Friendships and Relationships Are What Racing is Truly About
I’m not a great friend maker as a pretty introverted guy. I have a lot of people I’d consider friends in general but very few close ones. I’m not great at getting to know people and am very reluctant to let people really get to know me.
So when I started the RaceChaser blog a few years ago, I figured I’d interview a few drivers a year and that would be the extent of those interactions. Little did I know I’d meet some cool people and make new friends. In fact, I’ve met a couple of people I’d consider pretty close friends (I won;t embarrass them and mention them by name, ha). I never expected anything like that to come out of the blog in a million years but what a blessing it’s been.
Racing on the track is fun and I love a good, hard, competitive race to the finish. But in the big picture, the friendships and relationships you develop are what really matter. And last.
Think about the friendships a guy like Tom Corcoran of East Grand Forks has built for example. He's raced 51 years and raced at a lot of tracks in the region. I'd think those friendships probably mean as much to him as any feature win.
The perception of race drivers and fans to the average folks is they are beer-drinking, cigarette smoking people who are a bunch rednecks. I know there are a few of those out there — a trip to any pit area or grandstand and you’ll see a few, but most are good, honest people who just enjoy their hobby. And some are really good friends. Keep in mind, racers come from many types of careers — engineers, mechanics, farmers, truckers, sales people, teachers, construction, business owners, chiropractors, crop dusters, you name it.
Here’s a current example: Several of the Wissota Street Stock drivers in western MN are good friends off the track. A lot of times you see them pitting together at tracks like I-94 and Viking and Sheyenne, and often helping each other when one has a mechanical issue which is the picture above around Ryan Satter’s #67 machine.
Street stock driver Eric Riley of Morris got married to his wife Shanda in Oct. 2019. Three of his groomsmen were fellow street stock competitors — Kyle Dykhoff, Ryan Satter and Justin Vogel. Keep in mind, on the track, these drivers (And the others in the street stock group) race each other hard — there is no backing down on the track — but they race clean. You don’t see destroyed equipment from those folks after a hard-fought race.
One of the reasons I liked the Steffes Street Stock tour is the camaraderie off the track. You saw drivers and their spouses/significant others hanging out away from the tracks. There was one cool go-kart pic from Watertown, S.D., in fact of the drivers and their spouses/significant others all spending time together. You see, while the racing on the track is important to people, the relationships and friendships built off the track are what truly matter.
I’d consider several of those street stock drivers my friends, too. I can’t list them all because I’d forget one. I’ve made friends with drivers in other classes, too, like Cole Schill, Reise Stenberg, Neil Walton, Corcoran, to name a few . And you see many drivers have long-time friends in the pit area.
Here’s an older example: For instance, my dad and Clarence Washburn of Hector were friends since the 1970s. In fact, my dad told me he bought a car from Clarence in the 1970s. When my dad made a very brief comeback in 1987, we used Clarence’s open trailer (he had the very familiar bus his family traveled in for years by then). My dad passed away three years ago but I think he’d get a kick out of Clarence still having fun in a late model at 77 years old.
Clarence, by the way, loves being at the track and likes the people he races against, which is what keeps him out there at a time many have long since called it quits.
Other stories have come that drivers and fans have met their future spouses through racing. For example, McKenzie Gerdes and Ryan Mikkelson, two drivers, met through racing -- and they will be getting married this Saturday. Congrats to both. There are numerous other examples I'm sure.
Then there's the family aspect and those relationships: I can't tell you how many father/child race teams that are out there where both the dad and child race. For examples, I think of Todd and Jarrett Carter of Lisbon; Ron Saurer and his sons Trevor and Travis; Joey Pederson and his children Kelsi and Tucker; late model drivers Kevin and Erik Robertson; Scott Jacobson and his children Kelly and Andrea; late model drivers Greg and Casey Meyer; mod drivers Corky and Joe Thomas among many others.
I’m not sure what totally inspired the blog honestly. Maybe I’ve gotten sentimental or soft. But I get a lot of windshield time driving to and from races (including the 350-mile trip to Deer Creek), and it gives a person A LOT of time to reflect and thinking.
I’m thankful for what the RaceChaser blog has done for me socially and friend wise. And the friendships are really what it’s all about.