Track Day
by Bob

Fast cars. Fast music. Bob digs under the hood while kicking it old school. Garage punk!

I'm a road race guy, and for those of you who aren't familiar with motorsports, that doesn't mean Cannonball Run style ripping across the countryside on public roads killing innocent pedestrians. It means I race cars on a purpose built race track with curves. I turn left and right, not racing around in circles. This ain't NASCAR.

There are many of these purpose built race courses across the country located in areas that no one else wanted. Kinda like the way they build porno movie shops near the airport: the land wasn't worth anything anyhow with airplanes flying overhead all day long. Might as well build a race track there. No neighbors to bitch about the noise.

Back East, these courses are generally setup in The Middle of Nowhere farmland USA. There was one course that was pretty close to where I was living, and a group of friends and I would rent the track on a weekday to go out and have some fun. This is a "test and tune" day. People with real race cars could test out their cars, make changes and see if they work without having the pressure of an important race weekend. People with street cars could go out and run them as fast as possible without going to jail. Cars range from extremely aggressive all out race cars pulled in on a trailer to factory stock street cars with floormats and Motley Crue in the CD player.

The group was recruited on a "know someone" basis. In other words, I would organize the event, and told people I knew that were experienced. I felt, on a good day, that these people probably wouldn't do something that would kill me on the race course. Anyone else had to have someone vouch for them, kinda like the Mafia. When we had enough people, it cost about the same for the entire day as an expensive dinner for two.

That means, about ten people with a 2 mile long closed course for an ENTIRE DAY! Nothing to do but drive the car as hard as possible and try to show up your buddy. Everyone gets tired and needs a drink of water, so we were never all out there at the same time. It was fantastic.

So, I'm the HMFIC (Head Mother Fucker In Charge) at this particular event, booked it, took money, organized it all and run it. We're having our driver's meeting, first thing in the morning.

If you haven't hung out with racers, they tend to be...a little competitive. I had guys that worked in a machine shop. I had engineers. I had doctors. I had college students. They came from all over the map in terms of demographics but they all shared one thing: If they were racing, they'd knock their dear old grandmum down the stairs to get in front. Never look back.

For those with purpose-built race cars complete with roll cages and a trailer to tow the remains home, that's one thing, but lots of us were driving our regular street car, myself included. It was a mildly built street car; some suspension work, exhaust system and such, but with race tires.

I hold the driver's meeting before anyone drives. I lecture everyone about how we're here to have fun, don't fuck around, be careful, there's no money and no glory at stake, we're all buddies, and so on. I say "This is the car I have to drive to work tomorrow, so I can't afford to crash it. Don't fuck around. K?" I say that "This is my only car" thing like four times. I wave my arms. I say "Behave yourself kids." I give them The Look. (that Look your Mom gives you) They all nod and groan. "Yesssss Bob. Weeeeee'll be good. We prooooomise."

A good friend of mine asked if he could ride shotgun with me in my car for a few laps. He hadn't driven this course for a number of years and wanted a refresher. I'm thinking "Sure feeble one. I, big strong racer man will show you."

It's a crisp morning, still a little bit of dew on the infield grass, sun warming things up. We both strap on our helmets, hop in my car and go. I'm the first one out. I work my way out of the pit lane, warm the car up a little. It's faster and harder than you'd drive on the street, but I'd say I'm at about 60% of the car's capabilities.

I work my way down to turn 3, an off camber (tilted) right hander that typically has the car sliding sideways, bouncing down the course, but I'm in pretty quietly, didn't build up much speed yet. It's planted pretty solid. Swing around and enter The Carosel. The Carosel is a big half-circle, a full 180 degrees. It's a "steady as she goes" kinda turn, you enter, set it, and just drive it around. Nothing fancy. crash.jpgThe car slips and comes way out sideways, I (over)correct and it slides the other direction, and then I'm off in the wet grass, sliding sideways at speed on racing slicks, just along for the ride. WHUMP! I paste the car high up on the the tire wall at the edge of the course and a big wall of muddy water breaks over the windshield like a big brown surf wave. Ugh.

