The door swung open to my little pick-up truck, quickly I snatched my ‘Whatchamacallit” candy bar from the cup holder and my change of clothes from the passenger seat. I was running late. I’d hustle to the door of a small shed out back of a little white cottage style home. Then I could hear it :whaaaaaaaammmmmaaaaahhhhhhhhhh waaaaahhhhhhmmmaaahhhhhh: an engine would be screaming from the dyno in the back , the sweet sharp smell of methanol would fill my nose, I loved it. Penelope, would greet me with her smelly coat, matted ears and glazed eyes. I tapped on the not so sound-proof glass.. “You’re late” he mouthed to me. I nodded my head and quickly scooted off to change out of my school clothes.
This was the nightly sight of my apprenticeship at Wes Hastings Racing Engines. Dad and I had come to see Wes months ago at this point and had asked him to build me an engine for my micro sprint. Wes, not a fan of female race car drivers, mumbled on and on about his work load and barked at Dad “Why did you ever tell her she could drive race cars? She should be cheerleading or bowling.” I always liked comments like that. I knew better than anyone how ludicrous it was that someone was letting me drive race cars. I always felt like I was getting something over on someone. I understood. I got it. I was stoked.
We were well into the racing season and Wes’ engines at this time were the best around. Dad was reluctant to buy an engine from anywhere else so we were making weekly visits to WHR in an effort to convince him to squeeze just one more stroker engine into his already busy schedule. At the age of sixteen I was very confident especially when I had Dad standing next to me. Most of the time, Dad was cleaning up the mess I would make from my “lack of a filter” communication skills. :its okay. I got it from him: As Dad and I sat and waited for Wes to pay us just an ounce of time I blurted out, ”if you are so busy, why don’t I build it? You just tell me what to do.” Wes turned his back to us and grumbled something as he walked away. I took that as an ok. To this day, I am certain it was definitely not an ok. The next day I drove straight to his shop right after school. I bounced in the door and said “ok I’m ready.”
That summer I learned to run a lathe, check bore clearances, change floats in carburetors..everything and anything that I could learn about a 2 stroke engine, I learned that summer. Wes was tough as nails and angry at the world. I had a huge respect for him and his knowledge. All I wanted to do was learn. He eventually warmed up to me and was easily the best mentor I have ever had. Finally at the end of the summer he let me build my own WHR (and AP) engine to take racing the following summer. I won my first race with that engine.
Recently, I feel like I am surrounded by the Wes Hastings of the world all over again. Silently waving my arms in the air and screaming “I belong here. I am good at what I do. Let me do it.” And perhaps…perhaps that is what is wrong. Instead of going in and putting my head down and respecting my place in the sport. I keep waiting for the credit that I somehow now, twelve years later, feel that I have earned. I have developed this sense of entitlement. I have forgotten how lucky I was to be given a shot, given an opportunity, given the chance to “fly below the radar” and do something outstanding. Perhaps, all of this starting going wrong when I stopped feeling lucky and started feeling entitled.
"Never forget your beginner's spirit"