Swanee, GA – I was in my shop Saturday evening cleaning the fuel system on my beat-up sprinter eagerly waiting for my Note 4 to vibrant violently alerting me that Wesley Outland of the USCS was live on Facebook streaming Pete’s races from Bubba Raceway Park in Ocala, FL.
Next Up: The Dash
The moment finally arrived and I rushed out to my truck located twenty yards from the shop where I set up my laptop computer and wireless internet on the tailgate. Any closer to the large metal building and signal would be interrupted. Apparently, the Tundra wasn’t far enough into Uncle Bill’s field as the signal was terrible. Cruising about ten yards further out hoping I didn’t destroy too many squash, I was finally able to catch Danny Martin’s victory lane speech. I’m kind of getting tired of listening to him give speeches. He seems to be giving a lot here lately.
Either way, the dash was over and it was time to walk back to the shop to wait on another Facebook alert. Just before I turned to walk away, I noticed a bright green car roll by the screen. Curiosity caught my attention and I sat back down.
Wesley got back on the microphone and started announcing the lineup for the Mystery Dash. What the hell’s a Mystery Dash? An anonymous donor donated $100 to toward a dash for the hard luck finishers from the previous night. This could be interesting…
On the pole from Swanee, GA was that bright green car whose driver and crew chief have been faithfully following the United Sprint Car Series since 2007 and racing sprints in general for over thirty years. Starting behind him was my brother who I know desperately needs that hundred dollars. I guess that’s the case for every weekend warrior though.
As the green flag dropped, I prayed Jacob would get the jump, but it never happened. Joe Larkin shot out of the pole position like a cannon… like a rifle… like a rabbit running for its life… like a sprint car driver that’s never won a single race in his entire thirty year career.
When Joe came out of turn two in the lead, I jumped from my tailgate screaming GO JOE GO JOE!!! I wasn’t the only one. You could hear how bias toward the situation the announcer was. You could hear the track officials behind him screaming with excitement. When he came to the white flag, my body became one giant goose bump knowing he’s about to pull this off.
As he crossed the checker flag, I swung my arms in the air like I had just beaten the heavyweight champion of the world. Wesley was trying to stay as professional as he could, but you could hear some choking up. From the sounds in the background, hugs were happening and tissues were being passed.
Just then, dad drove up with my trout dinner from South 21. He exited the car quicker than usual, ran up to me and gave my still raised arms a massive high five. “How did you hear about it?” “Jimmy just called and told me!”
We both stared at the computer waiting for Joe’s victory speech. He didn’t let us down holding back tears and displaying pure excitement and passion for the moment. He thanked his one and only crew chief Mark Brack for sticking with him for so long and making it all possible. At that moment, the entire grandstand gave a standing ovation. When his speech was over, Pete Walton was standing right behind him ready for a hug.
It was truly one of the greatest sprint car moments I have ever witnessed. It’s was truly one of those moments that make you realize we are a part of the greatest sport on Earth. You hear the saying all the time. So and so is one of the good guys of the sport. The sport is saturated with good guys, great guys. Mark and Joe are the great guys of our sport.
When you have fellow competitors standing in line to congratulate you, you’ve made an impact on the sport. Heck, when you have fellow competitors writing articles about your victory, you’ve done something right.
It took Joe and Mark thirty years to cross that imaginary finish line first. I and a lot of others are just happy we got to be a part of it and hope it happens more often this time around.
Hey Joe… I texted Kahne later that night to let him know. He responded immediately. “Damn, that’s awesome!”