(Originally published in 2014)
It was an emotional moment for many, watching the Yamaha-produced send-off for Colin Edwards II last night. It was emotional for me because I have seen nearly Colin’s entire roadrace career, and have been with him for pivotal moments of that career. For example, his first win on a 250 at Daytona, his first Superbike win–at Mid-Ohio in 1994–then Monza for his first podium in WSBK, and of course Imola in 2002 and the second world Superbike championship.
That said, my favorite memory of Colin is a private one that few outside the Edwards family really know. It all happened in 2001.
It might be helpful to mention that Colin Edwards is one of my closest friends, someone I talk to nearly every day by one form of communication or another. We used to talk for hours on the phone but e-mail has largely replaced those phone calls.
If you have a hard time mentally seeing me talk to Colin Edwards on the telephone for hours, maybe I should mention that the Colin Edwards I am writing about isn’t the one you see on the racetrack. It’s his dad. They share the same name–Colin the son has “II” attached to his last name.
Inside the Edwards family, Colin II is “Col” and Colin senior is “Pops”. Pops is one of my closest friends.
Colin Senior is an interesting story. He’s been a horsepower junkie since his younger days in Australia and in the 1970s built a hugely powerful Honda CB750/4 powered streetbike with a nickle-plated frame with a Russ Collins 1080cc engine. Just to top if off he put a supercharger on it.
Living and working in the jungle where he was employed by an oil company was both good and bad for Colin Senior. He was able to thrive in an environment where he who had the biggest machete was the law, many times. But he suspects that he contracted something in the jungle that has plagued him with poor health for the last twenty-five years. The Rickman/supercharged Honda was sold a long time ago to help support Colin II’s early club racing.
By 2001, Colin Senior had undergone an organ transplant and although his body accepted the new organ, new ailments always seemed to be cropping up. For a once active man who had built his own motorcycles, Colin Senior was confined to a small apartment. It seemed like the world and darkness were closing down on him. “Pops”, it is said, has been given last rites more than once but had always managed to claw his way back to semi-reasonable health. In 2001, though, it was looking very bad and I would occasionally call him just to check in and try to cheer him up. Later I’d see Colin II in Europe, and try to relay my concerns about his dad, which Colin II shared. His dad was unable to enjoy the world outside his apartment.
As with most things “Col” the kid had a plan … but he did not share it with anyone.
In July of 2001, Colin returned to the Suzuka 8 Hours endurance race for Honda. He sat his teammate for the race down–Valentino Rossi–and told him that he needed him NOT to crash this time. Go as fast as you like, but do not crash in the race–you got it?. When Colin is staring at you like he was with Rossi, trust me, you get the point, which Rossi did. Rossi might have suspected that the intense “don’t screw this up” lecture was because Colin didn’t want to return to race the 8 Hours, and Colin let him believe that, but that really wasn’t why he had special motivation to win the 8 Hours that year.
Rossi stayed up, did not crash, pulled some riding magic out of his bag of tricks and that pair won the Suzuka 8 Hours. It was a huge win, and the financial reward was equally as huge.
Colin II wasted no time. He did the podium ceremony at Suzuka, went to a local bar and celebrated with Rossi and the team, then went directly to the airport where he boarded a flight to Texas. He collapsed in the seat and slept all the way back to the United States.
The jet landed in Texas, eventually, and Colin was on the phone shortly after he cleared security. He had a real estate agent on the line and said he wanted to see some properties. When should we schedule this? “I’m driving to your office now, Colin said. “I have a tight schedule; we need to do this now.”
Colin II and the agent began to look at small but nice single level homes in Old Town Conroe. The agent was a bit weirded out by the young man in her car as they drove from house to house because–she said later–while he seemed sober, he smelled terribly of wine. Colin II did not notice her concern. And even if he had, he was pressed for time and probably would not have explained to her that smell was from the champagne that was sprayed in his hair on the podium at the biggest race in Japan, just the day before. And that he hadn’t had time to shower since that champagne shower.
Colin rifled through the homes, looking at the plumbing, the floor layout and the yard in each one. He finally picked one that he thought would work and told the agent to write it up.
“We can close next Friday” she said. No, Colin said, we are closing today or no deal. With the Suzuka winnings in his bag, he said, “I am paying cash.” She understood and scheduled the transfer of papers and funds when they returned to the office. Colin signed the papers, grabbed the keys, said thanks and was gone, in his truck and on his way.
He arrived at his dad’s apartment in the middle of the afternoon. Colin Senior opened the door to see his son standing there holding a stack of moving boxes.
They enjoy a close relationship, so when Colin II told him what he had done and told his dad to start packing, his dad just did as he was told. Colin said he was going to go home, take a shower, drum up some help, and come back and start moving his dad into his new house.
“Pops” left that dark apartment and moved into a small house with a yard and a garden. There he could walk his dog, sit in the sun and play with his grandchildren any time he pleased.
It seemed to me that the new house was the best thing that had happened to my friend, Colin Senior. Almost immediately his health made an amazing rebound. When I saw him he looked years younger and for a time after I kidded him by saying that he looked almost spry. Even on the phone he went from a guy who usually I had to constantly ask to speak up, to someone I could hear clearly when he rang me with his usual greeting: “HEY, DEANO, HOW YOU DOIN’ MATE?”.
The house that Colin II bought changed his dad’s life.
Colin Senior banged his knee last week and could not be at Indy yesterday for his son’s send-off. I kept him apprised via phone and he is looking forward to seeing footage of it on YouTube and the like. Just that he is still here, on this earth, in 2014, is a testament to the Edwards family’s ability to fight. And I think, that house.
Colin Edwards II. He is my close friend’s kid, a two-time world champion and multi-time race winner in many different classes. He’s a great rider and a good teammate; many racetrack accomplishments stand out on his racing record. I am proud of him, proud to have written about him for most of his life and to have been there for some of the most important moments of that racing life.
However, I am most proud of the fact that he is a good son.