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“My Next Race”

By Mike Ruefer

My mind is wandering these past weeks as I impatiently wait out the Covid-19 virus lock down. Without traveling and being home you might think that I’d feel at ease and my focus sharp. It’s actually just the opposite. In just about everything aspect of my life I feel dull and without a directional beckon. As I searched for answers, it dawned on me. For the first time in my life, I don’t know when my next race is.

There are many in the world who don’t care or even understand this void of a never ending black hole of no racing in life. Chances are if you’re reading this you know exactly what I mean. Those of us in racing regardless of the type of car or surface understand this only as the off season or rainouts. There is always racing around the corner and right now we don’t know where that corner is.

It’s hard to describe to a racing outsider, what racing means to me. It’s more than racing. It’s my lifestyle and entertainment in this complex world. It’s all I basically do besides trying to be good in my career and the best husband, father and son to my family that I can be. I’ve been told by those racing outsiders in the past that my priorities are wrong but I’ve learned for me that I’m a better person because of racing. The passion that I have for racing ignites all aspects of my life and makes me the best I can be.

This reflection time that most of us are going through as we dig in the past watching old race videos and resurrecting old photos will in the end make our passion for the sport even stronger. When we do get back to racing our appreciation will be heightened and we won’t take for granted what we have on those nights when things aren’t going the way we’d really like them to. Over time we’ll forget and go back to who we are but hopefully this time is etched in our mind and we appreciate what we have and who we’re with just a little more.

My personal reflection to help heal my racing soul and answer the “Who” and “Why” has taken me back to the very beginning of my race fan journey. My earliest recollection is as a youngster on hot summer nights when I’d listen to the sounds of the Friday night racing at the Mississippi Valley Fairgrounds from my bedroom window. There was the sneaking into the big grandstand to watch a race during the fair and hiding when my dad would come looking for me just so I could watch one more race. Later I convinced my mom to drop me off at the fairgrounds all by self to watch and eventually letting me walk home. Driving unleashed me to go to other tracks and West Liberty Raceway was my first stop and before long Hawkeye Downs Speedway. From this point on in my life the corner stone of racing was anchored ever so tightly.

As the years proceed I’ve never once not wanted to go racing. There have been a few years because of career and family I cut back but those were my choices. Right now I don’t have a choice and the not knowing is the most frustrating part. At some point we’ll get the chance to start the engines and wave the green flag and get back to racing. My only advice is to be ready because it will be different at the start as we adjust to the rules of social distancing and sanitizing. It will all be okay in the end because we can get back to knowing when Our Next Race is and the world as we know it will become more centered.

Besides the real racing that is missing in my life and its suffocating effect on my true being during a time of year when I should be flourishing and energized; it has also made me think more deeply on the “What” I miss. It’s all the people! Even if I don’t know you or you know me, we all know each other because we all know we belong there. Racing is kind of like a traveling circus with wild animals and sideshows. It takes a lot of workers and handlers to put on a show. I miss my job and small part I play in the circus. I miss the wild animals and the sideshows. I miss everyone. Even people that don’t like me.

So I need that spark to light my fuse and I’m hoping its rights around the corner. I’m ready to go and take every precaution to follow the rules just so I can be back at the race track taking photos and being part of the circus. I’m happiest when racing season is taking place. I’m at my personal best when I’ve been at race tracks doing my thing. It effects everything in my life. I long for the day when I know “My Next Race.”

Mike Ruefer

Photographer & Writer


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