KERCHNER: SPEED SPORT – It’s Family

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Haven Kerchner

CONCORD, N.C.  — SPEED SPORT means different things to different people.

Reading the columns in these pages, there is no denying it has fed people’s passion for motorsports for the past 85 years.

SPEED SPORT has been a living, breathing part of my life for as long as I can remember. It was a permanent fixture in my house growing up. My grandmother bought my dad’s subscription from the time he was a teenager, and when I was a little girl, it had a place of honor in our house.

As with many race fans of the 1970s and ’80s, America’s Motorsports Bible resided next to the toilet in neat stacks as a favorite bathroom reader. There was no internet or social media to keep you updated 24/7, so SPEED SPORT’s weekly arrival was a race fan’s lifeblood.

And for local racers like us, it was equally special as we scoured the pages for mention of our series, teams and friends. Several articles were clipped out and hung around my dad’s shop while I was growing up.

One in particular had a place of honor — the results from the fourth annual USAC vs. NCRA Challenge at the Oklahoma City Fairgrounds in July 1986 when Rich Vogler wrecked our driver, Jon Johnson, on the very first lap. Vogler was escorted off the property after the race.

Shane Carson won the race for the NCRA masses. That story hung on the wall of our shop for years. And one of the first things I did as an employee of SPEED SPORT is look it up in the large bound volumes of all the old issues. Years later, I listened as Carson told my husband the story almost word for word the way my dad had told it to him. We still laugh about that today.

In 2000, when I took the job with SPEED SPORT, it may have been the proudest moment of my dad’s life. His little tomboy race fan was working for his favorite racing publication.

During the last 19 years, my life has become so intertwined with SPEED SPORT that it is more family than some of my blood relatives. I married the editor. I took a few years off from working for it, but lived vicariously through him. I watched with a little envy as they celebrated the 70th and 75th anniversaries without me at the design helm. I’m thankful to have been back behind the mouse for this issue and for every issue since SPEED SPORT’s relaunch in 2012.

We survived the pain and loss when the weekly SPEED SPORT ceased publication because it could not survive in the world of 24/7 instant news. While we mourned the loss of our main source of income, we grieved for the loss of history, of legacy, of our family.

And we accepted the worry, the work and the risk it took to the keep the brand alive and the faith to believe in the vision of Turn 3 Media to make it what it is today.

As with any family, I cuss it a lot. It isn’t always pretty as there are long nights and hard work. There are times when you wonder if it is worth all the trouble.

Sometimes it’s been a really, really good day celebrating your 13th wedding anniversary and a text arrives that ruins it because your husband has to write an obituary for his favorite sprint car driver. And you want to say, “To hell with it‚ I don’t want to do this anymore.” But you don’t — you ignore the tears in your eyes and the moisture in his, and start pulling photos to go with the story because that’s what you do.

Somewhere there are people getting the worst news of their life and it’s your job to provide dignity to their loved ones who’ve provided this sport with so much through the years. As much as we hate it, we take that part of the job seriously.

While there have been many of those moments through the years, there have been so many amazing happenings. And when you look at the scales, the good always outweighs the bad. SPEED SPORT has given me so much. It has brought so many amazing people into my life and taught me so much about the world.

It isn’t just a magazine to me — it is my family.