As we look forward to the meat of the race season last
week brought me back to the memory of the man that put his life on the line
to get this ministry started. I think back to the day when we received the
news; Pat was home with the Lord. We wouldn’t be where we are today without
the vision and courage of Pat Evans. Greetings in the name of our Lord and
Savior, Jesus Christ.
On June 5, 2005, the news came down that Pat had left us. We were
at Thompson Speedway for a double header for the Busch North and Whelen
Modified Tour. How appropriate, the place where RWJM held its inaugural
Chapel Service in the fall of 1980 was the same place the news was released.
I wasn’t around for the early days but one of Pat’s right hand men was, Dick
Wibblesman. Dick shared his thoughts on the life that touched so many.
Pat was born in Pottstown , PA June 20th 1947. He developed
his passion for racing at a very early age, joining his mom at some of the
great tracks in the northeast— Reading , Nazareth , Langhorne, Trenton
—while still a youngster. Many was the time that we would be coming back
late from a race that he would reminisce about those early days and the
great drivers he saw. I got an education in Jan Opperman, Al Tasnady and
some of the other big names of that era.
After high school Pat joined the Navy to see the world. Not much of
it was seen and he took his discharge as soon as it was available, settling
in Southern California . There, he tried his hand at driving a dirt car and
developed a driving style that was to follow him thru out his life—much to
the chagrin of his passengers and many public servants charged with
protecting others on the road. He soon discovered what most of us know. To
earn a small fortune in racing, you need to start with a large one. He
decided to come back east, and, using the then current version of the GI
bill, earned a degree in marketing from the University of Connecticut . He
got his start in the newspaper business after college doing sales work and
ultimately some reporting with the Norwich Bulletin and other papers in the
It was during the mid ‘70s that Pat developed a yearning for a
closer relationship with the Lord. Once he was born again, he started to
feel there must be a way to combine his two loves, for the Lord and for auto
racing. He started talking with certain drivers and other personnel it the
pits at various tracks, and with his gift of gab, talked his way into saying
a “little” message at the driver’s meetings. Finally he formed Racing With
Jesus Ministries in 1978. In 1979, at the urging of a good friend—Val
LaSieur, who owned and publishes Speedway Scene—Pat started a racing column
in the paper. At first it was a brief message about the Lord followed by
lots of racing news and his opinions. It was the latter that caught the
attention of drivers, whose side he seemed to be on, and track
officials/owners who were often on the receiving end of pointed comments
about how the race should be run, or the track operated. But, he did get the
reputation for being fair, honest and discreet—three traits that helped him
become the reporter people read and believed for the truth. That allowed him
to expand his Bible teaching in the column and touch more people.
Nonetheless, Pat was many times the voice in the wilderness, ignored by
many, listened to by few as he declared “prepare ye the way for the Lord”.
I first met Pat at one of those times. He was at the Speedway
Scene-sponsored 1980 Racearama sitting in a little 4x4 booth with a card
table, two folding chairs, a Bible and no audience. My wife must have spent
two to three hours talking to him to keep him company and to discuss her
recent Born Again experience. Me? I was there for the cars.
However, they must have had some prayer influence because I
accepted the Lord one month later and thus started the 25 year long,
wonderful relationship with Pat and his new ministry. Soon I was on the road
almost every weekend with him—many of you probably know me only as the tall
chubby fellow who was either standing in the background as Pat held court,
or schlepping some podium, chair, bookstand etc., or taking a collection at
service. All vital jobs that needed doing—well maybe not the standing part.
My first eye-opening taste of what it took for Pat to do his job
was a mid-July trip to Oxford Plains for the ’80 Plains 250. There we were,
driving up in an unairconditioned Chevette with my feet out the passenger
window, screaming along at 75-80 mph (remember this was the double nickel
era) hoping we got there before the engine breathed its last. It was not the
last learning experience.
