MUTT AND THE
out in Mitchell, Indiana is a nice guy. And he knows his racin’.
In the nineties he settled into the cockpit of a sprinter. He thinks
it’s the ultimate: “A sprint car is the most violent of race cars,
but, when it’s right, it is a thing of grace. I call sprint car
racing the brutal ballet.”
Ten years ago Robert put his
helmet on the shelf to launch a heavy equipment business. He had
every good intention. He knew he had to concentrate on his work.
But there was one missed note. Robert underestimated the lure of
the dance – and the presence of the next performer. It was Robert
and Alta’s daughter, Arin – a diminutive, ten-year-old only child
they called “Mutt.”
Here’s what Mutt has to say.
don’t know how it all happened. Racing was just always
around. Even Mom raced. She ran while pregnant with me
without knowing it. Maybe that’s what did it. I always just
had to race.
Dad gave in and let me get started when I gave them
good marks in fourth grade. It was micro sprints and then
the national midget modified group. Dad worked with me so
closely. He’d go down and stand in the turn to show me where
to lift. Driving just seemed natural to me, and I guess we
got fairly good.
When I was sixteen, we did some midget racing,
Formula 500 shows, Skip Barber – and, finally, a sprint car.
It felt great.
For 2006, we had our own sprinter and I was Rookie
of the Year at both Paragon and Bloomington. That was so
exciting – just where I wanted to be. But I knew I had to be
cautious and respectful. I didn’t want to be some punk kid
coming in. I talked to everyone and tried not to run into
We got better and more comfortable in 2007 and even
went down to East Bay. But it was ’08 when I’d say we became
competitive, and I won my first sprint car race.
Mutt upstairs. (McIntosh
really were going well. I was enrolled at the Indiana/Purdue
Universities motorsports engineering bachelor’s program,
coming home weekends. Then in the fall of 2008 we went to
Lawrenceburg Speedway, a way fast place. I was up near the
front with three to go and the right front torsion stop
broke. I pivoted and slapped the wall squarely with the left
side. A seat bolt snapped…. I don’t remember any of it.
They had trouble stabilizing me, and I gather they
worried about my dying before they could even put me in the
helicopter. When I finally got to the hospital, they saw
that the hemispheres of my brain had gone in separate
directions. I was in a coma for 11 days.
woke up and soon went to rehab. I couldn’t do anything –
even communicate. But I began to improve and to reconnect
with school and racing friends. We taped a video to be shown
at the Bloomington banquet, but I was pretty self-conscious
about half my head being shaved!
You know, I was really hurt, but it never occurred
to me I wouldn’t race again. It was my life – even when I
got home, got in a bicycle accident, and wound up with a
degree one concussion. Last year, we did venture back to
Paragon, a little tentatively. I used a different name
–“Justin Case.” That was just in case I sucked.
But it was okay, once we pushed off and I could turn
on fearless again. I had lost some of my muscle mass in
rehab, but I’ve gained that back. Everyone has been
wonderful to me, and I try to return it, especially to the
2010 has been tough on us with the economy, like
everyone else. We had some chassis issues, but I think we
are back on our game.
I don’t know where all this will end up. I know I
can’t make a living driving wingless 410s. Maybe I can do
something with motorsports safety and keep racing on the
weekends. I’ll tell you one thing, though: No way am I going
to be part of any team if I’m not the driver!
Robert’s had some tough years getting his business going, but just
now it’s taken off. Eighteen-hour days.
He’s fully committed
to supporting Mutt’s mobile motivation, however. “She really does
have a special talent,” he says. “She’s purposeful – a technical
driver with great throttle control.”
And he continues,
thoughtfully, “We will be careful. The concentration will be on
finishing up a good education and then finding a job she loves. Then
racing. I’ll do everything for her, like the S.T.I.D.A. insurance we
fortunately had when she got hurt. I’ll put together the best, most
solid stuff I can. I have no idea how I’ll do it, but, as long as
she wants to be at the track, we’ll go.
“There are two parts
of this. Sure, I love racing, but, honestly, how many 21-year-old
daughters do you see who want to hang around with their dads? I
really love that part.”
(McIntosh Family Collection)
© 2010 Lew Boyd, Coastal 181