If there’s one thing I’ve learned from years of racing, it’s that being successful in this sport is one of the hardest things you’ll ever do.
I was reminded of this a few weeks ago while working in the shop with my father and brother. It was late, and it was cold. The three of us—Daddy, Joseph, and me—were pulling another long night getting our cars ready for the 2019 season.
In the middle of adjusting the carburetor on my race car, Daddy paused to stretch his back and work out a cramp in his arm. Before getting back to work, he turned to us and said, “Boys, racing is the hardest sport in the world.” Then he slid under the fender of the car and continued working on the carburetor.
My point here isn’t to convince anyone that racing is indeed the hardest sport there is, but there’s certainly some truth to the argument that it is one of the most demanding.
If you want to be competitive in any level of racing, you’ve got to work really hard. To find success in this sport, you better be willing to work hours on end, and you better be prepared to spend every dime you can possibly spare. The reality of racing is you’ll spend all your free time and every bit of your extra money, and for all that, you will lose far more often than you win.
But if you’re a racer, I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know. You don’t have to be around the sport very long at all to figure out just how demanding racing is. The folks who aren’t prepared to meet those demands don’t make it long, but many of us who stick around—those of us who spend our lives searching for racing success—are aware of one simple fact:
There are moments a racer experiences that make it worth all the blood, sweat, money, and years we dedicate to racing. There are nights when everything seems to come together and all the hard work you’ve put in pays off. In those moments, the doubt fades away and all the sacrifices you’ve made for this sport make perfect sense.
This past Saturday night our racing family had one of those moments. We had one of those nights when things went our way and we got to celebrate a big win that didn’t come easily. All wins are great in my book, but the ones that you work especially hard for are the ones that seem to be the most enjoyable.
The results will show that my brother Joseph Joiner earned $3,000 for winning Saturday night’s National Late Model Series-sanctioned Cupid Dirt Classic at our hometown track Southern Raceway. Joseph started third, fell back to fifth early, then rode in fourth for much of the race.
On lap 17 of the 30-lap event, Joseph jumped to the outside groove and made a furious charge to the front. In less than a lap and a half, he went from fourth to the lead. Then he survived several late restarts to claim one of the biggest victories of his career. It was the most excited I’ve ever been watching a race.
I don’t think I’ve ever jumped as high or yelled as loud as I did Saturday night. It was one of those nights and moments we’ll talk about for years to come.
And when we talk about it, we’ll talk about how much fun it was watching Joseph drive around the out-of-towners and into the lead. We’ll talk about how we hooted and hollered and jumped and waved as Joseph made his charge to the front. We’ll talk about the fun we had in victory lane and all the people who stopped by our pit after the race to say congratulations.
We’ll talk about the big check, the trophy, and the notoriety that comes with winning a big race, but what we may not mention is all the hard work that went into just making it to the track in the first place.
We might forget to mention how hard we worked over the off season, those cold nights we spent in the shop trying to find a way to go faster. We might forget how during the week leading up to the race, we spent hours in the shop getting both mine and Joseph’s cars ready to go racing. Then how we spent all night at the track Friday night trying different setups and adjustments hoping we could make Joseph’s car faster.
We’ll probably forget how I raced too Saturday night and how I pulled off after three laps and finished dead last, how when someone reads the full results, they’ll see Joseph Joiner at the top and Jonathan Joiner all the way at the bottom.
Years from now, when we’re sitting around the shop telling racing stories or hanging out late one night after the races, we’ll talk about last Saturday night, but instead of talking about how hard we worked and how much time and money we spent, we’ll just say it was a heck of a night, one of those you never forget.
A racer never forgets all the hard work and sacrifice he’s put into this sport either, but the thing is, you don’t remember the struggle so much as you cherish the triumph.
Several hours after the race, we were still standing around celebrating the win. We hadn’t even started loading up yet. I can’t remember who it was, but someone walked up and congratulated us:
“Nights like this make all the hard work worth it, don’t they?” the man said.
He was exactly right.
And now that I think about it, my daddy was right too: racing is the hardest sport in the world.
But moments like Saturday night make memories that will last forever, and those memories make it more than worth it.