Even at the Curves, God’s Road is Straight

By Mark Endres
Growing up as a young boy in the 1970s, I was raised near a quarter-mile racetrack in southern Wisconsin. My dad owned a bar called Norb’s Resort. Every Saturday night, the sound of stock car racing would fill the air. Afterwards, local racing star Dick Trickle would stop in for a beer or two. 

So, I would watch the races with the thrill of finishes, spin outs, and even a crash or two. Over the years, I’ve followed NASCAR names like Keselowski, Waltrip, Wallace, Busch, and Sauter. I knew all about Humpy Wheeler and the finer distinctions between Charlotte Motor Speedway and Mile High Stadium. 

Several years ago, I went to a local track to watch the races. Like most Midwestern tracks, they’re out in the country, surrounded by woods. I always go early, to watch what they call the “time trials.” To me, these are more entertaining than the official races themselves — cars going as fast as they can, to improve their starting position in the semi-final heats. On this particular night, I decided to sit at the far end of the track, closest to turn one and two. 

Tracks are oval in shape, so the cars come down the straightaway, and go into turn one and two, which would then turn into the straightaway. The cars would then go into turn three and four before another straightaway. 

As I was enjoying myself, watching the time trials, I felt a sudden urge to take the crucifix I was wearing around my neck and to make the Sign of the Cross towards turn one and two where I was seated. This urge came on suddenly, and I felt almost in a panic to do so as quickly as possible. 

A minute or so went by, and I was trying to make sense of what had just happened. Feeling the need to pray for someone or something is not that unusual for me, but feeling the need to ask for a blessing over an event, or racetrack for that matter, was not something I had ever done. 

Not more than a couple minutes had passed when another car came racing down the straightaway. As he came to turn one, going into the curve at around 70 to 80 mph, his steering column suddenly snapped. He had no control over his steering. His car hurled head first into the wall and then flipped over it and crashed into the woods. It all happened in the blink of an eye. 

I, like everyone else, watched in amazement at what had just happened. I presumed the driver was dead. It did not seem possible that a person could survive such a crash. Cars have roll bars inside for protection, but the impact was too great. A similar crash killed the famous driver Dale Earnhardt in 2001, in the final lap of the Daytona 500.

Several minutes had passed after the ambulance and tow trucks rushed to the scene. All were waiting for an announcement on the status of the driver. Then, the tow truck lifted the car out of the woods. The impact had crushed the car so that it appeared to be only 2 to 3 feet in height, seemingly way too small for a human being to still be alive and intact. 

But then, miraculously, the driver was lifted up over the wall by the rescue crew, and he proceeded to walk and wave to the crowd. It was an unbelievable sight. Never in a million years would I have thought that a person inside that car would be alive. 

The mercy of God has no bounds. Jesus said to St. Faustina, “I am giving you three ways of exercising mercy toward your neighbor: the first — by deed, the second — by word, the third — by prayer. In these three degrees is contained the fullness of mercy, and it is an unquestionable proof of love for Me” (Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska, 742). 

I am so thankful that I attended the races that night and responded to the inspiration of the Holy Spirit to make the Sign of the Cross at the corner of the track with my crucifix, moments before the crash. Had I not been willing to do so without hesitation, it’s possible the accident may have resulted differently. Years later, I still shudder to think about it. 

That cool, fall evening, a father, a husband, and a soul walked away from certain death. I am so thankful that God gave me the chance to participate in His mercy. It served as a wonderful reminder that small deeds of faith can glorify God’s mercy.  

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