FAMILY

Drag racing used to all be about who had the faster car. Then bracket racing came into being and it turned out to be who can cut the better light and run closest to the dial. Either way, it’s still about who wins and who loses. Then came motorhomes though.

Years ago – okay so maybe decades - we were never allowed to leave our race cars in the pits at multiple day events. You loaded them back up and took them to your hotel, sometimes even working on them in the hotel parking lot, and in some cases inside the room as well. In any event, you left the confines of the track, meeting up with fellow racers maybe only at a restaurant, store or hotel. Things have changed today.

The advent of the motorhome has changed the scope of drag racing as we knew it. And this may only be my opinion.

When drag racing ceased to exist in mid-March, taking a sabbatical for two or so months, several racers told me they missed seeing their friends at the races. This had me rethinking that whole “who wins and who loses” scenario. Drag racing has now turned into as much a social event as it is a drag race.

One of the definitions of the word family is “a group of people united by certain convictions or a common affiliation.” Does that sound familiar?

We are all related by blood to our families, some we may like and others… well, they’re still family. There’s a saying, “You can pick your friends but you can’t pick your family.” Regardless of it all, the family aspect is important and can’t be denied.

It’s quite possible that the pits at any multiple day race has turned into more of a campground than a drag race. Dozens of racers enjoying their “families.” The racing may still be paramount, but the social aspect is certainly important also.

Growing up, both of our kids had school friends and race track friends and never the two intermingled. I’m sure many of you who have kids can attest to them jumping out of your truck or motorhome before it has even stopped in the pits. Generally speaking, the pits are a very safe space. Everyone knows just about anybody and your kids are no different. They all seem to classify other kids as “my friend.”

“My friend? You just met the kid five minutes ago and now he’s your friend?”

Here’s a Bob Mullaney story. And for those who don’t know who he is, Bob’s from New Jersey (so don’t hold that against him), a former NHRA D1 champion and a hell of a bracket racer. But anyway…

We’re at a race and my son had ridden his bicycle over to his “friends” to play video games. He comes walking back to our trailer crying because somebody “stole his bike.” Me thinking it had to be a mistake, we checked around and before you know it everyone (okay so maybe not “everyone”) is out looking for this bike.

I go to the tower to have it announced, but still it’s not showing up. A little while later and here comes Bob Mullaney pedaling up to our trailer on the bike.

“I heard them make the announcement that someone had taken Franklin’s bike,” said Mullaney. “With a son of my own, I’m thinking that’s a pretty rotten thing to do. Steal a kid’s bike? Then I happened to look down and notice Franklin had a DRC Race Products sticker on the bike I’m riding. I swear I thought it was my own son’s bike, hopped on it and just pedaled away. What an idiot!”

No Bob. We still love you.

Here’s the point. This small community we “live at,” we take care of our own. When we’re at the track, I never worried about where my kids were or what they were doing. Of course if they were doing something wrong, we knew about it too. Family.

In 2011 at the second Spring Fling event at Bristol Dragway, we started a tradition known as the “Family Photo,” a tradition we’ve continued over the years at every Fling event (except for this year when that dreaded COVID interrupted that part of the party). All in attendance were invited to gather on the starting line for a group photo, one that I feel holds significant value. Never again in the history of the world will that exact same group be together. Over the years, some had left, and new ones appeared, but never will it be the same, ever!

The same could be said for the recent marriage celebration of noted racer Dan Northrop and Jeanie Linke. There too, our family of those “united by certain convictions or a common affiliation” came together to celebrate their very special day. Naturally a good amount of their blood family were present, but so were the many racers who all share that common bond. Thanks to Diane Kubicke (https://www.division1photos.com/) for the photograph.

Family. It’s what drag racing is all about. -JOHN DiBARTOLOMEO