For the record, I am a Jewish Redneck. I fell in love with cars around the time when I started noticing girls.
In 2001 I found out that my former company, Nikon, was sponsoring Rusty Wallace and also the Las Vegas Motor Speedway with a debut at the 2001 Daytona 500. By luck I was at a sales meeting in Florida and they had extra photo passes for the first day and great seats at the finish line for the actual Daytona 500 race!
I loved the smells, the sounds, the people…like the shirtless, toothless redneck pulling out his AMEX Black card and roll of $100’s to buy whatever he felt like…the smoked turkey legs and 24 oz. double tall-boys of Bud.
Turns out my first race was the most famous/infamous race of NASCAR history. I stupidly put away my camera at lap 197 (of 200) and missed photographing Dale Earnhardt’s life-ending crash. That was 10 years ago.
In 2002 I went to Daytona again-again there for a sales meeting and it was amazing. Two weeks later another business trip took me to Las Vegas Motor Speedway. I am no fan of Vegas (been there 60+ times-almost 100% for work) but this was the week to remember. After photographing 2 races with all access-getting road debris sprayed in my face like I was on a Dick Cheney hunting trip—I didn’t think it could get much better.
But it did—the day after the race I had a chance to take a ride as a passenger in a Richard Petty Driving Experience race car at 160MPH around the 1.5 Mile Tri-oval track. It was only topped by me driving solo in one of those same race cars 2 days later at 139.25 MPH top speed and an average lap speed of 120 MPH. 46 seconds to cover 1 ½ miles…I was in a class of 26 (25 GE folks on some team building trip plus me).
At the end of my run all the Petty guys were high-fiving me and hootin’ and hollerin’ as I later learned I had the fastest time that day…ruining whatever team-building exercise GE was trying to teach.
I learned 2 important life lessons over that period of time:
1) Life truly is short so go for it-whatever it is-you’ll never say I wish I had…
2) Never, ever stop until you see something to completion-otherwise you will miss the rewards at the end...