Courtesy of The Madera County Historical Society
Dan Green, shown here circa 1965 in a motorcycle race. Later he moved to racing vintage super modified race cars and appeared for years at the Madera Speedway. On Saturday he was memorialized at the Madera race track with a symbolic “last lap” in race cars piloted by his daughters Teresa Green and Jenifer Green Heck.
I went to the Madera Speedway last Saturday to watch Dan Green’s last lap. He had died 10 days before at the age of 78.
I don’t have any idea how many times he raced in Madera, the town in which he was born, but over the years he logged a lot of hours on our local track.
On Saturday, 300 fellow racers joined his family and friends in the Speedway stands to salute Green with a final lap. The tribute was performed by two of Dan’s daughters, Teresa Green and Jenifer Green Heck. Each of the women drove a racecar around the track in honor of their father.
As those roaring engines pushed the cars around the track, I thought about my friend. It is a wonder to me that he could even fit into one of those small racers with the giant engines. At 6’ 4’’ and 300 lbs., surely one of the toughest parts of any of his races was squeezing into those cars.
All of those people in the stands that day were all rooting for Dan. I could tell that was true because when the last lap was over, we all gathered under the trees behind the grandstands to share memories of him.
Tables were set up to accommodate the large crowd. We had some great food and drinks and then began to swap stories about Dan Green. First one and then another regaled the group with stories of Dan at a racetrack or going to a racetrack. While they were all hilarious anecdotes, none of them turned him into a court jester; instead, they all added to the “larger-than-life” perception the racing community has of him.
I have never been a fan of racing, so I don’t know much about it, but I know something about race-car drivers. They are a strange alchemy of fierce competition and wholesome collegiality. They give everything they have to defeat each other, but will do anything in their power to lend each other a helping hand when the need arises.
That’s the way it was with Dan.
While folks shared years of memories of Dan, I silently mulled over a few that his family had told me, and when I put them all together, they formed his apologia — the thing that helps to explain the man — his motives, his convictions, his actions.
Dan Green was driven by the concept of “Carpe diem—Seize the day—Do it now.”
Everything that folks were saying about Dan pointed to that Latin phrase. Dan’s entire life, consciously and subconsciously, was molded by his drive to seize the day.
He and his wife, Sharon, had been married just a short time when he decided to sell motorcycles, but it wasn’t enough to sell the machines; he wanted to own a motorcycle dealership — but not just one. Before he was through, he owned Dan Green’s Cycle Center and became Fresno’s Harley dealer, its Norton dealer, and its Indian dealer, to name just three.
Then Dan saw another opportunity to seize the day, this time in trucking, so he bought an 18-wheeler and hit the road. It wasn’t long before one truck wasn’t enough; he needed two trucks, and then three, and four, and five, and pretty soon a whole fleet of trucks. That’s how Dan Green’s Trucking began.
Later he and his family promoted motocross racing in Dunlap, which gave him an opportunity to help young people enter the sport.
By the 1990s, Dan and Sharon were ready to seize another day, this time in wood recycling. They hit upon the idea to buy wood shavings from two lumber mills near North Fork and sell them to racetracks in Southern California. Since Dan already had his own fleet of trucks, it was just a short time before he was hauling 18 truckloads of shavings a day.
From there, it was a natural move to making compost, bark and humus, and Dan Green’s Wood Recycling was born.
In 2005, Dan retired and spent most of the last 12 years of his life building and racing vintage super-modified racecars. He and his family also loved to travel in their motor home and took several trips across the country.
Even here, Dan could not allow the sun to rise without seizing the day. On one trip to Florida, Dan stopped at every car or motorcycle museum and racetrack along the way.
Somehow Dan Green was also able to jam pack snow skiing, golfing, and reading into his “eight-day work weeks.”
The general consensus at Dan’s racetrack memorial was that he “lived life in the fast lane,” and “there was never a quiet moment around him.”
So it is with those who are driven to “seize the day.” Sometimes they leave us with the uncomfortable feeling that we don’t quite know what to do with our time.