Not Scratching!

Steve Kinser 2007 World of Outlaws sprint car ...
Steve Kinser 2007 World of Outlaws sprint car racing car at the famous Kings Royal sprint car race. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Owners can be a funny breed. Owners. Not that I am a slave or that anyone owns me. At least I think nobody owns me. I’m talking about race car owners. When you race, your boss is your owner. That’s a race car reality right there. Your life is run by the owner. He doesn’t own you, although he may think he does.

Good owners are rare.

By good I mean the ones who aren’t typically bad and think of the crew as stock, cattle or shares they can buy and trade on a whim. They need to be educated. Educating an owner is often like bringing a horse to a fountain. They don’t always drink from it.

Sprint car races are run from the trailer in the pits. The rear of the trailer is a large door that drops down to the ground. The car rolls right out, and is parked in front of the opening. That door becomes a ramp, and your main access in and out of the trailer to your work area. You wouldn’t believe the amount of people who think the ramp is the appropriate place to hang out, and ogle at the racers.

Owners usually hang out there too. With their big bellies proudly standing in that “I own all this shit” stand. I’ll never forget this one particular night when our pit neighbor was struggling. Witnessing struggling pit neighbors is very common. First of all the tracks cram us in there so tight you can barely walk between the trailers parked side by side. Officials control how we park, they stand between the trailers as you park, and give you but one arm’s length. It’s very radical. So when a neighbor is struggling, you’re so close you can smell them sweat. If you’re lucky enough to be on top of things chances are you’ll join them and assist in the work.

For a high performance sport you’d be surprised at the collaboration among teams.

So back to this particular night, I hope you don’t mind if I stick to the present tense… I’ve just finished writing 52,000+ words in the past tense, and I’m growing tired of it. I need to bring stuff back to the now.

The owner is resting his big belly and sitting in a wide camping chair at the top of the ramp, right in the middle of the trailer opening. You now those chairs, the ones that fold up and slide into their own carry bags with the large cup holders on each side? So yeah, they can be quite wide with the cup holders in the arm rests. He’s sitting on one of those. Have I mentioned that he is in the middle of the entry to the trailer? I needed to repeat that part. He’s looking at his crew, watching their every move, once in a while barking orders at his stock.

Luckily for the team there were more than one class that night. Not sure, stocks, or modifiers (mods) or late models, or something like that. The plus side to having many classes is that it gives us more time between each division to work on the car if stuff goes wrong. The bad side is these cars have plenty of steel body parts. The debris on the track is dreadful for the soft rubber tires. Don’t get me going on that shit, it can be relentless.

The neighbors broke their rear-end in one of the qualifying events. I can’t remember if it was a heat race or one of the C or B mains, but that part is not important. They needed to change the rearend. Maybe one day I’ll want to do that myself when gravity finds out my personal address… Changing a motor takes ten minutes, a front-end two, anything else can be done in less than a minute. But a rear-end is a nightmare to change. It’s connected to the motor via the drive shaft, which is in a torque tube, connected to a u-joint inside the u-joint casing, and then you have breaks, break lines, birdcages, jacob’s ladder, and just a basic nightmare of parts. Trust me. Changing a rear-end can take a minimum of 30 minutes for a well-prepped team when all goes well. But with the owner sitting in the middle of the way, blocking the access while two people wiggle by carrying a rear-end?

This owner has a son. The son decides he should chip in. He asks the driver “Can I help?”  The driver who is running the operation wants to tell him to stay the fuck away. That much is obvious by his glare. But the owner is there, so he can’t really say that, his career rests on what is sitting in that chair on the ramp. “Put fuel in the car” says the driver pointing at the fuel jugs. The kid jumps to action. You’ve got to give him that, at least bonus points on the desire to help.

He ignores the direction on which jug to take. He goes for the dirty soiled one sitting closest to the car. Carrying numerous 35-pound jugs from the trailer to the car is not something he wants to do so he takes a closer jug and pours it into the funnel.

To make a long story longer.

The driver has a moment of clarity in the middle of the rear-end change insanity. Stops what he’s doing and decides to look at what the helpful owner’s son is doing. He screams. Some words he wished he could take back, others that just meshed in with everything else. The helpful son was pouring used oil into the fuel tank. The sweaty driver jumps up like a leaping Superman and grabs hold of the jug, yanks the funnel out of the tank and makes a mess of the dirty oil everywhere.

Standing by watching all of this are the owner, getting angry at the disarray of things, an official asking the driver if he wants to scratch for the night, and me. Of course I am watching all this.

“We are not scratching! Everything is under control!!!” yells an erratic driver.

S30PBadge (1)This is a S30P writing prompt: SCRATCH.  In racing, to scratch means to forfeit, to give up, to not race.  It’s funny because, well what I’m about to say is not really funny… WP suggested that sprint car image as a royalty free image. Those are my friends! The car, the guy who drives that car, the guys who work on that car, all good friends… Sigh.


17 thoughts on “Not Scratching!”

    1. I love changing motors. It’s like my favorite thing to do! It’s like performing a ballet when your team is really in sync. A greasy hot sweaty messy ballet…


      1. And Leo is among the quickest. But the rear end is deffinitely a bigger deal. I still have a small tight scar on my right arm from an evening when Leo had quick time and tried to pass everyone in front of him (5 cars) in the first turn. The scar is not always visible but when I was reading your post I looked down and there it was. Wonderful memories.


  1. That sounds like a hell of a mess! (And a well told one too, though I’d like to hear the rest of it.)

    Meritocracies like restaurants are easier to work in. Everyone is only as good as their last shift, and whoever is working has the right of way.
    It was the last place I worked where I could yell at my boss for interfering with my job and have him apologize and get out of the way. And not get fired later.
    Though to be fair, I only cursed necessarily at him, not gratuitously.
    Hey, I’m a diplomat.


    1. In all the years I worked on the racing thing, I had but one owner. He was amazing. I knew what the reality was elsewhere, I knew he was a total rarity. I think that is the main reason why when our deal ended, I did not seek more work in that field. I just could never put up with the silliness of it. I’m telling you, this story is but one small example of owners. And I won’t even go into details about drivers’ wives!


  2. I never thought about race car owners as being the boss of the driver, now I will look at car racing differently…………hell I don’t watch car races I don’t think about racing although I think it would be kind of cool to have a ride in a race car…………


  3. You wouldn’t have known whether to laugh or cry when you saw that oil going in I bet and it was probably pretty obvious that it was safer to not get involved and just let things pan out


    1. Choose your battles, join the proper legionnaires, learn to keep the mouth shut while screamng at the top of your lungs but just in your head while having a crooked smile pasted on your face, take a walk on the wild side of this crazy world, and remember better to be a smart ass than a bad ass


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