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Honoring Atticus Hansen in Detroit

The Horton Autosport team came into the Detroit Grand Prix at Belle Isle with heavy hearts.  It was a very uncharacteristic mood for the team and there is no way to describe the tonnage of emotion we brought with us to the event.  For some time we had tried to coordinate with a very special young man to get him to the Detroit race as our VIP guest.  That little guy’s name is Atticus Hansen, and he has been a true inspiration to everyone who has had the good fortune to meet him or, in many of our cases, simply know his story and situation.  Atticus was diagnosed with a rare, inoperable, terminal brain tumor early this year at the tender age of four.  The story isn’t one of sadness, however, because by displaying bravery, courage and compassion to others despite his own situation Atticus has taught us all a valuable lesson; live our lives every day as one of God’s children and turn what may seem like a burden into a blessing.

Atticus succumbed to the tumor in his body the Sunday before the grand prix.  I heard the news on Memorial Day morning and was devastated.  It didn’t seem fair to lose such a fantastic boy who had such a good heart.  He loved race cars and we were so excited to give him the experience of a lifetime in Detroit.  Unfortunately we didn’t get that chance.  This story is in no way a tragedy, but rather a significant triumph.  Atticus left the pain of his worldly body to spend an eternity with our Savior and in addition, he leaves behind a legacy that will touch people long after we are gone.

Before the start of our Rolex race, Eric Foss and I shared a moment with one of the SPEED Channel announcers, Brian Till.  Brian was sharing how Atticus’s story moved him and made him reflect on his relationships with loved ones.  Thousands of people have been touched by this young boy and, like Brian and myself, all have taken an inward look to audit the way we treat those we care for and even those we don’t even know.  In his own selfless way, Atticus taught us this most valuable and “golden” rule.

The Detroit Grand Prix itself was an interesting event.  We were very excited to go and could not believe how well we were received by the fans.  It seems they missed their home race since it was last run in 2008.  Speaking of fans, one awesome surprise for me was seeing my friend Ethan who somehow coerced his parents into driving him from their home in Toronto to visit me in Detroit.  Ethan is the coolest 7 year-old I know and one of like two fans I have…the other is my mom.  The turnout was terrific and the island park which is sandwiched between the beautiful art deco Detroit skyline and the shores of Windsor, Canada was a challenging venue.  The circuit has many surface changes and some difficult corners.  We were looking forward to utilizing our Porsche’s rear engine configuration to drive off the corners.

Qualifying for the race went rather poorly for me and we found ourselves starting in the 11th spot, closer to the back of the field than the end at which we wanted to be.  We had a good strategy for the shorter than normal 2 hour race and found ourselves leading just before the halfway point.  I handed the car over to Eric with just over 50 minutes to go.  Eric had his work cut out for him since he had only been on the track in the wet before jumping in during the last half of the race.  He drove like the talented competitor he is and was up to speed almost immediately.  Then very sadly we had contact with the car that started the race on pole, the Patron Ferrari.  The Ferrari seemed to need more track than the several car widths Eric had left him and found the left front of our Porsche very attractive.  Once allies, the Germans and Italians made quick enemies of each other with the Italians taking a surprising victory.  Eric was forced to pit with damage to the left front wheel and we went a lap down while making repairs.  Somehow we managed a 10th place finish, probably because Eric kept his nose clean while everyone else was determined to put tire marks on their cars.

So we left Detroit with a somewhat nice looking car and are now pretty excited about Ohio.  We will be down a key player, though, since team principal and engineer, John Horton, is at home with my sister who is going to give birth to a little girl very, very soon!  God is good and I can’t wait to meet my little miracle of a niece!

I can never do Atticus justice by the way I drive a stupid car around a track or by writing about how amazing he was in a blog a total of five people will read, two of whom are related to me.  I can start to do him justice by loving those around me and helping show others Christ’s love through my actions.  If you are one of the three other people reading this, please pray for the Hansen family that they would know how much of a celebration their son, Atticus’s life was and that they will reunite with him in the blink of an eye in God’s timeline.      

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