Most people have no idea what it took Pat to pull off this
ministry. First there was the money side. Pat held a number of jobs during
the 1980’s, generally none longer than several months to a couple of years,
because his bosses either got tired of him always needing time off to pursue
his ministry obligations at a track anywhere from northern Maine down to
southern Virginia, or because they didn’t see eye-to-eye with him being so
upfront with his love for the Lord. This also meant that he never had a job
where his income could support both his day-to-day expenses and the extra
cost of the ministry—travel, motels, meals, etc. It was and remains today
the biggest concern. Second was the time investment. Not only was Pat doing
all his ministry work at the track, and holding down a job, he also had the
column to write and the many instances of counseling to cover. It seemed as
if Pat were squeezing 27 hours into each day.
All those extra calls on his time were what made his efforts
worthwhile. Pat was never happier than when he was asked to preside over a
wedding or a christening, or was able to call me up and say another person
had come to the Lord. THAT is what he felt called to do. Each year, at
yearend he would, with great joy, tell us how many of each had happened
during the year.
Over the years, Pat came to be accepted by more and more people.
The turning point was probably the best and worst weekend of his life
however. In October 1985, at Martinsville , one of Pat’s closest friends in
racing, and one whom Pat had considered his biggest challenge regarding
acceptance of faith, Richie Evans lost his life during practice. Pat was
asked by track management to do a memorial service for Richie. Ultimately
they broadcast the service to all 15-20,000 in the stands at the time.
People heard him for the first time in many cases and realized that he was
doing this job—the Ministry—for a reason, and it wasn’t money. It was a love
of the Lord and the realization that these racers needed some divine
protection. It helped Pat through this loss that Richie had told him earlier
that week that he had found the Lord.
From this point on Pat earned new respect for who he was and what
he did. Attendance at services increased, more calls for ministering came
in, more weddings etc. A little more funding as well, but never enough.
In the early 90’s Pat changed the home of his column to Area Auto
Racing News, thanks to the kindness of Lenny Sammons, to whom we are
eternally grateful. He also started taking on additional people to help out
both in the office--thanks Scott and Lisa—and at the track, first with some
local representatives at places like Wall Stadium in NJ and Grandview in PA,
and then most recently with full ministers like Dan Petfield who joined up
in the late 90’s and Don Rivers a couple years ago.
The ministry will survive. But we will all miss our dear friend and
brother. I will miss times with him like the one in Virginia when he was
stopped for going 85-90 on the way back from Martinsville(again double
nickel days). The trooper looked at Pat, walked away for awhile, came back,
smiled and said in a very reverential tone “ Father, as a good catholic,
there’s no way I can give a man of the cloth a ticket for this, but for the
rest of the drive do you think you could try to keep it below 75?” We must
have laughed about that for 100 miles—but at the same time it kept us awake
at the end of a long weekend when we really needed it.
I will miss the many times we left for a track knowing that God had
something in mind for us. Like the time we drove all the way to the
Shangri-la track in NY, only to get rained out after arriving. On the way
back we stopped at five-mile point that was running, and after that show, we
finished up at Orange County . Pat had an anxiety attack while there and he
was taken to the hospital. We didn’t know it at the time but God was
preparing us. As we were getting ready to leave the Hospital, an ambulance
came in with a severely injured pit crewman from a track accident, followed
by his wife and two small children. Pat spent hours in the early morning
comforting that family that he didn’t know. To this day, I don’t know
whether that person survived or not—it was touch and go—but I do know that
God used His man to help the family through.
For twenty-five years Reverend Pat was there for “his” racers, pit
crews, track officials, and fans. In person and through his column, he tried
to bring people closer to the Lord and their salvation. Now the Lord has
called him home with a “good job, faithful servant”. The ministry will go
on, doing God’s work as instructed, But, we will miss tremendously our
friend, our brother, and, at times, our support—Patrick T.J. Evans.
Rest in Peace, my friend.
FROM THE ROAD
QUICK TRIP TO IOWA - I guess that is
an oxymoron. There is no quick way to Iowa from here, as they say up north;
you can’t get there from here. Well I got there and back with the help of
Rob Grimm and Grimm Racing, in a little less than 60 hours door to door.
Thanks Rob for making it possible to be there.
