Delta Airlines

A delayed flight to start a racing weekend set a perspective-changing chain of event sin motion.

Too many planes scheduled to land at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson Airport results in a 20-minute delay on my departure flight from Memphis. This delay snowballs to cut my connection time in Atlanta from 40 minutes to 20 minutes.

Anybody, who’s ever flown through Atlanta knows that rarely do you connect through the same terminal as which you arrive. You depend on the underground train to get you to where you need to be. Even with the train, it can at times take a solid 20 minutes to make it from gate to gate.

So, here I’m hightailing it through the airport, so that I don’t miss my connector to Charlotte to work the World Finals for CBS Sports. As I make it to the lower level, my disdain is exponentially increased, when I realize that the train has been halted with emergency lights flashing.

Atlanta plane train

The train that connects terminals at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson Airport.

“Are you serious, how much worse can my luck get today,” I think to myself.

With no other option other than to travel on foot between terminals, I begin to run at a solid pace. As I prepare to pass the last train car, I glance over to see the reason that the train had been halted.

A group of airport staff and a few travelers are trying to help an older gentleman, who appears to be in cardiac arrest. Shouts of “Is anybody a doctor,” permeate the corridor as everybody hopes for the miraculous presence of a physician.

It was at this point that the trivial nature of my own concerns glaringly appeared. Here I am stressing over the mere inconvenience of possibly having to take a later flight, and you have this man that looked to be barely clinging to life.

With three minutes to spare I did make my connecting flight, but I was left to contemplate the selfishness and pettiness of my concerns for the next few hours.

I could only hope and pray that the gentleman was able to make it through. It was an eye-opener to say the least.

This wouldn’t be the last time that the weekend would bring me a blatant reminder of keeping perspective on what’s really important.

Later that same day I was in the pit area at the Dirt Track at Charlotte, when I struck up a conversation with Bill Wright, who works actively with the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame in Knoxville, Iowa.

He was attending the event to collect door panels for a future benefit auction. As we stood there talking in the middle of the sprawling pit area, I mentioned that Jim Rasmussen – who regularly volunteered his time to collect items for the NSCHoF – always had a knack for hitting me up for help at the most inopportune of times. I quickly joked that he was a real nice guy, but sometimes I probably wasn’t the most pleasant with him because of his impeccable, worst-case timing.

Bill looked at me for a few seconds and then said, “Oh, I guess you don’t know. Jim passed away a few weeks ago.”

I was totally rocked by the news. I had just spoken to Jim in the pit area during the Knoxville Late Model Nationals in September.

Jim Rasmussen

Jim Rasmussen was a passionate race supporter.

Details weren’t clear on what happened to him, but a member of the NSCHoF staff had randomly seen his funeral arrangements listed in a newspaper obituary.

Just like that Jim was gone.

While timing may not have been his strong suit, his passion for racing was undeniable. I thought about him the rest of that night, and again for the second time that day I found myself feeling more than guilty that I had never made more time to talk with and help Jim in his endeavors.

It was really a crappy feeling that still lingers in my gut today as I put my thoughts into words.

I was reminded that everything can truly end in the blink of an eye. Putting something off until tomorrow or until the next time, could mean that it might never have a chance to happen.

Two days later – at the same event – perspective again surfaced in front of my face.

As owner Michael Rigsby and I chatted in the middle of the pit area, a gentleman timidly approached us.

As we glanced his direction, he said, “I hate to interrupt your conversation, but I just wanted to tell you two guys that I love what you do for racing.”

World Finals Pit Area

The pit area at the World Finals.

He continued, “I’m in the military, and I’m on leave right now. Most of my past few years have been spent in Kuwait. A year or so ago we got WIFI over there, so now I can keep up with racing back home via internet coverage. While I’m overseas, what you guys do allows me to stay in the loop of what’s happening.”

Michael and I are not the kind of people, who are normally at a loss for words, but in this moment we both were left silent.

We get to see races just about every weekend for all 12 months of the year. Sometimes we get jaded by the never-ending racing season because we just want to have free weekends at home. However, here was this gentleman, who was thankful to get to go to this one race, while having to keep track of the rest of the racing season via internet coverage from halfway around the globe.

In that instant, Michael and I were both reminded to be thankful for the blessing of everyday getting to do what we love for a living.

I’m pretty sure at this point in time that we had both forgot just how lucky we truly are. However, this awesome man had restored our perspective.

Here he was thanking us, when in reality we were the ones who owed him all of the thanks.

It’s amazing how the random happenings during a single weekend’s racing event can open your eyes to so many things to which you’ve become blind. I know it’s easy to get caught up in life. It’s also easy to let your perspective become skewed.

I know in another few weeks, I’ll probably get off track again. However, for the here and now I can see much clearer than I have in some time.

The bottom line is that the most important things in life tend to be the simplest. You just have to take the time to open your eyes to see what’s already right in front of you.

About the author

Ben Shelton

Ben got his start at historic Riverside International Speedway. His accomplished motorsports media career includes journalist, race announcer, and on-air personality.
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