Ernest Hemingway wrote, “It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.”
I get a bit nostalgic this time of year, and some current events gave me reason to reflect on one such journey. A little over a year ago I had a major heart attack and the outcome has been nothing short of amazing. Honestly, if I had it all to do over again I wouldn’t change a thing. When you’re lying flat on your back with paramedics trying to save your life, and the first thing you think about is calling your son, it quickly becomes apparent where your priorities lie.
Speaking of my son, allow me to take you on a memorable journey. Growing up as a boy, I had a passion for auto racing, one that was not only overwhelming, but also consumed my life. It all began with go-karts, which quickly led to cars. Along the way, my passion was influenced by the amazing cars that competed in the Can-Am series. Memories of the cars that raced in this series are forever etched into my brain as was a dream-team list of drivers like Mario Andretti, Parnelli Jones, Dan Gurney, Phil Hill, Bruce McLaren, and Peter Revson, just to name a few. Having walked through the paddock at places like Laguna Seca during that period and standing within mere inches of them changed me forever.
Over the years of racing, which eventually included my son following in my footsteps, the topic of the Can-Am type and prototype cars became more in-depth from time to time. Our discussions went on to include suspension, engine specs and downforce. When we got to the part about costs, things became quiet. We dreamed of those kinds of racecars, but they were financially out of reach for us and so many others.
As any father would be, I was glad to see my son’s involvement in my racing and proud to say he had never missed a weekend watching me race. Ironically on the final weekend while I was competing to seal the NorCal regional points championship at Buttonwillow Raceway, he couldn’t attend due to a concussion he suffered during a football game.
Not long afterward, at the ripe old age of 13 he was driving in HPDE in my Dodge Viper GTS. Our father-and-son relationship and passion for racing led to many more races at Buttonwillow, including sprints and enduros. Needless to say, Buttonwillow Raceway holds a special place in both our hearts.
Years later, just this past November, right in the middle of Buttonwillow Raceway, sat NASA’s very first NP01 prototypes in all their glory just begging to be driven: chassis No. 000 owned by Élan Motorsports Technologies, and the first customer car, chassis No. 001, owned by Jeremy Croiset. Also there to support the test were team members from Élan, Toyo Tires, TFB Performance and Sampson Racing Communications. It was the culmination of years of a dream, a passion when our minds raced with so many possibilities — and now here were two prototype racecars financially very much within reach of so many.
That day was the first time two NP01s ran on track together. That was the big day when the NP01s were to be put through the wringer to see how they would perform. Expectations were high. It was this very climax, this pinnacle, this apex in time that a father and son’s dream had become reality. What’s even more exciting about this whole adventure is that the end of our journey is just the beginning of the journey for the NP01 and the NASA drivers fortunate enough to race one.