By TJ Buffenbarger
4/21/99: No matter what I do this week my mind seems to be in Colorado. I’m not that far removed from high school and can remember all the good times I had with all my classmates at concerts, dances, games, and class. Growing up in a small town it’s sometime hard to imagine how someone could do something so horrible as killing a large group of students in a library. When things like this happen, parents and teachers have to find a way to explain to students in other schools why this happened. They also much convey somehow this isn’t going to happen to them at school the next day.
Two days ago a group of kids were robbed of enjoying the end of their high school lives, and the beginning of the real adventure. They won’t have a chance to go to college, get a job, find a person to share their lives with, and grow old feeling they have lived a great life. Then there are students and parents that will more than likely have that horrible moment engraved on their minds for they rest of their lives.
I just cannot imagine what could be so terrible that a group of people would want to do such a horrible act? It made me reflect on my life for a while to try to think about influences in my life that made me turn out halfway respectable. It didn’t take long to figure out I was at the races a lot of the time when I could have been doing other things. I’m sure some of the events I missed out on could have been fun as well, but avoided a lot of things that could have been big trouble.
Just take a look at our sport as a whole for a moment. Just as with life, there are individuals that are not such great people. From what I’ve seen though that kind of person is far and few between in motor sports. It’s a very close, family environment with lots of different heroes for a child to look up to. It could be the driver on the track, the mechanic that is changing the car on the red flag, the fireman that help out a driver if he’s in trouble, or the person waving the flags. No matter what kind of position you look up to in this sport you are more than likely going to find a pretty good person.
One of the most proud things I can say about our sport is about the people in the 13-25 year old bracket I’ve met. If you look a “track brat” that has been around the sport you’ll usually find a respectable young person that can talk to adults as well as children. I didn’t really think about this until I talked to some of my racing friends that are around my own age this week. We all had the same reaction of disbelief and could not figure out how someone could do such a thing. Of all the things I’m most proud of about my website, the average age of someone who contributes with a column or race results that are exclusive to us is 18 years old. That’s throwing out the low and high ends of that statistic as well!
So if you ever need to find something positive about youth in today’s society, take a look at your local track brat. If you want to really help out: If you know a child that might not have a good roll model in their lives, take them to a race. All the major divisions have great people involved, but I’m extremely partial to sprint car people. I love seeing a child’s eyes light up at the smell of methanol mixed with boiling hot dogs, the thrill of seeing the cars going so fast around the race track, and the astonished look of a youngster meeting his hero and getting an autograph after the event. Drivers should pay attention to this. It doesn’t matter if you are a World of Outlaws star or a local hero, just something small like this could create a fan for life that will bring their kids to the races. I know not all night go as planned, but isn’t that rather insignificant when some child takes time for you to sign his picture because he thought you were great that night?
I guess the reason I wrote this is after an event such as this, it’s good to find something positive in life involving youth. I wouldn’t trade anything for my solid upbringing from my parents, and the people I was around at the track shaped my life. I look in the mirror and can say proudly that I’m just a pretty average person that is by far not perfect, but I feel that I’m in the better half of people my own age. If you are reading this column you are probably not part of the problem, but at the same time I hope I pointed out how great it is to experience what we do on a race weekend. Maybe if we share a little bit of that the world will be a little nicer place.