Hello Friends! It’s been a full week, but I praise God for many things to do. My hands are never idle!
Picking up our story around May 18, Steve and I finished up a wonderful (but blazing hot) afternoon at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. We love the weekend before the 500. It definitely has an energy all its own! Drivers and teams are busy practicing then vying for the “pole” (1st starting position) for the 500. Drivers want to qualify well of course, and preferably in the top positions, A.K.A. “the fast nine”.
Only 33 Indy cars are allowed on the coveted Indianapolis 500 starting grid. This year, “bumping” returned, and that is SUPER drama filled and exciting to watch as 35 teams were competing for those 33 spots. There’s only so much time on “Bump Day” to get your ride qualified. Once the gun fires at 5:50 pm (it was 6 pm in the past, which is a controversial topic all it’s own), qualifying is OVER. If you get the chance to experience the weekend before the 500, I encourage you to jump at the opportunity. It’s a wonderful time to walk around the garages (“Gasoline Alley”), possibly meet a few drivers, observe the frenetic but methodically detailed team preparation, and watch the strategies played out before you in the qualifying lanes on pit road. True fun for true fans? Yes. Will you be totally geeked out as an open wheel fan? Most definitely.
We get back to the hotel room and relax our tired legs. I start editing some pictures I took on my phone earlier in the day and Steve is listening to the latest Marshall Pruett podcast. While wrapping up our day I kept thinking about the interaction with the strangers at the picnic table today and the fellowship they were sharing. I reached into my purse and pulled out the business card Mr. Tim Carrie, Outreach Director for Kingdom Racing had handed me that afternoon. Curious, I look up the Kingdom Racing website. (Please check out the entire team and the collective mission of KR at kingdomracing.net)
Again, I had heard of KR, but I didn’t really know much about them. Their mission statement is, “Kingdom Racing is a 501(c)(3) non-denominational Christian team with a mission to Deliver God’s Word Through Motorsports. We have been competing in IndyCar races and other motorsports since 2007, and we’re the first faith-based team to compete in an IndyCar race. Our team combines IndyCar races and other motorsports along with our outreach ministry programs: Miles of Smiles, Fan Festivals, and KR Ambassadors. Our goal is to use motorsports as a platform to reach 1,000,000 men and women for Jesus Christ!”
Wow!! Talk about a breath of fresh air in our secular surroundings. Reaching souls for Christ through racing? Talk about a MISSION we could support and believe in!
I wanted to know more but I’m shy. I don’t like to “bug” people, and I knew Tim must be terribly busy this week. I did the soft version of interaction and sent him a friend request on Facebook. A while later I get a message back from him, and he asked if I was the lady at the picnic table from earlier in the day. Yup, that was me! I replied back and told him I was quite moved by his platform, and my husband and I were enjoying learning about them. He replied back and said he would be at IMS the next day, and we were welcome to call him and meet up with him when we have some time.
The next day was full of so many blessings only Christ himself could orchestrate. The morning started with Steve and Tim officially meeting, and we were able to meet Christy, Tim’s lovely and sweet wife. Have you heard phrases like “be evenly yoked” and “marry someone who complements your character”? Well, this is Tim and Christy.
When you surrender ALL to our Savior, the answers, blessings, and joy just seem to flow forth. Tim and Christy are a testament to this. While talking to them and sharing our collective walks of faith, they were very open and honest about the state of their marriage a few years back. The devil loves to attack marriage because he knows it is the second most powerful union with God we can enter as human beings. If Satan succeeds at tearing the fiber of our home, he can attack us in many other ways. Tim and Christy said they had reached a low point in their lives together and almost got divorced. One day they turned all of the strife over to God and asked Him to repair what was broken. The result was a renewed love that is stronger than EVER. You really can feel the joy resonate from them. They aren’t just spouses, they are each other’s best friend.
Tim also shared with us that he had questioned his own worth in those dark days. He had asked himself questions like, “What is my purpose, Lord?” “Why would you want to choose ME?” “Where are you leading me?” Tim reached out to God and surrendered his human doubts and questions. The Lord is now using Tim to reach thousands of people and to show them there’s hope in a Loving God.
Tim asked if we had a few extra minutes to meet someone very special to them. Of course we did. Steve and I both were thinking to ourselves that this was one of the most important and fulfilling spiritual experiences God had placed in our path in a long time.
He led us into the race garage of Indy Car driver Sage Karam. I had been in a Gasoline Alley garage just one other time, and that was to meet Helio Castroneves the weekend Steve proposed to me. (I MUST share this story with you all one day.) The garages are buzzing with activity and become quite small when many people are milling about. I never want to be in anyone’s way while they are working, so I was a bit nervous.
