Motorsports fans are great. They favor drivers but enjoy the roar and the action that competing motors and wheels inherently bring. Motorsports fans are often helpful and friendly as well. Some go beyond and show incredible integrity too.
This reporter has dragged (rolled) heavy camera and recording equipment around NASCAR, IndyCar and NHRA race and sanction events for more than 14 years. For at least six recent years, a trusty carry-on luggage bag with wheels had been the mobile carry-all workhorse.
Then one exciting and long day at the Honda Grand Prix at St. Petersburg in 2012, this same reporter packed the bag with laptop in zipper pouch on top. On the trek to waiting buses, the zipper on the roller luggage finally failed and without noise or notice the laptop in pouch slipped out and landed on a sidewalk.
Two motorsports fans, Scott Winn and Ada Mercurio, enjoyed their day at the SPGP and were going home that evening as well. They were looking forward to race day in the morning.
Ada spotted the zipper pouch and picked it up and suspected it was a laptop.
Scott explained the find.
“We were walking to the shuttle bus and Ada said, ‘That’s a laptop.’”
Fortunate for the reporter, the laptop had identifying stickers all over the device as it is a work station when in media centers.
Even more fortunate for the reporter was the honesty of Scott and Ada. They contacted the owner’s website from identification on the laptop and left this message:
“We have your laptop and want to return it to you.”
The reporter returned the e-mail with great relief. It’s not just the cost of the laptop, it’s the additional cost of sophisticated programs and the time-consuming transfer of data from backup hard drives that loomed had not the laptop been returned.
The next day at the SPGP, Winn and Mercurio met the reporter, returned the laptop then refused a $50.00 cash reward. The reporter was obviously relieved and impressed.
On refusing the $50 reward Scott Winn summed it up fast.
“We feel we shouldn’t get a reward for being decent human beings,” Winn said.
Later, the reporter sent them a box with hats, T-shirts and other racing items and Scott and Ada were grateful. They mentioned that they are drag racing fans as well and would be attending the 2013 Gatornationals and hoped to meet again there.
As that race weekend approached, the reporter arranged for a behind-the-ropes meeting with John Force and Courtney Force.
While waiting for that appointment, Winn and Mercurio waited outside the ropes of DSR Top Fuel champion Tony Schumacher while the reporter waited for Schumacher. When told about the fans finding and returning the laptop, Tony said, ”Bring them in.”
Winn and Mercurio got to meet Tony Schumacher and receive his personal thank you and then got photos with the star.
Once behind the ropes of John Force Racing, the arranged meeting took place. The reporter explained how the couple found his laptop and then refused a $50 reward.
Force pulled a dollar bill from his pocket, autographed it and handed it to Winn.
“I’m going to make it a $51 reward,” Force said.
Force also pulled two John Force Racing Castrol hats from a bin, autographed them and gave one to each to Scott and Ada.
“A race car motor is our lifeline. His computer is his lifeline and the fact that you went thought that trouble. I honor you with this hat.”
Winn commented on the lost laptop scenario.
“Like he said,” Winn said. “It’s not so much the computer, it’s everything that’s on it. No telling how long everything on that computer would have been lost. The fact that we found it was good. In this day and age many people finding it would have erased everything off it.”
John Force smiled:
I’m going to put him into marketing ... He’s pretty good at that.
You know what it does though? It gives you faith in humanity that just the right thing, to go through the trouble, to give something back. It would have caused him a lot of trouble. I hear about people finding a wallet. The wallet comes back sometimes but the money is gone.
I’d just have to put that to my kids: that’s what I would want. I just want to thank you for that.
Scott Winn and Ada Mercurio got another special moment when John’s daughter and Funny Car winner Courtney Force arrived behind-the-ropes to greet and thank them for their deeds.
When asked about her opinion of Winn and Mercurio, Courtney Force was swift to respond.
“That’s awesome,” Force said. “It’s really the most important thing. It’s hard to find a lot of honest people nowadays, so it’s inspiring to see people who are honest and help to others. I loose stuff all the time. It’s impossible. Trying to find something I left on an airplane. I was just praying that someone would be able to send it to me. You just hope for the best, but it’s nice to see that there still good people out there that are helpful that return items that belong to you”
Fan Scott Winn got his turn to ask a question: “How did it feel to win?’
‘”It was first race of the season,” Force said. “You’re just praying to get your car down the racetrack. Going rounds, I was more in shocked than just about anything. It was just exciting. It’s our home track and a lot of my friends were there. It was just a lot of fun to be able to celebrate it – to start the season on a high note.”
Scott asked: "How did John react? I bet he was sky high."
“He was. I could see him running down the racetrack coming towards me, going to do the interview. I thought, oh no, he’s going to pick me up.”
Scott added: “It’s amazing in an 8000 horespower world, someone petite like you can dominate.”
This warm story began at an exciting IZOD IndyCar Honda Grand Prix race in St. Petersburg in 2012, and it ends with that same spring event in 2013.
Top IndyCar drivers Tony Kanaan and Simona de Silvestro were briefed on this laptop return and had good words to add.
“Well, I'm a big fan of honesty,” Kanaan said. “I think I've been loyal to teams that I raced, teammates that I've had. I think that's great. Obviously I want to believe that the world has more people like that than the other way around.
“Maybe we can brag a little bit about and say that IndyCar has the best fans and the most honest fans as well. That would be a pretty cool thing to do.”
Simona de Silvestro added her thoughts.
“I agree with Tony,” de Silvestro said. “I think at the end of the day in motorsports, you're a big giant family. Being honest I think is really important. I think what Tony said was right on point.”
Our history on earth—century after century—is one of incredible nature, persistent civilization and too much human conflict.
Maybe our world just needs more motorsports fans.
FYI WIRZ is the select presentation of topics by Dwight Drum at Racetake.com. Unless otherwise noted, information and all quotes were obtained from personal interviews or official release materials provided by sanction and team representatives.