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Five years ago, at age 14, a racer's dream came into action. She was raised by a family of adrenaline junkies; from dirt track racing to asphalt, drag racing, snowmobiles, you name it. She arrived at the Fastest 1/4 Mile Oval Track in Wisconsin in 2013, never driven a car before let alone raced one. This girl was always hard on herself and always cared about what people thought of her.
With her heart racing, she put on her new suit, stapped on her helmet and climbed through the window of her first race car. As she struggled to tighten her belts for the first time, her father had rushed to her side, told her to breathe, and to go out there and show those boys that she was just as strong if not stronger. "Drive like hell and don't let anyone get in your way." Todd had raced for many years and his daughter was finally at the age to begin. He guided her as much as he possibly could, but he knew this was something she would have to learn on her own.
She pulled out onto the track, surrounded by 12 other drivers who have had way more driving experience than she has ever had. Pulling on her belts one last time before the green flag, she took a deep a breath and began to hum to herself to calm her down; which became her routine before every race to this day.
The feelings and emotions racing through her body are unexplainable. The thoughts she had were never positive. The green flag waved and the engines roared. She started in the back of the pack to stay out of everyone's way. About halfway through the race, the others began to lap her. She thought she stayed low to allow them to continue to race for their position without being in the way. Mid-corner her car slid up no more than a few inches and she got into the side of another driver. The caution came out and he pulled up next to her swearing and calling her names she already called herself.
The race had ended and she pulled off the track just to pull off to the side so she could cry to herself. This girl wouldn't let anyone see her cry. She was too stubborn for that. Luckily, her father knew her better than she thought. He ran across the pits and told her to move into the passenger side of the car. He climbed through the window opening and drove them back to their pit stall. She climbed out and immediately gave up and began to take off her suit. She was done and wanted nothing to do with racing again.
Moments later, a complete stranger walked up to with the biggest smile on his face. He could read her mind before she even could speak the words she was feeling. He explained to her that nobody is perfect, especially their first time trying a new sport. He sat with her and told her stories about how awful he was when he first started racing and was trying anything just to make her smile again. His final words to her before his race was "People are going to try to bring you down just so they can get back up again. But your job, as the strong girl you are, is to never go down. Keep your head up and show them you belong here because I can see your potential." And he walked away without waiting for her to say thank you. Never mentioned a name. Never came back.
To this day I still do not know who that man was. I never saw him after that night but thank you. You kept a young girl's dream alive and I have grown so much, not only as a driver but as a person. I became more confident on and off the track thanks to that one conversation from a complete stranger. You may not think you make a difference with small gestures but it means the world to others.