Hold His Hand, Give Him a Kiss and Pray for His Safety.
In the world of professional racing, I'm a nobody.
If you're one of the sport’s super fans you might know my husband, Willie Mullins. But chances are you don't know him either. We are just some of the thousands of drivers and teams that have come through the gates at Daytona hoping for greatness over the years.
Our shot is in the ARCA Menards Series and we got close once. Every season we circle the date for our chance to get that win. We all do it. One hundred and fifty teams across the four national touring levels descend on the famed track in February. It's what our sport does, it's the holy grail. What sets our sport apart from others is the danger that comes along with it.
Auto racing is a dangerous sport. Restrictor plate racing adds more layers of danger. Last night we were reminded of that. As Ryan Newman's race car, after what was one of the worst hits I have ever seen, came to rest on it roof, the racing world collectively held its breath. It's a stark reminder that even though these cars and tracks are the safest they have ever been, it's still a dangerous sport.
Willie has competed in five ARCA races at Daytona and seven restrictor plate races in total during his career. None of this has gotten easier for me over time. In fact, just 10 days ago I spent the vast majority of his race at Daytona in our hauler. My nerves had hit an all-time high. Simply putting it into words now is giving me some of the anxiety I felt on race day. Some of it is just the nerves of being hyper competitive. These tracks are our best shot at good finishes. Some of it is, well, worry for my husband. Moments like last night drive that fear home.
We both sat quietly last night, in the safety of our living room, waiting to hear an update on Ryan Newman’s condition. Refreshing Twitter every 30 seconds, and looking for any shred of good news. I asked him if this was all worth it. He looked at me, with tears threatening to fall in the corner of his eyes. He said he would rather flirt with danger and really live, then go through the motions of a mundane existence.
This will never be easy for me. None of this will get easier, but this is what he loves. And I love him. So I will continue to hold his hand during the National Anthem. I will continue to kiss him before he puts his helmet on. And most importantly, I will say my prayer as I give our car a kiss and ask her and Jesus to keep him safe. That's all we can do. Support these amazing drivers as they do what they love.
As I finish writing this, we don't know the severity of Ryan Newman's injuries. All we can do is pray for him. Pray for his family. Pray for his teammates and friends. And pray for all the drivers who strap in every weekend for their shot at greatness.