I grew up with a passion for all things automotive and it all began as I watched my father doing whatever was needed on the family cars, and other work vehicles on the ranch. As I grew older and found myself daydreaming as I thumbed through car magazines, I could feel the need to turn those daydreams into reality. I knew there was much more to this intrigue.
As if it were yesterday, I remember sitting on the sofa with my father watching Parnelli Jones win the 1963 Indy 500 from pole, and in the blink of an eye here it is, the 50th anniversary of Parnelli Jones’ victory. At 79, he is the oldest surviving winner of the 500. My father is gone, but neither that memory nor my love of racing has faded one bit.At 79, he is the oldest surviving winner of the 500.
As I reflect, I recall so many racing moments in my life that caused me so much excitement, many of which were created by my own father’s passions. The same thing happened between my son and me, primarily because I was always sharing racing stories and memories with him just as my father had with me. It wasn’t long until we found ourselves at the track where we could share our excitement together.
In every father’s life, there are times when he fears for the safety of his loved ones and getting that dreaded phone call that starts, “Mr. Faules, this is officer so and so. I regret to inform you there has been a terrible accident.” As hard as we try to teach them to drive safely, make intelligent choices and come home intact, deep inside we know there will be times when even the best laid plans will falter. It is in those moments we must ask ourselves if we did everything we could to protect those we love, or if there was anything else we could have done.
In a strange sort of way, I consider racing a guardian angel, and it’s all because of NASA. With advances in driver safety equipment as well as race cars and facilities, I feel much more at ease knowing my son is driving at high speeds while doing battle door to door than those days when many of us did things that make us wonder how we ever lived to talk about it. It’s also comforting to know there are no trees, power poles, fire hydrants or pedestrians to worry about, and even better that should something go wrong, the best emergency crews in the country are right there.
Young racers today not only learn better driving skills that can make a lifesaving difference while doing something as a mundane as commuting to work, but they also learn what can go wrong and how it can cause so much grief for them and for others. In fact, a young racecar driver today can become one of the finest ambassadors to our youth by serving as an example to others that there is a safe place to go fast — and it’s not on public roads.
NASA has so much to offer our youth. There are driver instruction and education classes as well as car-control clinics that, when fully taken advantage of, can lead to safer and smarter drivers. The question is, who do we want our daughters and sons hanging out with? There is no better place for young people who love cars and feel that need for speed than NASA, and we’re fortunate to be able to hand down that same passion to our own children.