Sunday, June 18, 2006

A Day at the Races

My brother-in-law has a race car.  A California Lightning Sprint Car.  With wings.

(Ooo, lookit me, talkin' the lingo.)

See -- you know how I used to ice skate, and when I skated, I did these adult competitions where you compete against other adults who skate for a hobby and nobody really cares that you can't do a triple jump?  Well, they've got car races for people who want to race cars as a hobby, but aren't, y'know, on the NASCAR circuit or anything.

So, Derek has himself this lightning sprint car, which he races.  And yesterday, they were racing at a track in Perris, which is only about an hour from my place.  So I went to the race.

Go back and read that "only about an hour from my place" sentence and insert a massive amount of laughter.  His heat was due to start at 6:00; and they suggested I show up at 5:00 and hang out in the pit and all; so I left around 3:40 so I'd be sure to make it on time.

As soon as I got on the freeway, traffic ate up my 20 minute cushion.  By 4:00, I was still about 50 miles out.  And it only got worse from there.  At ten-to-five, when I still had over 30 miles to go, the freeway interchange I was at ... was closed.  Total detour and the cars were just stopped.  I got off the freeway at the next exit and told my handy-dandy GPS to calculate a new route omitting the freeway I was then on.  It directed me to a few surface roads.  I was about 200 yards away from a right turn when I noticed traffic on this road was stopped, too.  I finally saw what the problem was ... the street was totally blocked off with police cars and a fire truck.  And everyone was forced to turn left.  My sister called me again -- must have been 5:30 by then -- and I was the same 30 miles away.  And now I was lost.  I told the GPS to give me another detour avoiding this stupid surface road and it tried to direct me back onto the closed freeway.  I finally convinced it to avoid both roads and somehow got myself back on route to the speedway.  I got there right around 6:30 -- good thing they were running late.  I was just in time to see Derek practice before his heat.

From my limited knowledge of racing, I assumed the "pits" are located, y'know, on the sides of the track -- between the track and the stands.  Not so.  At the Perris track -- a clay or dirt track of a half-mile -- the cars pit in the center of the oval.  Excepting the lightning sprint cars, which were pitting outside the track.  So my evening was spent walking between the stands and the area to the side of the track where the pits were.  And for "pits," read:  line of trailers with a racecar outside each one, and a whole crew of people making adjustments to each car.

Here's Derek's car.  Sorry about the crappy picture -- I took it with my cell phone.

That's lucky number 13, there.

Here's something I learned on my first journey from the pit to the stands:  When cars are speeding around turns on a dirt track, mud flies up.  And when those cars are speeding around with great velocity, the mud flies with great velocity.  And when you're standing within, say, 20 feet of the track (where you will be if you're on the path to or from the pit area), mud will strike you with the aforementioned velocity.  (I'm sure this was mentioned in that waiver I signed when I came in -- but I didn't pay it much attention.)  The first time I walked by, a big clump of mud hit me on the neck -- felt like a big slimy worm.  I made one of those split-second decisions not to be all girly and ooked out by this, so I just threw it off.  When we walked by later, when some larger cars were racing, the flying bits were more aggressive and came at you more like shotgun pellets.

(I lie.  Having not been shot at with shotgun pellets, I'm sure I'm overstating the case.  But it certainly felt more like being pelted with little rock-like objects, rather than being hit with flying mud.  And the mud was aggressive.  My sister's friend Stephanie (shout-out!) said that she found some mud in her pocket.  How the heck did it get there?)

Enough about me and the flying mud.  What was important was Derek's race.  Things didn't go so hot in his qualifying heat, and he ended up starting something like 22nd out of 23 cars in the main race.  Between the two, there was much action going on in the pit.  (Led by Derek's dad, who, up until a few years ago, raced a California Lightning Sprint car himself.)  Every once in awhile, I'd ask a question, and they were nice enough to explain it to me in small words.  (Me:  "Hey, what are you doing with that ... part?"  Derek:  "Replacing it with a bigger part.")  Whatever adjustments they made to the car seemed to work -- well, that and the totally bitchin' driving of my brother-in-law -- because he was passing cars like crazy in the main race.  It was really exciting -- we were out there cheering for him every time he passed someone.  And his mom (who I'd thought would be all concerned about watching her boy risking physical harm in this sport) was right up there with us, muttering under her breath, "Come on, Derek!  You can pass that car!  Step on it!"

By the time it was over, he finished 11th.  (We think.  The results won't be final for a day or so.)  Actually, he probably would've finished higher 'cepting they had to run under a yellow flag right after he'd passed some guy, and (I had not known this) he had to go back to behind him for the restart since he hadn't been ahead of him for a whole lap -- so he had to waste a lap passing the same dude again.  (Stupid yellow flag.  Grumble, grumble.)  If he'd had a few more laps, he probably would've caught a couple more cars.  Way fun.

(And then I drove home, avoiding the closed freeway interchange.  And got home, and looked at my clothes, and wondered, "Gee, how'd all that mud get there?")


annalisa135 said...

all of it sounds wonderful!  :-))  i'm not much of a race car enthusiast, but you definitely had my attention with this entry.  a bit of an adventure right in your own backyard.  didn't even have to travel half way across the globe for this round of excitement.  :-)))

tammyg22 said...

Just let me know when y'all are going to be racing at Indy!

fets1515 said...

Thanks for the shout-out. I checked specifically to see if you remembered! You're a cool chic, you need to come down to the OC more often and hang with us!!!!