So this is the first in a series of what I hope will be many looks into the NASCAR lifestyle. For this first edition I want to talk a little bit about the strain the lifestyle has on the family.
My father’s first job in the sport had him separated from us for months at a time. It was a difficult period around my house. I know he is sad for having missed out on some of the small things in my life. It is time in my life he knows he will never get back. For my mother it meant that she was the primary parent, the cook and the maintenance man. Luckily she was supportive of the job and we made the situation work. During that period it wasn’t as if we never saw him, but there were long stretches of time that we were without him. It was certainly a strange situation to be in, but it is definitely not something that is unique to the sport.
I know other NASCAR kids who have had similar situations and haven’t faired as well in their relationships. One in particular spent their entire life around the sport. For them it really is just a job that their father has. Nothing special, maybe out of the ordinary, but all in all its just a job. This person has always had a very disconnected relationship with their father and as a result harbors a lot of resentment. The job put a strain on their relationship because it took precedent over their family. As a result of this he missed out on his kid’s childhood and they missed a normal relationship with their father. Now obviously this is not always the case, but it is fairly common.
For most it comes down to their father or mother not being around most weekends of the year. In addition to this, most have a regular 9-5 job in the shop. Depending on what a parent does, that can have a large affect on how often they are gone. If you are a mechanic, you’re going to be at the shop working under deadlines 5-7 days per week. If you’re a transport driver, there is going to be a lot of time spent commuting between races. Crew members often have practices several days per week, plus a regular 9-5 in the shop and then there are all the weekends at the racetrack. For many of these positions during the height of the season, there are no days off. As a result that means there is not a lot of time at home.
For us after all that time where we didn’t see my father, not seeing him on the weekends really wasn’t so bad. He really enjoyed the job so the sacrifice of a few weekends really didn’t bother any of us. It really comes down to how much you want to put in the job and how much you want to put into your family. It is a decision everyone in the sport has had to make.