My Daytona 500 Moments


Trevor Bayne

(Trevor Bayne,WOMR file photo)

For those of us who follow racing, whether you’re a hard-core addict or a casual race fan, we know that winning the Daytona 500 is a true life changing event.  If you are not totally convinced just ask young Trevor Bayne, the 2011 Daytona 500 champion, just how much his life changed following his “dark-horse, come from nowhere” upset victory!

If Bayne never has any more success in his fledgling young racing career, he will always be remembered as the extremely young, 20-year-old, wet-behind-the-ears, break-through driver, and 2011 Daytona 500 winner.  He was piloting the legendary Wood Brothers #21 Ford Fusion with a throw-back, David Pearson paint scheme.

It is exactly that kind of life-changing event that I am talking about, when I mention a “Daytona 500” type of life changing moment!  This “Daytona 500 moment” is THE single most life changing event in your life, the pivotal point in your life from where things in your life changed dramatically.

A “Daytona 500 moment” might consist of you getting married, or divorced.  Either of which can and will drastically create change in you life!  Becoming a parent is also very life changing, and has two phases.  The immediate short-term version of no sleep, is life altering.  Realizing that your children, like it or not, will “be on the payroll forever”!

As you age, the addition to the family with grandchildren is unquestionably is a “Daytona 500 moment”!  Oh the pleasures of being around your grandchildren is so much better than being a parent!  You get to spoil them and not worry about all the other “parental” responsibilities!

Along the road of life there are some other, not so pleasant, experiences that will impact your life.

In addition to the pleasant life altering events that almost all of us get the chance to experience, marriage (some of us have experienced that event on more than one occasion!), parenthood, being a grand-parent, etc., we, unfortunately, also must confront the less desirable parts of life.  Quite frankly, the joyful and pleasant experiences are not the ones that truly are the defining cornerstones in one’s life.

However, it is those less desirable parts of life that usually mold our character.  Those gut-wrenching experiences that test our faith, our courage, and our moral fiber, are the experiences that define who we are as a person.

I could list all the great experiences that I was fortunate enough to be a part of for the last 61 years.  Most of those things, being an Air Force pilot, being an airline pilot, and a few other cool experiences did have a lasting effect on my life.  However, those experiences do not, and did not, define who I am as a person. Being a pilot described what I did for a living, not who I was as a person.

It is our parents, and those “formative” years, that is the basis of our moral character.  With that being said, what really defines the person is the “life journey” that we all must take, and how we cope with those “Daytona 500 moments” that come and visit us.  It is life’s tragedies, how they affect us, and how we deal and cope with them, that really mold, and define our character.

After giving much thought on this theme, I have concluded that there are four such “Daytona 500 moments” that I have experienced so far in my life.

The first life changing event happened during the month of April, back in 1975.  You all might remember a military exercise known as “The Saigon Evacuation”.  This was a massive airlift operation that President Ford ordered after one of our C-5’s crashed bringing out Vietnamese orphans.  As a very young 24-year-old USAF 2Lt., this two-week ordeal was a very hair-raising, and dangerous military operation.  (Getting shot at by Viet Cong 37mm anti-aircraft artillery was not my idea of a leisurely day in the office!)

Another “Daytona 500 moment” happened back in July of 2005.  On this particular hot Fresno afternoon, my son and daughter-in-law, Jeremy and Stephanie, had to deal with their set of twins coming into this world extremely premature, and totally unprepared for survival in this world.  It was the second time in less than ten years that I was forced to deal with an untimely death of a family member, and once again deal with my own mortality.  Even though these two little girls didn’t survive 24 hours, their presence left a very profound effect on many people’s life, particularly their grandfather.

Still another of my “Daytona 500 moments” occurred on May 16, 2010, at 36,000 feet.  I had just taken off from JFK airport in New York and was on my way back to LAX.  Suddenly my cockpit had erupted into flames!  For those of you have not read my description of that eventful evening, click on the link that will describe this life and health changing event, “An Enlightening Experience”!

When death stares you directly in the face, and you realize that your fate is in your own hands, and that quite possibly this latest turn of events may cost you your life, there is no doubt that the way that you look at life, and for that matter, the way you view life in general, will change forever!  That qualifies as a “Daytona 500 moment”!

Having written about the three previous pivotal moments in my life, this next turning point is without a question the biggest, and the singularly most important “Daytona 500 moment” in my life.  This occurred around 10:15 pm on December 30, 1995.  That was the exact moment when my whole life would change forever.  That was the time and the day that my father left this Earth.

From that point, December 30, 1995, I began to realize all the lessons that I had learned from a man who “only had a sixth grade education”! I came to realize that he was “wiser” than just a sixth grade education.  He was a very street wise farm-boy, and much wiser than, as a teenager, I ever gave him credit to be.

From that point, December 30, 1995, I would find myself, when confronted by a tough decision, saying “what would Dad do”?  From that point I began to realize that even in death my Dad was a role model for me.  It was from that point that I realized that, whether I liked it or not, I am a role model to either my two sons, or much later, to my grandchildren.

Life would never be the same for me after December 30, 1995!  That is and was my biggest “Daytona 500 moment”!

What is/are your “Daytona 500 moment/s”?


This song was written by Blake Shelton.  It reflects losing his brother as a teenager, and song by his wife, Miranda Lambert.  Listen to the lyrics of this song.  It mirrors how I feel regarding my biggest “Daytona 500 moment”.

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