Stock-car racing a unique fraternity
Saturday, April 05, 2014 12:00 AM
When I spent a day at Anderson Motor Speedway in July with the Daniel Alvarez Racing team, it was a unique look into the camaraderie that permeates the garage of a short track.
Daniel Alvarez's damaged No. 33 car is brought back to the garage at Anderson Motor Speedway after a March 14 crash.
On the track, every driver wants to win, and will let nothing stand in his or her way.
In the garage, they're part of a family. Brothers (and sisters) in speed and the desire to push the limits.
Stock-car racing is a unique fraternity, especially at the local short-track level. On any given weekend at any given short track in America, you'll find drivers of varying age and varying skill levels, racing varying levels of equipment with varying goals.
Drivers and crew members routinely help out fellow competitors, an occurrence that would make stick-and-ball athletes scratch their heads.
Helping another crew get their car running better would be like an offensive lineman helping an opposing offensive lineman better block during a game, or a basketball player teaching an opponent how to shoot better during a contest.
It may seem odd, but these drivers know what it means to them to experience the thrill of competition on the track, and they try to help the others around them experience that as well.
The fact Alvarez and his team competed at AMS last night is a fine tribute to that.
When Alvarez showed up to AMS on March 14, it was the dawning of an exciting new NASCAR Whelen All-American Series late model stock season.
But as much as opposing drivers can help get you close to success, they can also take it away.
That's what happened to Alvarez early in the LMS feature that night, when he was pinched into the Turn 2 wall by fellow driver Joe Wilder. Alvarez's right front tire climbed the wall, and his No. 33 Ford Fusion flipped onto its roof, skidding along the backstretch and doing remarkable damage to a large percentage of their car.
The team initially feared its season was over, nearly as quickly as it began. For a team with limited funding like Daniel Alvarez Racing, the repercussions of such an accident are usually catastrophic.
The total damage done in this case, according to Alvarez's estimates? Between $5,500 and $6,000.
But, in the strange way racers do, when Alvarez needed help to get his car back on the track, those that rushed to his aid were the ones he competes with.
"People rallied around us and offered tons of help," Alvarez told me this week. "People gave us parts and just tons of good stuff. I got calls from people I didn't even know, calling us and asking us if we were all right and saying they hated what happened to us.
"That was really, really cool. That was probably the positive that came from the experience was seeing how much everybody really cared about us."
That support from the racing community, coupled with the dedication of Alvarez's ragtag group of friends and family, helped Alvarez compete in last night's twin 40-lap LMS events in a car that, less than a month ago, they thought might not even see the track again this year.
Alvarez's plight could have meant the end — or, at least, the substantial delay — of his NASCAR dream.
Not in racing. Because, in the garage, the spirit of racing means helping a brother out.
They're a family. It's what they do.
Anders is a sports writer at the Index-Journal. Contact him at 943-2530, email email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @IJJORDANANDERS. Views expressed in this column are those of the writer only and do not represent the newspaper's opinion.