Trevor Bayne made history earlier today by becoming the youngest person to ever win the Daytona 500. The 20-year-old held off some of NASCAR’s biggest names during the final laps to win the sport’s most coveted race. I was rooting for Bayne all afternoon long. Believe it or not, I had predicted him to win. (I have proof via Yahoo Fantasy Sports, mind you!) But I made that “prediction” more for personal reasons than anything else. You see, Bayne is from my hometown. And as I watched our newest hometown hero — one who is just barely out of high school — win his sport’s greatest contest I found myself wondering one simple thing:
If my kids wanted to race, would I let them?
After all, it is a dangerous sport. It was nearly ten years ago to the day when NASCAR legend Dale Earnhardt lost his life in the 2001 Daytona 500. But I’m a firm believer that one can’t live life while being afraid of death. Besides, the sport has come a long way with regard to safety. Earnhardt was the last person (knock on wood) to die on the track thanks to improved safety measures such as superior crash barriers and the HANS device which supports a driver’s head and neck during a crach.
So would I let my kids race?
The truth of the matter is this: I probably don’t need to worry about it. After all, most NASCAR drivers were exposed to cars at a very young age. And I’m not really the kinda guy who sits around and talks carburetors and spark plugs all weekend long. Given that, it’s unlikely any of my kids will ever jones to get behind the wheel. Competitively, at least.
But, on the other hand, I love NASCAR and watch it all the time. Plus, there are dirt tracks just down I75 from us. And our wonderful city is now the proud home of a Daytona 500 winner, so you never know… my kids could feel the need for speed. And if they do, the logical place to start would be with go kart racing and go from there.
And you know what? I think I would let them explore racing to whatever extent they wanted to. I think anything hobby or sport that a child is passionate about is a good thing. Granted, given its dangerous nature, I wouldn’t hand pick racing for my kids. But football’s dangerous, and I wouldn’t think twice if my kids wanted to play it.
So, even though I think it’s unlikely, if the day ever were to come when one (or more) of my kids were to ask to get involved in racing, I would, indeed, help them do just that.
You never know. Maybe one of them’ll win the Daytona 500 one of these years.
Congratulations, Trevor Bayne! Knoxville’s proud of you, my friend.