Legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden wrote this quote in his book Call Me Coach that I'll never forget and quote often: "Things turn out the best for those who make the best of the way things turn out."
I just came back from watching my son-in-law race in the SCCA National championships in Topeka, Kansas. SCCA stands for Sports Car Club of America. He races on an amateur basis.
There were 700 entries in all kinds of different classes. He raced in the Miata division which had 61 entries in the field and you didn't want to get caught starting back in the pack. That was a recipe for disaster.
Sunday morning, in the final practice session, it rained steadily. So with rain tires on, Bobby glided around the course, passing cars easily. It takes will power to race in pouring rain. You have to have more courage than the next guy in the turns. On a dry track most drivers are over confident. On a wet track most drivers are over cautious.
As the morning went along and actual race time approached, the rains stopped and the track began to dry. In that last half hour before the start of the race Bobby and his father, an accomplished former racer himself, stood there debating whether to put on rain tires which would give him traction on a wet track, but would slow him down if the track continued to dry. I even called the local TV station to ask their weather man to look at the radar. He told me that he would call back with the answer.
Seconds ticked on the clock. Drivers made their tire choices and lined up for the race. A decision had to be made. Bobby finally opted for the rain tires, suited up and climbed into his car. Then, just 10 minutes before the green flag, the weather man called back and told me that the rain would hold off for at least an hour. I shouted at Bobby, who shouted to his dad and the scramble was on. Over the P.A. system we could hear them introducing the drivers and getting ready to roll them unto the track.
With the last lug nut tightened down, Bobby shot off to the starting grid, but....too late. He'd missed the deadline for lining up by seconds and would have to start at the back of the field. It crushed me. He was supposed to start 19th. Not a great spot anyway, but they had fine tuned the engine and fully expected to race to the front. Now, being dead last, 61st...he didn't have a prayer. I felt terrible and partly responsible. He dad got on the radio and simply told Bobby "You might as well go for broke."
The green flag fell and off they barreled into the first turn, but like squeezing sand through an hourglass, you can't bunch cars four wide into a turn designed for 2 and about 10 rows back they paid for their over zealous nature. A huge wreck chewed up a half dozen cars. Bobby, at the back of the field eased his was through the carnage and took off. Lap after lap, he caught and passed cars....sliding and darting through holes that didn't seem to exist. By lap 4 he was in the top 30, then the top 20 and when the checkered flag fell, Bobby was 10th. 10th out of 61 cars. He had passed 51 drivers, all of whom had qualified for this national championship by finishing in the top 10 in their regions all around the country. 10th amongst the best of the best.
While the deserving winner picked up his trophy and the winners check, Bobby was congratulated by the purists, the other drivers and spectators who knew and saw what he had done. Out of 700 drivers and 2 dozen races over that weekend, to a man, they all agreed that Bobby had turned in the performance of the weekend. The most impressive individual effort of any driver in the entire event.
Had he been 19th, Bobby would have probably been caught up in that first lap crash and damaged his car. But even though he had to start at the back of the field he made the best out of what I thought was a terrible situation and earned himself a reputation as "one heck of a driver".
What thrilled me was standing in one of the turns holding my 2 year old grandson Cade in my arms so he could see over the fence, and every time Bobby came by in his car that he had painted up just like "Lightning McQueen" in the animated movie "Cars", Cade would point and holler "There's my daddy!" Someday I'll tell him just how proud I was of his daddy too.
"Things turn out the best for those who make the best of the way things turn out"
Log that in the back of your memory. I'll never forget it. I was there and saw it first hand.