Editorial: Racing Perspectives From The Flip Side Of 40

Throughout my life, I’ve enjoyed a lot of milestones. Many of which I eagerly anticipated. Notable happenings, like graduating high school, graduating from college, buying my first house, getting married, and starting my business dot the landscape. Recently, I reached another milestone. This one, however, wasn’t near as eagerly anticipated.

On December 19, 2019, I officially turned 40 years old. “How could this be” was the first thing I thought to myself when I woke up that morning. It seemed like yesterday when I was so excited to be 18. Back then, I wanted time to speed up so I could be old enough to be an adult officially.

The one constant in my 40 years on this planet is my love for racing.

However, these days, I just want time to slow down to delay me officially becoming a senior citizen.

Throughout my first 40 years on this spinning rock, I’ve learned a lot of great lessons, while also making my fair share of mistakes. Ever since I was a small child, the racing world has been my sanctuary. These days it’s not only my hobby of choice, but it’s also my profession.

Along the way, I’ve come to a lot of conclusions about racing and its surrounding community. With this milestone achieved, I decided it was time to share some of my most-valued perspectives.

Getting to cover racing for a living has been a dream come true.

Before we jump into the meat of this proverbially sandwich, I do want to make a disclaimer. These are my true thoughts and summations. Each perspective comes via a great deal of life experiences. While you might not agree with all I have to say, I do hope that you’ll at least consider my views.

And away we go.

Loyalty

I lead with the topic of loyalty because I honestly believe it’s the most important. The sad reality is that, not just in racing but in life as a whole, loyalty is hard to find. People might declare their limitless devotion to you. However, when push comes to shove, most folks will not keep your best interest in mind. Rather, they’ll head down the path that best suits them.

As a result, I can’t stress enough the value of loyal acquaintances. These are the ones who stick by your side through thick and thin. They always have your back. Hold these folks in the highest regard. Furthermore, make sure always to go above and beyond to support them in their times of need.

Loyalty is one of the most valuable gifts anybody can share with you.

As I get older, I’ve come to realize I’ve got fewer and fewer close friends. It’s just part of aging, I guess. However, the friends I do have are truly amazing. They are there to join me in my proudest of moments, while also being there to help pick me up off the ground in my times of most significant failure.

The bottom line is loyalty in friends is an invaluable gift. Don’t take it for granted.

My wife has been a catalyst for many of my biggest successes.

Only As Good As Your Supporting Cast

When I first got my feet wet in the business side of racing, one of the first people I met was a shrewd Alabama businessman named Tim O’Brien. Not only was he successful in his daily job in technological system sales, but he was also tried and proven in race promotions. He assisted at tracks including Mississippi’s Columbus Speedway, and Alabama’s Talladega Short Track.

O’Brien brought me on as part of the staff at Columbus Speedway in 2001. One of the first pieces of advice he shared with me seemed trivial at the time, but nowadays, it’s a way of life to me.

I’m fortunate to get to work with some of the most talented people in my industry.

He said, “Always remember that you’re only as good as the people who you surround yourself with.”

At the time, I soaked it in. But, I know for a fact, I didn’t fully absorb the totality of what it meant. However, I now see it every day in every aspect of my life.

At home, I have an amazing wife who supports every endeavor I pursue. Even when she doesn’t always agree with my ideas, she hears them out and then shares her position on why I should or shouldn’t move forward. Her support and voice of reason have been a huge catalyst in what I’ve been able to accomplish to date.

I’m thankful to have Jeremy Peters (left) and Jeremy Shields (right) working alongside me at my company.

Further, into my professional life, I own a motorsports website and marketing company. I’m always coming up with brand new ideas but without my two amazing co-workers, Jeremy Peters and Jeremy Shields, few of these ideas would ever come to fruition. These guys bust their butts to make sure our clients are always getting the service they deserve.

The list of supporting characters for me goes on and on, and I’m guessing your life isn’t much different. I’m confident that as you are reading this, you are thinking of the people who support you and provide selfless devotion to help you be successful in your daily life.

Great friends, like my workout buddies in this photo, make life so much more enjoyable.

Mr. O’Brien, that advice you gave me almost 20 years ago is so very true. Thank you for sharing your knowledge. I can only hope it benefits others, even half as much as it has me.

