When I was a kid, all I ever wanted to do was race. I begged my parents to take me to this event and that event. Distance, time and entry fees be damned, I wanted to go. My parents wisely used it as the carrot to keep me in line and get good grades in school. I couldn’t imagine not racing or being at the races with my dad. I missed countless birthday parties, local festivals and high school keggers because I was off racing. While this may have limited my school social status, it provided much needed focus on what I found important in life.
The ability to prioritize along with the lessons of losing, breaking equipment and then diagnosing and fixing it are what have allowed me to grow into the person I am today. It certainly gave me a leg up in college for engineering as only myself and one other person in a class of 40 had ever used a tap and die set. Many of the other skills learned through racing have helped me to be a better engineer in the workplace as well. The ability to stay calm while nothing is going right and taking a deep calming breath when there is calamity around are crucial in many jobs. How many times have we all had parts breakage and barely made it to the lanes for a round? This is something that can’t be taught, only experienced and the more we experience it, the better we handle it. The humbling aspect of racing is the same in that it cannot be taught.
I’m thankful that I don’t have to deal with those instances frequently at my everyday job, but when they inevitably do come up, I know how to handle them. Tt amazes me though, the way many non-racers react to similar situations. I know that common sense is not common anymore (hasn’t been for a long time), but the lack of ability of the typical person to diagnose simple issues blows my mind. There is a reason IT peoples’ first question is always are you sure it’s plugged in?
I always felt that driving a race car and all the lessons I have learned from it are what set me apart in my field. I laughed off all the people who said I would stop racing when I settled down and got a job, bought a house, got married and so on. Racing is part of who I am and I wasn’t going to let a job or a house stop me. Luckily, I found a partner who understands that and supports me. We even spent our anniversary at a track one year where we had a delightful meal of take-out Chinese in our hotel room.
However, a few life events have caused a reprioritization of some of my goals. Obviously, the loss of my father caused a huge void. Not only was he my best friend, he also performed much of the yearly maintenance and made the schedules. I could easily get vacation approved well ahead of time when I could coordinate with his calendar. Wanting to see my son grow up and be with him as much as possible has also jumped its way up my priority list. He can be a goof ball and fun or a pain in the (blank), but he is mine either way. It’s weird how life has a way of changing your goals around.
Despite the fact that I might not be racing as much this year, that doesn’t mean I do not want to get back at it. I just need to focus on some other areas for now, but I will be back. For the reasons described above, I want to my son to have those same, sometimes painful, lessons. My wife used to question why I raced when the losses were so painful at times, but like golf, sometimes the most frustrating experience changes with one race into a hot streak you will never forget. -Franklin DiBartolomeo