Monday, May 16, 2011

Racing Lessons: #1 -- Trust

Screaming into turn 3 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway at 180 mph gave me a new understanding of the word trust. Just a few seconds, literally, earlier, we had rocketed out of the pits, down the pit road, up onto the track, and were hurtling toward turn 3. I was snugged into the back seat of a two-seater Indy car, strapped in behind a driver who I had never before met and had not spoken to. He was already in the car when I got there, suited up, strapped down, helmeted, radiophones in his ears, and ready to go. After I climbed in, he fired the engine and we sat there with him blipping the throttle.

Then the pit crew attendant tapped him on the head, stepped back, and he hit the accelerator. The back tires smoked (at least that's what I heard from those on site), squealed, and I was slammed back into the seat as we went from 0 to 60 in a little over two seconds. He ran up through the gears along pit road, gaining speed with each second. But the time we shot off pit road and up to the outside wall down the back straightaway, I realized that my vision was dimming. I'd be holding my breath ever since he'd taken off!

I took a deep breath, reminded myself that was riding with a professional race car driver who planned on living as long as I did, started to relax a bit when he pulled a left turn and we sped, without him lifting off the accelerator, into turn 3. I forgot to breathe again.

It was then I thought that I could do one of two things. I could either fret myself into a heart attack and die in the back of the car -- thereby earning myself spot on the evening news and infamy at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway -- or I could trust that the guy in front of me was really skilled, the car was really good, and this was going to be among the most exciting minutes in my life.

I decided, against my lifetime of distrust of those who hold my life in their hands at various times (other drivers, pilots, dentists), as we flew across the yard of bricks, to trust. To relax. I even remembered how my friend Buck, a Quaker pastor, says that he thinks learning to trust is the great lesson of the Christian life. So I prayed (quickly), "Buck, I hope you're right," took a breath and relaxed my tense muscles and watch the track surface, walls, trees, golf course, and viewing stands come and go in less than the blink of an eye. Zip through turn two. Zoom into turn 3 and up to the top of the short chute, then jetting down into turn four, up and out. As we hit the main straight, the driver lifted off the accelerator and we turned onto pit lane.

Thirty seconds later, I was up and out of the car, and walking a little shakily toward the safety behind pit wall where people I loved where there to greet me. And I hummed, to myself, a bit of an old gospel hymn that I'd grown up with:
"’Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus..."

And Indy car drivers, too...

-- Brent

1 comment:

LindaVB said...

I love this, Brent! I feel like I'm right there with you in the car--not breathing, tensing my muscles, and then relaxing with trust. It's a great piece. I look forward to the Fairfield Retreat in October!