Friends, I’ll be honest, I don’t know exactly where to start. If you are hurting or mad or upset or confused in your feelings today, this article is not for you, not now. Words do not make this easier or better. Only time and mourning and love can do that. This is a harsh reality article and if you bow out, I applaud you and take no offense.
Let me start by saying that though I did not know Bryan Clauson, my prayers are with his family, his friends, and all those that did know him. It is hard to see one of our heroes pass in such a tragic way, yet… I’m positive he lived a good life and his passing was while doing what he loved, may we all be so lucky.
Motorsports will never be safe, only safer than it was before. For every tragedy the sport learns something. The window net, the Earnhardt bar, the roof flaps, the HANS device, the SAFER barrier. All of these innovations come from tragedies. Crumple zones on your passenger car, come from these tragedies. Though I wish we did not need tragedies for these advancements, necessity is the mother of innovation. My great hope is that from his passing, Bryan saves many lives.
It was only two weeks ago that Brad Keselowski posted on Twitter that as a race car driver he knows, understands, and accepts the associated risks. I believe that all drivers echo this sentiment. If they do not, they probably should not be on the track. Racing is a passion, and with passion comes many things which include the acceptance of the good… and the bad. You accept the accolades and consequences of doing what you love.
Other sports may be considered safe, others not as much. Our sport, is not and never will be so we have to learn from our missteps and misfortunes and hope that they lead to a safer and better sport. If we allow ourselves to become scared or afraid, Motorsports will not survive. If we become callous and ignorant of these events, Motorsports will not survive. We walk a fine line; drivers, crews, sponsors, owners, promoters, and fans.
As we walk this fine line it is important that all involved learn the most they can and do the best we can as a community to get through these tough days. While I have no answers today for those affected and I have no answers on how to make the sport better and safer and less tragic, I do have an answer for myself and I believe it is time to share that with everyone. That’s why I write this today.
I tell you all something I have told my family and friends, something personal, something that isn’t easy to talk about. In passing, in the event that I pass while I am at the track, do not mourn for me too long. I was following my passion. If I pass at the track because of some crazy event that involves a car, know that I was happy. I want to be close to the action. I want to see it and feel it and smell it and taste it. It is my choice to go, it is my choice to get as close as I can, it is my choice to follow my passion as far as event staff will let me. My simple rule at a race is to keep going forward until I’m finally told I can go no further.
My first race at Road America I found a place behind the carousel that was not fenced off, I was able to walk right up to the wall and take pictures, I did it again and again. Finally my brother-in-law told me, “You were so close you could touch those cars.” It wasn’t until I checked the pictures that I realized there had been a Porsche right next to the wall, in the grass, as I had my body craned over the wall for pictures, I was oblivious looking through the camera lense. I tell you this because I accept the fact that I pushed the boundaries of safety. I did it because I wanted to and I tell you because if something should happen to me, I don’t want anyone to fault the sport or drivers, no lawsuits. I accept the responsibility. I accept the consequences. My love for this sport trumps common sense sometimes, that’s my fault.
My point in all of this, as we go forward, as we go to the next race in whichever role, we all have to be willing to accept these facts, we all are responsible for our choices. Drivers drive and accept the harsh reality, as fans we have to accept harsh reality too. Hold your families tight and mourn passing a in your own way, but in the end, I hope we can all be so lucky to pass doing what we love, in whatever form.
I’ll see you in the box.
P.S. That spot at Road America is fenced off now, I like to think its not because of me, but there’s a chance it is. I’m ok with that, I have other places to take photos.