FILE - In this May 30, 1946, file photo, George Robson gets a hug from his wife as he waves to the crowd from his Thorne Special car, after winning the Indianapolis 500 auto race in Indianapolis, Ind. George Robson won at the first Indy 500 held since 1941 following World War II. Robson, who died in a racing accident less than four months later, beat rookie Jimmy Jackson by 44.04 seconds. (AP Photo/File)(The Associated Press)
A Look Back on the History of Motorsports Can Provide Comfort for the Future
May 30th, 1911 was the very first Indy 500. NASCAR ran its first race in 1948. The SCCA began sanctioning road racing in 1948 as well, with the inaugural Watkins Glen Grand Prix. The first Pikes Peak Hill Climb took place in August 1916. America has been racing for well over 100-years. Racing has survived the Great Depression, World War II, Vietnam, President Kennedy Assassination, the Cuban Missle Crisis, Iran Hostage, the 9/11 Attacks, the Great Recession of 2008 and more. We will make it through the Coronavirus.
In any crisis things usually get worse before they get better. In November 1941, tickets for the 30th running of the Indianapolis 500 went on sale. Less than a month later, the attack on Pearl Harbor launched the United States into World War II. Within days, public and political pressure began to mount on Speedway management to suspend the race. On December 29, 1941, Speedway President Eddie Rickenbacker announced the 1942 race would be canceled. In July 1942, the federal government moved to ban all automobile racing.
Mechanics, racers and just about everyone else focused on the war efforts. The speedway gates were closed and the track began to fall into a state of despair. After World War II was over Eddie Rickenbacker was uninterested in reviving the speedway. It appeared the Indianapolis 500 may never see it’s 30th running. Tony Hulman purchased the track in November of 1945, and it reopened in 1946 after Hulman worked tirelessly over several months to restore the dilapidated facility. The 30th Indianapolis 500 was run and there have been seventy-three events since.
Things got worse before they got better. But the change in ownership was instrumental to what the race has become today. We are in a tough time. Will it last a month and be a bump in the road or will this crush the racing industry for 2020? No one knows for sure and it’s fear of the unknown that causes us to fear. In comparison to World War II, the effects of the virus are minimal. I am sure people in those times were fearful. But they also were tough, resilient, resourceful, determined and remained strong. On paper, we probably should have lost World War II. But racers joined the fight and refused to lose.
In his hit song called Fear He is a Liar, Zach Williams states: Fear he is a liar, he will take your breath, stop you in your steps, he will rob your rest, cast your fears, in the fire, because fear, he is a liar. The truth is our challenges through this time are very real. But we need to resist fear while dealing with the facts as best we can.
Our industry is usually moving at fast speeds this time of year as racing series kick-off all over the nation. We can sit around scared, complaining about your government officials, and raiding our grocery stores. Or we can take advantage of the slowdown to focus on our families and our businesses. This is a great time to re-think your strategy for the racing that WILL come in 2020. With kids at home from school, it’s a great opportunity to teach our youth about economics, mechanics, engineering, science and life skills such as perseverance, helping others, and teamwork. Racing has been through hardships in the past. At some point, we will take the green flag again. And we will be stronger, more prepared and better positioned to race into the future.
Use your time wisely. Don’t gain 20lbs eating all that food you’re hoarding. Take a walk, get some fresh air, discover some fresh ideas, and find the opportunities hidden within our current challenges.
Be Well, God Speed.