We're both ok, but my friend is covered in muck. (you keep the windows down when you're doing silly things like this to avoid breaking glass ) I'm stuck, back wheels off the ground. Nowhere to go.

So, to recap, I lecture The Boys about being nice and careful and I crash off the course, perched high on a wall of used tires, covered in mud at 8:30 in the morning after completing ONE HALF OF A LAP. AAAarrrgh. The Boys were amused. Very amused.

The good news, if there is any, is that a team of racers and a BMW 5 series with a tow rope was able to extract my trusty steed from its rubber and mud cocoon and I was able to drive the wheels off it for the rest of the day. It was muddy and it was bent, but it was mechanically sound. When you crash first thing, it makes you much more aggressive the rest of the day knowing you have little to lose.

At the end of the day, I called my wife and let her know I "bent the car". She didn't seem to respond. I said it was ok, and I would eat hamburgers and drink beer at a friends house for a while and then drive it home. She seemed strangely calm. I wasn't expecting this.

Upon arriving home, she took one look at the mangled muddy mess and shook her head. Apparently, she didn't understand "bent". A racer defines the terms as follows,
bent: ugly, but can be driven
broken: cannot be driven, call a tow truck.

Ahh well. It gave me a chance to learn body repair. For those of you who've never done body repair, it's dirty, stinky and in no way straightforward. Seems simple. Isn't.

Bob enjoys lying on his back in puddles of stinking used motor oil and getting rust particles in his eyes. He writes for the New York Times under the name of Ann Landers.


ahahahah. that's what you get for blazing yer ego around like that! heh.

sorry to laugh. seems, uh, familiar...

and the bent thing. heh.

good story, ann, er, bob...


That is really cool. Great story!!


That's great man. Nice one.

I grew up about an hour away from an abandoned air force base. All tarmacs and connected runways, good times.


Great story. How I would love to get on a course like that and just let go.

In theory, of course. I'd probably make it less than you did before I crashed.


Well, bent vs. broke.

In that case, my wife has bent several vehicles.


Dan: There's the GrandDaddy of them all, Sebring in Florida. It's a disused WW2 airfield where they've run the 12 hour endurance race since the 50's. One of the great remaining endurance races in the world: 24 Hours of Le Mans, 24 Hours of Daytona, 12 Hours of Sebring.


Nice Bob. Thanks. Reminds me how much i need to get back on the track and "bend" things.

I'm still up for the $100 demo derby -- as soon as we find a field........

BTW 143mph? Reckless! I'm proud.


did someone say demolition derby?

wow. now i really wish i lived closer!


Yes I said demo derby. Home grown, self driven demo derby.

I find that a great way to de-stress is to de-stroy stuff. The idea is that a group of us get a car for $100 max. Find some fool to lend us a piece of land and go for it.

Bob has land that would be perfect, but he doesn't want to ruin his lawn. Pussy. There was also something about divorce mentioned....


Great story, Bob. Reminds me a little of the rally car races I used to watch in Germany when I was a kid. Nothing said Saturday like watching a handful of guys haul ass though the woods on a twisty ass track.


Demo derby is just a bunch of crappy old cars backing into one another at 10mph. woo woo

Here's my proposal:

Dirt Bike Jousts
This can be a one person or a two person format.

One person format has a rider on a dirt bike with a big heavy stick trying to knock others off their bikes.

Two person format has a dedicated rider with a passenger. Passenger concentrates on jousting and rider just keeps the team out of trouble.

Location: Bob's house, The Back Forty.

kali: let me know when you reach Seattle. Will get you a ride from the airport.

Chris: no, you may NOT be my passenger.


Dirt bike jousting. The eternal 17 year old in me loves that idea. Crap, I like that idea. Except I only ever rode a dirt bike once -- into a wall.


dirt bike jousting!!!

i'm so in, dude.

the doubles sound feasible. seriously. you need to patent (&trade © whatever) this idea before you see it on the xgames


I figured we'd see it on Jackass 3 first.


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