Race Weekend Central

Blue Smoke and Burnt Rubber: Chapter 2

Chris and Danny followed the flatbed carrying the No. 47 Racin’ Wrenches car driven by Harry Garrison into the garage area. The various members of the team walked toward the bay assigned to them this week. Chris tried to hail Chuck Farley, the oldest member of the crew… possibly the oldest active mechanic in the entire GSCA, but his friend returned the greeting with a snarl.

He parked the cart emblazoned with the Blue Peak logo and climbed out, following Danny into the now crowded garage bay.

Every member of both the No. 74 and No. 47 teams crowded the area. Harry Garrison, the reigning champion, stood at the front, his jaw and fists clenched in frustration. In the next bay over, Danny’s squashed car sat under wraps, waiting for the GSCA to inspect it after the race. Two inspectors sat in the doorway, eating lunch and eyeing the unhappy congregation.

Chris looked over the red Racin’ Wrenches machine, left in the sun. Flecks of rubber marred the paint and a faint smudge appeared on the driver’s door, but the car certainly didn’t appear terminal.

“Gentlemen.” Brad Van Lytton, the owner of both the defunct cars, entered. Tall, dark, always impeccably dressed, the man who won five out of the last seven seasons never appeared comfortable in the confines of a garage. “Harry. Danny” He nodded to his high-paid superstars. “What happened?”

A low muttering filled the air. Each team member offering up their own opinion—debris through the radiator, faulty valve spring, unnamed gremlins…

With the collar of his firesuit open, Harry crossed his arms and stated, “It just shit the bed, boss.”

Brad walked out of the bay to circle the nearly pristine vehicle. “Engine?”

Harry nodded. “No warning, neither. Just up and ate itself. Dumped oil everywhere.”

Van Lytton spun on his polished heel, his hands shoved deep in his dark gray slacks pockets, and raised an eyebrow at the Blue Peak machine, the question aimed at Danny.

The younger driver swallowed his smile. “Aw hell, Brad. It felt like the rear-end fell apart. You know, all of a sudden it shook itself to pieces.”

“Did you hit somebody?”

Danny wavered under the black glare of his boss. He shook his head. “No! Well, not really. Just a bit of a nudge… but not so’s I would cut a tire down. That was no tire!”

Todd DeLoy stepped forward, gesturing for Danny to quiet down. “You’ll know as soon as we do, boss. We can’t do much right now.”

Van Lytton looked from the crew chief to driver to car to car to driver. He pursed his lips and turned to Farley. “You know how we win around here, Chuck.”

The older mechanic nodded, wiping his brow with a rag from his back pocket. “Yes, sir. We find out what went wrong, then we don’t let it happen again.”

A faint smile traced Van Lytton’s slips. His gaze met with each person in his presence. “We still have a car in the race. I’ll be on the top of the No. 32 box. We’ll review our findings Tuesday morning. That gives us less than 48 hours to figure out what went wrong.”

Everybody nodded. Van Lytton turned away, his white collared shirt reflecting the glare of the afternoon.

Just when Chris felt the tension in the garage ease off a bit, the collective sigh shattered.

“Weaver!”

“Yes?”

“You’re with me.”

Heading toward pit-road in the golf cart, Chris watched his boss hunched over, studying his clenched hands.

“Bad luck, eh, Boss?”

Van Lytton’s brow furrowed. “I suppose. We can’t win every race, can we?”

The engines roared to life in Turn 4. Chris spied the yellow fluttering at the flagstand. “Preston’s still in the running…” he offered up.

Van Lytton looked up, spotting the white No.32 car rolling past the start/finish line in the middle of the pack. “Yes, he is. However, we can’t expect the kid to win, can we? He’s still getting his feet wet.”

Chris said nothing more. It was near impossible to be heard anyway with the field rumbling by. Pulling up at the gate that separated the garage area from the pit area, he turned off the cart and followed Van Lytton. On top of the spartan pit box of the newest Van Lytton team, they held their breath when the green flag waved.

Shortly, Van Lytton dismissed him. Somehow, the thrill of the race dwindled with nothing but a 19-year-old rookie carrying the team’s dreams. Chris sank down into a chair behind the pit box with the crew and waited for the next chirp of his cell-phone.

***
The unreality of the day still hadn’t settled into his brain, as Chris handed out a stack of hats to the No. 32 team. Preston Colton had somehow managed to bring his unsponsored vehicle to Victory Lane in his first GSCA race.

Brad Van Lytton stood front and center with his sudden rookie sensation and Stan Fielding, the GSCA series director. They all looked like children who discovered an untended cookie jar.

“And Number One!”

Everybody on the stage smiled, holding up the ceremonial finger while the photographer took the shot.

Another stack of hats were shoved in Chris’ arms for distribution. This one sported the basic Grand Stock Car Association logo, replacing the series sponsor purple Air West hats. Somebody opened another can of Blue Peak, spraying the giddy teammates for the eighth time.

Chris laughed. Victory Lane was always the best party on the planet, and last year the Van Lytton stable had visited thirteen times. But this…

The champion’s car blew an engine, his highly competitive teammate’s car simply broke and the 19-year-old rookie was taking home the trophy.

It appeared the upcoming season would be full of surprises.

“And Number One!”

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