(Kendra is the daughter of All-Star Champ, Kenny Jacobs.
She is a college student in Ohio, and is also handling public relations
for the Pennzoil World of Outlaws Support Series.)
Kendra's News and Views
Last summer my memory failed
me. I remember the night quite clearly though. I was sitting in the TNN
suite above the sold-out grandstands of Knoxville Raceway. Brad Doty and
Ralph Shaheen were already seated-eagerly anticipating the night ahead of
them. The sun was starting to lower just enough to cause a glare in the
room. I was standing to my left of the room with a TNN crewman. We were
talking about the races (of course) when he asked me an unexpected question:
"What's the first race you can remember?" No one had ever asked me this
question before. Expecting a quick answer, he appeared to be shocked when
I couldn't give him one. I tried to recall races I watched from my mother's
lap. Nothing. I remember watching races at Eldora when I was little, but
I know nothing of the actual events. I recall a rusted out tube that my
sister and I used to imagine was a submarine…but of course I don't even
remember what track that was at. Knowing that nothing I could say would
impress him by this point. I succeeded in stunning him and myself when I
answered: "The 1994 Historical Big One." The vague details include: Dad
had to run the B Main…I don't even remember where he finished. Betty Hamilton
found a four leaf clover it the pits that night and gave it to my father.
He started on the pole of the feature. He took the lead but was quickly
passed by Dave Blaney. Somewhere in the middle of the action, Dad regained
the lead, thus causing my heart to stop. Kendra Smith held one of my hands.
Lance Blevins held the other. The last 20 laps were the longest ones I have
ever witnessed. When the checkered fell, I swear I was already standing
on the front stretch. And I ended the night standing with the stars. That
night was the single most amazing night of my life. This confessed answer,
however, troubled me for weeks (and now months) after. How could I passionately
love a sport and hold not a single strong memory of it. Sure, the Big One
counts for something. But, there should be so much more. While searching
through my jumbled and inexplicable memory, I realized that I could clearly
relive myriad moments in my racing history-just not the expected ones. I
remember Doug Wolfgang coming to our motorhome at night during the Knoxville
Nationals. As I lay tucked in bed, I would watch my sister leave with Doug
and his daughters for the nightly Nationals' dances. Every night I remember
wishing that I could go with them. I do not remember ever watching Doug
Wolfgang race a sprint car. I remember nothing of Brad Doty's accident at
Eldora. I was there. I saw it. I have no memory of it. Instead, I recall
sitting in the hospital parking lot talking to his daughter Brandy. She
told me her favorite color was yellow. The 1991 Knoxville Nationals hold
a special meaning for my family. One of the biggest nights in my father's
career. I gaze into the pictures and clearly see the excitement in his eyes.
The "Calvin" emblazoned T-shirt boldly screaming: "Not Kinser. Anyone but
Kinser! Not Kinser again!" Dad was so proud of that shirt. Today, it still
hangs on his trophy. All I remember that night was crying. Tears of both
success and the magnitude of failure that second place possesses. I attended
the 1998 Kings Royal. I watched the entire race perched on a circuit box
connected to an electric pole. I have no clue who the winner of that race
was. Sure, I could easily look it up. But, I would rather have the memory
of Brad Doty triumphantly beating the track that could never beat him. In
the earliest years of my racing memory, I recall sleeping in a purple bedroom.
Fearing the mangled vehicles in Ed Reno's salvage yard. Singing to Wham
hits in our van. Honestly believing that the number 4 was picked because
that's how old I was. Following my sister to Jeff Gordon's trailer at the
end of the night. I do not remember a single race. When my father became
a weekly Pennsylvania driver, I remember adoring the farm down the road
from Bob Weikert's shop. We stayed in a farmhouse that Mr. Weikert owned
not far from Gettysburg. We ate breakfast at a small restaurant that featured
stuffed squirrels performing surgery on another stuffed squirrel underneath
their cash register. The fans hated my father-and loved to make that point
clear. One night we were playing with sparklers in the infield. The announcer,
over the PA system, asked if those individuals playing with fireworks would
please step away from the LARGE propane tank! Again, I remember not a single
race. I did not see my Dad's wreck at Eldora in Weikert's car. I just remember
hearing that he was extremely injured…possibly dead. He was fine of course.
Except for a slight concussion. He told us that he thought the hospital
would make a great roller skating rink. These memories are not able to answer
the question I was asked. To many race fans, these memories don't mean anything.
They want hard core results. They want to know who passed whom when. What
tires that driver was running. Who caused which accident. Who won points.
Who won the most money. Who was the greatest sprint car driver in 1982.
This question made me realize that the answer isn't important. It doesn't
matter what details I remember from a race in 1983. It doesn't matter if
I can't recall who ran third at the 1994 Historical Big One. The facts are
not important. Life is. I don't recall the statistics that define a racing
fanatic. The statistics aren't what I love about the sport. I will never
look back on these years and with great joy remember who passed whom on
the last lap of the 1997 Knoxville Nationals. But, I will never forget the
way it feels to see an old friend. Or the smell of burning rubber in the
middle of the night. The escape of pent-up tears as September arrives. The
overwhelming pride I feel when I look at my father. Racing isn't statistics.
Racing is my life. Ask me what my first racing memories are. I'd tell you:
falling asleep on my mother's lap in the stands. Rolling down the grass
hill at Wayne County Speedway. Cherishing the clown at Sharon Speedway.
Running to the front stretch to have my Dad hold me in Victory Lane. In
my opinion, statistics will never surpass these memories.
The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched.
They must be felt with the heart. Helen Keller