THE FAIRGROUNDS REPORT
10/4/99-by Shawn Brouse
It is ironic how a tragedy
can bring about the best in people, highlighting just how strong and
good we can be in our most trying of times while renewing our faith
in the human race. Such was the case over the course of the last
seven days as we all struggled to cope with the loss of our friend
and family member, Kevin Gobrecht. Days that were filled with pain
and grief but also fond laughter and gestures of good will and yes,
even some racing.
Whether it was the funeral
services on Wednesday and Thursday or the memorial ceremonies held at
the Williams Grove National Open over the weekend, the events of the
last week have allowed all of us to come to some kind of terms with
the fact that we lost The G-Man way too soon.
The National Open turned out
to be a fantastic race, one that was contested and won in good
old-fashioned G-Man style. When Mark Kinser made that banzai move on
Rahmer as they entered turn three headed for the checkered flag, it
had Kevin’s name written all over it. I can still see him pulling
that same move on Hodnett back in March of this year to complete his
three win weekend.
As I spoke, at first by phone
and later in person with Kevin’s father Robert on Saturday, prior to
the races, I told him that it almost seemed as if the time for saying
“I’m sorry” was over. Now it is time to say “thank you,” and move on.
So here goes.
……First and foremost, to God.
For giving us Kevin Gobrecht. For allowing us to come to know this
shining example of a son, a brother, a companion, a sportsman and a
competitor while he gave us all joy, doing what he loved to do most,
race. For giving us all strength, especially the Gobrecht family,
through this terrible time and allowing us to come out of it with
some kind of comfort and understanding. For giving us a safe weekend
of racing here in Central PA. Thank you.
……To all of you who emailed
me after last week’s column. For your kind words of support. Thank
you, I guess I did a good enough job.
……To Jack Elden, Bob Stewart,
John Zemaitis and Dave Blaney. Kevin’s dad told me that his son
dreamed of racing for a living, he basically lived to race. For
allowing the G-Man to live in a dream world. Thank you.
……To Lernerville Speedway and
The World of Outlaws. For showing Kevin, his family and the entire
racing community the respect they and it deserved by canceling your
rain-dated program, which would have conflicted with the funeral
services on Thursday night. Thank you.
……To World of Outlaws
drivers, officials and owner Ted Johnson. For attending Thursday’s
services with respect and heartwarming, amusing stories of Kevin
which gave us all a healing tool. For honoring Kevin by renaming the
WoO Rookie of the Year Award, which will now be known as the Kevin
Gobrecht Rookie of the Year Award or The G-Man Award. For working
with Williams Grove Speedway, giving them free reign to plan several
memorial events, which did conflict with the evening’s schedules.
……To Alan Kreitzer and the
entire management staff at Williams Grove Speedway. For putting forth
a tremendous effort into what was a phenomenal show of respect and
admiration for Kevin during the two-day National Open. First it was
an all hands gathering of drivers, crews, officials and management on
the straight-aways followed by an observation of a vacant pole
position prior to the start of Friday’s preliminary feature. On
Saturday, you truly showed how classy The Grove can be by honoring
The G-Man with an awesome display of homage which put us all on our
feet for over 25 minutes. Both the Gobrecht family owned No. 92 and
the Amoco 93 were on hand in the infield, surrounded by Kevin’s
flowers. Then, in the most solemn and breathtaking event I have ever
observed, you brought every car Kevin had ever driven to the speedway
and paraded it while announcing all The G-Mans accomplishments while
he was behind the wheel of that car. As if that was not enough, it
was only fitting that the 92 paced the field prior to the start of
the 37th Annual National Open. Thank you.
……To the voice of Williams
Grove Speedway, Bruce Ellis. Your heartwarming oration during the
parade was truly the class of the field. It did us all proud. Through
your sometimes wavering voice, The GGGGGGGGGG-MANNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNN
lived once more for all of us, giving me chills and finally allowing
this columnist and sprint car enthusiast to shed some long overdue
tears, along with everyone else in the capacity filled speedway.
……To all of the fans, drivers
and speedway officials. For coming to the races. I spoke with so many
people who said they just came to the races cause they felt they had
to, cause it just seemed right. For showing the entire Gobrecht
family what Kevin meant to all of us by giving of your time either at
the services or at the track or just with a simple phone call.
