From the outside, I looked pretty normal.

Just another guy walking the pits,

keeping on with my best gunfighter face.

Behind the mask was turbulence,

the fallout from my day job and personal life.

Maybe Chaplain Ray Rizzo saw something.

He stopped me in my tracks and asked if I needed a prayer.

Caught off guard and not wanting to be rude –  I said yes.

He didn’t ask if I was Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Muslim or even Buddhist.

Right there in the pits, Ray put a hand on my shoulder

and the other towards the sky.

“Father, we thank you…..”

I walked away feeling my load a little lighter.

His words put me in the moment.

I realized I was grateful to be at the track enjoying a day with my extended racing family.

And that I was lucky, or dare I say blessed for the day.

Michael Lawless with Ray Rizzo. [Michael Lawless]

It’s risky writing about religion in a motorcycle publication.

Years ago I mentioned God in an article.

The editor cut it.

When I queried, he laughed, “You can rap about anything but Jesus.”

Maybe Kanye was right.

[Jodi Johnson]

Chaplain Ray Rizzo is like spiritual glue

keeping the American Flat Track community intact.

He provides moral support, be it a kind word, prayer,

or even last rites.

He’s at the center of every race weekend.

The Chaplain offers support to all, though not everyone is interested.

One racer flatly declined his offer of a prayer as they lined up in staging.

Unfortunately, he crashed heavily that day.

As they loaded him into the ambulance,

Ray asked if a prayer would comfort him.

This time he said yes.

Ray checked in on the racer during his recovery.

They remain close to this day.
[Jodi Johnson]

In racing, a dream can turn into a nightmare in seconds.

I shadowed a racer over a weekend for an article.

We met with his mother after work on Friday for a long drive out to the race.

In the race, another rider checked up into him,

and it was a heavy fall.

As he lay on the track motionless, his mother screamed his name.

Red flags and EMTs.

Relief as he opened his eyes.

The rush to the hospital,

then the waiting and anguish of uncertainty.

The comfort as the Chaplain arrived.

He offered us prayer and stayed beside while we waited for news.

Ray had ridden across town on a tiny 50cc scooter.

His concern was genuine.

I saw him differently after that.

[Jodi Johnson]

Racing reminds us life is fragile.

Our clock is ticking.

A racer’s life is under the microscope with media and fans.

Success or failure is around the next corner.

It’s easy to go off center

and it can test one’s beliefs,

but we know there is no other life for us.

Feeling connected to a higher power can bring peace

and lend balance.

I asked Ray how he got started.

He dreamed of being a crewman for Richard Petty, but found his calling in the ministry.

Motor Racing Outreach landed him in the flat track scene, and he’s been spiritually supporting our community since 2010.

You can find Raymond Rizzo on Facebook, Instagram, or even email.

 

Michael Lawless [@electric_horseman], our ‘Poet of Packed Earth’, is the Flat Track Editor for TheVintagent.com, and has his own blog: Electric Horseman
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