Racing is a sport known for being family oriented and the opportunities for unforgettable memories to be created are endless. For some, being a part of a racing family is something they were born into. For others, they found and fell in love with the sport later in life.
All of our Speed51.com team members somehow found their way to loving the sport and many of them credit their fathers. Here are a few who shared their favorite memory with their father:
Aaron Creed, Speed51.com Central NY & PA Editor
If it wasn’t for my dad I probably would never have become familiar with motorsports, but it’s not the typical story. I didn’t come from a racing family and we didn’t have the funds to get me in a race car or even regularly attend any events at regional tracks throughout childhood.
I became instantly mesmerized one Saturday afternoon when I was nearly five years old. He was flipping through the channels on the television and stopped at a broadcast of the Firecracker 400 from Daytona International Speedway. Shortly thereafter, he bought one of the annual NASCAR Preview and Press Guides and I actually started learning to read paging through that magazine with his guidance.
My obsession with short track racing and statistics came from the Touring Series and Winston Racing Series sections of that magazine. My imagination ran wild when dad started painting Monogram Mini Exact models up with extreme detail as stock car replicas for me. I simulated my own races with them on a cardboard track he built, making up a fictional racing series and short track facility and began keeping statistics and writing my own sorts of fake press releases. He educated me some on what parts he knew about the sport from casually watching on TV and attending demolition derbies and other events at Riverhead Raceway and Islip Speedway on Long Island in the 1970s.
Following a business trip south from Pennsylvania in which my dad let me tag along in 1998, we took a detour to the first race I attended, a NASCAR Goody’s Dash Series event at Orange County Speedway in Rougemont, North Carolina. Who knew I would get to meet and write about many of those names I was reading about as a kid by traveling across the country for Speed51? I suppose my dad had a hunch.
Bob Dillner, Speed51.com Executive Editor
There are so many memories with my Dad, but none that stick out more than when I was just a little kid. We used to go to Islip Speedway every week and all week long I was counting the days. We’d get to the track and it was purely magical for me. We’d always sit in the same place, in between turns one and two, that way we didn’t have to turn our heads to watch the races, yet we could look behind us (and to the left) and see the pit area too.
Dad would take one of those orange seat back chairs and slide it on the 2×10 lumber. He’d tell me to sit down, strap me to the chair with his belt and hand me the steering wheel from his old Figure 8 car. I was set for the night. I’d make race car noises all night, pretending to be my favorite drivers on the track. Then during the ride home we’d talk about what we watched and what the drivers did… guys like Charlie Jarzombek, Fred Harbach, Greg Sacks, Don Howe and the Brunnhoelzls. Those were some special rides in his 1972 Ford F-100.
Connor Sullivan, Speed51.com State Editor (CT, MA, Long Island)
I think it’s safe to say that if not for my dad, I wouldn’t have a career or even an interest in motorsports. Even though we came from a non-racing family, his interest from his days in the car business brought us both to Lime Rock Park, the late Riverside Park Speedway, and eventually the three Connecticut short tracks, especially Stafford which was closest to us.
I must have been 10 or 11 when we under-dressed for a cold and windy Spring Sizzler at Stafford, my dad making me a windbreaker out of a plastic bag (which actually worked, sort of). After that he always packed more than enough layers, even on the hottest summer night. It’s a habit I still do nowadays, although to a lesser degree during the summer.
Dakota Geyer, Speed51.com Midwest Correspondent
My favorite memories are all the times we went to Michigan International Speedway. We first went to the ARCA race in 2011 for Father’s Day/my birthday and we went to the track every year until this year (we went to the Indy 500 instead) and even camped there a couple years. It was tradition to go to the very top of the bleachers just off turn four and look over the entire track. Every year it was either really hot or it was somehow not raining.
Duane Canfield, Speed51.com/MoJo Photos
It was the summer of 1992. Dad was the head flagger at Tioga Speedway (formerly Shangri-La Speedway) in Owego, NY. His assistant couldn’t make it one week and so I was asked if I would be interested in helping dad out on the stand on Saturday night. I jumped at the chance and I’ll never forget how scared I was.
