What Makes a “Real” Racer?

(Andy Forsberg of Auburn, CA, has been driving sprint cars since 1994. A second-generation racer, he’s won an unprecedented 10 Civil War Series dirt sprint car championships. He’s claimed multiple track titles at Placerville and Chico and has 170 main event victories across California and Oregon. This is the second of a series of columns.)

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Tearoffs • by Andy Forsberg  |  As far back as I can remember, I’ve wanted to be a race car driver. I had a shirt in kindergarten that said, “When I Grow Up I Want to Be a Sprint Car Driver.” My father, Richard, was a driver and I didn’t know any different.

Throughout my life racing has dictated every little thing that I did, or didn’t do. I’m not going to say it’s been a big, long dramatic road to get to where I am today, but basically everything that I did growing up was all based around racing. It didn’t matter if it was school, work, the vehicle I drove, where I lived, or if I had a girlfriend, it all came down to how it affected my racing life. To be a racer takes commitment, dedication and sacrifice.

I was pretty much married to the race car.

Racing is obviously a lot different from baseball or football, but the preparation and effort are part of the same concept. Take somebody like Tom Brady: He excels because he’s dedicated and does whatever he does to keep his body going at 41. Racing’s no different. If you’re working in the shop extra late to make sure the car’s not failing, or working overtime to have money to go racing, that’s all part of the preparation. Whatever it is, it’s all about priorities and how you spend your time. Everything I did was always for the race car, whether I was working two jobs or living at home.

For example, early on, a couple years out of high school, I bought a one-bedroom, one-bathroom apartment and rented it out and still lived at home because that’s where the race cars were and it allowed me to save money and be close to what mattered most to me. Obviously that didn’t bode very well for having a girlfriend. But then a girlfriend wasn’t really interested in somebody working on a race car four or five nights a week. I was pretty much married to the race car.

But I don’t even know if I would consider myself a real racer. I thought I was going to be rich and famous and be one of those guys that ran the Indy 500 and Daytona 500 and drive everything there was to drive. But as time went by, I got old enough to figure out that it’s not as easy as I thought. So, I took a more local path to see if I could make something happen—and that has worked out well. Dreams have a way of coming true—but maybe not in the way you expected.

Yep, everything I’ve done has revolved around racing, as far back as I can remember. It’s an addiction.

Here’s another example: Back in April 2012, I can remember all the local dirt tracks got rained out one Saturday. The only track that was running was Roseville, a paved track. I was just sitting in the house, murky and cold, wrapped up in a blanket. About 1 o’clock in the afternoon, one of my crazy crew guys calls and says, “Hey, Roseville’s racing USAC tonight; do you wanna go?” I said, “I’m not going to go sit in the grandstands and watch a bunch of pavement sprint cars.” And he says, “No, I’m talking about racing!”

On pavement it’s a little easier to race when the weather is questionable because the track doesn’t turn into a big mudhole. I had been running a little bit of non-wing dirt stuff, but the car wasn’t converted for pavement. Yet it was damn close and we had a complete pavement front end upstairs. We basically just swapped front ends and went to the track but we missed all of practice.

We got out on the track and we were doing OK. We weren’t setting the world on fire, but we had speed. During the main we were rolling around mid-pack and then I got caught up in some bullshit tangle and tore up the car. It was a 50-lap race and I was definitely over-driving it. But that was OK. 

We were just racers being racers, bored and wanting to race.