Tim introduced us to Sage, and Sage was remarkably calm amidst the chaos around him. Sounds of electric tools filled the air, rubber mallets hammered away, and the “ping” of metal striking metal was sharp to the eardrums. It was a beautiful cacophony of sound, though. I could have stood there for hours.
Sage and Steve talked briefly about wing adjustments and downforce. I’m still learning these intricacies and I do find the physics of it all quite fascinating. After some technical racing conversation, Tim mentions to Sage that we had been praying for him. Let me briefly explain why.
Sage has a storied and vibrant career as a racer. His racing resume started when he was just 7 years old. It didn’t take long for him to be a consistent leader on the track. He earned 91 National Karting Podiums and 36 National Karting Championships. Being the wife of a World Karting Association Champion myself, I can attest that accomplishments such as these are no easy tasks! It takes time, financial obligation and dedication, sweat and HARD work, and a gigantic, passionate heart. This heart and drive to win led him to an Indy Lights Championship in 2013 and then every racer’s dream job, a ride with Dreyer Reinbold and a position on the starting grid for the 2014 Indianapolis 500. This just touches the surface of his accomplishments. He’s EXTREMELY talented. (Check out his resume on the KR site when you get a chance. We are so proud of this young man.)
Fast forward to 2015 and life changed in a matter of seconds. (It’s an incident Tim and Sage refer to as “Pocono”, not by the names of drivers or any other identifiers.) Sage’s car hit the wall so violently on Lap 179 that he worried at first if his body or head were severely injured. After an accident adrenaline is pumping so hard that you might not feel the sting of injury at first. Thank goodness though, he was OK. However a piece of the car struck fellow driver Justin Wilson. The injury Wilson sustained eventually was fatal.
Steve and I were watching this race live. Steve could tell the situation was pretty dire. The news began to unfold throughout the evening and later we learned Justin had died. I remember Steve saying, “The person we need to pray for the most in this situation is Sage.” Over the next several weeks and months we would mention Sage and pray that he was doing OK emotionally. We saw ignorant and hurtful things said on social media from people who couldn’t possibly fathom what Sage was going through. It sickened us. We had so much compassion for Sage and just wanted the best for his young life.
Through the help of Godly parents, friends, counselors, and confidants, out of tragedy came renewed faith and trust in the Lord. Sage is open about his walk with God and how prayer and the Bible got him through the most difficult period of his life. He “gives God all the glory” for lifting him out of depression and setting him on a new foundation of hope and mercy.
In the garage we had a POWERFUL moment with Sage and his father Jody. Tim asked if we could share a prayer together as Christians. We all placed our arms around each other’s shoulders and asked for God’s grace in our lives and for Jesus to bless the heart, mind, and walk of faith for Sage. We asked Jesus to continue to use Sage’s complete story as a testimony to others who may be suffering and struggling with something in their own life. Have you ever prayed and felt like you could almost feel the wings of angels fluttering around you, felt like you could feel the beams of light going right to the throne of the Father? This was one of those moments. I never will forget it.
The next day at the track we had the pleasure of meeting the Founder and Owner of Kingdom Racing, Mr. George Del Canto and his wife Maricarmen. George is a handsome man with a strong and sincere handshake. Almost always at his side is Maricarmen, a beautiful, tiny blonde with an adorable accent and gentle spirit. We enjoyed talking with them and sharing stories of our walk with God.
George is the vision and heart of KR. His is a story of success, loss, renewed hope, renewed faith, love, and a rededication to Christ. His personal testimony will touch you and really make you think about your own priorities. I am beyond humbled at the REALNESS of these men and women. Authenticity and transparency are so rare these days. They have it in spades and they aren’t ashamed to talk about the rocky path it took to get here. They are living examples of God taking what we think can’t be repaired and making it into a treasure. Have you ever heard the phrase, “Be the light”? They embody this saying and make it reality.
I will stop here for today, but I ask you to PLEASE read the book, GOD SPEED – Steering Through Triumph and Tragedy by Chad Bonham (with Team Kingdom Racing, foreword by Al Unser Jr.) The book is a devotional that outlines George’s path to starting Kingdom Racing and his sometimes challenging faith walk. Sage’s full testimony also can be found along with other unforgettable and moving testimonies. It’s a fantastic read!
The blessings aren’t over! I will be back soon with Part Three. The week before Indy included a cherished checkered flag and unexpected but welcomed fellowship with old and new friends.