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. Thank you.

……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. Thank you.

……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 you.

……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 disappear.”

How true.