Stuart Snyder has spent over half his life on the dirt-track, and like many racers, nearly lost his life on that same stretch of dirt. But, it was the death of his car owner that brought Snyder's passion for racing into focus.
"It's something else to be in control of something that's pretty much out of control every single lap," Stuart Snyder said.
In 2012, Stuart Snyder's career, and life, nearly came to an end following a serious accident at a Missouri raceway. A year later, another accident ended his season early, but it was the November death of owner Eldon Rhoten that hit Snyder hardest.
"He was a one of a kind man. If anybody in the pits needed something he was there to help everybody. He had been owning sprint cars for 50-plus years, and finally in 2011, we won him his first championship at Eagle raceway. We won a lot of races with him," Snyder said.
Eldon supplied fast cars and Stu collected the wins, but their relationship extended beyond the track.
"When we weren't racing, me and him would go fishing on the river, and that was the thing that was the coolest. We'd sit there and talk about life and try and catch fish all day. Losing him...it was definitely a shock," Snyder said.
After losing his owner, Snyder found himself without a car as last week's Eldon Rhoten memorial at Eagle raceway neared. Enter defending I-90 Speedway 360 Sprint Car Champion Ryan Bickett.
"They come up with that memorial race for him, and he didn't know where he was going, and I said, you don't need to stress about it, you'll have a car," Ryan Bickett said.
"It takes a special kind of person to set you loose with a $38,000 motor, and say here you go, go have fun," Snyder said.
"Just to see the smile that he had on his face, after the cards that have been dealt to him...that made me smile," Ryan Bickett said.
Bickett says the family got a little bigger with the addition of Snyder, who once again, feels at home.
"It's kind of the same connection I had with Eldon. They want to have fun. They took me in underneath their wing and gave me a great car to drive, a great opportunity, and I just hope that we can keep the thing going and have a good season," Snyder said.
A new team has filled the void on the track, but the loss of Eldon remains fresh of Snyder's mind.
"Every time I walk up to the car to hop into it, I always look in the trailer, because he was usually sitting in his chair right at the back of the trailer, and he'd give me a thumbs up. I don't have that anymore, so I don't know if you ever really do get over it," Snyder said.
Snyder finished ninth at last Friday's Eldon Rhoten memorial. A night later, Stu finished sixth in the 360 Sprints at I-90 Speedway...one spot better than Ryan Bickett.