Signing on for driver diary #2 with Pop Off Valve. First things first: in an attempt to introduce myself, diary #1 and #2 are extremely long, so bear with me.
I'm thinking we'll get a bit more personal today. We like personal, right?
I don't often tell people my entire story, and I'm not going to today. But, many people probably wonder what someone like me does day to day. They may figure that I am just another driver, that I have wealthy parents, my expenses are paid, I travel when I want and where I want, I don't have any responsibilities and I'm just "living the dream." Yes I am living the dream, no to the other aforementioned possible assumptions.
In last week's blog, I gave a short and brief recap on the past 16 years of my racing career.
Today, I want to talk about sacrifices and a bit about returns. It is not often that I reflect on all of the struggles faced so far but it is something I am proud of. I tell people often how thankful I am for the letdowns and hardships this industry has provided me. I know, this all sounds ridiculous. And I like it that way. Read on.
I am one who may sometimes even believe too strongly in the thought that "everything happens for a reason."
Have you ever randomly met someone who randomly introduces you to another person who leads you to another person who offers you the perfect job or a life changing opportunity? Now, let me not get carried away - but that stuff happens and those crazy things have happened in my life; over and over and over again. Maybe the fact that I am so analytical and a bit of a philosopher in my own mind is the reason for me finding "life happenings" so intriguing.
The relevance of the way things have played out has not mattered until recent years. Until I was 14, my family-team and I were just racing to race. For the love of the sport, against the stiffest competition we could find. We weren't in it to build a resume, and none of us expected that I'd be pursuing it professionally. From the beginning, we knew we were out of our league financially, but that sure as hell didn't mean we weren't going to do what it took to be a threat each week at the track.
We were the team that made our race numbers out of tape because we couldn't afford to buy vinyl. Had our motors built for durability, not to be the FASTEST motor on track. It was us who turned our tiny box trailer into an open trailer to allow us to tow our Micro Sprint to the races when we moved up from Quarter Midgets. There were times we didn't know if we'd have enough money to make it home from the races.
I remember when the entire family (Mom, Dad, younger sister Staci and I) made our first trip to 35 Raceway (Chillicothe, Ohio) to see if I thought Micro Sprints would be fun. Our car broke down on the way home (after midnight). A random group of guys who happened to be in a tow truck stopped, hooked us up and drove us (WHILE we were all still seated in the car since there wasn't enough room in the truck) to the nearest exit for free.
I think about the weekend in 2004 when we were hauling the trailer to a track about 4 hours away when our 1990 Suburban caught on fire. And the following weekend making a second attempt to get to the track, (after repairing it) that it caught on fire again, leaving my parents with a nice tow bill and all of us with very heavy hearts.
In 2006, after making the last sacrifice we could to move to USAC Ford Focus Midgets, our sponsor for the year (after funding six races) was unable to continue helping. At second in points, we were left hanging and forced to search week by week to find the money to make it to the next race. We only missed one race.
After an extremely successful 2006, turning the heads of LOTS of people in the industry, traveling to The Women in the Winners Circle Driver Development program in Phoenix as well as the PRI show to do some networking (ALONE at the age of 17)... after being a recipient of the Kara Hendrick Memorial Scholarship, PitFit Training Scholarship and Dayton Auto Race Fans "Asphalt Driver of the Year"... I found myself in not a single race in 2007.
A phrase my dad has coined is, "It's just another part of the movie." Because there are too many scenes in the movie to tell in one diary entry, I will dedicate a handful of my diaries to this ongoing script.
Between then and now, a lot has happened but we don't have time for all the gory details. I want to get to the returns part of this everlasting... blogstopper.
As the recurring theme of my life continued, I took every opportunity I could to further my racing career. I realized that the funds were completely dry and I'd have to creatively figure out how I was going to continue.
So, in February, I moved to Indy - the racing capital of the world - after searching for a job for a few months, I received a great opportunity from Ken Ungar and US Sports Advisors. I was introduced to a wonderful person named Marie Hall who allowed me to rent a room from her while I was to start part time work at the sports marketing firm in Carmel.
For the first few months, I worked 3 days a week while doing networking and charity events, traveled to Florida a few times for racing-related opportunities and worked day in and day out to secure sponsorships and a program for the 2010 race season.
In May, after spending much time being "out there" in the social media world, I was presented with something that turned out to be the biggest opportunity of my career in a tweet. Yes, a TWEET that formed a partnership and put me back in a racecar for four very solid races with legendary team owner/builder, Bob East.
This amazing opportunity and its crazy story will lead me into next week's diary where I will go more into "returns," recap this race season as well as talk about where we are today and going into 2011.
Until then, stay dry Miami. ;)