The NASCAR Kids: On Danica Patrick & My Little GirlSerge Bielanko
Since my daughter Violet was about 3 weeks old, she’s been on the NASCAR train with daddy.
We brought her home into our world four years ago, in late January. A few weeks later, I held her in my arms and talked way too loud for a new dad cuddling an infant as the two long rows of stock cars came roaring down the front stretch for the start of the Daytona 500.
I narrated everything for her, telling her who was who in the world of drivers, holding a bottle to her lips as I squeezed her even tighter every time the cars came rumbling towards the cameras and right into our living room.
Then, the following Sunday, I did it again and before long, I had myself a way cuter race-watching buddy than I had ever dreamed possible. Most Sundays after that: I would hold her in my lap and crank the volume on the flat-screen whenever the first moments of the race began; I could tell she was reacting pretty much the same as me, too, because her tiny eyes would light up at the thunderous engines and I think she was electrified a bit by my, shall we say, ‘zeal’?
As the last few years have come and gone, Violet has continued to maintain a pretty impressive stock car racing spirit for a toddler, and now a little girl.
She still loves to watch with me, especially those first few laps when the cars are all lined up tight, when anything can happen as cars and drivers unleash 800 horses beneath them and 100,ooo people go bonkers in the stands.
And yeah, inevitably she drifts off after a while, like any young kid would, to check out what her little brother is doing in the other room or to hunt down a snack out in the kitchen.
Hell, when the good spring weather hits, I’m usually right behind her, DVR-ing the rest of the thing to watch in the evening.
But this past Monday morning, as I was standing there half awake nuking a couple frozen pancakes for Violet, I happened to notice the headlines on my computer.
I’ll be damned, I said to myself in the middle of a coffee chug.
Danica Patrick had won the pole position. For the first time in history, a woman would run at the very front of the pack for the legendary Daytona 500.
“Hey Violet!,” I hollered even though she was right there in front of me. “Guess what? Remember that lady named Danica who we watched race cars last year?
She looked at me kind of blankly. But whatever.
“Well guess what? She made history. She is going to start at the front of all the other cars this Sunday in the big race?”
She thought about what I was saying as she took a swing of chocolate milk and eyeballed me over the edge of her cup.
“Isn’t that cool? A girl just like you is going to be first!,” I added.
She lowered her cup, and spoke through her new brown mustache.
“Wow! That IS cool, Daddy!,” she said, but I got the feeling she was pandering to my somehow.
I turned back to coffee, to my own oatmeal.
Then, she came back strong.
“Mmm-hhhmmm?” I mumbled, my eyes inside my computer screen.
“If she is racing first, can I race second?”
Then, just like that, my heart let go of my innards and floated up out of my mouth and soared up into the deep blue beautiful sky.