I played football and basketball in high school. I was a guard in football and played under the basket in basketball. I guess I was a forward. Then, by the time I graduated from high school, I turned almost all my attention to racing. I realized that was the way it had to be, and that was the way I wanted it. I never cared about playing golf or going hunting or fishing. Racing was my life when I was young, and it still is today.
That isn't to say I have not tried other things. I have been hunting a few times-enough times to know it's not for me. I've been fishing enough times to know that catching fish doesn't do much for me, either. A couple of times I have hit a golf ball. All the while I figured I should be at the shop working on my race car.
By the time I got big enough to carry a wrench from one end of the shop to the other, my daddy was building and driving race cars. He did other things before he started racing, but once he started building and driving cars, he turned all his attention to racing.
I think my folks understood by the time my brother Maurice and I came along that racing would be our lives, too. It was not something that either one of us had a hard time adjusting to because we loved what we were doing. We'd come home from school and go to work in the shop. Daddy had a good feel for what both of us could do and what we weren't ready to try.
I did this throughout high school. When Lynda and I were dating, a lot of times we'd go places with this other couple. Well, the three of them would sometimes come by to pick me up, and a lot of times they'd have to wait in the car until I finished what I was doing. Daddy didn't let us walk away from a project until we were through with it.
I guess the first person Daddy hired full time to help us was Dale Inman. He is from the same mold. He is just like us in that he had no other hobbies. The race car was his life, and it still is an important part of his life.
I guess some of you would say I didn't have time for other things. Maybe you're partly right, but I can honestly say other things didn't interest me. Racing and race cars have always been my life.
It's still that way. I don't play golf now or go off on fishing trips. There are a few things I do to get away from the business from time to time and be with my family. We have a place in Wyoming. Lynda and I take the whole family out there every Christmas, and we go there a few times throughout the year. But I still stick pretty close to the shop most of the time and try to keep up with things.
The whole point of what I'm saying is that if you want to be a racer-whether it be a driver, an engine builder, a chassis expert, a crewchief, a crewmember, or whatever-then racing is going to take up most of the time in your life. You are going to have to hang with it, and there can't be too many distractions.
These kids (maybe I should call them young folks) who are racing on the Cup circuit right now grew up this way. They began racing go-karts at a very early age. That's what they wanted to do, and that's what they did. You don't read about them playing a lot of baseball, basketball, or football, and you don't see them on the golf course often today, either. When they're not racing, they are thinking about racing or doing something associated with racing.
Sponsors are not looking for guys 23 or 24 years old. They are looking for the young man-18 to 20-who already has 10 or more years of experience driving a race car of some sort.
I think that somewhere on down the road, fans will look back on racing today and find it difficult to believe that drivers 40 and 50 years old were still racing. "How did those old men do it?" fans will ask. The sport is going to get better and younger-and there isn't time for a game of golf, a fish on the line, a baseball bat, a basketball goal in the backyard, or a soccer ball.
If you want to grow up being a race car driver, it's going to take most of your time. If you have a lot of other things you want to do, then go ahead and do them, but let little brother have your midget race car. Maybe he'll keep dust from collecting on it.