Garth Rickards dreamed of racing since he was a young boy growing up in Mechanicsburg.
“I would pretend I was in the Indy 500,” he said.
Not everyone was on board with his dreams. Rickard’s mother had reservations about letting her son get on the track.
“As any mother, she was protective of her son and did not want anything to happen to me,” Rickards said.
Although he was disappointed, Rickards understood his mother’s concerns and respected her wishes. What he did not know is the woman who loved him the most would be taken so soon.
“She was diagnosed the day before my 16th birthday,” he said.
Although his mom had never smoked a day in her life, Judy was diagnosed with stage-4 lung cancer. She battled the cancer for four years. Just days before she died, she gave her son one last gift: her blessing to start racing.
“I broke down,” Rickards said. “I had been waiting for that day every year since I was 5 years old.”
Rickards, a 23-year-old Shippensburg University student, is now chasing his dream to race in the Indy 500 and loving every minute of it.
“The only thing you hear is the engine and your heartbeat, and it is pretty intense,” he said. “You are in your own little world and nothing else matters.”
He says every time he suits up, he thinks of his mom.
“All of my helmets have her initials on the back, and every time I put the visor down I say a prayer and say thank you,” he said. “It is the best gift she ever gave me.”
That is why Rickards wants to give back. He started a Go Fund Me page called “Come Ride with Me to Stop Cancer.” Ten percent of the donations will go to the American Cancer Society.
“I have felt the need to give back and I really think that is what my mom would want,” he said. “I want to use my racing as something positive and not just racing for a title.”
One of Rickard’s sponsors is Bobby Rahal, who owns several car dealerships in the Midstate. Rahal won the Indy 500 in 1986.
Rickards will back on the racetrack in March for the St. Petersburg Grand Prix in Florida, which is part of the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship.