The Greatest Racer To Never Win

Nikki HechtCorrespondent IJune 21, 2009

He hasn’t won any races.  He hasn’t won any championships except being the greatest dad ever to my sister and me.  

Before my dad and mom got married and subsequently later divorced my dad was a dirt racer.  He was in the Air Force in the 70’s and him and a couple buddies got their hands on a car modified and raced it a local track.  His buddies opted to have my dad be the driver since he was the smallest.  That lasted only a handful of races before his buddies and him came to the decision that he was a better mechanic than a driver.    My dad said he came in dead last three times and one of those times he said there had been a wreck that managed to take out half the field and he still managed to come in dead last.   So after that the move was made and he became the chief mechanic and did that for several years before getting out of the Air Force and marrying my mom.  

One summer I was around 13 or so I got up the courage to talk to my dad about racing.   I had no idea he knew anything about it.   We started talking about it and he told me a story about how when he was in high school him and some friends would take his Yellow Volkswagen Beetle (not a Bug! To quote him, “I didn’t drive Herbie the Love Bug.  I drove a Beetle!” ) and race it around the dirt roads at Hayworth Park.  It’s a park in Bellevue Nebraska that sits next to the Missouri River and floods most summers.  The story my dad told me was how his friends would race his Beetle and other cars around the park.   My mom who knew my dad in High school is quick to add to the story about how my dad flipped the car over once and my mom, dad and one of his friends had to flip the car over and then beat the dent out of the hood with Biology books so my Grandpa wouldn’t get mad.   That was the summer my dad’s and my relationship began to change.   While most teenagers tend to pull away from their parents I got closer to mine especially my dad.  

Every summer we take a father/daughter trip.   We load up on the motorcycle and we go camping for two weeks.   I’ll be 30 next spring something that is very hard for me to admit but we’ve been taking father/daughter trips since I was 13 and we’ve only missed one summer trip.   We’ve managed to incorporate our love for racing into these trips too.  A couple of years ago we took a 100 mile side trip and saw a race at Elodra.  We drove by the Brickyard one year and watched them set things up for the race.  We’ve been stuck in race traffic  making faces at the Kyle Busch hauler  and giving thumbs up to our drivers.   This summer however might just be the icing on the cake.  We’re loading up and going to Bristol Motor speedway.  Sadly there will be no race when we’re there but it’s still going to be fun!  Then we’re heading to Charlotte for race shop tours. 

I sat down last weekend and asked my dad a couple of racing questions interview style because I thought it would be a little fun and I pretty much knew the answers I just knew it would be fun to get them from him this way.

Me:Thanks for letting me interview you dad.
Dad: No problem, I've never been interviewed before except at a job interview.  This is going to be fun.

Me:  Who’s your favorite driver?
Dad: Justin Allgaier.  I like the guys in the Nationwide series.  I think this kid is gonna go all the way.  He’s been showing a lot of potential.  
Me: What do you think of Joey Logano?  Do you think he could live up to the nickname “Best thing since sliced bread?”
Dad: Only if he can continue to play it smart, finish races and not do anything stupid.  That is a hell of a lot of pressure for an 18 year old kid to have to be under.  What the hell were they thinking letting him go up into cup so early?  He should have drove Nationwide for a year then go up to Cup.  If I ran that team he wouldn’t be in Cup. He’d be in ARCA and Nationwide first
Me: Do you think that he’s getting better now?
Dad: Oh yeah the kid is showing some more confidence on the track and he’s finishing more races which is what he needs to do.  I think Zippy is doing a great job with him.
Me: Why don’t you like Dale Jr?
Dad: Honestly?
Dad: He can’t drive.  He’s not that great of a driver.  He can’t find his pit stall.  He’s not all that and a bag of chips.   He seems like a cool guy and I would be okay with him marrying you and letting me live in a life I’ve yet to become accustomed to but I just don’t think he’s a good driver.
Me: Fair enough.  Do you think if we see him around the race shop you could not tell him that you don’t like him and not tell him what he’s doing wrong?
Dad: I can be tactful when I want to.
Me(laughing) Will you want to be tactful?
Dad: If he can find his pit stall the race before sure!  What I would love to do is meet Chad Knaus and talk mechanic talk with him that kid knows what he’s doing!
Me (laughing again) Dad he’s like 38.  You’re only  54 you’re not that old you can’t call Chad a kid okay.
Dad (Laughing) Okay I promise to not call Chad a kid.   Next weeks race is going to be really cool to see how that double file restart works at the road course!  I can’t wait!  You’ll be over to watch it right? We’ll order pizza have a beer and see what stupid thing Kyle Busch does.  He’s a great racer, and the sport is more interesting because he’s in it. But that kid needs to learn tact.  I did think that guitar smashing thing was kinda cool but kinda stupid. He’s a race car driver not  Gene Simmons...
At this point I look at my dad and laugh.
Dad: What?
Me: Nothing Dad. (still laughing)


The picture at the start of this article is a picture of my dad and I at I-80 Speedway.  We were both cheering for Kenny Edwards that night.  We are both kind of slow and didn't connect him to Carl Edwards for awhile we just thought Kenny was a great racer.  Then when Carl would come race at I-80 we'd still cheer for Kenny even though we both thought it would be cool to see Carl flip.

HAPPY FATHER'S DAY DADDY!  I love you! See you in a few hours for Road Course Racing, beer and pizza!