BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — This writer found enough excitement for one year packed into a 12-hour span following the conclusion of the opening night of Indiana Midget Week on Thursday.
Lost car keys are one thing, but lost car keys in the dark, within a relatively vast — and substantially muddy — Paragon Speedway pit area, which prevented departure from Paragon toward the next destination, were something else entirely.
However, while I never did find my missing keys — though I did have a new one made, thankfully — the ordeal reminded me of a central quality that makes Indiana Midget Week, as well as other marquee events throughout the year, what it is.
The racing industry — fans and workers alike — is one big family and will always be there for one another.
I couldn‘t have envisioned all the Good Samaritans, from fans in the campground across the street from the track to a pair of drivers in Cannon McIntosh and Robert Dalby, who either helped me scour the pit area for my keys (albeit unsuccessfully) or gave me a place to sleep somewhat comfortably and made sure I had a fresh meal before I went on my way again.
All of their kindness and efforts will always be remembered and appreciated by yours truly. It helped soothe the anxieties of being stuck in a very uncomfortable situation while being nine hours away from home and being unable to call anyone for help because my cell phone was dead.
It was a microcosm of what often happens in the sport on a week-to-week basis, whether it‘s teams lending needed parts when something goes wrong or crew members pitching in to help a rival car get out of the work area and back on track.
Regardless of rivalries or finishing positions, at the end of the day, there are a lot of good people within this sport that we all love so much and, I believe, we all want what‘s best for one another.
That kind of spirit is what is required during a grueling eight-races-in-10-days stretch like the one that comprises this year‘s edition of Indiana Midget Week.
Cars are going to be torn up. Tempers are going to be tested. Sometimes, things will happen that one driver or another might not like — at all!
But that spirit of kindness, the feeling of making sure that everyone can get down the road and can participate in the next event on the calendar, is what is vital to each team that starts the week being able to reach the finish line.
Sometimes, without borrowed parts, extra labor, or friendly support, that team or driver who crashed the previous night wouldn‘t be able to repair their race car to compete the following night.
And at the end of the day, every team I‘ve encountered through the years has told me that they want to beat their competition on the race track, and not off of it. That philosophy is what makes the idea of “racers helping racers” so successful and so valuable.
In my case, drivers and fans didn‘t want to lose out on the coverage I plan to bring to the table throughout the week, so they pitched in to help make it possible for me to still fulfill that goal.
As of noon ET Friday, I had successfully slept for a few hours, found an unlocked door on my car, gotten a tow to Bloomington and received a new car key from the local Chevrolet dealership in town. I have to give a special thanks to Curry Auto Center of Bloomington for the assist in getting me back on the road.
Without their help, my coverage of Indiana Midget Week would be over before it ever really began.
I‘ll admit, there was a point in the early hours of Friday morning where I questioned whether it would be worth it for me to stay in Indiana through the week, even if I did get my key situation solved.
However, with the support of everyone who pitched in or reached out, I‘m treating my situation like that of a driver during Indiana Midget Week — I‘m fixing up the broken bits, dusting myself off and getting set to tackle night two at Bloomington Speedway Friday night, weather permitting.
I‘ve said it publicly before and I will here, as well; race fans are the best sports fans in the world.
The 12-hour nightmare that I lived through was a hindrance, certainly. But, much like the sunrise I found myself able to take in Friday morning, it had a beautiful lining to it when I looked a little deeper.
Lesson learned: sometimes, slowing down and taking in the moment is OK, too — even when it‘s not in the initial plans that were laid out.
Well, that and the fact that racing family looks out for one another, just like it always has.