Volume X, Issue 4, Page 81

The 'Real' Sportsman Challenge - Pay it Forward

What do I mean by a “Real” Sportsman Challenge – Pay it forward? Actually, this is not a new idea by any means. I do, however, think it is a combination of attitude and action that the entire drag racing community needs to start applying. The Sportsman Challenge is the personal challenge that we, as racers and fans, can take upon ourselves and accomplish. The “pay it forward” part is what comes from the effort of us accomplishing the challenge or goals we set for ourselves.

I think it is time that the drag racers and fans do more to help the sport. This definitely includes myself, as I have been known to “throw a few stones” in the direction of organizations or decisions I didn’t agree with. I’m sure I will still hold those organizations and people accountable for decisions I see as not fair to Sportsman racers, but I’ll deal with it as it occurs.

How can drag racers and fans (and writers for online drag racing magazines) do more to help the community and our sport? It is a pretty easy thing to accomplish, but it will take a little effort to change our normal way of doing things. I asked myself a few questions this week (I know, asking yourself questions could be a problem in its own right!) and the answers that came to mind started me thinking about the way I represent a sport I have loved for nearly 40 years, drag racing.

I have driven right past people with flat tires or steaming radiators the last few years thinking, “They better have a cell phone so they can call for some help.” I didn’t want to have to turn around or stop the motor home and trailer to help. Why not? Is this trip to the track so important I can’t stop for 15 minutes to help out or see if I can offer some help? Evidently, I thought it was. Not anymore though, as I am going to make an effort to change my thinking.

Back in the day, a drag racer was usually a member of a local Car Club or a local mechanic and in general a “car nut.” Not much has really changed. Most of us probably belong to a national car club, either NHRA, IHRA, etc. Most of us who race or are a die-hard fan are probably used to turning wrenches on either our race car or one of our vehicles. I would guess that most of us could be classified as a “car nut.” I know that I still like walking through auto parts stores, auto departments of stores like Wal-Mart, Target, etc. Just seems I can never get enough of “car stuff.”

What does that have to do with the “Challenge” and “Pay it forward”? Actually it has everything to do with it. We all need to represent our fellow “car nuts” by never missing a chance to promote and enhance the image of drag racing and our local dragstrip. Here are some things we can all do to see if it will “pay it forward” for our sport and the people in our community. If we set the example I feel others will respond in a similar way.

The Challenge will be to make the effort to help other people and at the same time let them know about drag racing and the people who represent that sport. I am making some business cards to give to people I offer assistance to. It will simply have my name on it, a phone number and a picture of my dragster on it and a short message: “You have received assistance from a drag racer (or drag race fan).”

Are you thinking that sounds pretty goofy? Think again. What if it is an elderly man and you can help him get a tire changed or offer him a jump start. That could save him $50.00. Do you know how hard it is to come up with $50.00 when you are on Social Security or a fixed income? What if it is a 17-year-old who just had his first flat and has no clue how to change a tire? Think that helping them would leave a good impression about local racers and our sport in general? You bet it would. Actions like those are what allowed drag racing to get started. Helping the community and its people prompted city leaders to help get dragstrips built back in the Sixties. 

This is where the “Pay it Forward” comes into play. We show people that the “car nuts” really are a part of the community and maybe the people we help start helping other people. It goes on and on like a mini-revolution, except this type of revolution is the good kind. It can all start with you and me and the racers and fans.

It seems that everyone is in a hurry with places to go, people to see, and we’re working long hours; finding time to help our neighbors or motorists in need just isn’t something we have time for. For me, it has gone on long enough. Today I start to see what I can do for others that can use my help. If the return is a better image of the drag racer and the people who love that sport, great. It might even bring a new fan or new racer out to the local track to see what’s going on.

I hope you will consider this a “Sportsman Challenge” you might be interested in. I think it’s the right time to show people that drag racers are a great bunch of people to have around.

The day-to-day grind is getting tougher on a lot of people. Let’s create a positive image for our sport, and I guarantee you that you will feel better the first time you help out someone who can use your assistance.

See you at the track and good luck to all of you!  


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