A RACE 20 YEARS IN THE MAKING

They say you remember exactly where you are when tragedy hits. It’s true. 20 years ago I was at work at a good paying but mundane job, taken only to provide for my family. I had just put on a new roll of paper onto my massive paper processing machine, and finished the setup on the run, when the company secretary came out into the warehouse and shouted, a plane has hit one of the Trade Center Towers, and it was burning, doing her best to convey to us the tragedy that was unfolding. Little did we know it would get worse. Much, much worse. Life altering for many. My singing career of over 20 years was slowly coming to a close, but with no idea that it was ending, my band was in the throws of finishing our second to last CD, and I was to meet up with them at the studio after work to give insights on the mix down which was next to complete. Tonight was to be a celebration really, and a gathering to commemorate the work we had completed. None of us made it to the studio that night. As for everyone else in the world, especially our country, things would never again be the same. And personally, I was affected greatly. That was the day of my reawakening. And it started with a night of contemplation.

The CARS Tour 20 years ago was still known as the USAR Hooters Pro Cup. Split in two divisions, north and south, and with an innovative new idea that was essentially a 4 race playoff to determine the overall champion. The first to try the championship format. But it was an idea to stem a free fall that was already beginning, that would lead them to the crossroads just 10 years later. A crossroads that would lead current owner/CEO Jack McNelly to step in and save it. So in essence, 20 years ago, The CARS Tour was in a situation that would eventually lead it to where it is today, hands down, the greatest Late Model Racing Series in the country. And if one were to look closely now, looking back, one would have a hard time not using the words fate and destiny.

20 years ago, Tri-County Speedway, experiencing an otherwise routine and successful season of racing, would be thrown into a 10 year battle with the county it was named after, over the noise generated from any short track going through the motions of operation during any racing season. What no one could have known at the time, was that the battle would leave the track abandoned to the elements for a time when it could have been experiencing substantial growth. A battle that would lead the track itself to the brink of existence. But also a battle that would eventually put the track in the good hands of the Higgins family, who put the court battles behind them, and moved to reopen in 2020, albeit to the opening throws of the pandemic that left it doing so at restrictive capacity. Again though, looking back, it would be hard for some not to again use those words. Fate and destiny.

20 years ago, my life was changed. And while many of my generation have moved on with their lives after the initial shock, some of us have stepped out onto completely different paths. And so, after the country initially came together in a great time of country brotherhood, now it has moved into a time of great division. You see, trauma works that way. Some bury the memories of it, while others learn lessons to move forward on. But some…well, some start to see in a different light all together. For me, it was a reevaluation of all that I was and all I believed in. I questioned the worth of it all. I was confronted with death in a unique way, and was awakened to the sense of purpose. What was the purpose of it all? Was I doing the right things? On the surface, I could say yes. I was in a safe place, so I thought. But I came to realize that deep down, I had chosen the easy path. I was going through the motions. I chased the dreams that I thought mattered the most, only to settle for complacency. I had done things my way, and although not a complete failure by any means, my life was making a difference to no one at this point. I found out that my way, at least at that time, was not the right way ultimately. It was a way that lead to a great life of mediocrity. Hard to see at the time, but true nonetheless. But now, starting that day 20 years ago, I rededicated myself to a different path. I would find myself and my future in the hands of fate. For those who are religious, I put my fate in the hands of God, wherever that may take me, knowing His way had to be better than mine, and so, instead of putting faith in just myself, I put it all in His hands. And for you who are not so religious, I put my life in the hands of fate, and left it to destiny itself. I would go where my life took me without trying to outguess it. I would live my life by the path laid before me, for better or worse, and see if there was indeed a higher plan. I would gravitate to where I could do the most good instead of thinking about myself first. It was a gamble to me even then. But, where I was in my life, it was worth a chance.

And miraculous things happened. For lack of a better description, I put love first, and for the first time, not the love I had for myself, but love itself. And I have been amazed at where that has led me. And crazy as it sounds, I was shown a path to go down instead of trying to create one. I saw myself with a son that shared the love of things that I do, and I was granted it. I saw myself with the love of my life, and I was granted it. I said let the music take me where it may, and I was shown a little stage of great gratitude, and I was granted it. I was shown that I could work at what I loved instead of where I thought I should be, and I was granted it. I was shown a happy home with love, and a group of folks that loved like we did, and I was granted it. Now, I am not rich monetarily, but I always have what I need. I work at what I want, and that led to a 5 star company, and a knowledge that I could survive doing what I wanted and loved to do, instead of what I was told to do. I have a totally different life. By taking a chance and leaving myself vulnerable, I have gained security. I have taken leaps of faith, only to fall into a life of destiny. To some, it may not even be obvious. But for me and my family, the last 20 years has led to amazing things that even we cannot explain.

20 years ago, I was at work, watching things unfold onscreen that I will never forget. I was told not to go home, but I did. And the last 20 years was spent leading me to an all new home altogether. That’s how fate works. And so tomorrow, I will check to make sure me and my son are ready to sing at our church Sunday, and I will get up and get ready to go to work, well if you can call it that. Me and my son Josh will get our things together and head out to Tri-County Speedway to cover the CARS Tour race for Short Track Report. And we’ll no doubt talk about that a bit. How our race coverage deal started this year, and how fate and destiny has played a role so big we can’t deny it. Like how we initially scheduled a different race for this date, but how all along we purposely would watch for the signs of destiny to be sure we were on the right path. A path that puts us where we can do the most good. A path that leads us to supporting those who support us. A path that has led us to another group we know as family, as the racing community is just that, family. And how in working to do the most good for that family that we possibly can, has led us to our path today that will put us exactly where we were meant to be. Everything has come to be, so that we could be in Granite Falls, North Carolina among the greatest Late Model competition the country has to offer. So while others think it’s smart to be where life has led them, we know we will be at the end of the path of destiny, doing exactly what we are supposed to be. At a track that 20 years ago was on a path to non existence, watching a tour that was on that same path. But fate and destiny will put us all together for one great event that will commemorate the event that truly led me here to begin with. Leaving me and those around me to smile and ponder on those two words, fate and destiny. It’s been a remarkable 20 years, and I know this day will lead me down the path that leads to 20 more remarkable years of life in the hands of my Father, who is teaching me to live a life of love, in the middle of the world that is intent on hate. And while they are at it, we will be doing what we love, with those who love it as we do. That’s life at it’s fullest. It’s what I was missing 20 years ago. They say you remember where you were when tragedy hits. It’s true. But you can also remember where that led you. Especially when it leads to the most important thing. And that’s sharing the most important moments in life with those you love. And what a bonus, to share with who you love, the things you love. It doesn’t get any better than that. See you at the track!

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