I like to race. The 1950 Dodge Pilot-House Truck I built for myself allows me to do that. I took a stock frame, gave it a 1985 Dodge Diplomat front-end, a 1997 Ford T-bird IRS, a 408 stroker with a 850 dbbl pumper with mechanical secondaries, a 904 tranny, and a rollcage. It's a fast old truck.When I dust it off and check the equipment...I sometimes wonder why I do it. Why does anyone like to race? And I'm not talking about those who make a living at it, or those who make money off of others. I'm talking about the guy who spends his "free time money" on going fast. There really isn't anything heroic about it. It's hard work and when things break, it gets even harder. In my case, it's not a bucket list deal, I've raced plenty. It's not pride, or a need to get back on the horse. So maybe I'm asking myself a deeper question? I have always believed it's Fear. When I get to that point whenI feel like I can't control it anymore, I get afraid. It's not a vehicle anymore, but a place to challenge my nerves and self-preservation. I respect my truck. It can kill me, and it can kill others. It is not a toy. Any vehicle has that risk attached to it. But when you put yourself in a position to "see what will happen"....it seems different.I've asked other racers why they do it, and the standard joke is, "it's a disease." But I've found lately, that the best guys to talk about speed and fear with are vetern war pilots. And that's really what I wanted to share.
I've been fortunate enough to work in an area where a lot of pilots trained during WW2, Korea and, to a lesser extent, Viet Nam. My favorite pilot is my Uncle of course. I remember speaking with him about his experience as a fighter pilot for the Air Force. He flew a F-104 Starfighter. A fighter jet capable of going Mach 2...twice the speed of sound. He told me the most fear he ever experienced was not even during a flight, but rather sitting on the runway, ready to end the world during the Cuban Missle Crisis in 1962. He had been a pilot for 2 years and was 25. He liked flying, but wasn't concerned about the speed so much as getting his job done right. We talked about a lot of things, but when we talked about racing, he said it's amazing. He didn't know how I could do it, because it looked so dangerous. I laughed and said, "I've never gone Mach 2," and he replied, "I don't know...a hi-tech jet vs. a chopped up car with roll bars..." We laughed, I got his point. He gave up his wings in 1984 "to let the younger guys handle it". He retired as a Colonel. Another pilot I spoke with was a radioman/bombadier/gunner of a TBF bomber, who fought in World War 2. If you don't know the TBF/TBM Avenger, it has 3 in the flight crew. The radioman sits on a bench in the middle with the navigation/radio equipment, and would crawl through a "tunnel" to operate the rear "stinger" gun. The turret gunner and radioman had no access to the pilot. Talking with him I said, "diving out of the sky, getting shot at, and having no chance to recover the plane if the pilot got injured?" Now that's scary. He said two things that stuck with me. First, being in the TBF was realitive to his stituation. At his hieght of 5'7, he was worried he'd either be put in a tank or a ball turret of a B-17. He was more than happy with his assignment. Second, he entered the war at sixteen....no one checked his age. In his words, "Through the whole war, I was to stupid to know I should be scared." He is a vet of the Guadalcanal Campaign, and many others. Both those guys shared kind words about my love of racing, and I thanked them for preserving the freedom that allows me to do so. The thing I learned most from my uncle is that fear is an excellent co-pilot, and should be respected. And my friend who flew in the TBM? He cherishes the long life he's had so far, and studies philosophy as a hobby, to find maybe even a little bit more to the meaning in life. What he shared with me, was his understanding of balance and perspective. Something I try and do everyday now. So why do I race? Maybe I really don't know why, and maybe I never will....but lately, I've used the question to start some really great conversations, with some really great people.