Why I still let my husband race

Illustration for article titled Why I still let my husband race

The not always lovingly received, but always lovely to be around Booth Babe behind Do You Come With The Car takes a moment to touchingly express her reaction — as the wife of a pro race car driver — to Dan Wheldon's death. And more importantly, to explain why she lets her husband continue to race. — Ed.

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This isn't a funny blog post, or a snarky one, or one about auto shows at all. This is a blog post I composed in my head Sunday night, clinging to my husband, grateful he was there with me. Alive.

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That's right, husband. There may be some more somewhat identifying information in this post, too, but today I don't care, and anyway, we're close enough that I trust we can keep this between us, right?

I grew up with a father who had a pretty dangerous job. This is the kind of job where you know that something bad could happen, but you just sort of choose to put that nasty little fact out of your head so you can actually function every day. You know, sort of like being a race car driver.

When he was doing this job there was no YouTube. The media didn't play video of action movie-esque deaths over and over and over again. It was pre-9/11 and disaster porn was at a much more tolerable level, if there's any such thing as a tolerable level of disaster porn.

Without having this stuff in our face all the time, it was a lot easier to ignore the fact that every time my dad went to work he might never come home again. I didn't think this affected me too much until I looked back and realized that I never dated a cop, a firefighter or any active member of the Armed Forces in all my years of dating, and everyone knows the young ones tend to be super hot with bangin' bods, so that's particularly shocking, all things considered.

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And then one night this race car driver walked into a bar and it was all over. Bam. If there's such thing as love at first sight there it was. We went on our first date the next day and he was it for me from there on out. Seven years later, three married, my heart is completely entwined with his. I don't know where my heart stops and his begins, but I do know that if his heart stops mine will too.

So here I am, living that life again where you do your best to ignore the very real danger the man who's your everything chooses to face to pay the mortgage. But now it's a little different, because horrifying deaths play out on live TV and get replayed over and over and over and analyzed ad nauseum, and when you see it over and over it gets a lot harder to pretend it won't happen to you.

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He and I watched the horrific crash that killed Dan Wheldon as it happened. He knew immediately that someone had to be gone even before the dust had settled. When he saw that helicopter running but no one loaded in for another half hour, that confirmed it for him. He didn't need to wait for the announcement to know. I was the one holding out hope. Maybe this means this, maybe, maybe, maybe. We had friends at the track giving us updates, but they didn't know any more than what the media was releasing.

When I saw Danica crying after talking to her husband the doctor, I finally knew. And I curled up around my own husband and cried.

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Last night I lay in bed wrapped around him, feeling his breath on my face, memorizing the feel and slope of his shoulders, my heart breaking that Susie Wheldon will never again experience those things with her husband. I waited until I could tell by his breathing pattern that he was asleep before I let the tears come, thinking of how many long nights stretch ahead for Susie when she will desperately try to remember what it felt like to have Dan's arms around her.

And then I woke up this morning and went with him to pick up his new race suit, and pushed that fear down again so this pro driver husband of mine can live his dream and be happy. Because that's what we do. Because if he wasn't happy, I wouldn't be, either.

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The Booth Babe is the anonymous auto show model behind "Do You Come With The Car," a blog about what really goes on behind the scenes at auto shows, models interactions with visitors and what you need to know about how to behave in public. Hint: Don't touch her.

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DISCUSSION

armchair-racer-old
Armchair Racer

It is a moving piece. However, Dan was a father.

I lost my father when I was 10. The pain is excruciating. It doesn't go away. Time does not heal all wounds. I know what it's like to not have a father and then grow up with a shitty abusive step-father and still have hostility about it 15 years after moving out. All I ever wanted is to have a family that resembles an actual family. I have a great family now with a great wife and 2 wonderful kids. I also realize that I am not the only soul in that has gone through this and would love to hear from others who lost their fathers (or mother) at an early age.

I like seeing your perspective as a wife.... but I would be interested to hear in a few years how Dan's kids feel about it.

It's one thing to do what you do because you don't know how to pay the bills any other way. It's a whole different thing to do what you do because it makes YOU happy. I have a great job but it requires me to sit at a desk all day. I hate sitting at a desk all day and always have but I do it so I can be there for my kids. Sometimes you have to man up and realize that your time to take a high risks has passed. I feel a responsibility to my kids to not let myself race anymore. Truth of the matter is what makes ME happy right now are my kids. Now when they are 20 something assholes, I might consider getting back in that seat.

People prioritize differently I guess. And I am aware that I could die every day in my car on the commute. I am reminded by the guy doing 90 and texting as he zips by me veering from lane to shoulder. The highway is fucking crazy. However, I have always seen it as something of a selfish risk to put your kids in that situation intentionally. You as a wife can if you choose but a child should not have to bury fear every time their dad goes to the races. It's like Clank-o-tron said in an earlier comment, I am not afraid to die but I feel like it's my responsibility to make the right choices so that my kids don't cry because I was doing something that I didn't need to do.

Anyone understand where I am coming from here?