The Joy and Agony of Racing

I’m a race fan. Specifically an open wheel race fan (i.e. Formula 1, Indy cars).  I’ve been a race fan all my life.  I remember watching the Indy 500 every year with my dad.  It was and still is a big deal and a must watch every single year.  Memorial Day in the states would not be the same without the Indy 500.  There are many aspects about racing I love – the fast cars, the guys (and a few gals here and there) who can drive incredibly well, the skill it takes to maneuver a car at a high rate of speed in very small spaces or tight turns, etc.  The one thing I hate about racing is the deaths that happen because of it.

This weekend the racing community lost another soul. Justin Wilson, racing at Pocono raceway in Pennsylvania, was hit in the head by flying debris from a crash that happened seconds before. Watching the race, it was hard to see at first.  Then the broadcast slowed down the scene and viewers could see the exact moment a large piece of debris hit Justin on the head.  He was wearing a helmet, but a helmet is no match for a large object being hurtled at a high rate of speed. It was devastating to watch and I knew when nothing was being said about his condition that the news wasn’t good.  Last night came the announcement that Justin passed away from his injuries.  Sad, sad news.

This the agony of racing.  Yes racing in inherently dangerous, open wheel even more so due to the make up of the cars, but seeing someone get hurt and die is horrible.  When I hear someone say “I only watch because of the crashes” I want to scream at them “what is your problem? people die in crashes; crashes are bad.” I’d much rather see someone skillfully avoid a crash than see an actual crash.  Crashes are scary and not worth the outcome. I don’t care what anyone says, they aren’t worth it.

I grew up watching Indy cars in what was more or less their heyday.  The Andrettis, the Unsers, the Rahals, etc.  I got to see them all race and I loved it. Then I started watching Formula 1.  Though I missed F1’s true heyday, I still got to see a lot of great racers – Michael Schumacher, Mika Hakkinen, Damon Hill, etc. I even got a few driver autographs (Sir Jackie Stewart one among the few). F1’s heyday had rampant fatalities, so I’m kind of glad I didn’t see those happen. Through all of this time I’ve seen racers die – Greg Moore, Jules Bianchi, Dan Wheldon, Justin Wilson, and I’m sure others I can’t recall right now, and it makes me so sad.

Why do I continue to watch racing when tragedy occurs?  Like the drivers who participate and the crews who work on the cars, I love racing. It’s full of great competition and thrilling results. Those who race, love it and accept the dangers that come with it.  As with many other things in life, you either have to embrace something to feel its full effects, or chose not to partake in it. I chose to keep on watching races. Justin Wilson was able to save six other lives through organ donation. So, while his family grieves, they were able to help others live on. Hopefully this will bring some peace to his family.

I thank the drivers who are brave enough to get into the cars every time and risk their lives.  They have brought much entertainment and joy, as well as sorrow. They keep on racing, and I will continue to watch.