The view was spectacular! The thrill of having cars racing underneath you was breathtaking. Trying not to turn the wrong light on or giving dad the wrong flag was absolutely nerve racking. I didn’t want to make a mistake and cost some guy victory or have dad second guess his choice of having me up there with him. The night went smooth as glass and an experience I will never forget. I ended up spending most Saturdays on the stand with dad from that night forward. Many great memories were made, but there is nothing that compares to the first night experience.
Evan Canfield, Speed51.com/MoJo Photos
I have been very fortunate to share most of my favorite racing memories with my father over the years. Although I have had many great memories with my dad at the races, my favorite has to be getting to photograph the final Super Dirt Week at Syracuse with him. Not only was it the final race weekend at the famed Syracuse Fairgrounds, it also happened to be the first race weekend that we covered for Speed 51. Getting to spend four full days of racing with my father while we covered one of the most historic weekends in Dirt Modified racing is something I will always treasure.
Hannah Newhouse, Speed51.com Southeast Correspondent
I was fortunate to grow up at the race track watching my dad race, running go karts and eventually moving up into full-sized cars myself. The memories I have made with my dad at the track are countless from first wins, to rough nights and countless hours spent in the shop working on both his and my car. There were a couple years were my dad went into retirement to help me pursue my career of driving but last season (2016) he came out and ran Pro Trucks full time as well as hit-and-miss Super Late Model races with me.
We started a win streak and one of the second wins I collected was easily the hardest win I had ever had to earn. For 50 long laps I had my dad in the truck behind me basically touching my back bumper and racing me harder than I have ever been raced. It was the sweetest victory knowing it was the most fun I have ever had in a truck and my dad wasn’t going to just let me have that win. We ended up having a couple more races similar to that and it was just the greatest time racing side-by-side with him.
Jaxson Jacobs, Speed51.com Correspondent
My Dad took me to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the first time back in 2012 for the Brickyard 400. Jimmie Johnson dominated all day long and we soaked it all in. My Dad has had the biggest influence on my racing career and why it took off in the first place so being able to be at one of the biggest spectacles of the sport with him was something I won’t forget.
Just last month my family run race team got the chance to compete at the Short Track U.S Nationals at Bristol Motor Speedway. Coming from Canada where we have a handful of bullrings and to get the chance to race on such a large stage, at a track that my Dad had brought me to for NASCAR races in years prior, was really special. There was a lot of speculation about Late Models racing at Bristol leading up to the event but my Dad always said, “It’s Bristol, when else are we going to get to do this?” So we did. We got the last transfer spot into the big show and seeing the look on my Dad’s face as we pushed the car to the grid on race day at BMS was really, really cool. Racing has taken us to a lot of different places over the years, one thing that hasn’t changed is my Dad’s love and passion for the sport which is something that I will always bring with me.
Patrick Hahe, Speed51.com Regional Editor (IN, OH, MI)
One of my favorite memories is when my Dad and I would go to Michigan for the August Cup race every year. It was a fun way to spend the day. Watching racing, cheering for our favorite drivers, checking out the merchandise trailers, and enjoying the fun that comes with traveling to a race. Probably the best year was when he was able to get hospitality tickets, allowing us to see pit road and hear from drivers up-close.
Rob Blount, Speed51.com Southeast Editor
I didn’t come from a racing family. I came from a family that liked racing. My grandparents were fans, and they made my dad into a race fan who made me into a race fan. We didn’t regularly attend our home track of Riverhead Raceway. We’d go on occasion, but not to frequently. Instead we’d go down to what was then known as Dover Downs International Speedway in Delaware twice a year for the Winston Cup and Busch Series races.
We never travelled to anywhere other than Dover or Pocono until 2006 when we went to Bristol for the first time for the Sharpie 500. We drove down, got to the track way too early for a night race, and just hung out. I remember we were one of maybe 20 people sitting in the stands that early in the day. We both were eating cheeseburgers and potato chips when Jimmy Buffet’s “Cheeseburger in Paradise” started to play over the PA. It wasn’t a great Bristol race, but going to the night race was a dream-come-true for he and I. It’s a memory I will always cherish.
On the drive home we planned on making it an annual trip. Since then I’ve had the privilege of working at Bristol Motor Speedway on a few occasions now with Speed51.com, but he and I haven’t been able to get back to the Night Race together as fans since 2006. It’s something that is still definitely on the to-do list.
-Text by Speed51.com Staff