I was born in a small town in Nebraska. I got my first taste of driving when I helped my parents lay out irrigation pipe on the farm. They did the heavy lifting and I “drove” the pickup. In all reality I just lifted off the brake when my dad said “Go” and slammed back on the brake when he said “Stop.” We had to place lots of phone books and pillows on the seat so I could see where I was going. This early exposure – limited as it was – gave me an attitude of “I know what I’m doing” when I got my driver’s license. Truth be told, I had no clue what I was doing.
My enthusiasm for cars and motorsports came second-hand from my father. He loved muscle cars, and we would go to local car shows in the summers. He even bought a 1970 Dodge Challenger to restore. I was a little embarrassed as a kid since it was Panther Pink, but I came to enjoy riding in it and learning about the history of cars from my dad. Cars for me meant two things – freedom and fun! It was the freedom to get in your car with your friends and go to the “big town” 30 miles away to go to the nearest movie theater or shopping center. It was the fun of seeing how fast and how far you could drive through a muddy field or minimum maintenance road. I remember one time coming home with so much mud on my Jeep the only clean area was the path of windshield wipers.
I wasn’t interested in racing – other than as a spectator sport – until I met Jeremy. His passion for autocross and all motorsports was contagious. He kept showing me in car videos of his driving from autocross, which do not seem very fast on screen. He eventually convinced me to come out to an event and ride along. Sounded simple enough. Whoa! I was in for the ride of my life. Autocross may look slow on camera but as my body flew forward at the hard braking points and I slid across the seat at the quick turns, I found myself laughing uncontrollably and hanging on for dear life.
It wasn’t long after the ride that I started talking about the possibility of co-driving with Jeremy. There was only one issue – I didn’t know how to drive a manual. Sure, I had driven a tractor and a combine, but you just put those in 2-low and slow down for the turns and speed up for the straightaways. Jeremy took me out to a gas station where I learned how to stop and go. That sounds easier than it is. I stalled the car a few times as we drove around the station. The “simple” act of rolling off the clutch while you roll on the throttle is an art and takes more than one test drive to master.
Fortunately for me, a racing start requires no such skill (except for getting out of paddock). You hold the break and rev the engine so that you roar off the line – no rolling action required once you make it to the starting flag! After that I just drove. Sure it may have been slower than the experienced racers, but it was fun. I am always having “Aha!” moments, connecting the dots of previously explained physics as I spin out and realize it was because I lifted off the gas. Now if I only could get better at applying those lessons in physics before I spin out. That sums up my humble beginnings in the crazy sport of autocross.
I have been fortunate enough to get seat time with friends who offer not only great memories and laughs, but also coaching to help me improve. I was ecstatic when they announced I was the Most Improved Driver for 2014! I am looking to expand my driving portfolio this year to include at least one ProSolo and one Rally Cross. I am also hoping to attend a driving school so that I can hone some of my skills and develop other skills that I never knew I needed. This has truly been a learning experience – and just when I think I’ve figured it out – BAM I hit a cone or three!
The thrill of the drive, the challenge of the course, that is what got me hooked on autocross. Wishing all of the Dare2Dream Crew a great season. See you in paddock!