Glamour. Fame. Monaco. Gorgeous girls holding umbrellas. Speed. Money. Champagne spraying on podium finishes.
These are the things that come to mind when I tell people my husband races cars.
Yes, he has a race car. It is a real race car (whatever that means). He drives it himself. He’s really good at it. No, it’s not his full-time job; he just does it has a hobby. Which means none of the above word associations are even remotely close to accurate. Also, that means I spend a fair amount of time actively participating as team organizer, pit crew, crew chief, team caterer, errand girl, and every other title in between.
Like it or not, I’m a race car wife, and I had no idea what that entailed until I started living the life. Let me dispel some myths about what it means to be a part of the racing world as a plus-one of a complete gear head.
The glamour for a racing hobbyist is nearly non-existent. Occasionally at some of the bigger events, the sponsors will hire some models to come take photos with the drivers. Or some of the guys will camp in a luxury motor home at the track, complete with cable TV and air conditioning. These people have it made.
Not us. More often that not, we camp in the trailer that we use to haul the car. We take a generator to run a fan or heater, depending on the climate, which will almost always run out of gas in the middle of the night and cause us to either freeze or fry to death.
Track facilities range from superb to absolutely abysmal. Depending on the race weekend, the bathrooms could be tricked out with Kohler toilets and faucets, or there’s a good chance the showers won’t have curtains. It’s truly a roll of the dice.
Unless you religiously follow NASA or SCCA racing on social media, you’ve probably never heard of my husband. He’s not famous and doesn’t pretend to be. But in the world of racing, especially on a local level, a lot of people know him, and he knows a ton of people, too.
The racing community is tight-knit and for good reason. These folks spend hours upon hours together throughout the year. They share race data, lend out tools, and invite you to share their cooler of beer after a long day of racing.
I’ve never been to Monaco. I don’t own a yacht or have a zillion dollars. We race in places like mid-Ohio and Waterford Hills. There isn’t even a body of water large enough for a yacht around those tracks.
Gorgeous Girls Holding Umbrellas
Nope, more like sweaty helpers holding an umbrella. Many times it’s someone’s dad, friend, or wife that gets roped into this job. And if the car has a top, they don’t even need an umbrella.
I get asked a lot if I get scared when my husband races. The answer was always no until the national championships last year in Austin, Texas. We have a set of radios, so we can communicate while he’s out on track. This particular track is so large that the radios were having a hard time keeping signal, but I didn’t know that.
He was out for a qualifying race and I called the start on the front straight by pit lane. A minute or so later, the race official waved the medical flag signaling for the ambulance to come out. I radioed to my husband immediately, and he didn’t respond. I tried again and again with no reply from his end, and I was absolutely terrified.
Not only did I lose communication, none of the race officials knew what was happening. One of them said, “Someone flipped their car,” but they didn’t know who. Still, he wasn’t responding to my radio calls to him. I made all of the worst conclusions in my mind like he flipped his car and was unconscious. I was going to be leaving this place without him. After the most gut wrenching minutes of my life, he radioed over that he was OK, and I had never felt such relief.
Speed and danger in racing are parts of the hobby that I’ve had to come to terms with. I know he has all of the best safety equipment in the car and on his body. Additionally, I know he is a competent and smart driver who watches his mirrors religiously.
The world of auto sport is a full-time hobby in our house. It takes intricate planning, commitment, and money. Lots and lots of money. Seriously, I cannot downplay the amount of money that gets poured into this hobby.
Car parts, fuel, tools, registration fees, travel, food, and not to mention the actual car itself all add up to a hefty chunk of change that we budget and plan for each year. And yes, we probably could save that money for something else, but it makes him so happy I would never force him to walk away from driving.
Champagne Spraying on Podium Finishes
Speaking from personal experience, we have never been a part of a champagne spray spectacular while Bizet’s “Carmen” plays in the background. Or milk, or Pepsi, or whatever beverage of choice is disgustingly tossed about in the air. Which honestly, I am glad for.
In truth, the most amazing thing is being a part of the competition of racing and ultimately watching him finish on the podium. I am a greedy and overly-competitive human being, and I always want him to win. After a winning finish, you can find me beaming from ear to ear when he takes home foam board trophies or vinyl sticker pint glasses as the ultimate prize for a race car hobbyist.