Whether you knew him personally or not, The G-Man was part of our
family and we certainly left all of the Gobrechts know we loved him,
giving them a new respect for their lost family member. For giving of
yourselves generously in the name of Kevin. After the drivers were
done scouring the stands before the open, we showed what he meant to
us by handing over $10,850 to The G-Mans favorite charities. Thank
……To the entire Gobrecht
family and Bobbi. For putting everyone else’s needs ahead of your
own. For taking the time to talk to anyone who needed to. For
allowing us to share in what really was your time. It would have been
easy for you to say “stay away, this is going to be as fast and as
painless as possible.” You did not do that. Instead, you recognized
the fact that Kevin meant something to a lot of other people. You
just had no idea how many! For comforting us. When we came to pay our
respects, we should have been comforting you. Instead, the roles were
reversed and it was you who seemed to be comforting us. For giving us
strength. It seemed that everyone needed to connect with one of you.
Your composure was so strong. You all did so amazingly well. For
bringing the family car to Williams Grove on Saturday along with
Kevin’s flowers, even though it wasn’t easy. It was so nice of you to
allow all of the G-Man fans a chance to honor him once more by
leaving with a flower from his arrangements. Thank you.
……And finally, a personal
note to Brian Gobrecht. Maybe I am identifying with you and your
family because I am the youngest of four siblings, having two older
brothers and a sister. Or, maybe it’s because you too drive a sprint
car and both you and Kevin are the racing brothers we have all come
to know. For whatever the reason, it was you more than anyone that I
drew strength from through all of this, and that I have such deep
respect and admiration for now that the earliest stages of this
grieving process are behind everyone. It all started the night after
your brother’s death, you had just returned from Nebraska and you
took the time to post a message concerning the day’s events, trying
to comfort everyone and thanking them for all their kind words. It
was your selflessness, your ability to give of yourself and write
such a striking series of sentences about your thoughts in the midst
of a personal tragedy that caught my attention and allowed me to
start making a connection. Over the course of the coming days, you
continued to keep everyone up to date with the developments
surrounding Kevin’s services, going so far as to try and make those
who would be attending feel as comfortable as possible when doing so,
all the while seeming to be rock solid. At the service on Thursday,
you continued to impress by recounting several stories of the years
you shared with your brother, all the time standing strong, never
faltering. When Saturday came and I finally tried to contact you, a
phone number came my way telling me to call anytime that afternoon.
Instead of reaching you, I had the pleasure of speaking with your
father. Our conversation made me realize more than ever just how
selfless you and your family are. “Maybe you could do me a favor,”
your dad said. “Let everyone know that we are going to celebrate a
life tonight in the infield at The Grove. We want anyone who wants
one to come and take a flower to remember Kevin by.” A few hours
later, you along with the rest of the family were at the races for
the first time since losing Kevin. As he pointed you out atop the
trailer in the pits, I could tell by the way your father spoke that
the whole night was going to be extremely hard for everyone. Knowing
that, I was in awe when your dad had the composure to stand in front
of the mass in attendance and again, try to comfort us by relating
that “time will go on now, and the races will get easier.” While he
was saying this, you were behind the wheel of the family owned car,
leading a parade of the machines that your brother drove, remembering
him fondly. Later on, you crawled behind the wheel once more, this
time to honor your brother by pacing the field for the National Open.
I have no comprehension of the feelings you must have been having or
of how hard that must have been for you, but you did it. After the
races, as the lines of people assembled at the back of your trailer,
you crawled from on top of it to start speaking with them. Listening
to stories, comforting mourners, fielding questions and signing
autographs, you took the time to do it all on what had to be just one
more in a string of long, emotional days. All of the things I just
spoke of are examples of why I had to shake your hand and speak with
you. I am just in awe of how well you handled this. For giving me and
everyone else strength through your rock solid composure. For putting
all other’s needs ahead of your own during this most difficult time.
For going beyond the call of duty, giving of yourself, even when it
wasn’t expected much less easy. For doing all the things that no
brother should ever have to do for another. Thank you so much!
I have learned a lot of
life’s lessons over the last week. I can only hope that, when the day
comes, I can be as strong as Brian and his family have been during
such a trying time.
Sprint car star Jeff Shepard
is featured in November’s issue of Open Wheel. I received the most
recent edition early last week, as we all reeled at the loss of
Kevin. In what is yet another ironic occurrence, Shepard ended his
interview, conducted weeks ago, with the following quote. I’ve chosen
to end my column with it this week, I feel it is very appropriate to
the subject at hand.
“I take it one day at a time
because I might not be here tomorrow. A lotta people say ‘you’re
living the fast life, buying that new Harley, you’re doing a James
Dean deal, living this, doing this, doing that, you’re going to run
out, you’re nine lives are going to run out.’ I don’t think so. I
don’t want to die of old age, I want to die right on the edge of
something, having a good time. I sure don’t want to die in my sleep
or sitting there helpless, or because of somebody else’s stupid drunk
driving. I don’t want to be taken out of the picture. I’d rather die
right on the edge, having the time of my life and then just