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I thought being a dad would be about passing wisdom onto my 5-year-old son, Brexton, getting ready to hand him the keys to a good life.
Instead, he’s taught me a lot about how to tune the passion that drives me.
I’m a stock car racer, from a family full of racers. I’m most comfortable in my No. 18 Toyota Camry cruising at 200 miles per hour.
But the cliché you hear about fatherhood is true: Nothing is faster than how fast your kids seem to grow up. Take it from a guy who understands speed.
I know what it’s like to want to grow up fast. I started driving go-karts at six, my dad pressing the accelerator because my feet couldn’t reach the pedals.
I graduated a year early from Durango High School in Las Vegas after winning two Legend Car championships at The Bullring. All my love to the Durango Trailblazers, but I couldn’t get out of there soon enough.
I wanted to be my own trailblazer, and for me that meant breaking barriers and pursuing my own dreams. I could already see my path to the top level in my career mapped out in my head, and there was no way I was gonna wait around for my future to find me. I went after it and grabbed it myself.
Now two decades later, and I’m sitting on top of 213 victories in all three NASCAR national series … and more than my fair share of disappointments.
I spent most of 2020 in a losing streak that threatened to break a 15-year record of at least one win a year. I finally got the win, but it was too late to still fight for a championship that year. Nothing to do but dust myself off and get ready for another race, another year and another chance.
And what’s that coming up on my left side, going faster than anything I’ve ever seen before? It’s my son growing up.
Brexton is only five and he’s already racing go-karts on dirt tracks, and already winning. He’s already started racing well before I did at his age and I can’t imagine that this will be the last time he passes me.
He started racing for the same reason I did: because it’s fun. But there are going to be pitfalls and expectations that he’ll have to deal with that I never did. He beat me out of the gate—I don’t want him to use up all his fuel and beat me to burning out, too.
We got into this because it’s fun, so I try to show him that even a serious adult like me needs to remember how to have fun. It’s easy to think of racing as this super-serious pursuit, but it’s harder when we’re throwing banana peels at each other’s racers.
Lately I’ve been turning our whole living room into a race course with Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit on Nintendo Switch, and then we’ll race our Mario and Luigi karts side by side.
It’s all about taking something familiar—our house, racing, competition—and looking at it through a new lens. Plus, when he beats me, it’s good practice for how I’ll need to deal when he’ll start beating me in real life.
As long as he’s having fun, I’ll learn to deal with watching him zoom past me. I try to remember that whatever he decides to do in this life, that it’s my job to give him the encouragement and runway he needs.
My job is to remind him to never let go of the wheel, never ease his foot off the pedal.
Brexton, as long as you’re having fun, I want you to just floor it!
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