Story by Patrick Reynolds. Photo courtesy NASCAR.
My Father left this world about a year ago. I watched the date come up on the calendar, arrive, and then finally pass. My thoughts became reflective about family, our life together, and the role racing played.
The story with my Dad is similar to many guys involved in motorsports. Our Fathers introduced us to the sport and ignited a life-long passion.
Jimmy Reynolds competed behind the wheel in his younger years. He drove with the Southern New York Racing Association Modifieds at Connecticutâ€™s Danbury Racearena during the 1950s. At that time fiberglass helmets and t-shirts were top safety gear. When my older brother and sister were born, his paychecks-for-fresh-tires days were put behind him.
Through the years, he continued his association as an S.N.Y.R.A. club member and sponsor of Kenny Webb. I was introduced to auto racing during the 1970s and naturally became a Webb fan upon my start.
The Racearena ran its last race in 1981. A shopping mall now stands on the foundation where so many racing memories were made and racing lives began. Auto racing is a path I continue to travel down to this day. By no exaggeration, my life was shaped by attending Saturday night stock car racing in Danbury.
My father and I had some great highs and great lows in life together. During his funeral service last year I said I made a personal choice to keep only the good memories and let go of the bad ones. Our time of going to the races together, in particularly the ones in Danbury, fell under the category of â€œgood onesâ€ to keep.
Shortly after my Dad died, an acquaintance spoke to me about the time he lost his Father. He now wears his Fatherâ€™s wedding ring on his right hand. He takes his Fatherâ€™s birthday off every year and spends that day with his children. They participate in some activity while remembering his Dad. I liked his idea and wanted to follow suit with my own.
Unknown to my daughter Colleen, were those thoughts about the one-year mark of my Dadâ€™s passing. Yet with the date getting closer, she unexpectedly came up with the idea for a Daddy-Daughter road trip. Colleen asked to go to a Modified race and stay in a hotel. Being a road trip type of guy, enjoying spending every moment I can with her, and having a passion for Modified racing, I loved her idea. For my nine-year-old to think of traveling to a Modified race on her own speaks quite a bit about the atmosphere that she is being raised in.
I looked at the scheduled Modified races for the remainder of the year and chose one that would fit our needs, a NASCARWhelen Southern Modified Tour event in South Boston, VA. The track is about two-and-a-half hours away from our home and was presenting a two-division program. Both the drive and race schedule were not too long, not too short, but just right.
However when race day arrived, the weather forecast predicted a strong chance of rain. After studying various meteorological reports, we disappointingly-but we felt wisely- decided to postpone our trip.
To our chagrin, the forecast proved quite incorrect and the South Boston race went green under a wonderful blue-skied sunset. Bummed, yet accepting, we planned ahead to the following week at Southern National Motorsports Park in North Carolina, the next stop of the Southern Modified Tour.
That race was three hours away and also consisted of a two-division program. Much like South Boston, Southern National fell within the outline which would qualify for a good road trip with Colleen.
Our new excursion plan landed exactly on the one-year date my Dad, Colleenâ€™s Grandfather, had died. Mother Nature actually had a better idea for us all along.
So coincidentally one year to the day of Dadâ€™s passing, my daughter and I set sail on our first road trip together. We were blessed with a beautiful late summer day. The highway ride was smooth. Our hotel was very nice. We had a chance to browse some local stores in the afternoon before heading over to the track. I thought about my Dad again and hoped I was creating more â€œgood onesâ€ for Colleen to keep.
We shared quality time at the race track. Colleen sampled the hamburgers and popcorn, and of course enjoyed shopping at the souvenir trailers. I liked saying hello and chatting with friends during the on-track Modified autograph session.
When Southern Nationalâ€™s racing began, we watched Vintage Car races with several classes grouped together. A few of the Modified cars from decades ago were reminiscent of my fatherâ€™s era of motorsports driving with the S.N.Y.R.A.
The Modified Tour feature later that evening was a 150 lap distance and provided some close action that Burt Myers won. The Myers family has a long established generational history in North Carolina and NASCAR racing. Their family ties brought my thoughts- again- back to my Dad and how common it is for families to be involved with racing.
As sometimes life will line up, the one-year mark of my Fatherâ€™s passing was a page right out of his life and a good way to remember him. My daughter and I spent the evening at a Modified race in North Carolina. The next day, the S.N.Y.R.A. held the groupâ€™s annual reunion in Connecticut. I wondered who amongst his old friends were there, sharing a story or two. These were the activities he enjoyed and the people he enjoyed being around, just how he liked it.
I think Dad wouldâ€™ve been happy.
Patrick Reynolds is a former professional NASCAR mechanic who hosts Motor Week LIVE! Mondays 7pm ET/ 4pm PT onwww.racersreunionradio.com