Sunday, December 2, 2012

Race Widow

(As written by my ghost writer, who shall remain anonymous)

I never knew how much Dan enjoyed car racing until 1983. We were living in Salem, Oregon and early in the year he asked me, “ If I have the money, can I go to the Formula 1 race in Long Beach again?” He had been in 1981 and 1982 and enjoyed it immensely. Now we were a little short on cash and I really wanted him to stay home this year because I missed him when he was gone on his racing trips.

I replied, “You can go if you don’t have to take any money out of the checking account or our savings.” I felt safe because where was he going to get the money. He walked over to the bookshelf and took the 1982 edition of the Autocourse annual. He opened it, turned it over and began to shake the book. Before he was done, over $300 fell out from between the pages. He tricked me! Since last year he had been skipping lunches and treats to put aside $5 or $10 dollars as “book markers” waiting for the day to ask about going again.

He went again and was witness to the last Formula 1 Grand Prix ever held in Long Beach. After that, it looked as though he would never be able to see another Formula 1 race in person again as we lived too far from Las Vegas, Dallas, Phoenix, Detroit, and Indianapolis for him to ever be able to go again.

The years passed and he was content to watch on television. His favorite activity was to wake at 4:00 AM on Sunday mornings to watch the European races live. They would finish about 6:30 AM, more than enough time to get ready for church. He would tell me about the drivers and I especially enjoyed learning the names of the Finnish world champions (Keke Rosberg, Mika Häkkinen, and Kimi Räikkönen). He introduced me to the BBC America program “Top Gear” and I became a fan of Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond, and James May, the presenters on the program. The more I learned of seven time world champion, Michael Schumacher, the more I liked him and he became my favorite.

We had already decided, after our retirement, to move to Temple, Texas. One day shortly after our decision, Dan came home and excitedly told me that they were going to build a new racing circuit in the Austin, Texas area and hold the United States Grand Prix there. Austin is about an hour’s drive from our house.

The rest, as they say, is history. They finished the circuit, now called the Circuit of the Americas (COTA), and Dan bought his tickets the day they went on sale. On November 16, 17, and 18 he and some friends attended the first race at the new circuit. The wait was 30 years but he got to go again.

I asked Dan to get a picture of Michael Schumacher. Red Helmet driving a Mercedes.

Zoomed-in crop from photo above. You can see Michael Schumacher better in this version.

Dan early in the morning, day of the race, at his seat.

View from his seat, turns 3, 4, 5, and 6.

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