We Are Not Alone

If I’m honest, some of the nights I spend in the garage working on the car can feel pretty lonely. I’m lying on cold concrete with the back of my head in a puddle of gear oil. My shoulders ache, my hands are cramping up, the race weekend is approaching and the car still needs a fair amount of work before it’ll be ready. You know, thrashing.

Surely, everybody else is beyond this point, I think to myself. Their cars are ready and they’re now finishing up the final details like washing it and cleaning rubber marks off the windshield. Then again, maybe not.

I was reminded that long lonely nights in the garage are a common plight. As I was talking to a friend at the track one weekend — let’s call her Molly — she was telling me everything she and her team had to do before loading up and heading to the track. They have a few cars they bring along, so they were thrashing, too.

Turns out I was not alone on that cold garage floor. She and her teammates were under the car with me, in spirit, just a few miles away. Their muscles were sore and their cars needed a lot of work before they were ready. Maybe we are not alone on that garage floor.

Loading up and leaving can be a little isolating, too. My wife and kids don’t come to the track with me — but I remain hopeful — so the Friday before a race, when I’m running around picking up the trailer from storage, lugging toolboxes, checking off lists and loading the car into the trailer, I have to make it happen or it doesn’t happen.

Then Molly told me what they go through to get all their cars and teammates to the track. I thought I had to run around a lot for a race weekend. What they go through is even more daunting. Trailers in two different locations, cars in three different houses, cars and tow vehicles to arrange, and sometimes they have to scare up enough people just to drive everything to the track.

But when we get to the track, when we finally get where we’re going, all the hard work pays off even before we set a wheel on the racing surface. That’s where our friends are, and that’s where we’re at our best. It’s where we enjoy the company of lots of like-minded people, where we are not alone.

I’ll always remember one weekend at the track, my front crank seal started leaking. It’s not a huge job, but it’s more engine work than I like to do at the track. If I wanted to race the next day, I needed to fix it. I ran to the local parts store to get a seal, and by the time I got back, a buddy of mine — let’s call him Rob — had the entire front of the motor apart, ready for the new seal.

That never happens at home.

These stories reaffirm for me the reasons we love racing. Sure, we put a lot into it. Racing isn’t easy. The work it takes to get to the track isn’t easy, but once we get to the track, we forget the struggle. We embrace the experience, bask in the euphoria of speed and revel in the camaraderie with friends we never would have met had it not been for racing. So what if it takes a few lonely nights thrashing in the garage? It’s all worth it.

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