Tuesday, July 11, 2023

Finding Kansas revisited: Vegas


Las Vegas

            It may not seem like a pivotal chapter in my book, but looking back on it this chapter was one of the most pivotal experiences in my life. 

            There were some of my stories omitted from this chapter, such as the issues I had with Emily on the days leading up to my journey west, but it was the journey itself that makes this story so pivotal.

            I wrote that this was my first solo trip with no family and I can’t stress how important this was for me. It was this trip which later spawned my “Relocation Theory” concept which maybe someday will get a closer look.

            In this chapter I mention that things got frozen in time and indeed this was true. I saw my first Nissan Skyline in traffic as the NASCAR Busch series, then Nationwide, now Xfinity series was about to race at the new Kansas Speedway, and I also vividly remember the gas station where I mention the airmen with US GOVT plates. In the three other times I’ve driven across Kansas I’m always anxious to pick out the landmarks of my 2003 trips. 

            One thing I didn’t write about, and this is what makes this chapter so pivotal, was that this month of my life was the month prior to getting my diagnosis. So think about this; in this chapter I go on and on about feeling free and slowly opening up to the world. But on top of those two points I am a professional race car driver! I was driving cars, and being paid more per day than I could ever have imagined, so this was my life starting. Granted, side story, my amount of driving got drastically cut when I flew the checkered flag one time. Once management saw me wave a flag I often was relegated to flag waving detail. That was fine, though, the pay was the same.

            Another thing omitted from the book was the story of Tony Renna. Tony was an up and coming Indycar driver who had just signed with the best team and was doing some off season tire testing and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway when a freak incident occurred. What occurred? No one knows how or why, but the end result was Tony’s car hit the top layers of the catch fence. The debris field was compared to an aircraft accident and Tony was killed instantly. The reason this is relevant was that Tony was still an instructor at the Derek Daly Academy and he was also was a co-instructor of mine when I went to drive as a student a 2nd time. 

            It was a somber time at the Academy and every news outlet in Vegas was on the property interviewing staff about what type of guy and how much talent Tony Renna had. I had never been at a place that had experienced a tragedy and I remained as flat and as emotionless as possible. 

            The return trip home, and I wish I had used better words than what’s in the book, was the hardest drive of my life. How does one leave paradise? How does one leave living a life they had always imagined? Outside of one day in Florida in which I drove a Late Model Stock Car I have not been in a proper race car since. It was fitting that my dad waved the checkered flag when I got home because, and neither of us knew it at the time, it was an end of my career as a professional racer. What I thought would be the end of my life got worse the month after as I got my Asperger diagnosis and of course I read those infamous words on the internet and the depression hit full blast. But what if I had not had my Vegas experience? What if I hadn’t experienced the life of an up and coming racer? Would my diagnosis have been taken as badly? I don’t think it would have. To have lived life at its fullest and to finally, and naturally, start opening up as with the example I used at the Boulder City Golf Course, and to then have a world view of no hope is a stark difference, and it was this difference that amplified the diagnosis experience. Of course, had I not had the time in Vegas I doubt I’d be presenting today and I doubt I’d ever have started to write because the diagnosis wouldn’t have hit as hard. Then again, it could’ve worked the other way. I may not have fallen off that table and knocked myself out on the Goodyear tire and I may have been asked to come back which may have led to a ride in a feeder series to Indycar or NASCAR and had that happened, well, all that I am now and all that I’ve done would never have happened.

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