Tuesday, September 26, 2006

The NASCAR Mystery Revealed

Okay, Bush, I need to make good on my promise to tell you what brought me to the NASCAR race at the Altamont Speedway this past weekend, but there are other things on my mind this morning, so I'll try to be brief.

You may remember my having written, around this time last year, about the disappearance of my son-in-law from his apartment in San Francisco. With no clue as to the reasons, we had to consdier the possibility that he might have chosen to end his life, but no evidence emerged subsequently to confirm that suspicion, as the SF police department worked as diligently as they could to trace him. With so few resources at their disposal, though, and--as we soon discovered--so many cases to handle, they could do little to help, and my daughter and her husband's family have lived in anguished uncertainty ever since.

Enter, improbably, NASCAR. It turns out that one of their Southwest division's drivers, Darrell LaMoure, took the problem of missing persons to heart. Hearing of one situation that was personally close, he offered the hood of his race car, at his wife's suggestion, to display a photograph of the missing person in the hope of eliciting information from the public. Since then, Darrell has linked up with a national organization for the missing, and has done much good work in helping families in their search for loved ones. Not long ago, my daughter, Sarah, was surprised by a call inviting her to submit a photograph for last weekend's race.

She asked me if I'd go up there with her for the race. Well, I'm honestly no NASCAR fan. I used to love the Formula 1 Grand Prix racing back in Europe, but I'd never quite cottoned to cars going round and round in circles at a hundred and fifty miles an hour. Still, it seemed like an exciting prospect, so we flew up together and were warmly greeted by everyone at the track--including the drivers and their pit crews. Wonderful people, Bush. Passionate about their sport, and living of course at the very edge of danger. Courteous and, as we discovered, filled with their own kind of wisdom about life and its risks and challenges.

So there we were. A second driver, Jim Pettit II, had volunteered to join Darrell in his efforts on behalf of missing persons, and it was on his car, number 03, that my son-in-law's picture was pasted, more than life-size. Before the main event, there was an opening ceremony around the singing of the national anthem and a prayer, which also honored the families. The hoods of the two participating race cars were detached and held up for the public and the television cameras to see, and official photographs were snapped with the drivers and the families. I have to say that it was a somewhat surreal experience, Bush, but it was also heartfelt--and certainly heart-warming.

I have to report, sadly, that Darrell's car hit the wall in the eleventh lap and was eliminated from the race. He was unhurt. And that our 03 car, having led the pack triumphantly for the first ten laps, dropped back to third and fourth for most of the race before losing another couple of places at the very end. Jim, our driver, explained afterwards that he was having trouble with the suspension, and seemed philosophical about his defeat. In fact, in our conversations with him, I found much in common with my own thinking about the paths we choose in our lives and the need to accept the cards we're dealt--even outcomes that are not those we might have hoped for.

Having made the trip, in part at least, in the hope that my daughter might find some healing in the experience, I left with a feeling of huge admiration for these men, their respect for life and compassion for those who have lost loved ones without even the small consolation of knowing their fate. That they choose to devote their time and energies--not to mention the financial gift of their prime advertizing space--speaks volumes about their quality as human beings.

Listen, Bush, I started out with the intention of talking about other things, but I seem to have used up my time. I was going to talk about outrage, thinking of Bill Clinton. Magnificant, I thought, his turning the tables on Fox News. But that will have to wait, now, for another day. Maybe tomorrow...

3 comments:

PK said...

Jimmy is still racing??? Wow! We all used to race over at Antioch Speedway in the mid 70's to early 80's:D. It's dirt oval. We raced bombers back then, while he was racing the 'new' cars with the fiberglass bodys. I used to ride with Debby Climens in a bomber, and I was on Ron Browns pit crew. He had the middle class, in between the bombers and the newer ones like Jimmy's. Brings back some awesomely great memories for me:D. I'm so glad you got to meet Jimmy. He was a pretty nice guy, a little on the hot headed side, but okay:). Clinton... I loved it, he sure gave Fox news something to think about next time they try something stupid like that...lol:). He held his own real well! Well, welcome home, glad you enjoyed NASCAR races... to bad they went down too soon, would have been nice to hear that Jimmy had won the race...

PeterAtLarge said...

Well, PK, you continue to surprise me! Racing "bombers", indeed! And working in the pits... And yes, Jim (as we called him--perhaps he's older now) seemed like a wonderful man with a lot of Buddhist (!) wisdom. Hotheaded? Not so much any more. If you google his name you can check out his racing card--and see his smiling face. Cheers, PaL

PK said...

Sorry to digress into the past with 'Jimmy':D. We all age, and I forget that somehow..lol:). I still see him the way he was, as that's the way we last saw one another. I will Google him:D! I found his old phone number last night, doubt it still works, it was his parents. I may try it this afternoon and see. I'm so glad he's gone in the direction he has, we were all a tad hotheaded back then, and seeings that I've gone into East Indian spirituality, it's good to know he has too:). I have found that a lot of us have gone in that direction. Well, I'm eager to see what 'Jim' looks like now, and read up. Thank you for your comment on mine, you are a prince of a guy:). Have a wonder filled day Peter...