"Let's go live to Stu Stevenson on pit road. Stu what have you found out about the number thirteen car?" the world renowned, four time Daytona 500 winner could be heard asking.
There was an uncomfortable pause; the networks had to run a five second delay on the live televised events to ensure that the children were protected against potential harmful things such as swear words.
"Well, MD, it turns out that this rookie is actually in pretty good shape, having come in right before that little melee along the back stretch. I haven't been able to find out anything about what caused the wreck, but I do know that he took right side tires, and that the front one had a huge gash in it. Many crew chiefs and pit crewmen up and down pit road are coming by looking at it and leaving with shaking heads, saying the kid did an incredible job hanging onto the car as long as he did. The radio transmissions leading up to him pitting weren't pretty. But it's pretty apparent that he was rightful in his anger at trying to be made to go longer on such a damaged tire." Stu had a habit of running through his reports without taking a breath.
"Stu, have they given any word on what may have caused the gash?" Mr. Daytona, (as he was known in racing circles) inquired.
"MD; no they haven't ventured a guess about that yet. But they are hoping to have that info gathered up before we go back to green flag racing." Stu replied.
"Thanks Stu." MD stated, as the camera focused back on him. He turned to his sidekick, his former crew chief.
"See what I am worried about is that there may have been some debris that fell off of someone's car. The number thirteen car runs up and hits it kicking up further on the racetrack. And next time by someone else loses it all together and we get our first caution today." MD liked to explain these little things to the home viewer who might be tuning into their very first race of their lives. It also never hurt to remind the hardened veterans of the little things that they took for granted during races.
"[static] Take 'er easy coming onta da track ya got guys still flopping about like a fish outta water." It was Tommy again being as calm as ever. His Carolina drawl seemed to be easing the frayed nerves of his team mates. Rob rolled from second gear into third and heard the rpms drop accordingly.
He knew that he needed to be able to convey what was going on with the car better. Hollering at his crew chief wasn't the best way to get the big guy on his side. He cursed under his breath, and tried to compose himself. He was acting like a spoiled brat and he knew better than that.
"Ok, Tommy any word yet on who all is pitting besides the wreck victims?" Rob seemingly in control of his emotions.
"From here it looks and sounds like everyone is going to be heading in." Tommy drawled out.
"OK, so do you want me to lead a lap and come in to top off and finish the pit stop?" Rob was showing why he had been so sought after at the end of last season.
"Yeah, if you can get the five bonus points the next time by, sure, but other than that, yeah, come in the next time by. They're gonna be out there cleaning the mess up for a while. Are you happy with that wedge we took out?" Stan asked coolly. He was still stinging from the last conversation that they had on the radio.
"Yeah, she feels better, though we'll have to wait and see how she does in traffic. Am I gonna be clear coming and going from my pit?" Rob asked.
Tommy keyed the mike and then quickly released it. [static] "Yeah, heya big guy, TS wants you two to hook up when it goes green." Tommy was one of the best spotter negotiators around.
"The number two zero, you mean?" Rob attempted to get clarification as he crossed the start finish line in the lead.
"Four tires and topping off. No changes to pressure or anything else. We also got ya a drink incoming too." Stan stated in a composed manner.
[static]"ah, the two zero is beside himself after watching you save that thing, says he wants you [static] et to the front. Doesn't matter who leads or follows. He is pitting behind you. Following you down pit road now." Tommy drawled on.
"Heck yeah tell him I'll push him to the front all day, but with five to go it is a free for all." Rob was very excited. This was the first time anyone had shown him any level of respect. To have Tony Stewart wanting to draft with him was amazing.
"10-4 we will see how things play out, I ain't gonna hang ya out to dry with the five to go statement. That's understood." Tommy clarified and knew that if he were to tell the spotter for the twenty car the five to go rule. Tony could potential try hanging Rob out to dry with as many as ten to go and he wasn't going to do that to the kid.
"Fifty-five or thirty two hundred RPMs, watch that rpm dial now. We got something that is going to work for us here, don't mess it up." It is a good thing that there wasn't any pressure going on here was Rob's only thought.
The number twenty car came to a stop four pit boxes behind the rookie, the right side of his car rose into the air right as Tony's right side was going down. Suddenly a commotion at the front of the thirteen car stalled progress. A lug nut had gotten stuck in the air gun.
"Git another gun dayum it!" Stan shouted to a back up crewmember.
The silver gun hung in the air as it floated over the wall to the tire changer. The early afternoon light played lightly across it momentarily hypnotizing all around. The rear tire changer worked feverishly to get his job down. The hiss of the air hose disconnecting was audible over the revving engine of the number twenty car. Tony Stewart lit the rear tires up trying to remove the 'fresh sticker' feeling off of them before getting up to speed on pit road. He pulled out of his pit box, and swung wide to avoid the number thirteen car that he expected to be leaving his pit box any moment.
