June 9th, 2014
The ProjectCRX racing team was riding an all-time high. After two seasons of navigating disaster after disaster, both our plucky little Honda and the plucky crew running it were finally working like a proper racing team.
The team had grown too - We were now twelve members strong after convincing friends, roommates, and fellow enthusiasts to join as crew and support staff in preparation for our upcoming attempt at next year's SCCA Devil in the Dark 12-hour Endurance Race. We even convinced pro driver coach Todd Reid of ReidSpeed to be one of our drivers to give us the best chance of a competitive finish. We knew that this was finally going to be our year.
Then we got the call that every racer dreads.
Todd had been involved in a massive crash at Summit Point Raceway and had been airlifted to the hospital. His white Ford Probe GT, which had become something of an icon of Davids facing Goliaths in the car enthusiast community, had bounced off a berm and smashed side-on into one of the massive trees in the outfield. The impact bent the caged racecar like a banana and trapped Todd's right leg and right hand inside the dashboard, resulting in a slew of horrific injuries. Early reports indicated that surgeons would have to amputate part of his hand, possibly spelling an end to his racing career.
The team's group chats fell silent at the news. Most of us on the team had worked side by side with Todd through our organizing race events together at IMG. He never had much time or money, but he had kindness, enthusiasm, and driving skills to spare. He had helped ProjectCRX's five drivers navigate the transition from track days to wheel-to-wheel racing, selflessly offering his time, advice, and even parts without asking for anything in return. The only thing greater than his generosity was his love for racing.
Team members discussed visiting him at the hospital, reaching out to offer help, and bringing him a variety of get-well items before realizing that he was probably being inundated by similar calls from his huge contact list of friends. Roger left a message on his voicemail on behalf of the team, asking the hospitalized hotshoe to give us a call back, whenever he felt well enough to do so.
To our utter shock, that call back came just two short days later. He was being driven home to recover from his life-changing experience. He was badly cut and bruised, and he had lost part of his right index finger. He had a mountain of medication to help ease the pain as his body recovered. Yet, despite all this, Todd was in great spirits. He talked about the insane circumstances that caused the crash, how he remembered almost nothing about it, how the oversized roll cage tubes on his Probe had saved his life, and how astronomically expensive it was to be airlifted by a medical helicopter. Most importantly, he said that the doctors expected him to make a full recovery. Todd Reid would race again.
Crafting a Get-Well Gift from the Heart
Roger relayed the news to the team to the collective relief of everyone. Our group chats and emails shifted from concern for Todd's well-being to a discussion over what we should get him as a get-well soon gift. The creative intellect of our group, Chris "Cessna" Eng, came up with a brilliant suggestion.
What if we got Todd a new race suit?
It was the perfect gift. A good Nomex race suit costs over $500 US, an amount Todd would be able to ill-afford given the giant stack of medical bills that was looming on the horizon. None of us on the team were particularly well-off, with many of us barely keeping our credit card balances in check. But if enough of us pitched in, maybe we could get him part of the way to a new set of equipment?
Cessna and Roger wrote an email to the team, explaining the situation and asking everyone to contribute what they could afford. To our shock, team members started replying within seconds. Our team's hard-charger Sean Noonan immediately offered to pay for the entire thing in a display of impulsive altruism that had us flabbergasted. While Roger tried to talk Sean down to a more reasonable contribution, Andy Yoon chimed in, offering more than what he should be able to afford given our modest day jobs. Martin mentioned a generous figure then innocently asked if it was too little. And before Cessna or Roger could respond, race mechanic Firoze threw his contribution in the ring at the same time as IMG's assistant Registrar Aziza.
Even new team members Chris Franceschini and Alton Worthington chipped in their hard-earned cash to the cause. Alton's offer was particularly surprising - Due to him living in Michigan, he had only known Todd through ProjectCRX's team Skype calls. When asked if he was sure he wanted to contribute, Alton shrugged and replied:
Well, he's one of us, right?
We were ecstatic. With all twelve team members pitching in, we could afford to get Todd a suit that was two steps better than the well-worn 3-layer suit that was destroyed in the crash. We even had enough to get him a set of gloves and race boots to go with it.
Sean took a guess at suit sizes based on how he and Todd fit into the Sports Racers that they raced at IMG. Just to make sure they had it right, Cessna then had Roger ask Todd in a less-than-subtle way during one of their regular check-in calls with the recovering racer. Luckily for the team, Todd was too high on painkillers to remember that conversation.
The team picked out a smart-looking Sparco race suit with a design that fit Todd's bright personality along with a matching set of gloves and boots. When polled about what color, the team unanimously chose red. We all knew Todd as a fast, fiery, and aggressive racer. He was the one who taught us how to use every inch of track and squeeze 110% out of a racecar. Nothing else would suit him.
We wanted the contents to be surprise, so we repacked the new gear into a cardboard box from Martin's bakery and crossed out the labels so Todd didn't think he was getting a box of frozen croissants. But not before including a homemade get well soon card with our names and the first message that came to our minds:
Red is the fastest color. Get back out there!
We spent the next day smiling and chucking to ourselves. Some of us kept tabs on the package through the UPS tracking number with giddy anticipation of Todd's response. We knew there were more important things in life than racing, and that we could have given him a thousand other things that would have helped Todd get back on his feet. We just wanted to put a smile on Todd's face.
