As a parent, it is hard not to want to do things with your kids that they enjoy. When Little Man informed me that he wanted to go see real race cars, who was I to argue. Last year, I took both kids to Mid Ohio for the Emco Gears Classic, a Grand AM Rolex series race where multiple classes compete against each other. As with any race weekend, there are multiple support races to go along with the main event. Last year, we only got to see one of those support series, the Continental Tire Challenge. It was the middle of June and it was hot. While Little Man was in his glory, Kid Kid was not so excited to be there. She really wanted to go but as the day went on and the sun got hotter, her enthusiasm left the building. As any good parent would do, I brought them home and called it a day, but not before Little Man made me promise to take him back next year to stay for the entire day and see both series that make up the day. Lucky for me, this race is held less than an hour from my house.
The year had come and gone and it was time for the race weekend to kick off again. This year was a little more exciting for me than last since Mazda was planning to draw in as many owners as possible for the Owners Corral. As a proud and vocal owner, who was I to argue. This particular race weekend is a steal if you have young kids. For $30, I was able to get a weekend, all access pass with infield parking and get Little Man in for free. We also took my Father-in-Law with us for his birthday. A great guy and an avid race fan who has been coming to Mid Ohio since he was a small boy. Mid Ohio is a wonderful track where the entire midfield is open to the spectators to walk around and watch the action from just about anywhere on the track. We would spend most of our time in the aptly named Thunder Valley. Unlike last year, this event kicked off earlier in the day so we needed to get out of the house bright and early if we wanted to do the pit walk and meet the drivers. There was no need to drag Little Man out of bed on this day, he was up and ready to go. After a quick breakfast, I got the car loaded, we were ready and Little Man could not get in the car fast enough.
After what seemed like a thousand ‘Are we there yet’ like questions, we finally made it to the track. Morning practice was going on and Little Man was straining to see the cars in action as we made our way to the Mazda Owners Corral. After parking, we headed up the hospitality tent to get him a shirt and some goodies. The night before he wanted to set out his clothes so he could get dressed quicker in the morning. Last fall, I went to New York for work and got him an M&M t-shirt with several stock cars on it with various M&M characters. He was all set to wear that for the day until he got the ‘cool’ shirt that everyone else was wearing. He got to be like everyone else in the corral and was quite excited by it. The shirt was just simply green, short sleeve, and had Freedom Autosport across the front. They were a sponsor of the Corral and fielded two cars in the Continental Tire Challenge. After he let me take a few pictures of the cars and talk to a few owners, we were ready to get to Pit Lane and walk around the cars. Little Man was the proverbial ‘kid in a candy store’. So was my Father-in-law once he found out there were several Mini Coopers in the field. As we made our way though, we would walk by and wave to Boris Said, and stop to look at just about every car on the grid. We would even stop by the Riley Racing entry and talk to the Riley brothers, AJ and Jameson, for a few before we were ushered out of the pits, so the race could get going. Little Man knew exactly where he wanted to go, an area know as Madness, turn 8.
Once settled in, the action on the track began. This may be one of the few times in his short life, the Little Man was speechless. Well, at least for a brief time he was. Eventually the questions would start to flow and I would have to constantly remind him that Daddy could hear him when the cars were going full speed and his head was point in the opposite direction. I was not ready to argue with a five year old enthralled with the action on the track. We hung around Madness for the first few laps, then wandered up to turn 1 and the pit lane exit. Eventually we made it over to Thunder Valley where his eyes lit up like a Christmas tree. This particular area is down in a small valley like area and allows spectators to get real close to the action. One has no idea how loud a group of Rolex series RX8s can be until you stand a few feet from them as they fly by on track. At one point he would take his ear muffs off to see what the cars really sounded like and was in awe at how loud they were. That lasted just a few seconds. During the Continental Race, we got to see a Civic Si get spun right in front of us. Debris would go flying but don’t worry, there are several safety barriers and fences there to protect those not on the track.
While I could write for hours about the action on track, I was more engulfed by my son’s desire to be there. He was very excited to learn that he would be able to see both races, the Continental and the Rolex. One of the hardest task in the life of a parent is to get a kid his age to sit still for more than five minutes. He sat still for large chunks of time and just watched. Sometimes he sat next to me, other times he would go off just a little bit but still in sight. Watching your children fall in love with things that you love is something special. I tried to figure out what was going through his mind during the race. I would ask but he left me with few clues. I could only try to watch the pretend I was five and go from there. I can only hope that this will remain an annual event for us. Maybe even have Kid Kid come back with us, but I have my doubts.