Rob pounded his hand on the steering wheel trying to encourage his team mates to be able to complete their task in a timelier manner. The air wrench was connected via the quick release, and the tire changer set to the task at hand. The tire changer was concentrating fully on getting five lug nuts off and getting five lug nuts on the rim of the tire. A quantum of a second after the fifth lug was torqued down the jack dropped the car to the tarmac.
Rob lit the tires up right as Tony Stewart crossed the exit to pit road. He cleared his pit box and took several deep breaths and a sip or five from the water bottle that had been extended to him in the pit box.
"They got the mess cleared up and not this time by, but the next time by we are going green. Line up behind the number twenty car on the outside line." Tommy had gotten the official restart information from NASCAR.
They pulled up to the rear of the line of traffic that was still on the lead lap. They scrubbed their tires trying to get them up to temperature. They did this by weaving back and forth down the front stretch. This allowed them to get the slickness of the new tires worn off and allowed the tires to grip better. The pace car dropped down onto the race track apron the engines of the cars became deafening as they began to ramp up the rpms getting ready to go racing again.
[static] "Easy now, deep breaths, easy. He is saying to get tighter and look to get low as soon as possible." Tommy was relaying information to Rob. Rob inched his car closer to the orange car of Tony Stewart as they cleared turn four.
"Green flag! We got a green, go, go, go. He is saying bump him instead of passing him through here. That's it buddy, doing a great job. Watch out for that Bodin up high now, he is a little bent up from the wreck." Tommy thought to himself that the kid did a great job of doing exactly what he was instructed.
"I saw Tony Stewart lift his right handed and motioned for him to bump draft him down the back stretch. This is a common practice at the super speedway tracks. At these tracks the cars and drivers are so evenly matched that to get out of the gas basically means that the driver would be hung out to dry and quickly fall off the pace so to avoid that the drivers normally tap into each other allowing both cars to go faster than either car could do by themselves. It is a practice that takes a great deal of trust amongst the drivers involved." MD and his side kick spoke over each other explaining this and clarifying this latest point.
"It looks like the number twenty and thirteen car have worked some kinda deal. They are moving through the field quickly, anytime you find a good draft partner at these tracks it makes your day a lot easier." MD continued.
"The one five and the eight are on the high side, looks like they are the only team mates we are gonna have to worry about today. Hug that yeller line TS is saying and you two should be alright." Tommy drawled into the microphone.
"Tell em ok, but running a touch hawt right behind him, and ah don't wanna bump him in the turns. Let him know that I'll be sticking mah nose out a little in the turns to git a bit of air. [static]" Rob calmly stated.
"[static] Heya Rob, ya want us to pull off some grill tape next time ya pit? How's she feeling in that draft?" Stan requested
"[static] She feels [static], I dun't know about the tape yet, lemme see how she does running this adjusted line fer a bit. The line that we are running is werking gud fer me. Tommy tell him that's perfection for me." Rob was having trouble keeping the excitement from his voice.
The afternoon sun marked their progress through out the day. The bright orange orb slide from high overhead to slowly a sinking deep yellow orb into the western skyline. The days progress seemed slow, the only thing fast about it at all were the cars in Daytona running close to two hundred miles an hour. The cars in their panorama of colors sliced through the Florida air like a knife through butter. All with in a hairs width of each other.
"As you can see here, the number eight and the number fifteen cars are strong like they always are here. They work well together Lil' E and Mikey know each others tendencies so well. I will say that I am really impressed with this rookie in the number thirteen car. He has been working very well with the number twenty car since that little smash up took out six cars early on in the race There weren't any serious contenders taken out, Stu what have you got fer us down on pit row?" MD was chatting away trying to fill the airwaves.
"Well, we are still unsure of what the original debris that started that early on melee. No one left standing out there has complained of any issues stemming from anything on their car being missing. NASCAR hasn't released any information on the recovered debris either. Back to you in the booth MD" Stu quickly stated.
"Well all I know is," began MD. Suddenly Keith broke in, "Uh Oh, there is black smoke coming out of Robby Gordon's car. It looks like their motor has given way."
The camera quickly changed back to live action as black smoke billowed out behind the thirty five car in turn two. Sending the cars behind him scrambling to avoid any moisture on the track. Two cars spun almost in synch with each other before sliding down the high banking on the track The fifty five and the sixty four cars slide to a stop, while the rookie drivers inside quickly checked their equipment and then themselves to make sure everything was in working order. They re-fired their engines and quickly tried to catch up to the tail end of the race.
"Yeah, you can see right here," MD was saying while illustrating on the teleprompter when the motor gave way. "That he was running the high groove up towards the top of the track, you see the car wobble slightly, and bam there she goes." MD continued
"Ayup, it's a tough break for Robbie, this is the second time in as many years that he's lost a motor here at Daytona, and the odd thing is, they normally aren't running that high of an rpm here. Not compared to places like Las Vegas or California, where we'll be in a few weeks." Keith added nicely.
"Luckily, there weren't any other cars collected outside of the two that spun." MD chimed in.