There’s Always Going To Be Haters

Again, this next topic applies to racing just as much as it applies to every aspect of life. I don’t care who you are or what you do; there’s always going to be someone who doesn’t approve. Throughout history, it’s played out time and again.

So, you have two options. The first option is to let their unfavorable opinion of you get in your head and control your everyday life. Conversely, you could go with option two, where you disregard them and make a total effort to do your absolute best each-and-every day in your endeavors.

Try only to concern yourself with the opinions that matter.

Admittedly, for the longest, I erred toward option one. However, over the past few years, I’ve begun to embrace the latter option. It’s hard to ignore the village idiots who want to bring you down. I fully understand that internal battle. However, if you can keep their voice out of your head and just focus on being you, then I’ve come to learn the rest will fall into place.

The Conspiracy Theory Syndrome

There was a time when the ever-present conspiracy theories in racing drove me insane. In my mind, I could reason with fans, racers, crews, sponsors, etc. I truly believed I could make them realize, in any situation, there was no actual conspiracy behind a ruling for or against a driver.

Now, with the first 40 years of my existence in the rearview mirror, I’ve settled into a peace of mind, knowing the conspiracy theory syndrome will far outlive me. I’ll go as far as to confidently say, it will be around forever.

Always remember that you’re only as good as the people who you surround yourself with. – Tim O’Brien

Contrary to popular belief, there’s no agendas or hidden motives in 99-percent of rulings and decisions that are made. I don’t say 100-percent because I will agree I’ve seen some gray area decisions before. However, the vast majority are not motivated by anything other than the rules or the facts.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen the defendant and his associates try to flip the script on a disqualification or judgment. The cries of “it’s because I’m not the track favorite,” or “I’m an outsider, so I don’t get equal treatment,” are total crap more times than not.

Conspiracy theories have and will likely always exist in racing.

We live in a world where few people want to be accountable for their errors. The irony is every single one of us makes mistakes. The solution is just to be responsible and own your mistake, rather than looking to shift the blame.

You’ll Never Be Great Without Taking A Chance

Not only is it a lyric from Shinedown’s 2008 song, “Diamond Eyes,” but it’s also another daily rule of life for me. I used to live in fear of venturing outside the norm. I never wanted to step out of line and risk upsetting the balance. However, about 15 years ago, I began noticing how other people reached their dreams by taking chances.

Musicians, artists, racers, entrepreneurs, and more took the chances nobody else was brave enough to take in an effort to achieve their goals. Some were successful, and some failed miserably, but they all tried.

So, over a decade ago, I took a leap of faith in pursuing a full-time gig in the racing world. The road has been full of both successes and pitfalls. Some of my ideas just didn’t pan out, but at least I can say I tried. Without trying, you never honestly know what you are capable of achieving.

Not everyone takes the same risks because not everyone has the same goals. Don’t be afraid to take a chance at greatness. In my opinion, it’s far worse never to know your capabilities because you never tried than it is to fail at succeeding. From my experience, I’ve found nothing more fulfilling than finding a way to make your dreams come true.

People Are Inherently Good

I opened this article by first discussing loyalty because I genuinely believe it’s one of the greatest gifts anyone can share. Similarly, I want to end this piece by talking about my 40-year observation of society’s true nature. While we may have times when we all disagree and fail to get along, my experiences have shown me that people are inherently good as a whole.

We see it all the time in the racing world when one of our fellow brethren falls on hard times. At that moment, we all put our differences aside and come together for the common good. In fact, it never ceases to amaze me when I see just how caring and generous folks can be.

The racing family is truly something special.

If you watch the news or keep track of mainstream media, in general, it seems like 95 percent of what they cover is just the bad the world has to offer. It’s easy to fall into the trap of believing the whole world is corrupt. However, right or wrong, I’ve seen the good too many times to think that almost everyone and everything is bad. I just don’t believe it. Instead, I rest on the assurance that, when it truly matters, most everyone is good at heart.

You’ll never be great without taking a chance  – Shinedown

Hopefully, I’ve got at least another 40 years in this world to learn more lessons and take more chances. There’s no way of knowing for sure, though. As a result, until I take that final checkered flag, I’m focused on living my daily life to its fullest.

Even though the past has been a fantastic ride, I like to think the best is still yet to come.

Good decisions, bad decisions, successes, failures, and all points in between…. I’ll continue living full throttle until my engine blows.

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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