A Look Into Spring At TJ’s

By TJ Buffenbarger

For the past 22 years the scene early in the spring has been the same at my house. I hear a knock on my door early one Saturday morning just before my Dad barges into the room. Even though I’m still groggy I can make out the smile on his face in the darkness.

“Wake up Todd, its time to go racing this morning!”

It’s the words I’ve longed to hear all winter. They are words that make me feel as if I was once again five years old. Racing season is here, and with it all the wonderful things that I look forward to all winter long. Friends, family, and great racing action.

It’s all started the same way every year that I can remember. Running up the stairs to go get cleaned up and heading to breakfast. Mom used to ask when I was younger if I was sure I wanted to go. Now I can’t remember the last time she asked that.

Once breakfast is finished the packing begins. No matter if it’s March, July, or October, a full selection of clothing is packed. From the outside it appears as if we were packing for an ice-fishing trip with a stop in Florida along the way. The best racing people know though that you run into any of these conditions anytime of year, and racing is enjoyed most when you are not freezing to death.

When the car is finally packed we jump in and Mom waves to us goodbye. She used to go with my Dad every weekend, and got a little burned out. I don’t see how that could ever happen though. All the good times and good people, it’s more of an event than just going to see a race. Mom is so great to let us do this so much during the summer.

On the way to the track Dad and I talk about great races we have seen over the years, and what we might see during this first night of the season. The infamous topic also comes up on who might show up for this opening night of racing. We’ve seen so many suprises over the years that our imaginations run wild with the possibilities of who will show up to race tonight.

Finally, we arrive at the track. Its still hours until hot laps start, but we love to see every car pull into the speedway. Shortly after we pull in, friends we sit with at the races start to make their way into the track. We’ve made so many friends over the years sometimes we have to lay down three large piece of plastic to hold all the people we sit with. None of us have seen each other in person since last season ended, and I am so excited to see all of them.

All of us while catching up on life marvel at whom is coming into the racetrack. Shouts of, “Hey, look at their new trailer”, and “Wow, I didn’t know they were going to race here tonight” can be heard by anyone walking within a 50 yard radius.

Eventually Dad tells me to finally shut up, so it’s truly racing season.

By the time we catch up on life and the racing gossip it’s time to go in and watch the races. From hot laps to the last feature, we are dedicated to having the best time possible. Our group does everything from watching sprint cars, betting on support divisions, and generally joking around with each other. The smell of methanol mixed with cooking hotdogs hits my nose for the first time, and I can hear the rumble of the cars getting ready for hot laps. Once the green flag is dropped I know it racing season has truly arrived.

When the night is finally over all of us go our separate ways saying; “See you next week”. Once again it’s just Dad and I making a mad dash to the car to beat the rush out for the long drive home. On the way we talk about what a great race we saw that night, something goofy one of our friends said that made us laugh, and how we can’t wait to do it again next week.

Many of my friends I’ve had for years outside of racing cannot figure out this fixation I have for this sport. These are the friends I see Monday through Thursday during the summer. I get asked if I think it’s weird that I’m going to these races every weekend during summer. I just tell them it’s probably the same as a camping trip they take to the same place every summer, or any kind of summer league sport they are involved in. What they don’t realize is that racing is in my blood.

Now that I am older, I can start looking ahead more in my life. I’m two semesters away from graduating from college, and then I’ll be going out in the real world to get a job. Something I’ve dreamed about is finding someone to share this one part and all the other wonderful things in my life with, and start a family. Then maybe someday I’ll have kids so I can run into their rooms and say, “Wake up kids, it’s time to go racing….”

I just hope I’m that lucky someday.