He didn't disappoint.
Just a few short days after we shipped our get-well-soon package, the team received an email from an overjoyed Todd Reid. He had written paragraphs upon paragraphs in a lengthy thank-you email expressing his gratitude at our team's generosity with the chipper tone of a man who was still slightly confused by how we managed to get a hold of his measurements. He even sent the team a photo of himself standing in front of a mirror wearing his new gear, beaming with a smile so bright that you would almost forget that he was still in terrible pain from the recovery process.
Characteristically for the generous racer, he followed this up with a series of phone calls offering a laundry list of things he could do to make it up to us. We responded in kind, returning unbridled joy with heartfelt appreciation, reminding Todd that his friendship and company was all we could ever want.
It was a wonderful moment for the ProjectCRX Racing Team. After all, the raison d'etre of us forming a race team was to have fun racing. That week, we had done just that. The team floated on cloud nine for the rest of the week.
And then, without warning, we were brought crashing back to earth.
From Wearing Red to Seeing Red
Prior to the incident, Todd had been helping the EVSR racing team develop their new electric-powered sports racer. The brainchild and owner of the new electric startup was none other than Entropy Racing's Charlie Greenhaus, who had helped conceive and build our CRX a few short years prior. When Charlie had heard that we had gifted Todd a race suit, he called Roger and made a shocking demand in a stern tone:
You NEED to take back Todd's suit and replace it with a blue one.
His reasoning was that the metal frame of the EVSR that Todd drove was recently repainted in a metallic blue as part of a brand refresh for their company. Despite the fact that the car still had predominantly yellow bodywork, Charlie felt strongly that Todd's new suit should be blue so it would match the exposed bits of roll cage in promotional photographs. He kept haranguing his point as if ProjectCRX had done something wrong, and that Roger was responsible for correcting this terrible mistake.
Roger had no idea what to say. All he could see was a curtain of red mist. The suit was a gift from a group of friends that Todd helped nurture and grow. Charlie contributed nothing towards it despite knowing about our plans several days ago. For him to come in after the fact, effectively ordering our team to do something that flew in the face of what we were trying to do, sounded like an unbelievable absurdity.
After what seemed like an eternity of listening quietly to the indignant man who represented the EVSR program, Roger mustered the strength to respond that he would help exchange the suit if Todd truly wanted to. And quietly hung up the phone.
A few hours later, Roger's cell phone rang again. This time, it was Todd. He was his usual chipper self, though unusually quiet and contrite. He asked if there was any way possible that he could get the receipt for the gear, and if it was ok if he changed his new gear for that of a different color.
We knew exactly what happened. Charlie and the EVSR program had pressured Todd in the same way that they had tried to pressure us. Except this was even worse. The EVSR program was now going after one of their own for being the innocent recipient of a friendly gift. Instead of finding a way to incorporate this gesture of goodwill into what they had, they wanted this group of friends to bend to their will so they would look good to potential future investors.
Todd was understandably sad and apologetic about the situation. He gave us every out that he could think of, saying that if we had misplaced the receipt or if the return window was already closed, he would tell Charlie that he couldn't make the exchange.
In the end though, we couldn't lie to Todd. Roger told him that he would mail him the receipt so he could work out an exchange with OG Racing. The pair spoke for another 20 minutes about more cheerful, car-related things before hanging up with a solemn beep.
Roger sat quietly in a darkened room while contemplating the events of the day. What once was the best thing Team ProjectCRX ever did became the darkest moment of its existence. The right thing to do would have been to fire back at Charlie, telling him just how absurdly inappropriate his demand was, and to demand an apology for even calling. But what would that have done to Todd's standing in the program? Todd's racecar was a mangled wreck, and he didn't have the means to replace it. The EVSR program would be his only hope at getting back into wheel-to-wheel racing for the foreseeable future.
No matter how many times he went through his options, he couldn't find one that would make it better. There was only one question he could answer now:
What the hell am I going to tell the team?
A Dark Day that Won't Go Away
In the end, Roger told Team ProjectCRX what had happened, as objectively as he possibly could. He explained that it would be best for Todd and that ultimately, it would make him happier. That's why we did this right? To make Todd happy?
For the most part, the team accepted his explanation. A few of our more perceptive team members caught on to what was happening and expressed in private how the situation was "messed up" and "unacceptable". Roger and Cessna spent the rest of the week doing damage control, trying to explain that it was for the best. After all, most of us were still working alongside Charlie and Todd on IMG race events. It wasn't the time to cause a huge fight.
In the months that followed, the turmoil from this event faded away behind the noise and sensation of fast cars pounding around racetracks and the late night wrenching sessions that became a staple of ProjectCRX.
At the end of that year, Charlie would decide to take a job offer at Palmer Motorsports Park, putting IMG on a hiatus and choosing to split his time between his new job and the development of the EVSRs. At the same time, Team ProjectCRX would fully move its operation away from Entropy Racing and switch its focus to racing in SCCA Improved Touring A.
In the eight years that followed, the team would continue to develop the car and ourselves, resulting in the adventures that you see in our regaled current-day race reports. But to this day, we still sometimes look back and reflect with heavy hearts as to why Red is the Fastest Color.