Faith on the Frontstretch: On a tragic day, the racing community turns to prayer

Welcome to Faith on the Frontstretch, an exclusive Skirts and Scuffs column where Beth Bence Reinke shares insights about racing and faith.

“...and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” Hebrews 12:1b

Cars cross the finish line saluting Dan Wheldon.
Credit: Chris Jones/IndyCar media
October 16, 2011 was supposed to be a grand day for racing. One driver would win the IZOD IndyCar Series championship. One would celebrate her last appearance in an IndyCar race. Another had a chance to win five million dollars. But in the end, there were no winners at all.

The racing community is reeling from the tragic loss of Dan Wheldon after the horrific multi-car crash at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Instead of finishing the race, IndyCar drivers lined up 3-wide and did a 5-lap salute to honor Wheldon. Racing teams gathered to watch from pit road’s outside wall, some with heads bowed, many shedding tears. The No. 77 sat alone atop the scoring pylon while a bagpipe rendition of Amazing Grace played. As the flagman waved double checkered flags, my stomach clenched at the finality of it. Those five laps were a beautiful, fitting tribute, but they were over too quickly. Just like Dan Wheldon’s life.

Denny Hamlin tweeted his sentiments: “Today was a reminder to all of us what can happen every time we strap in behind the wheel. At times i think we all take things for granted. Life shouldn't be one of those things. We lost a great driver in motorsports and he will not be forgotten. Rest in peace Dan Wheldon.”

Sometimes in our busyness, we do take life for granted. But when a tragedy occurs, it makes us pause. We grieve. We hold our loved ones closer, counting our blessings, yet realizing that something heartbreaking could happen to us or to them, too. It feels like life is out of our control, so we scramble around, trying to find somewhere secure to put our hope.

But nothing on this earth is secure. Whether you drive a race car or not, life is uncertain. Dan Wheldon himself included this statement about the upcoming October 16th race in a blog post for USA Today, filed the day before his wreck: “It's going to be a pack race, and you never know how that's going to turn out.” (emphasis added)

Facing danger and uncertainty isn’t easy. How do drivers get back in the race car after losing a friend on the track? How do those IndyCar drivers deal with the thought, “That could have just as easily have been me...” How will drivers’ spouses be able to breathe while watching the next race? As a fan, how do you get excited about watching a race again, without replaying Dan Wheldon’s accident in your mind? As parents, how do we let our teenagers get into their cars and drive away? Only by the grace of God.

For many NASCAR drivers and fans, God is their hope, the one secure shelter in this race of life. When no one knew Dan Wheldon’s condition in the two hours after the wreck, IndyCar racing folks turned to God. Prayers lifted to heaven from all over pit road. Some teams formed prayer circles, others prayed silently or in pairs as they hugged. You can be sure there were fans praying in the stands and at home, too. Race car drivers are among the bravest athletes around, but by their own admission, prayer is what sustains many of them. In general, I believe prayer is the driving force behind true courage.

If uncertainty, fear or grief has a hold on you today, don’t give up hope. Turn to God. Pray . . . even if you’ve never prayed before. No matter what you are facing, God is there for you. He will supply the strength you need.

“...God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’ So we say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid.’” ~ Hebrews 13:5b-6 (NIV)

Want to read more racing devotions? If you donate $25 or more to Skirts and Scuffs in October, we’ll send you a complimentary copy of Beth’s book, Race Fans’ Devotions to Go.

Beth Bence Reinke is the author of Race Fans’ Devotions to Go, a devotional book geared toward female racing fans. Her column for Skirts and Scuffs is called “Faith on the Frontstretch” and explores the role of faith in motorsports. To read more of Beth’s posts, click on her name on the Skirts and Scuffs home page. Feel free to leave a comment on this post or reach her via twitter: @bbreinke.
Faith on the Frontstretch: On a tragic day, the racing community turns to prayer Faith on the Frontstretch: On a tragic day, the racing community turns to prayer Reviewed by Beth Reinke on Tuesday, October 18, 2011 Rating: 5