My First Race

January 19, 2012
It was seven o’clock on the morning. We’d done everything that we could to my six foot long super stock car. I had buffed the axels with sandpaper. I’d stretched all week, and the car was as fast as we could make it. I’d even gone down the hill a few times on the days I was with my dad to get feel for it. The car was as smooth as glass and looked cool with the fire decals on it. My dad had put For Derby Don Lenox on one side and my name on the other. It was my first run (or heat) on the Huntersville Soap Box Derby Track. It was a street track, so it had lots of obstacles. In lane 1 there was a manhole cover, and in lane 2 there was a rough patch about ten feet long in the middle. My first race was against Kyle Fitzgerald. His car looked like a shark without fins, and I admit, it intimidated me. My car was only white with some fire stickers and a racing stripe. So plain. But my dad whispered in my ear “It’s just a fancy paint job Squirt. Remember, you make this car move. And you are better than a fancy paint job.” It relaxed me. My dad put my car in the foot and a half high ramps. I was in lane one first. The ramp operator asked us,

“Driver’s, are you ready?” When we both nodded our heads, he pulled the lever and the barrier holding us up fell. Leaving us to race away. I remembered my dad’s saying. To the left of the manhole cover. To the right of the driveway. And that’s exactly what I did. I turned the car as far left as I could without hitting the curb, went past the manhole and immediately turned right to avoid the driveway. I eased back left when I past it. Not even a ruler was straighter then the line that I drove. We both crossed the finish line and rolled a while before stopping in front of a pile of tires. The Eagle Scouts were there waiting for us. They picked up both of our cars, loaded them onto a trailer with two other cars, and we got in the green van that was towing it. When I asked the driver the time, he just ignored me. The trip up wasn’t long at all. Just around the corner. The van dropped us off at the top of the hill. I asked my dad who won but he couldn’t remember. Kyle asked his dad as well but he wasn’t paying attention. It would remain a mystery to me. We got ready for our final time down the hill. The winner of the race was determined by the time differential. You were going to lose one heat. That was a given. So we switched lanes and wheels to determine the faster car. I was in lane 2 now. This was my worst lane. The rough patch made the whistling wind around me seem louder and it was hard to see. It scared me. All I could do was go to the right and keep my wits about me for the bumps. The operator asked us if we were ready again. The barrier dropped and I braced myself. I made it through the bumps. But coming out of them, I noticed that the car was headed towards the crevice between the road and the curb. I couldn’t panic. That would make me lose. I made small adjustments to the steering wheel and got away from it. We crossed the finish line and let the Eagle Scouts take our cars again. Kyle and I sat, full of anticipation. Who would be the winner? Who would be the better driver? Who had the better car? The short car ride seemed to take forever. When we got back, I saw my dad waiting for me. He looked like he was concentrating on something. Did I lose? Did the shark car deserve to have my fear? If I lost this, I would be in the losers bracket. I would only have one more chance to win. What if I lost that? So much worry. I still don’t remember anything that worried me as much as those race results.

“Dad?” It barely came out as a whisper, but it was as loud as it would come out. “Did I win?”

“Yes.” I literally jumped for joy. I’m sure I looked like a Hannah Montana fan that just got her album for a present. And this was one of the best presents I had ever gotten. I won my first race . My first real run down the Huntersville track.

“Now listen Squirt, you can’t get cocky. That was just one of many races for today. Next you’ll have to race…..”
I did listen to what he said. I took a careful note of it. But this story is about my first race, and we have seen my first race. Kyle did not hate me. No Soap Box racer ever holds a grudge. Just admiration and respect. If someone beats you, you make it a goal to beat them one day. You work hard and practice and you’ll reach that goal. So why should they hate you? You worked for it. It’s something that comes with owning a Soap Box Derby car that makes it impossible for racers to hold a grudge. An invisible thing that teachers try to teach in school, but is not really taught well. It’s not respect. That comes with a race. It’s not tolerance. It’s a little thing called sportsmanship.





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