Sprint Car & Midget Magazine is digging into the archives to pull out some beloved stories from past issues of the print magazine that ran prior to the launch of the digital website.
The following is from the August 2009 issue, on the family members of those who race.
Every race night, there is a group of individuals at the track, or sometimes watching on from home, who have more interest in the racing action than just who might win or lose.
That group of people squirms at every turn, winces each time there is a bobble and generally has their stomachs in knots for the entire race evening.
Such is the life of a driver’s wife or significant other.
“Even after all of the years he’s been racing I still get nervous,” said Brenda Darland, wife of four-time USAC national champion Dave Darland. “There are times when he is on the track racing against certain drivers that I get so nervous until he finally clears them. It’s not that I am so much worried about his driving, but there are a lot of drivers who seem to race some of the veterans a little harder and drive over their head sometimes, and I worry that they might cause an accident and Dave will get caught up in it.”
Melinda Lawyer, the longtime girlfriend of 2006 and 2007 Hoosier Auto Racing Fans Driver of the Year Jon Stanbrough, echoes Brenda Darland’s sentiments.
“When Jon is racing some drivers who haven’t been around the sport as long as he has and aren’t quite as accomplished, I get a little nervous,” Lawyer noted. “But, on the other hand, I know that Jon is a very good driver and can get himself out of most positions that might come up on the track.”
Jerry Coons Jr.’s fiancé (now wife) Amy Clearwater has been around the sport all her life and realizes the risk that goes with getting involved with a racer, but that doesn’t dampen her enthusiasm for the sport.
“I always swore growing up that I’d never get involved with a race car driver,” said Clearwater, who along with Coons is expecting a child (Cale) very soon. “I knew what to expect going into my relationship with Jerry and there are times when the stress can really get you down.”
Danelle Cottle grew up around racing but she still finds nights when she get physically ill while watching her husband, 2008 Little 500 champion Shane Cottle, hit the track.
“When Shane’s racing was just a hobby, something he did only on weekends, I wasn’t too bad,” explained Cottle, a former standout mini-sprint racer herself. “Now, though, since it basically has become like a job for him, I have become more and more nervous.”
Her racing experience aids the stress that accompanies race night, however.
“Having raced myself, I realize a lot of times his perspective,” continued Cottle. “I like to think I know exactly what he is thinking. The thing with Shane is I know he realizes his limitations, but there are times when he’s out on the track mixing it up with some drivers that I find myself getting uptight. There are a lot of nights that I see drivers out there really driving over their heads and, well that are when I get uptight.”
While the racer’s note their particular pre-race traditions…check the belts, analyze the track, go over mental notes or talk with the crew about the car setup, the loved ones have rituals of their own.
“We don’t wear anything green,” said Darland, “or eat peanuts on the day of the race. We, as a family, consider those to be bad luck and so we don’t do either.”
For Lawyer and Stanbrough, race night is quiet.
“We don’t really talk much at all to and from the racetrack,” said Lawyer. “Jon is very focused on race night, so when we get to the track we both realize that he is going to work and I try to support him the best I can. After the races we have a “10-minute rule,” as well. We both agree not to say anything for that amount of time to give him a chance to settle down and collect his thoughts.”
While Stanbrough and Lawyer are quiet heading to the track, there are many times when the loved one takes on the role of chauffer.
“That is one of the things that a lot of race fans don’t realize,” said Clearwater. “There are nights when Jerry is racing in one state then we have to be at another track in another state the next day, and I drive all night to get him there on time. People often take for granted that the driver will be there, but don’t realize how much work it is to get them there in a lot of cases.”
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