A funny thing happened to me last time I was at the racetrack. I found myself on the podium.
It was last event on our region’s calendar and a weekend of firsts for me. First, let’s account for the elephant in the room. No, none of fastest guys in our region were there. If they had been there, I wouldn’t have been on the podium. If they had been there, I still would have had fun — but probably not as much.
There is an old adage I never used to gave much credence to, but I now find a lot of truth in, and that’s “90 percent of life is showing up.” If I hadn’t gone to that trade show in Chicago, I wouldn’t have met my wife. If I hadn’t volunteered to be the SoCal Spec Miata series leader, I wouldn’t have had to write race reports. If I hadn’t written race reports, NASA National Chairman Ryan Flaherty would not have known my background was journalism — and I wouldn’t be editing this magazine.
The obvious point is that showing up makes a difference. I never imagined what would happen just by showing up that weekend, but I can tell you what would have happened if I didn’t. Nothing.
That was a weekend of two key “firsts” for me. It was the first time my son came to the track with me by himself. Sure, I had brought my wife, daughter and son to the track a couple of times. Not surprisingly, both those times happened to be at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca near Monterey. That track has the best weather in the country and it’s close to a really nice town if mama and the kids want to leave and go do something else — which they did. Both times.
This time, though, it was just the guys, which was pretty cool. He’s just 8 years old, and I thought he’d be bored out of his mind while I was on track or tending to the car. But he wasn’t. He walked around with my camera, taking pictures of the kart track next door and of some cars on track. He enjoyed “camping” in the trailer despite the cold, and he’s already asking when he can go again. As a dad, that feels pretty good, because the kids I’ve met who grew up going to the racetrack seem like decent people, which is the goal of raising kids in the first place, right?
The other first from that weekend was the podium finish, getting second in Spec Miata. As I mentioned, fast guys weren’t there, but that doesn’t mean the race was easy, and I’m glad for that. I had to battle with the usual suspects and fight through lapped traffic to keep my position. I made some mistakes and I could see the guy behind me get closer as the race neared its end, so I had to push the whole time. But here’s the cool part. The whole time, I thought I was fighting to keep third, a podium spot I would have been glad to get.
However, one of the guys up front suffered a mechanical failure, which was unfortunate because he is a friend. But that bumped me up one. So, at the podium ceremony, when they announced third place, it was the guy behind me, so I thought timing and scoring had made a mistake. Then they called out my name as the second place finisher. Wow, that was a surprise.
Standing up there on the podium felt great. I didn’t want to step down, and having my son there with me to share the moment was great. Well, it would have been nice if he were there to see it. He was actually back in the trailer, playing Minecraft on iPad. Oh, well. You can’t have everything. Maybe next time.
That weekend demonstrated the importance of showing up, which is wisdom I’ll never dismiss again.