Sometimes things can’t be helped. If you drive fast and earn the pole, you may earn yourself an umbrella girl, or two. The trick is not to make eye contact and don’t engage in conversation. Your wife is watching, always. In this photo, I am really concentrating on my next lap and definitely not looking at the umbrella girl’s tight skirt.

Lots of racers balance their engines for optimum performance. But how many of them balance their personal relationships with their significant others for even mediocre performance? This month’s Toolshed Engineer column will attempt to teach you how to keep racing in your life while keeping your favorite person in your life.

Yes, racing is awesome. It is the most expensive, selfish and dangerous awesome thing you can do. It will drain your bank account. It will envelope all of your free time. It can destroy relationships. Finding a healthy balance between racing and marriage is difficult to accomplish. The first rule in having a successful marriage as a racecar driver is not getting married in the first place. If you’ve already broken the first rule and are currently being held back by a significant other as you chase your racing dreams, then you need to adjust your focus and attempt to be a reasonable, sharing and caring person.

You need to be someone who is not just completely obsessed with getting that extra two horsepower out of an engine or finding that tenth of a second at the track. You need to be someone who is present in the relationship, especially when it’s your significant other’s birthday, or just any day when you should be listening, as opposed to surfing Craigslist for an extra set of lightweight wheels. If you can’t find that important balance, then find a divorce attorney. And never let anyone know how much you paid for your tools – those are big assets.

I’ve been racing since I was old enough to stand up to take a leak. I’ve been a complete lunatic and selfish, egotistical jerk about racing since the moment I earned my competition license, and I’ve been married to Mrs. Krider for nearly 20 years. How am I able to do it? It’s easy. Mrs. Krider is a kind and selfless person. The real question is how is she able to do it?

It isn’t easy, and we almost didn’t make it. After one particularly busy racing season when I raced in four different series, chased a season-long endurance championship, and decided I had to do a demolition derby at the state fair, my wife, whom I love, informed me that if I went to one more race she wouldn’t be at the house when I got back. This was particularly bad news for me because I was one race away from clinching a championship.

We found a way to work through our problems, and more importantly, I found a way to win that championship. My wife’s announcement that she was leaving was a real wake-up call for me that we had serious problems, and they had nothing to do with the head gasket on my Honda.

The first thing that had to be resolved was the schedule. I needed to prioritize my wife and family over the race team. These days my wife and I discuss a year in advance what events I would like to do, how many weekends I will be away, and how much travel is involved. The schedule is important to her for good reasons. Three years in a row I had to be at a race on Mother’s Day. As fun as I think being at the racetrack is, most mothers don’t share in that joy — especially those with little kids to chase around the paddock.

To make up for my absence on one single important day, I came up with “Mother’s Day Weekend Extravaganza,” which is three days at any vacation spot my wife chooses. Now when I look at my racing budget for the year, I have to consider how much the race will cost and how much more it will cost to take my baby someplace coastal for a three-day weekend. If that sounds too expensive for you, then take a field trip to family court and you will see that a weekend at a bed and breakfast near the beach is a bargain.

Happy wife, happy life — and happy crew at the racetrack. Mrs. Krider happily hands out a much-needed lunch to the pit crew. She is smiling because she made it in her new motorhome, as opposed to under a sweltering tent.
Happy wife, happy life — and happy crew at the racetrack. Mrs. Krider happily hands out a much-needed lunch to the pit crew. She is smiling because she made it in her new motorhome, as opposed to under a sweltering tent.

There are rules, of course. When you’re at the bed and breakfast, don’t spend the entire time on your cellphone yelling at the guys at the dyno shop. Be present with your significant other. Show her you want to spend time with her. The racecar will always be there. Your spouse might not.

Money, money, money, it’s a problem for any marriage, but exponentially difficult for racing families. Little Johnny needs braces, but the racecar needs a new limited slip differential. You have to be reasonable about what’s important. Braces isn’t a tough decision — nobody wants to stare at Johnny’s overbite — but when your special someone wants a new couch to go where there is already a perfectly good couch and you want to buy tires for the last race of the year? That’s a more difficult decision. Can your old tires make it through one more event? I don’t know. Can you afford a good divorce attorney?

Every racecar wants something. There is always a part that you want to upgrade for better performance. You will have to find that balance between new racy bits versus keeping your significant other happy at the racetrack. Maybe those stronger, lighter axles are going to have to wait another season.
Every racecar wants something. There is always a part that you want to upgrade for better performance. You will have to find that balance between new racy bits versus keeping your significant other happy at the racetrack. Maybe those stronger, lighter axles are going to have to wait another season.

To rectify the money issue, Mrs. Krider came up with a financial plan and a separate savings account for racing, which just happens to be matched dollar for dollar with a savings account for tropical vacations. These tropical places don’t have cool stuff to do, like go-kart tracks, but my wife enjoys these tropical paradises as much as I enjoy racing cars, so I don’t argue.

Another thing we did to adjust our marriage/racing conundrum was to make the track a nice place to be for Mrs. Krider. Dumping her at a hot track with no chair, no shade, no food and nothing to do is not a smart plan. Instead of buying a new car for the next racing season, we invested in a motorhome. Now Mrs. Krider has all the creature comforts of her regular home and doesn’t hate being at the track. Full disclosure: it was all part of my master plan to get her to cook for the crew, which she always does without complaint. Remember, I said she was a kind person.

A nice place to sit at a hot racetrack will make for a happy spouse. However, hanging your stinky, sweaty driving suit in your wife’s new motorhome is a big mistake.
A nice place to sit at a hot racetrack will make for a happy spouse. However, hanging your stinky, sweaty driving suit in your wife’s new motorhome is a big mistake.
Some girls like big diamonds. Others like big motorhomes. You may consider spending less on your racecar this off-season and more on your infrastructure, especially if that infrastructure, like a new RV, will keep your wife happy.
Some girls like big diamonds. Others like big motorhomes. You may consider spending less on your racecar this off-season and more on your infrastructure, especially if that infrastructure, like a new RV, will keep your wife happy.

So a healthy balance between marriage and racing comes down to communication, scheduling, budgeting expendable income, if there is such a thing, and a motorhome. Oh, and I forgot one more important part: Don’t be stupid and post pictures all over social media of you getting chummy with the girls on the podium. Turns out wives don’t think that’s cool.

It is easy to get swept up in the moment on a podium after a hard-fought win. You might be so excited, you get a bit handsy with the trophy girl. That’s a big mistake if you’re married, especially when there are cameras involved — and there are always cameras around podiums. This little moment earned me some couch-sleeping time.
It is easy to get swept up in the moment on a podium after a hard-fought win. You might be so excited, you get a bit handsy with the trophy girl. That’s a big mistake if you’re married, especially when there are cameras involved — and there are always cameras around podiums. This little moment earned me some couch-sleeping time.
After learning my lesson the hard way about getting too cozy with the trophy girl, I learned to keep my distance. In this photo, I am visibly keeping a force field between myself and the trophy girl, knowing full well my wife would be critiquing the photo later.
After learning my lesson the hard way about getting too cozy with the trophy girl, I learned to keep my distance. In this photo, I am visibly keeping a force field between myself and the trophy girl, knowing full well my wife would be critiquing the photo later.

Rob’s wife is a saint. To read more from Rob Krider or to contact him go to www.robkrider.com.

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Image courtesy of Rob Krider