Thrill of a Lifetime

Forty-four years ago, thereabouts, we were at the Pikes Peak International Speedway in Fountain, Colorado, to watch Jim race. Before races we sometimes got to play in the pits while he and the other drivers and mechanics worked, talked shop, and ran heats, revving their engines.

Jim drove stock car number ’76, painted in red, white, and blue. It was thrilling to hear the crowd’s roar, loud as the engines, see the brightly painted death machines, and smell the sticky popcorn and hamburgers.

On this night, my little sister’s name was pulled out of a helmet and we heard “Lynn Hennessee” announced dramatically over the speakers. She had won a ride in a race car around the track with the driver of her choice!

I was so jealous! She was only six and I should have been the one to win! Jim was surprised and happy when Lynn said she wanted to ride with him. They both were beaming wide as the track in the photo Mom received; I need to see if I have it, hidden in a forgotten album somewhere.

So, there Lynn went to sit in Jim’s lap for pictures, the center of attention, and then they went racing at ninety miles an hour round and round the track to cheers and shouts. (He may have gone faster but I doubt it.) Nevertheless, it was a ride a little girl could never forget and I was happy for her, but jealous, too.

Today, visiting the Pikes Peak Speedway again after forty-plus years, I remember the thrill Lynn got to enjoy, and the attention and her brief moment of happiness, and I wish I could see her beautiful smile again, as she was lifted up and out of that car and set down once more upon the still, ordinary ground.

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