(Veteran broadcaster Jake Query is a member of the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network team and offers his musings regularly on IndyCar.com.)
In the summer of 1994, I was blessed to work as an intern
at MTV Networks in New York City. It was a magnificent experience, a relatively small chapter in my life’s book of experiences thus far.
Yes, I'm an Indiana kid who still nurtures not far from the very roots in which I grew. Yet, that time in New York is as flavorful an ingredient as any that's been sprinkled into the casserole that is my life.
New York is the greatest city in the world, its hustle providing a new adventure in every direction in which you allow it to take you. I loved my internship. Many of my daily tasks I now realize were strictly too menial for MTV's full-time employees, but I approached each as if I had taken the green flag on an initial pole run at the Indy 500.
Unlike a qualifying attempt, however, the next 16 turns of my life were far less scripted. I only knew that I had been given the chance to get my hands on the wheel. I knew what I wanted once my car was in racing gear. I just had to find how to get there.
The certainty of desire mixed with the unknown of its path can be quite exhausting, even to a wide-eyed 21-year-old engulfed by America's fastest city. As a result, when I needed to get away, I always found tranquility in my Manhattan happy place: the observation deck atop the South Tower of the World Trade Center. Rising over 1,300 feet above lower Manhattan, the deck provided a stillness that allowed for immediate reflection, along with speculation of one's own direction. I could seemingly see it all from my favorite spot: the Statue of Liberty in the foreground, I felt I could look all the way out into the dream in my Indiana home. It was always perfect.
It's why this week is melancholy for me, as my memory of the South Tower is so easily replaced by the images of the American nightmare 16 years ago. It is with guilt I think of the South Tower as a cherished part of my past, as it's never lost on me that it became the epicenter of what was later lost for all of us: innocence, freedoms and lives. So many lives.
When I think of all the people that worked in the World Trade Center – people whose offices were nestled below my personal bliss – I battle with whether my warm recollections are a discredit to their memory. In that battle, I come back to the same answer: Keep going, keep dreaming. And I do so for the legacy of those who were living their lives, chasing their dreams, working for their families. The meaning of those towers may have changed that day, but the spirit of the lost did not. To not carry on the same would be a discredit to their legacy.
Which takes me to this weekend. It is always an honor to call races for the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network, but championship broadcasts are particularly special. The Verizon IndyCar Series is the most versatile and challenging race series in the world. The diversity of its courses is mirrored by the background variations of its participants and of the drivers still vying for the championship.
Josef Newgarden chased his goal with a go-kart in Tennessee, while Scott Dixon navigated dirt paths a half a world away in New Zealand. Simon Pagenaud used money from a family-owned market to begin his pursuit in the French countryside. Alexander Rossi rode an energy drink's support into racing scholarship money. The always-energetic Helio Castroneves left his Brazilian home to pursue karting overseas. Will Power followed his father's lead Down Under and Graham Rahal did the same here in the States. Seven men who all began wide-eyed with their hands on the wheel, barreling down to pursue a dream.
This weekend, we'll converge at one of America's happy places, the gorgeous hills of California wine country, to crown a season champion at Sonoma Raceway. For one driver, it will be the culmination of a season of unknown turns; completing itself with the reality of an accomplished goal.
It's a beautiful thing by which to peripherally take part. I often remind myself that my work place is nestled among those who are soaking in their getaway spot. It’s a reality that is easy to forget as I am, at the core, a fan, too.
It is with tremendous gratitude that I thank all of you for allowing me to do what it is I had once only dreamed. It is my hope for everyone that you are blessed to be doing the same. That continued pursuit by all of us is the ultimate American tribute to those who were doing the same – unaware that atop their work place, was a guy in his happy spot – imagining his dream and later fulfilling it. Fueled greatly by their inspiration.
Thanks to everyone for a dream year.
(Catch the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network’s broadcast of the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma – the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series finale to decide the champion – live at 6:30 p.m. ET Sunday on network affiliates, Sirius 214, XM 209, on IndyCar.com, indycarradio.com and the INDYCAR Mobile app.)