Dreams Before the End of the Road

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Written by The Staff of Motorsport Marketing

From the July 2017 issue

Posted in Features

Story by James Heine

Among the mileposts we encounter in life, being told one has no more than 90 days to live is not one we would likely approach, or react to, with relish.

Yet that is exactly what Texas rancher, retired lawyer, wife, mom and now SVRA regular Susan Patterson did when she received this news.

Patterson is a breast cancer survivor, an aortic-valve heart-transplant survivor, and now an inflammatory cancer survivor.

“With the last cancer, the inflammatory cancer, they didn’t think the treatment would work,” Patterson explains. “So they said, ‘You’ve only got 90 days to live.’”

Patterson’s response?

“I said okay, there’s three things I want in life. I want a camel, a kangaroo, and I want to go 200 miles an hour. That was my 90-day bucket list.” That was nearly five years ago.

“And so, God is good,” Patterson adds, “and those bucket list items seemed to have helped heal me emotionally.”

We caught up with Patterson last summer at Road America’s WeatherTech International Challenge with Brian Redman, where she was campaigning her 1952 Devin MG Speedster TD.

While her Road America excursion was “just for fun,” Patterson has become a serious racer in SVRA, filling her weekend schedules with events at Sebring, Amelia Island, Mid- Ohio, Indianapolis and Coronado, among others, with NOLA presently on her list of upcoming SVRA dates. “I’m the number-one points person in the SVRA organization nationally,” she noted during our Road America interview.

Patterson wasted no time entering the racing world after her life-changing diagnosis. Within two weeks, Patterson, who was raised on a rocky 5000-acre West Texas ranch, had not only acquired her camel and kangaroo–requiring a stint in camel school–she had entered the Texas Mile, the semiannual speed event held at a former Naval Air Station in Beeville, Texas, since 2003.

“I took my children with me,” Patterson continues. “I have a daughter that’s a graduate of Texas A&M and a son that’s a graduate of Texas Tech. We picked out a 2007 Mercedes AMG model and took it to the Texas Mile. I just knew I was going to go 200 miles an hour.”

Well, almost.

“It had a governor on it,” Patterson says. “I only got to 160 miles an hour. But I was hooked.”

Patterson’s husband helped her check off another bucket list item. “He took me to Monaco to see the Grand Prix, and I was totally hooked once I saw the road racing,” Patterson says.

Back at home after Monaco, fellow attorney and vintage racer Dan Chapman informed Patterson that he had just the thing for her: vintage racing.

“I didn’t know anything about it,” Patterson recalls. “I’d never been on the race track, never seen a flag. So I enrolled in Bigger Hammer Racing in a little Formula Vee, and I did that for a year.”

Patterson acquired her current car, the Devin MG, just in time for the SVRA national championships at COTA in 2015. She has been racing it regularly since then.

How is the car to drive?

“Slow. It’s tough on your ego,” Patterson responds with a smile. “Four cylinders, four speeds, drum brakes. But I finish. It’s reliable. And I have all the racing history on it. It’s been a sports racer since 1952. Built by Art Evans and sold by him. The car’s been around a long time, and it’s a privilege to drive it.”

Initially, Patterson says, she and whatever family, friends or fellow racers she could coerce into joining her at the track looked after the car on race weekends, but on the advice of SVRA president Tony Parella, who suggested that life would be easier and maybe a bit safer if she engaged professional help, she turned to Dallas’s Duntov Motors for assistance. The relationship has blossomed, Patterson says. Alan and Edward Sevadjian of Duntov Motors have been “a great help” to her.

“It’s been a beautiful relationship. They’re from just north of Fort Worth; so it’s not far at all from where I live,” Patterson adds. “They’re able to teach me on the Eagles Canyon course, and they’ve put a Traqmate on my Devin. We go over my computer data, and I’ve really improved as I’ve gone along. It’s been a great run.”

As for the future, away from racing, Patterson continues to tend her camels and kangaroos and raise miniature longhorn cattle on her ranch, Sanguinity Pointe Ranch in Comal County, Texas. “It’s my racing sponsor,” she explains with a smile, adding that she takes “every day as my last.”

“Just max out,” she adds. “The racing has been fabulous, but I still haven’t gone 200 yet. So I’ve still got that on the horizon.”

“Actually,” she adds after a short pause, “now, I’m kind of pushing it to 220. I think I want to go 220.”

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Reader comments:

frenchyd
frenchyd HalfDork
Sept. 27, 2017 3:50 p.m.

Good for her!  

I'm not sure how she got the required medical but the fact that she's racing is great!! 

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