The 2013 race season was something I was definitely looking forward to. Not only would I be debuting a new color scheme, I would also be teaming up with veteran driver Mark Leach. After doing a bit of pre-season testing, I felt confident. I began the season on April 6 at Cleveland Speedway where I qualified last out of a seventeen car field. Motor technicalities would end my night. The Sunday following the race I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to compete the following weekend if the issues were severe. Luckily, Eagle Race Engines quickly repaired my engine and I was ready to race at Wartburg Speedway the following Saturday night.
Wartburg is what I consider my “home track” so I was very excited to travel to the 1/4 mile dirt oval. I’ve often had a love/hate relationship there. The tight turns can be somewhat intimidating. The track can often dramatically change by the time features begin. I went out to hotlap and the track was still very wet. I knew that it would dry up before qualifying so I didn’t want to make any adjustments quite yet. My qualifying efforts put me starting in the ninth position for the race. After several cautions and two laps to go I found myself in fifth place. On a restart I slid up, allowing two cars to pass me coming to the checkered flag. I was very frustrated as I drove through the pits back to my hauler. When I finally got back to my pit my dad stuck his head in my window and told me that he was very proud of me and that I had just drove the best race of my career. To hear him say that quickly diminished my frustration and made me reminisce on all the good things I had did before that last restart.
A few weeks after that race I found myself back at Wartburg. I was excited as my teammate, Mark Leach, would also be driving that night. Seven o’clock rolled around and hotlaps were underway. After qualifying I was very content with the laps I had laid down. They were the quickest I’d been all season. Once I was in staging for my feature I was focused and ready for a twenty lap battle. Upon rolling onto the track we completed about three “blow off” laps before we lined up to take the green. By lap three I had moved up two positions and I was looking for more. Unfortunately an altercation would happen in front of me that would result with the car racing beside me sending me into the wall unexpectedly. Seeing my car sitting sideways on the front stretch wall brought out many emotions. All of the sacrifices that I’ve made over the years came to mind. I’ve missed graduations, family reunions, prom, and many more things just to race. Also all of the time invested came to mind. I’ve spent so many late nights in my shop working.
As my car was getting hooked to the tractor a quote said by fellow East Tennessee racer Brad Hall stuck with me. In a recent edition of Late Model Illustrated he compared racing to a roller coaster by saying that it can take you to the highest of highs and the lowest of lows very quickly and without warning. I find that to be very true. In my racing career I have felt moments of greatness where everything seemed to be falling into place, and there have also been moments where I have questioned my place in this sport.
I’ve often been told that it isn’t the cards you’re dealt, it’s how you play the game. And that’s what I’ll keep on doing. I’ll keep on playing till I am where I want to be and even at that point I will keep digging.