By Father Guillermo Trevino
A few months ago, I saw a Facebook post by my favorite NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon saying he wanted people to race him at a go-kart race in Knoxville. All I had to do was raise $400 for the Jeff Gordon Children’s Foundation Kick It To Kids Cancer charity. I called race organizer Brian Myers to make sure this wasn’t a joke. He told me that people of all types, from drivers with experience to those with no experience (like me), could race. The goal was to have fun for a good cause. Three other drivers — Tony Stewart, Kasey Kahne and Kyle Larson — were also racing. I told myself I had to raise the money and was blessed that friends and family helped me reach the goal.
Then I contacted the new administrator at St. Anthony Parish in Knoxville — a great friend of mine, Father Kevin Anstey — and asked him to go to the race. He said he would be there. The day before the race, the lineups were set and I was in awe. I was in the first race of the day, starting in the eighth position; starting ninth was four time champion Jeff Gordon and 10th was three time champion Tony Stewart.
Race day was Aug. 11 at the Sideways Go Kart Track in Knoxville. I saw a lot of cars when I arrived, two hours before the race. A friend from Jesus Christ, Prince of Peace Parish in Clinton, Chris Russen, offered to be my photographer. My nephew, Daniel Vargas, came to the race as well. At 1 p.m. the drivers were called in for a drivers’ meeting. We got into our go-karts and I drove the No. 20 Two Rivers Insurance car. Since I was starting in the back, Gordon, Stewart and I were taking the early practice laps.
When the race started, I spun out, bringing out the first caution. It is a lot harder than it looks! The race had to be restarted and I asked Gordon, “Any advice?” He said, “Down low, you have to take it easy but that’s where you can pass, up high you can stay on the gas.” I stayed high for the rest of the race and was told by a lot of fans, “good job.” Without a doubt I was happy. I was racing my favorite driver ever, Jeff Gordon, and another champion, Tony Stewart. They passed me twice in the race and I finished 10th out of 10, but I had a lot of fun. As the drivers walked out of the cars, I saw the Diocese of Davenport’s Accounting Coordinator Nancy Karn who took a break to come and see the race. It meant a lot to see her there as well.
I met all four professional drivers and stayed for the end of the finals, which Gordon won. A lot of fans had an up-close and unforgettable experience, including me. Now it was time to go to St. Anthony’s for their spaghetti supper for the Knoxville Nationals races going on that weekend.
The Knoxville Nationals is the biggest sprint car race in the world. It is so big that, in my opinion, NASCAR always takes the week off so the drivers can go see it.
Fr. Anstey reminded me, “You have to come back next year and make this a tradition.” I may have to take him up on this offer and stay for the Nationals race next time.
(Fr. Guillermo Trevino is in solidum at St. Alphonsus and St. Mary parishes in Davenport and St. Peter Parish in Buffalo.)