Time lapse video created on my T-Mobile LG G4
Imagine being gone for about 15 years, perhaps to another country, maybe just a few towns over, but away nonetheless. Remember that spot where you created your fondest memories? It may have been at the local pizza shop, a baseball field where you learned to play t-ball with your siblings, or even the house you grew up in. Would you feel sadness upon returning only to find it as if it had never existed? As if it didn’t matter?
These things happen a lot in life, I suppose. Here’s a story of mine.
In a previous blog about my sister’s 21st birthday, I mentioned that I road tripped from Charlotte to Ohio for the occasion. One thing I didn’t touch on in that post was the bittersweet racing emotions that came to surface.
It had been quite some time since I had driven to Ohio. I moved to Florida via Indianapolis via Ohio in 2010 and most of the times I have been back to “The North” since then have been by plane. So, I was looking forward to many hours on the road with just my thoughts, Audible (I love audio books), and of course Spotify.
The route I took goes north from Charlotte and then northwest (insert picture of Kanye and Kim’s baby here) on US-35 to Dayton.
Upon approaching that part of my route, I was mostly just feeling anxious to get to my destination because it’s the second to last stretch of road before being officially “home”. I didn’t think much about what might come up about an hour after I turned onto it.
US-35 is where my racing dreams were born. It is the path we took to plant a seed and later develop a dream.
35 Raceway was a 1/5 mile semi-banked dirt track in Chillicothe. It had a large grandstand spanning the front stretch and a great pit area, all which you could see from the highway. It was the birthplace of my love for dirt racing and where my family and I made the first big step up from Quarter Midgets to Micro Sprints when I was 11. I distinctly remember the excitement I would feel as we would approach the exit and see the track in all of its glory every Saturday.
Driving the #7M in one of my first races at 35 Raceway
As I approached the Frankfort exit on this particularly beautiful road-tripping day, I was anxious to see what the old 35 Raceway looked like. I did know that several years ago, it was (sadly) shut down and moved to a different location, but I anxiously approached with hopes that (at least) some evidence of its history would remain.
I glanced to the right as I passed under the overpass heading west to find what could only be described as abandonment. A flatland. Nothing but a field.
Considering how big of a deal that place was to me at back in 2001, I thought about the hopes, dreams and memories of thousands of people that were created there through the years. Of course I know that the track has been moved and still “exists” but now, the material existence where so many dreams were created seem to have gone away with the wind. It reminded me of the love I have for dirt racing and how good things really were when they were simple. “If only I knew then…what I know now…”
I had about an hour to think about this sad sight before I approached the area in which the true beginning of my racing career took place: Kil-Kare Raceway in Xenia, Ohio. The place where two young parents took their 4-year-old little girl to watch kids a few years older than her racing around a tiny little bull ring in cars called Quarter Midgets.
I sat in a racecar that day for the first time back in 1994. I remember sitting in that car and telling my dad “I want to race”. It was not long after that we were loading up a one-of-a-kind Quarter Midget built by John Furry into the back of my dad’s pickup truck.
Soon, I was reminded that Kil-Kare recently shut down abruptly. A nice facility that had a Quarter Midget track, a drag strip and what I called “the big track” (a 1/3 mile paved oval) where I later raced USAC Ford Focus Midgets.
I was sad. It is such an empty feeling to know that something so special has been left behind, just as if it had never existed. As I write this, I recall Matthew Dilner’s Lost Speedways and understand more than ever why he created it. I decided I would accept that these things are just evidence of the cycle of life, and also the challenges that our sport faces each year. I am hopeful that I will be back in a racecar soon to continue writing my story, and thankful I have amazing memories that I can hold onto forever.