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The Real Deal: Tommy D’Aprile on Life and Legacy

Have you heard the term “life is short”? I’m sure all of you have heard that at one time or another. Recently I attended a celebration of life service for a friend’s dad. The man was in his eighties and had lived a very full life, leaving behind an amazing legacy. He loved his family with all his heart and was always present in their lives. 

The stories told at his service reminded me of what really matters in life, or should I say put a clear perspective on our very short life on this earth. We do not know the day nor the hour when our life here will be over, so my question to you today is this: What will be the legacy you leave here on this earth?

[Editor’s Note: This story originally appeared in DI #183, the Sportsman Special Issue, in July/August of 2023.]

When I began my racing career at the age of 14, I already had ideas of becoming famous and a household name. I looked at the people who made it in our sport and was fascinated at the careers they were having – wins, championships, and even a picture of themselves on the side of a trailer. I mean if there was a heaven on earth, that was it! 

So fast forward and I was still chasing the dream, but now I was in the professional ranks. A Pro Rookie of the Year award in the IHRA and eventually a world championship in Pro Modified had me on top of the world, but also had me sacrificing some very important areas of my life to get where I had gotten. 

Perspective led me to take a step back for a while and concentrate on the really important areas of life. People thought I was crazy to walk away from a competitive Pro Modified ride, and all I could tell them was that I needed to put as much time into my family as I had my racing career. 

You see, the legacy I want to leave has nothing to do with race wins and championships. The legacy I want to leave is how I loved my family and set great examples to last for generations to come. I love racing and have spent a lot of time doing it, but now I do it with my family close to home, not without them, hundreds of miles away. Watching my kids win a race and being present for it is far better than any championship I have ever won. 

Our days here are short, and I urge you to take a good long look at what your legacy will be. Taking a break to concentrate on the really important areas of life is a good thing. Trust me, racing will be there when you want to come back. I myself will come back, but not at the expense of sacrificing my family. 

I see so many people chasing the dream when they never realized they had the dream right there in their own home. Sometimes your family needs you more than the racetrack does. Putting them first is the beginning to a great legacy, for sure. Remember this: you have no idea when your last day on this earth will be, so make steps to leave the legacy you were destined for. As always, the choice is yours to make. 

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This story was originally published on October 12, 2023. Drag Illustrated

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Since 2005, DI has informed, inspired and educated drag racers from every walk of the racing life - weekend warrior and street/strip enthusiasts to pro-level doorslammer and Top Fuel racers. From award-winning writing and photography to binge-worthy videos to electric live events, DI meets hundreds of thousands of racers where they live, creating the moments that create conversations.