The Pain of Winning
Different things motivate different people. For some it’s glory, for others it’s money. For me, it’s pain.
Now before you let your mind go where it shouldn’t, I can tell you that my threshold for pain is low – probably lower than most. If I get a paper-cut, the world knows about it. And just to further illustrate my lack of immunity and inability to sometimes control my emotions, I’ve been known to tear-up, on occasion, watching a sappy Lifetime move.
Yep, my Man Card should have been revoked when I was an adolescent.
In the fall of 2003, I took a leap of faith on a Wednesday, November 5th. It was just prior to the second-to-last race of the season and we were headed to Rockingham Speedway to try and clinch the season championship with Matt Kenseth. It was a really good season for us. In fact, in August we had a 400-point lead over second place, but it had diminished significantly as we approached the close of the season – going into Rockingham we had to finish in the top-10 in order to secure the trophy.
But I had confidence. We had a stellar team with an outstanding driver who just happened to love the track. I felt good about the day.
So on the preceding Wednesday, with virtually no adult mindset, I walked into a tattoo shop with a picture of the 2003 Championship logo and said, “I want this. ”The ink-covered artist said, “Well that’s cool – congratulations.” I honestly didn’t have the nerve to tell him that this was a speculative decision in fear that he’d try and talk me out of it.
Two hours of excruciating pain and $150, I limped to my car and went home. And for the next 4.5 days had the ‘what-if’ knot in my stomach.
We finished fourth in the race and clinched the title by, at that time, a mere 90 points. Still in pain — don’t ever let anyone tell you that tattoos don’t hurt — I ran from the spotters stand to pit road to celebrate our accomplishment. Standing next to Matt for the photos, I gingerly pulled up my pant leg and said, “Check this out!” He bent down, took at peek and said to me, “You’re an idiot.” That was fine, we had start calling each other name since his rookie year – so I thought it was kind of an endearing moment for us.
The after-party at Matt’s house was attended by our entire crew and several drivers, including eventual 3rd place points finisher, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. Upon his arrival, Kenseth motions for him to come over to us. He said, “show him”, referencing the tattoo that still hurt. Earnhardt said, “is it real?”. I nodded and he said, “You’re an idiot – what would you have done if I won the championship?” I said that I’d color in all the red and put a white No. 8 on it. He laughed.
In 2009 when we won the Daytona 500, Matt asked me, sarcastically of course, if I had gotten the tattoo yet. And the next morning I went straight my guy and had it applied.
Since then, I’ve added the 2012 Daytona 500 and the 2011 Nationwide Championship commemoration with Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. I didn’t get one for the second consecutive title with Ricky because I was running out of room; although, I did consider adding to the first one with “And 2012 too”, but thought better of it.
The only other tattoo that I have which doesn’t boast a huge accomplishment is from the 2011 Spring race at Dover, where Matt called an audible for two tires, just three stalls away from our pit box. I know have Miles the Monster embossed on my right calf. Not only was it a special win because of strategy, but the resemblance of Miles to my ex-mother-in-law was striking.
The glory of winning is great. The financial rewards are pretty sporty too. But, the pain of the accomplishment far outweighs anything else. I always tell people, “You can lose a commemorative ring, but you can’t lose a tattoo.”