The Early Lead: Taking in racing as a family

Finally found a sport he loves

By BRANDON HURLEY

Sports Editor

sports@beeherald.com

@BrandonJHurley

NEWTON –

Hands down, this was the happiest day of his life. 

Heck, the weekend as a whole could win me dad of the year in his books. 

We finally settled on a sport that my son absolutely loves – racing. It all was nearly derailed if not for those trusty ear plugs.

As I’ve covered in past columns, it’s been a challenge trying to get Caiden into sports. My personal favorites don’t even register on his meter, but last week, he found his wheelhouse, quite literally. 

Caiden and I spent the entire afternoon and evening at the Iowa Speedway in Newton, taking in the pre-race activities, venturing through the infield and garages, watching practice and qualifying before finally taking in our first ever short-track race. 

And boy, was that little seven year old tickled to death. 

As we pulled up to the track and drove through the tunnel and into the infield, I could tell the excitement was ready to spill over. Caiden forced us to take a tour of the garages three times, making sure we didn’t miss a single car. 

The pace car that was sitting a few feet away – you bet we were getting an up close look at it. 

One of the more exciting parts of the afternoon was the wild goose chase I sent us on. We were on a mission to find the media center, taking the shuttle up to the press box only to find out it was in the infield, where we started. 

But the little side trip gave us a chance to sit close to the action as practice began. I thought it would be cool – boy, was I ever wrong. As soon as those stock cars took the turn toward the finish line Caiden covered his ears in horror. 

I forgot the one necessity – ear plugs. I quickly ushered us to the nearest merchandise tent and found him those little yellow buds to protect his ears. 

It became a fun little game trying to decipher what in fact he was yelling at me during the race. 

As we ventured back down to the pits (after of course making several rounds through the interactive kids zone), his excitement started to dwindle. I thought I was losing him and we still had two hours until race time. I scrambled together some chicken strips, fries and Gatorade and that seemed to do the trick – he was bouncing off the walls ready to tour pit road again. 

As the race finally began, I saw a noticeable mood change in Caiden. His face was that of pure joy and he was bouncing around with an enthusiasm I had never seen before. 

He was a goof, delighted that he was finally taking in a live race. And to be honest, his excitement filled my heart as full as it had ever been. He was in heaven, the little dude locked his fingers inside the chain link fence and focused on the action on the track. But his energy was bubbling over just a little too much, so we had to walk up and down pit road to keep him contained. 

I couldn’t care less who won the race – though our time in Victory Lane was cool, too. I threw Caiden up on my shoulders for a good vantage point, and you would’ve thought he won the lottery. He didn’t want to come down, but if you’ve ever had a second grader on your shoulders before, you know the pain I endured. 

There were some pitfalls, yes, albeit minor – like the six dollar lemonade that Caiden hated or the loud noise and lulls in between action, but overall, it was a great experience for the both of us. 

He was on cloud nine the entire drive home as he was hyper even up to the moment his head hit the pillow. We capped the weekend off by touring a classic car museum the next day, he had so much fun there he almost forgot about the race the night before. 

This kid loves cars and racing, hopefully his passion lasts a lifetime. I may not know much about the sport, but seeing him happy makes me one proud father. Next up is dirt track racing. I don’t envision him having much trouble latching on to that either. 

Here’s to many more races in our future, at least two new fans are ready to become die hards.

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