I was most impressed with the heroic efforts of Jim Pantas during the recent NASA Championships at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. You can read all about his actions later in this issue. While jeopardizing his own safety and indeed risking his life, Jim ran to the aid of a fellow racer during what could have ended in a much worse turn of events. Without giving it a thought, Jim suffered burns to his face and hands while doing what only heroes do the instant they are needed. The story, photos and video detail the entire account, and you can find it on Page 84.
I had intended to say a lot more about Jim’s heroic efforts, but as I began thinking about the whole event, I realized there are many more unsung heroes in NASA. Many names could be added to this long list of unsung heroes, and ironically enough, the list begins with racers.
For many years, racers have served as guinea pigs, as it were, that endure the hazards known to automobile racing, but in doing so they have helped develop and test better safety equipment. More unsung heroes’ names are those in NASA’s hierarchy who have had the foresight to mandate the use of newly developed safety devices or methods and then strictly enforce the use of them.
Then there are the tech inspectors, who go to great depths to inspect every single detail related not only to the rules, but in fact to the safety of each and every driver who enters a racecourse. Then there are the safety crews, who also risk life and limb to ensure that everyone on course receives the best possible services should they be required. Over the years, I have learned that these highly trained and devoted individuals take a back seat to nobody when it comes to a driver’s safety, and they take all that they do with the highest regard to the drivers.
And let’s not forget about the importance of corner workers, who endure long days and nights often alone, and under every type of weather imaginable while diligently performing the very important service of keeping racers aware of what is going on during a race.
These people all are unsung heroes, but there are even more. Just think about the loved ones, be they moms and dads, spouses and friends who encourage and support all racers to do what they love, for they are heroes as well.
It is because of these unsung heroes that we can witness racing accidents these days in which drivers are able to walk away from what used to be fatal. The next time you walk by one of these individuals or see them as you walk through the paddock or driving a cool-down lap, take the time to reflect on all that they do and make that wave out the window just a little more vigorous so that they know you care about them as much as they do you.
Ernest Hemingway wrote, “As you get older, it is harder to have heroes, but it is sort of necessary.” Let’s face it. Racing is entirely made up of nothing but heroes. We grew up idolizing them, we emulated them, and now many NASA members have become heroes, all doing our part in what is in fact the greatest sport in the world.