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Weekend of Honor and Speed

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Hawk 34

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It’s been awhile…

 

This was a busy weekend for me and it started Friday night as I attended the Ring of Honor show in Dayton. As far as ROH shows go, this was fairly solid but nothing out of this world (probably will be best known for Brent Albright’s debut with the company and another fantastic edition to the Delirious/Sydal series) I covered my reactions and thoughts in the thread so I won’t bother to go over here because anyone that really cared to begin with already seen it and I’d hate to bore my loyal and bored fan base with a detailed report of a independent wrestling promotion’s live show.

 

I woke up Sunday morning with a slight fever which was abnormal for me to feel in the fall, while most people are rocked with sickness during the season swirl, I tend to avoid it but instead of lying in bed and taking in the football action, I was getting into my car with my girlfriend Allison to Salem, Indiana. Salem, is basically the middle of fucking nowhere with a Wal-Mart, two gas stations and the main attraction, which was where we were heading, Salem Motor Speedway.

 

Her uncle (Brian), whom she wasn’t particularly close to, is a part-time race car driver and she thought since I’m fairly knowledgeable on automotive nature and a slight interest in auto racing that I would enjoy spending a warm afternoon with her uncle’s pit crew. I didn’t want to go but you don’t really have a choice in the matter when she tells (forces) you.

The race was scheduled to start at 1:00 and let me explain the concept of this particular race. If you follow auto racing or seen it on television, it’s nothing like that. 87 cars were entered into this race on a ½ mile track. Essentially, it was a guaranteed traffic jam at 90 mph. Her uncle, whom I had never met before had drawn the pole position (since it’d a nightmare to qualify nearly 100 cars on speed, they were slotted via random lottery drawing). Apparently, starting anywhere near the front wasn’t a good thing and especially so for her uncle as he had an admittedly piece of shit car. Her uncle had been out of the racing for nearly 3 years to this point but a couple weeks ago gotten a call from a former partner that he lost his driver and needed someone local to fill in.

 

 

He was once an accomplished driver with great success and a somewhat local celebrity and he obviously missed the action. We arrived to his pit box and by pit box, I mean section of gravel marked “88” (his #). This was an old track that had seen better days but it still packed a big crowd for this race. Most of the drivers were similar to her uncle, weekend warriors just looking for some fun but there were many serious local drivers with big money backing. This had a winner take all purse and that was part of the motivation but the main lure was the idea of tight racing for 200 laps against the high banked walls.

I was introduced to him and he was a tall, long blonde haired guy with leathery skin to match his laid back disposition. I found it bewildering how someone could be so relaxed knowing that in just a few minutes, he’s going to have 85+ cars breathing down his neck at high speed.

 

After I met the rest of his crew which were mostly his friends, I took a seat with Allison whom was already getting met with catcalls and distant flirtations from other pit crews nearby since she had worn tight shorts and a track jacket for the breezy warm afternoon. Despite that, it was still a pretty friendly environment as you would see teams sharing tools or covering strategy (for this race, it was basically, avoid the wrecks and survive).

Just moments before the race was to start, the uncle came right up and sized me up and said with an insistent tone

“Hey, you’re a good built kid. My gas man is a no-show and I need a guy to load me on the stops…” and I didn’t even stop to think but I accepted. I don’t know if I did it because I actually wanted to or if I was just trying to impress him by my willingness. I got a quick crash course from his crew chief on what to do. All I had to do was carry a 50lb gas can across the designated line and pour the entire can into the tank, all in 20 seconds time.

 

The race started and surprisingly, we maintained our front start despite such a piss-poor car. We were clearly slower then most of the field but he was an experienced driver and managed to hold people off. I was into the race, but what really got me excited was feeling Allison standing right beside me just mere inches and a thick wall between us and the roaring cars. She could’ve dropped back and sat in the comfort of the shade with the other girlfriends and wives but she stood by me knowing that I was somewhat nervous about my task.

 

It wasn’t a difficult job but as the laps passed, it became increasingly obvious that when he would make his mandatory pit stop, that it would be crucial. We were shooting to just finish the race but our unexpected performance changed our plans as he had a definite top 10 car with an outside shot at victory if the chips fell in place. We got the signal he was coming in and that’s when the nerves disappeared, I went over and grabbed the tank and stood behind the line as the pit officials made sure no one stepped over until the car had made a full stop. Rolling in at 45 mph, the car slammed into the box and we rushed over and pushed by pure adrenaline, I held the can up as I heard him barking out commands “Tighten the spoiler!, New breather!” and it was all foreign to me but I remained steady feeling the weight of the can drop dramatically and without warning, the car jerked away as I managed to pull the can out in time purely on instinct. After we celebrated a fantastic stop that kept the car alive in the top ten, I went over to her as she held the empty can and she smiled with a kiss, whispered “You’re gassy” and burst out in laughter but I was concerned after realizing I had spilt fuel onto myself that would be an issue but I was assured that it was common to have spillage and it was alright. At this point, any feelings of unease from my fever this morning had vanished in the warm air.

 

Things kept going well and I continued having a great time feeling the breeze sweep through me as the cars marched through. A feeling of pride snuck in despite having done nothing except pour gas into a tank. 25 laps were left in the race and we sustained our hold onto a top ten finish until after avoiding them all day (and there were a lot of them) a wreck occurred right in the front of the lead pack which included us and as the car dove down to avoid contact, the right rear tire blew and we had to make an emergency pit stop.

 

Once again, we stood by the line waiting for his arrival and I held the can once again, it was lighter as we only needed to top it off just a touch. Another successful stop followed but we fallen out of the top ten into the faint end of the lead lap cars in 31st. With 15 laps to go after the caution cleared, we worried because the car was good at holding place but not in advancing. The laps kept ticking down and we weren’t having much luck and only moved up a small amount. We needed another caution in hopes to use our good restart ability to pick up more spots but it never came. The white flag to signify the final lap dropped down as we were virtually locked in 23rd place. As a whole this was a complete moral victory to even finish the race (87 started, 39 finished) but to know that we had a guaranteed top 10 finish and lost it because of a lousy blown tire after missing loads of wrecks didn’t sit well with us.

 

All in all, it was an unexpectedly good experience for the both of us. I’m still surprised at how comfortable she felt as she is an admitted snob but after I got a big stamp of approval from her uncle, we said our farewells and headed home. The ride home was interesting, even if just temporarily gave us something to look back on with fondness. Besides, after three hours standing by thunderous engines, it didn’t take much to have an interesting drive.

 

Remember a month ago; when I said that my art professor had an art gallery and asked me to build her a metal canvas with a whacky design? Well, I did this and she liked it a lot but decided that she changed her concept and wouldn’t be use the thing after-all but she still paid me a fairly good scrap of change.

Also, after realizing with much deliberation how pointless and idiotic it was to take classes everyday, I scheduled myself for just 2 days a week next semester which will give me more time work. I will also leave my current job around Christmas time as the guy I replaced will be ready to work again. I’m not sure where I’ll go but I’m not that concerned.

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