I considered (and consider) racing to be a deadly game and so I avoided distractions. I was in my own little bubble and didn’t particularly like talking to anybody. Many of the other racers were also very much into themselves, particularly as the time for the feature approached.
Even when I was announcing, I was preoccupied with what was happening on the speedway and in the pit area it surrounded. I was taking note of who was doing what with whom in order to report the race properly and to ask the right questions of the winner in Victory Lane later. I wasn’t much for small talk.
The world has changed with the advent of social media.
Last Saturday night, I was sitting in the second row near the first turn at Merrittville Speedway outside Thorold, enjoying some down ‘n dirty dirt-track racin’, when my phone chimed that I had a text.
It was from Glenn Styers (left), the owner of Ohsweken Speedway on the Six Nations Reserve and a sprint car pilot in his own right. In fact, he was racing at Merrittville that very evening with the Lucas Oil Empire Super Sprints Touring Series.
Wheels is planning a spread on Styers near the end of July in advance of the annual visit to Ohsweken by the World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series featuring NASCAR star Tony Stewart and so we’re doing some special things with him at his speedway. He wanted to know if he had the correct night reserved on his calendar for one of our visits.
I was impressed. Here was a guy getting ready to go out for a sprint car heat race and yet he still had the time and presence of mind to be takin' care of business.
I texted him back the date we'd agreed upon and then watched as he lined up for the first heat of the night. Once the eight cars got the green, he got a little too high on the cushion exiting Turn Four, spun around and backed the car into the wall ever so slightly. When he rejoined, he was last but battled his way up to third by the checkers.
Five minutes later, my phone chimed again. "Ya, that works," his text said.
I had to tell him I was impressed with his recovery from that spin and his top three finish, which meant he went into the redraw for the "featch." The Empire State regulars, plus some runners from the Southern Ontario Sprints, are a tough bunch and not to be taken lightly (26 eventually started the Main Event, while 10 had to settle for tow money) and Styres had just shown that he very much belonged.
"Nice recovery from that spin," I texted. A few minutes passed and there went the chimes again. "Thanks," he replied.
I stopped bothering him after that -- although I'm sure if he texted me that he was texting and Tweeting with others.
In the Main, he finished second to winner Lance Yonge of Penn Yan, N.Y., which had him on a bit of a roll for the weekend, considering he'd won the Feature the night before at his own Ohsweken track.
I should have texted him at the time, but I was hustling to get out of the place ahead of the huge crowd that was on hand. So I'll say it now: Well raced, well placed.