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Let me tell you a story...
The first time I went to Route 66 Raceway in Joliet (outside of Chicago), during qualifying for the premier class of our sport a hometown legend pulled to the line. The announcers predictably, and with justification, hit the "homer-button" with a sledgehammer. The crowd, already 'frenzy-adjacent', was now REALLY stoked, and when he marched downtrack with a more than respectable effort the crowd (say it in a Bob Frey voice) "went WILD!” Almost immediately, although there was no rain on that particular day, past the finish line a rainbow appeared. In Irish lore, there is gold at the end of the rainbow, while in Greco-Roman mythology, rainbows are a pathway between Heaven and Earth.
Which brings me this year’s running of the Route 66 Nationals in Joliet, because what came together on THAT particular weekend was a combination of all that, and so much more. On a sticky hot, decidedly sweltering weekend, none of that seemed to matter, for not only was it 'Heaven on Earth', but there was a rainbow, not of the visual kind, with its seven colors arching across the sky, but of the spiritual kind, spanning across two generations of a racing family. And this particular arch of beauty and spirit not only had gold at both ends, it had golden Greeks at either end.
I speak of Krista Baldwin and her grandfather, Chris 'The Golden Greek' Karamasines.
On one end of the arch, there's a young racer whose favorite sweet indulgence is strawberries with chocolate. At the other end is a man who loves a sack full of Werther’s Originals. Krista admits that the one thing she could not live without is her cellphone, which is in contrast to the decades that Chris spent traveling the nation’s highways in a station wagon hauling a bare-bones trailer searching for a truck stop that would have a PAY PHONE to call the next track! While both have spent considerable time in the county of Los Angeles, hers was traveling the hallways of St. Lucy’s Priory High School, while his was traveling the tracks of Irwindale and Pomona. But while the differences are many, the common thread across this span of racing family is the same: Both love this sport and its people, and both competitors want to WIN.
On Saturday I caught up with Krista in her pit that for my old ass was a long walk from where I started. She acknowledged that being a part of this generational racing family was (her exact word) "AWESOME!", and cannot believe the support from the fans and, of course, Chris. Their team tries to take things day by day while trying to remain focused on the fact that they have to run their own race. While she is very excited about the direction they are heading with the Anthony Dicero TAD, which enjoys sponsorship from McLeod clutch systems, she acknowledges that they must do this on their own.
As I began the long schlep back to the tower, I thought that MY Grandfather would be proud of that last sentiment. Grampa Hoffman quite often shared business advice with us kids, and I'll never forget how he'd tell me, "Johnny, there ain't no SANNY-Claus!!" It was his way of saying that nothing in life will be handed to you, and you must get up and earn it every day -- good solid values that the Krista Baldwin racing team seems to embrace as well.