20 years ago, I was a young man looking for something new. I moved south, not with any real plan or direction, just to be somewhere different. It was quite an education. It wasn't long before I made some friends and convinced someone to be my girlfriend. One night, I mentioned to her mother that we should check out the local short track just down the road. "Why would you want to hang around with THOSE people?" was her response, looking down her nose at me. I was taken aback. Having been hanging out at Lake Geneva Raceway for a couple years at the time, some thoughts came to mind, but just told her I liked racing. The relationship did not last long.
Over the next 20 years that phrase stuck in my mind, as there was never a solid answer for me. Sure, I love the sights, the smells, and the sounds. I love two cars racing side by side over several laps for the lead and never touching each other. Sometimes I like it when they do touch. Bad wrecks aren't my thing, but I love hearing "The safety crew tells us the driver is OK!". Those are all great things, but they never completely answered the question.
Then Bryan Clauson died.
The reaction of the racing community was special, to say the least. Over the next few weeks, the tributes rolled in. But this was not a standard rememberence. Watching the celebration of his life at Kokomo Speedway was incredibly moving, even though I did not follow him closely. It's extremely rare for me to shed tears for someone I've never met. The strength of his family and Lauren was uplifting, which I had never experienced. Tributes continue today with "BC Forever" decals and "Parked It" still seen in victory lane, but all that didn't complete the answer to the question. Bryan's organs were donated, helping several people in presumably rough shape. Soon, a campaign was started to sign up 200 new organ donors in Bryan's memory. Shortly, that number neared 1000. When the goal was changed to 2000, that number was eclipsed. Now, 6 months later, the total is pushing 6000 new donors! What an amazing feat!
It finally sunk in with me this offseason that the answer is simple. It IS the people. From the driver of a NASCAR Monster Energy car to the kid parking cars at Jefferson Speedway, and everyone in between, I've never met anyone at the track I truly dislike or thought was a bad person. So there you have it. I want to hang around "those people" because they are the best people I've ever met. I'm glad I stuck around.
If you'd like to join the campaign and help push it over 6000 new donors, register here: registerme.org/campaign/bryanclauson
"Overheard" is a racing fan blog examining things said at, around, or about racing, mostly from my personal interactions.