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Dad's last race by Montgomery Lee

Posted by: ronpettyfan
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Post Time: October 18, 2011 at 13:28:04


Dads Last Race
October 17, 2011 15 Comments

As always, I have been struggling with what I should write my next blog about. I have been putting off writing one because all I have been wanting to write about was the fact that Randy and I are having a baby but at the time we weren’t ready to tell the whole world. :) Eventually I will write a blog about our sweet baby girl that we are expecting on February 29th. For now, I am going to write about other things!

Ever since I can remember, my dad has been a race car driver. I think I was seven years old before I realized that not every child’s father drove a car for a living. It was a lot different back then compared to now. I can remember my mom and grandma loading us kids up in a gladiator van packed full of movies, games, barbie dolls for me, baseballs and footballs for the boys, and coolers full of every snack and drink that you could imagine. We would leave so early in the morning that I can remember still having my pj’s on when we would arrive places like Martinsville, Rockingham, Richmond, Darlington or Charlotte. (All the places within driving distance.) It was routine that we would stop at Bojangles or McDonalds before getting to the track. The words “go to the bathroom now because you can’t go again until the race is over” still echo in my ears. It never failed though, squatting between two vehicles was inevitable at every track. That’s just how it was… there were no other options. I can vividly remember watching my mom and grandma, and sometimes Adam, standing on top of the van trying to see as much of the race as possible. We weren’t allowed to listen to music… in the south NASCAR would take over your radio on Sunday afternoons. (To this day I think that is why I hate listening to talk radio or sporting events on the radio so much.) If we weren’t at the racetracks, every radio in the house was tuned into NASCAR Coverage. Or if we were playing outside, all the windows in the car were rolled down with Eli Gold and Barney Hall “The Voice of NASCAR” blaring through the speakers.
We grew up with other NASCAR kids playing in the grass and dirt in the infield. We would run our own races, have an entire baseball team or football team, or we would curl up in the back seat of the gladiator van that would turn into a bed and take the best nap ever. (there was something about the sound of race cars rumbling around a track that would put me right to sleep.) On sundays, we were rednecks, and we were proud of it.

I can remember this one time when my dad won at Rockingham and the guard wouldn’t let my mom through the gate with us three kids because we were too young to walk through the garage. I think this is where I first heard the statement “fuck you.” My mom cussed that guy like a dog and next thing I knew, we were all in Victory Lane, celebrating with my dad. :)

I loved the racetracks back then. I loved the smells, the sounds, the close quarters with my family, the friends, being able to wear clothes with your dads name and race car on it and it was cool, the joys of finishing good, and the long quite rides home when it had been a bad day. I miss what the sport used to be. When it wasn’t about having the nicest bus, who had the most money, who said the right things or did the right things, who’s sponsor was better or color scheme was the best, who had the funniest commercials… It was simply about showing up with your race car, racing that car the best that you could, getting your paycheck and then going home with your family. Its sad that it will never be that way again, but I truly feel so blessed that I was able to experience all of that in my lifetime. Those will always be my favorite memories about my childhood and my family. Racing wasn’t what my dad did for a living, it defined who we were as a family. It was our way of life.

Sadly, at this point in my life, I can not tell you the last time I was at a race track. I can’t remember the last race I saw in person, or even the last race I watched on TV. What is the point?!? My dad doesn’t race anymore so I have no interest in it. It breaks my heart to know that something I was so much a part of my life for so long, something that my family was so involved in, from the time I can first remember until I was 22 years old, that I am now so detached from. The only association I have with the sport anymore is managing my dad’s calendar and telling him where he has to be each weekend and what time each show films. I even hate to admit this, but my dad has been doing TV for three years now, and the first time I ever watched him was about three weeks ago. I assume that makes me an awful daughter, but I am just bitter about some things.

Racing is all my dad has ever known, all he has ever loved, all he has ever done. It literally seemed like in one day that it was all taken away from him. Part of me feels like it was taken away from me too. In the past, most drivers that have been in the sport as long as my dad has have done what is called a “Farewell Tour.” Each track they race at knowing it will be their last time racing there, the track would do something special for them. (Terry Labontes farewell at Texas Motor Speedway was one of my favorites.) I think I am bitter because this didn’t happen for my dad. It was just over…

I am bitter because I didn’t get to watch the sport honor my dad and bid farewell.

I am bitter because I can’t even remember the last race I watched my dad race in.

Bitter because when my dad ran his very last race, none of us knew that it would be his last race.

I didn’t get the chance to walk up to his window before “Gentleman, start your engines!” and say to him, “Dad, this is it… Your last race. I am proud of you and I love you… run this last race for Adam.”

Bitter because I didn’t sit on the pit box and listen to the radio and pay attention to every single lap knowing it was his last lap or watching him take the checkered flag knowing that whatever he finished that day would be his last finish on the NASCAR series. I didn’t get to take my picture with him by his car, or cry tears of happiness for/with him.

I am bitter because the moment that I had always envisioned being my dads last race never happened for him, for me, or for our family.

I miss going to the races on the weekends. I miss seeing all the faces, the sounds, the smells, everything about it. Like I said before, racing will never be what it was before, especially to me. I am not sure that I will ever watch a race again. I am not sure when I will ever go back to a racetrack again. Knowing that I am about to have my first child, one day I would love for her to meet all of the people in the NASCAR family because I would love for her to see what I grew up around. I wish that she would be able to see her grandpa race like I was able to see my grandpa race. I wish that she would be able to experience the legacy that my family has created and know how proud she could be of her grandpa and her uncle Adam. I wish that she would be able to experience, even if it was just a little of what I experienced growing up with. I know realistically, it is isn’t possible…. but I can still wish!!! :)

I also know that with being pregnant, I am extremely hormonal right now so I am sorry for sappy stories!! :)

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