The journey as they say is better than the destination and in this
case it was true. The highlight of the trip wasn’t the race; it was the stop
at Antique Archeology in Le Claire , Iowa to do a little picking. Mike,
Frank and Danielle weren’t around but many of the gems they picked were
there to see. Who knew it was within a mile of I-80?
The West won this round and ended the dominance of the East Series
in these companion races. Congratulations to Michael Self who had the field
covered. Dylan Kwasniewski missed his High School Graduation to compete but
they had it covered. He received his Diploma with Cap and Gown during driver
introductions from Series Director Kip Childress. Oh and he didn’t have a
bad race either coming home second.
Iowa was a good opportunity to catch up with some of the friends we
have made and meet some new ones. David Martin has come on board as an
Assistant Chaplain for Iowa Speedway and was put right into action. If you
happened to catch the Invocation for the Nationwide Race on Saturday night
you saw David do his first invocation at the track.
ONE MORE TIME - Rain again washed out the Whelen Modified
Tour stop at Stafford Motor Speedway so we will give it one more try this
Friday night. This makes for an interesting double header weekend. Following
the tour event on Friday at Stafford will be the SBM 125 open mod show at
Star Speedway. Should be a great weekend for Tour Modified action, hope to
see you there.
Look for the #06 VMRS team of Les Hinckley to make their return in
the SBM 125 at Star. This will be their first outing after the passing of
car owner Chuck Montville. I am sure they could use our support and prayers.
HELPING OUT IN OKLAHOMA - Hearing the news about the
devastating tornados in Oklahoma left many of us on the east coast
remembering the ravages of Sandy . One competitor on the K&N Series knew all
too well the destruction. Kenzie Ruston out of El Reno , OK had family
members who lost everything. She was at Bowman Gray to race but with a heavy
heart. As He does, God provided some assistance to her family from a donor
and I was able to deliver it to her and her family at Iowa . They we very
moved by the willingness of others to reach out to them in their time of
An interesting side note, our original plan was to let MRO and West
Series Chaplain Bob Butcher cover the race in Iowa due to a lack of funds at
RWJM, but God had other plans. Delivering that check was one of the most
significant things that happened in Iowa . It was an opportunity to let
others know we care about them away from the track also.
God provided the donation, the ride to Iowa and the opportunity to
make a lasting impression in someone’s heart. God is good.
A SHOUT OUT TO THE JERSEY SHORE - Wall Stadium Chaplain Bob
Menschner called this week to share about the generosity of one of the race
teams. Bob likes to present a trophy on behalf of RWJM to the winners of the
TQ Midget features. Those trophies are donated to him and he recycles them.
Well Bob ran out of trophies and thought he would have to stop, but God
Thank you to the Cummings Family for donating a generous amount of
trophies so that the tradition can keep going!
VALENTI GETS IN UNDER SUNNY SKIES - The Valenti Modified
Racing Series was able to get their event at Seekonk Speedway in on Saturday
with 27 cars in the paddock. 24 made the feature with a late entry of Chip
in the pace truck. When the checkered flag fell the top three were #85 Louie
Mechalides, #09 Tommy Barrett and #28 Dwight Jarvis. After a week off they
will be back in action for an eleven week stretch.
Until next time, be a witness for our Lord with the ministry decals
and apparel. See them at the Show Your Faith Apparel Store at
http://www.rwjm.com/store. Send us your prayer and counseling needs no matter
what part of our racing family you are in, or give us a call. Remember that
God loves you, we love you and
Jesus is Lord over Auto Racing. GOD BLESS.
Mail reaches us at Racing with Jesus Ministries, PO Box 586,
Tolland, CT 06084.
Check our weekly printed pages in "Area Auto Racing
the East Coast’s largest weekly racing paper.
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We invite you to input your thoughts as you sign our Guest Book.
Please remember, we can only do what we do because of your prayerful
Numbers 6:24-26 "The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord
make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face
toward you and give you peace."
May God always Bless you, everyday in everyway. Rev. Don
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RACING WITH JESUS MINISTRIES
PO Box 586
Tolland, CT, 06084
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