Beyond the Finish Line - By Jeff Gordon

 
Jeff Gordon has written an article for Guideposts Magazine which hit news stands this week.  Even if you think you know all about Jeff Gordon I bet you will learn something new about him after reading his article.  Here is an excerpt:

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My stepdad got me hooked on racing when I was five years old. After I won my first race, that was it. From then on, chasing that next checkered flag was the goal. Life was about winning races. Everything I did was geared to going fast and crossing the finish line first. Everything in between was just filler. Two things changed that. Two kids, actually. Ray J and a boy I’ll call Gil.

Ray J is the son of my former crew chief, Ray Evernham. Ray and I were like brothers. We clicked from the moment we met. He worked tirelessly to forge a winning team. I did the driving, but we won races together. I got to know his family too, especially Ray J, who was only one year old at the time.

One day in our first NASCAR season together, Ray wasn’t at the track when I got there. Something had to be very wrong. Ray was always there.
"Ray caught the first flight back home this morning," a crew member told me. "There’s something wrong with Ray J. The doctors think it might be leukemia."

A chill went through me. Leukemia. Cancer. Ray J was a healthy, energetic kid. How could this happen? I couldn’t imagine what Ray and his wife must be going through. I called Ray immediately. "You know I’m there for you, buddy. Whatever we can do, let us know." Ray sputtered something about hating to miss work for even a day. "Forget it," I interrupted. "Your family comes first."

And I meant it. For one of the first times in my life the next race didn’t seem so important. Racing and life weren’t the same thing.

For the next few months Ray kept us up to date on his son’s progress, but it was tough going. Chemotherapy, radiation, long stays in the hospital. Little Ray J’s hair fell out and there were times he was so weak he could barely play. With every new round of treatment, Ray would cling to hope, but, boy, was it hard. Wasn’t there something I could do? I always met challenges by going faster, pushing myself harder. How could a stock-car driver like me make a difference to a kid who was battling cancer?

I thought of Geoffrey Bodine, a fellow racer. He had hosted Make-A-Wish Foundation families at the track, and I’d had the pleasure of meeting some of those remarkable kids. These children were facing some of life’s toughest challenges with determination and great spirit, and I wanted to become more involved. Some people warned me that it could be really hard to see kids so ill. But if I wasn’t afraid to drive a car around an oval track at 200 miles an hour plus, then why should I let myself be afraid to visit with sick kids?

For the rest of this article please go to guideposts.com or pick up an issue of the magazine at your local bookstore.

 

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