Fathers do far more than put food on the table, teach us to ride a bike or take us to our first baseball game. Fathers are critical to healthy child and human development. Put another way, dads help make us the smart, compassionate, confident, well-adjusted people we are today. This carries over into passions we develop, which we grow up dreaming about, remembering, and in some cases eventually getting involved with. Take for example, our passions for motorsports.

It’s the traditional motorsports scene: A father buys his son or daughter a toy car, then a slot car track. Before you know it, he’s got his son on a go-kart and spending time at the track. One thing leads to another, and they find themselves sitting on the sofa watching their favorite drivers. There finally comes the day when the dad says, “Hey, want to go to the races this weekend?” The hook is set!

In recent days here at the Unser Racing Museum, I can’t help but smile each time I notice fathers with young sons and daughters admiring the cars driven by so many legends. I have yet to figure out who’s having a better time, the child or the father. Both seem to get excited when they walk into yet another wing of the museum, filled with colorful racecars, motorcycles, trophies and more. I can appreciate what it feels like as their eyes open widely and almost in unison they say, “Oh wow, look at that!”

Last week I saw a dad point to a stop sign, and then he winked at me as he said to his son, “That sign means you have to come to a complete stop — and then do a burnout.” It goes without saying that might not be the best advice a father could give his child, but that said, what I got out of this scene was they were having fun and doing it through the bond of motorsports. Good stuff.

Like so many of us, I have fond memories of watching races on TV with my father, and I’m sure my passion for racing all began right there in the living room with my dad. The memories of him helping me get the firing order right, set the points and timing after I changed my engine stay with me to this day. Many times, while tuning my race engine at the track, I could feel my dad standing beside me.

If you’re lucky, you’ll find either yourself or your son or daughter strapped into a racecar at a local track getting ready to pull out on to the track. It’s a great feeling, and one you’ll never forget. Furthermore, it sure beats watching them slumped over on the sofa with their iPhone texting away.

There are many lessons our children learn in the world of motorsports: how you get out what you put in; how to win like a champion; how to lose graciously; how to set goals and work hard to achieve them as well as learning from mistakes. These are all attributes any responsible parent would want to teach their children.

NASA allows us to teach our sons and daughters how to have a great time at the track, and it’s these very same lessons that carry over into their daily lives and even into the lives of others. What could possibly be any better than that? Our kids are our future. Let them get started now. It’s never too soon.

Image courtesy of Gary Faules


  1. You young guys don’t go back far enough, heck I got hooked when my dad took me to a midget car race promoted by Sam Hanks in the Rose Bowl, yes, that Rose Bowl back in 1946 or 1947 when the race cars were using castor oil which I can still smell.

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