I felt the chassis rock from side to side with every rotation of the V8 crank shaft as I stared out of the rock guard of my brand new sprint car. The sound of the engine was no longer screaming at high revs with a high pitch sound, it was now a deep throated growl. It was opening day at Lincoln Speedway in Pennsylvania and heat races were about to start. On this day I had roughly 550 more horse power under my right foot than I had ever had in any of my racing experience. A wiring issue had stolen my only opportunity for some hot laps before my first heat race in the damn thing. I looked over my left shoulder to see Dad running back from the line-up board. He sat down on the left rear tire and shouted over the loud engine “You’re starting on the pole”. I didn’t say anything I just looked at him. I am sure that he could see the fear in my eyes. He shrugged his shoulders and said, “you’ll figure it out.” Then as he was getting up to back me out of the pit stall he said something to the effect of “we can drop back if you want” but based on the delivery of such news, I was aware that, that wasn’t really an option. He may as well have said "If you're chicken shit..you can drop back like a little girl." I took a deep breath and they dropped the green by the time I entered turn three my brain was still back at the flag stand. With each lap I tried to mentally catch up, I was way in over my head but I survived and luckily, so did the car.
For the most part, I’m a problem solver. Somehow I just kinda figure shit out. I’d like to say that this is a talent of mine but its not its simply a result of being thrown into some really ridiculous situations and in an effort to not die, get embarrassed or get arrested I always had to get creative and figure it out. The same sort of scenarios, have played out throughout my life. Jumping out of a plane by myself. Crew-Chiefing an ARCA car for Chad McCumbee. Jumping over pit wall to change tires for the first time. Somewhere along the line there was a memo, jotted down on a napkin, that got sent out to reassure all of these assholes that I was capable of anything. At the time, I hated Dad, my old boss, our crew chief… anyone who put me in a state of panic. Somehow I survived all of those things. 90% of the time I failed miserably but I made it through. What I never knew was that I was slowly learning how to be a playmaker or a problem solver. When you are forced to figure things out you suddenly have a road map to every situation that life can throw at you.
Recently I have been facing some brick walls and without question, Dad’s response was “get creative. You’ll figure it out”. Although I find this as a cop-out.. it is the best answer he can ever give me. Dad has never tried to solve any problem for me, he has simply given me the tools to figure them out on my own.