Taking perspective is an internal process and, when considered, a skill one tends to improve with age.
Most of us will face a reckoning point at some juncture in our life, and how we negotiate this fragile moment helps establish the template that will partially shape our moods, attitudes, and behavior from that point forward. The truth is that few of us check off every item on our wish list but, even so, the well-adjusted among us can often find solace in what was accomplished.
When there is a positive balance between questions that begin with the phrase, “What if?” and appreciation for what was, disappointment can be minimized.
When Stevie Reeves reviews his racing career to date, he has much to be proud of. Not only does his resume indicate that he was successful behind the wheel but, perhaps as important as anything, somehow, he has stayed in the game.
It hasn’t been easy. Reeves knows what it means to be broke, to sleep in a car to save money, and to ask those closest to you to be patient as you pursue a dream. In his case, what he wanted most was always right in front of him. He could hear it, he could smell it, and he could see it. In his formative years, he grew up within blocks of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and with all his heart he just wanted to be a part of it all.
Reeves was born into a racing family, but one that was hardly blessed with resources. His father worked for a time with well-known constructor Bob Dickison at Competition Welding, and when he wasn’t building cars he was racing a hobby stock at the weekly program at Indianapolis Raceway Park.
At that time, the family lived in a trailer just to the west of the famed IRP dragstrip, and well before he was of school age Stevie would be on hand to watch his father and uncle compete.
“My dad and uncle only had one trailer,” Stevie recalled. “So, they would drive one of the cars back to this shed on the other side of the dragstrip and pick it up the next day. I would sleep during the feature because I was so young, but after the race I would crawl under the fence before they opened the gate and I would sit in the car when they drove it out to the shed.”
When a neighbor kid was presented with a quarter-midget and began racing, Stevie knew what he wanted to do. His father had raced the small cars too, but to get one for his son was going to be a stretch. In the end, he sold a boat in order to buy an old Kurtis and they headed to their first race at the Kokomo Quarter Midget Club.
As Stevie was set to give racing a try, his father offered one piece of advice. “He told me not to lift,” Stevie says with a laugh. “So, they drop the green and I go wide open. I’m seven and the kid in front of me is 13. I go hard in the corner and dive in. We lock wheels and go up into the wall and the kid turns over. That’s how I started my career.”
It got better. In 1975 Stevie was sitting in his car on the frontstretch of Indianapolis Raceway Park on the evening of the running of the famed Night Before the 500 midget race. There was something special about his car. Given the family’s long relationship with IRP General Manager Don Dakin, Stevie’s car was actually sponsored by the track. It would be a big night.
Among those piloting quarter-midgets on this evening were future three-time USAC sprint car champ Robbie Stanley and Andy Hillenburg, who would claim an ARCA stock car championship two decades later and also race in the Indianapolis 500.
As the only novice in the group, Reeves was placed at the rear of the stock class but he came out on top.
Given the times, there was little choice but to stick with quarter-midgets for nearly a decade, although he could naturally move up in class. He did just that, and among his favorite haunts was the legendary Big Z racetrack on the southeast side of Indianapolis. While there, he competed against a host of young men who would make an indelible mark in the sport.
The list included Robbie Stanley; Eric Gordon, who would win the famed Little 500 nine times; 1996 USAC midget champ, and later NASCAR driver, Kenny Irwin Jr.; sprint car standout Jon Stanbrough; and Dave Darland would occasionally drop in from Kokomo.
Yet, in the midst of all of this, there was a personal crisis at hand. Reeves’ parents were facing divorce and he was asked where he chose to live. In a decision that was a bit surprising to some, he picked his maternal grandparents, Don and Betty Weaver.
He said half in jest that he made this decision because his grandparents actually owned his race car.
There were other forces at play. He recalls that sometimes his family would eat at the Weavers for the simple fact that they really didn’t have enough money for food. It was a situation that incensed his grandfather, who acidly pointed out that somehow his son-in-law continued to race.
Now even more deeply involved in their grandson’s life, the Weavers made a trip to Big Z to see Stevie race. It so happened that he won. Surveying the scene, his grandparents quickly surmised that when it came to equipment their grandson was outgunned. So they, in turn, sold a trailer in order to upgrade his car.
While Don and Betty could provide emotional and financial support, it was going to take more to keep him going.
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