INDIANAPOLIS — There is nothing quite like a good night of American racing on Independence Day.
There was a time when I would take a July 4 race for granted. Sure, it’s a perfect holiday because it’s warm enough anywhere in the U.S. for racing. Track operators sell a lot of tickets and people bring their kids out and have fun; and that’s the way it’s always been.
But taking things for granted isn’t something we should do. Instead, we should embrace the things we love and appreciate them.
When you get burned out with too much work and too many deadlines, it’s easy to forget the good things about racing. When you contemplate the reality that the costs of racing are very high and that racing politics are as nasty and petty and corrosive as ever, it’s easy to overlook the good things.
Racing on July 4 is a good thing.
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We assume a lot as Americans. We assume we’re free to do as we choose simply by default; that isn’t true. We assume our local race track will be there forever; that isn’t true. We assume having a good time on a July 4 night under the stars is no big deal; that isn’t true.
We’re free because 200-plus years ago a group of brilliant thinkers established the radical idea of democracy on this continent. That idea — and our freedom — has been threatened by various elements through the years, but has never been defeated. Thousands of real people — working stiffs like you and me — paid a terrific price over the years to defend that freedom.
The fact we can debate openly and endlessly about politics is vivid proof our freedom is still intact and functional.
Your local race track is still there today only because people have supported it. The combination of growing commercial and residential development and a lack of local support has doomed a great many American tracks over the past several decades. It’s folly to assume your local track is immune from such threats.
Don’t take this stuff for granted. Do intentional things to help insure that the things we appreciate live on well into the future.
So here’s a novel idea: This year on July 4, put down the video-game controller, get off the couch, call some friends and go to the races. If you can bring a kid or two with you, all the better.
Hopefully, the weather is nice and you can find a good seat at the track. Watch whatever class they’re featuring — even if it isn’t really your brand of racing — and enjoy it.
Bask in a warm summer evening under the stars and buy some popcorn, and maybe a hot dog. If they have a fireworks display, don’t just “ooh” and “aah” at the spectacle; pause a moment and contemplate the fact we live in a country where we can celebrate our freedom every July 4.
When the program is over, walk out to the parking lot and savor the simple joy of a night at a short track and a (hopefully) short drive home to sleep in your own bed.
There is still a great deal of joy and fun in this world, particularly in racing. We shouldn’t lose sight of that fact and we shouldn’t take it for granted.
July 4 is a great time to be reminded of that.
Wherever you are and whatever you’re doing, be safe and happy this July 4. It’s a great holiday and a great cause for celebration. It was true 200-plus years ago, and it’s still true today: We Americans have a lot to celebrate.