen longtime friends -- people who devoted themselves heart and soul to racing – struggling to deal with the end of their careers. The inevitable ticking of life’s clock has left them rideless, jobless, and in some cases, penniless. Worse, it has left them without the identity that defined them for so many years.
I’m not letting that happen to me.
Lately, I spend less time on games and more time on life. I’ve traded drinking beer in the Talladega infield for a glass of wine on the back deck. I spend less money on toys and more on the 401-K, making sure Kelli and I never look back on this part of our lives and say, “What were we thinking?” I still enjoy going to work, but I enjoy coming home even more.
My daughters seem to have forgotten what a lousy job their old man did when they were kids, or at least forgiven it. They call often, sharing lives and careers and even asking for advice. My youngest has selected a graduate school in the Carolinas, in part because she wants to live with her dad for the first time since she was four years old. That is beyond awesome.
So yes, I’m excited to be heading to Daytona this morning. I’m anxious to see old friends, and get back to work with the most talented group of colleagues any man could ask for. I’m interested to see how this new Gen-6 race car will work out, and whether big-pack racing will return to the World Center of Racing.
I’m looking forward to Speedweeks 2013. But I’m also looking forward to coming home.
Gentlemen, start your engines!

 

 

21 comments:

  1. What a beautiful Valentine's tribute to Kelli. Aren't you all lucky that you grew up in time to enjoy each other.

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  2. Very nice article Dave. I know there are thousands of people that always say they would love your job, hell I've said it myself, but what they/we don't realize that it is a JOB not always a life of glamour and fame. Most people don't realize the personal sacrifice you and your co-workers go through and you’re not the one in victory lane kissing the trophy girl either! I dread the day that guys like you, Bagley, and Barney hang up the mic and stay home on weekends but I will understand completely. THANK YOU guys and girls with PRN and MRN for all you do bringing us the sport.

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  3. Anonymous12:08 PM

    Well said.
    MV

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  4. Wayne Ladd12:45 PM

    Dave its always nice to smell the roses. As i have grown into my retirement years I have enjoyed it 5 years now. I still love the sport but the urge to attend as much has wained. I was fortunate as a crew member to have won the Oxford 250 and the Coastal 200 and so many more in between.
    I have been at it for over 40 years now and have seen the changes come and go. Rest more and enjoy it.

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  5. Very well said Dave. I too have looked back and wondered if career was THAT important. You have your priorities in place so follow your heart. Thanks for yoir contribution to our sport. Love the pm show on Sirius.
    What Greg said is echoed by many!

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  6. Anonymous1:08 PM

    Dave what a very good article. I left the motorsports business in 2007. I was totally involved and had forgotten about family. Open heart surgery caused me to step back and smell the roses not the burnt gear oil. I left the business and the business promptly forgot about me. I found family, fishing, golf and woodworking to name a few hobbies. What a great life with family awaits you after motorsports.

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  7. Brandon in TN1:50 PM

    I nominate this article for Article of the Year. Very well put Dave.

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  8. Anonymous1:53 PM

    Maybe the best thing you have ever written.

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  9. Priorities come to us all later in age. Children forget that Dad was always gone but he still is their hero.You can have it all now that you know who comes first. It's called growing up.Proud of you Dave.Kelli is a lucky lady.

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  10. Anonymous3:35 PM

    Well written and sincere. You are a very blessed man.

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  11. Anonymous5:35 PM

    Probably the best and most wise article you have ever written. It is amazing how as you age the things you prioritize changes. Always remember, as hard as it might be to believe, you don't owe anything to us fans....you owe everything to yourself and your family. True friends will understand. Those that don't aren't friends in the first place.....they are associates.

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  12. Hey Dave, I NEVER EVER write comments to anything on the web. But reading your words and seeing my own life unfold similar to yours as made the fingers write. I'm happy and grateful there is still hope for us almost over the hill guys and true happiness is also there for the taking. Thanks for reminding us all about what the rat race takes away.

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  13. Mark, Ma6:39 PM

    Thing is Dave, people go to work every day, are not thrilled with their jobs, or the time they spend away from home, however its is what they need to do. You are blessed to have a job you love, as well as a wife and familly that love you, and appreciate what you do. Thank you for what you do for the sport we all lOve, and the sacrifice that comes with it.

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  14. You are indeed a fortunate man to have gained this wisdom and be able to use it. Enjoy. You've earned it.

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  15. Anonymous6:56 AM

    Touching. Keep up the good work dave

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  16. Geosez10:02 AM

    I ditto Greg and Dawn. Sounds like you're growing up quite nicely!

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  17. Russ Shurtliff12:54 PM

    I like it. Thank you Dave for letting me and 84 bazzion other people see the races while we do our jobs.

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  18. Schreib1:21 PM

    Congrats on your awards and your work Dave. I began listening when I was exposed to satellite radio in 2007, and I instantly became a fan of yours, addicted to your knowledge, opinions, and clarity on all things NASCAR. I try NEVER to miss your show, and find myself purposely listening to MRN coverage during race weekends, just to hear Mr. Moody call the action. Congrats and Thanks, you're greatly appreciated!

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  19. Anonymous1:44 PM

    Quite possibly the first time I've gotten misty eyed reading your blog Dave.
    Very well said.
    Something I've wondered the past few years; between watching as a fan and the ones you've called, any idea how many races who have seen?

    Robert Y
    Cincinnati

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  20. Anonymous7:51 AM

    Dave, I just turned 51. My girls are on there own. I love my job however the first thought when I get up is what time can I get home? I no longer go out of town, only drive local and my wife loves it.Thanks for putting everyday thoughts into words. You have a great talent.

    Mark A.
    Salem, OR

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