"Alright buddy talk to me here, what we need to do to the car? Do ya still want us to leave that grill tape on there?" Stan asked. Trying to get a game plan together for the team.
Rob thought for a moment,[static] "Just give me fuel and tires, everything else working great. Yeah leave da tape alone. I don't wanna lose any down force. I know that I'm scrubbing da front a little bit running this line but not too much so we might as well leave her be. [static]
"Alright four tires off four tires on, two cans of fuel, let's hit everything right boys." Stan was rallying his troop of pit crew workers.
"[static] Ok, kiddo, gimme the big five five down pit road. Don't speed, you are ahead of the guy in the pit box behind ya, give yourself an angle to get out clean." Tommy stated calmly into the microphone.
The black and red number thirteen car slide into its pit stall, the pit crew was already scrambling around the sides of the car. The right side of the car was lifted into the air. Even as the air guns had begun to go off. It was such a choreographed exercise. Old tires were pulled off, brake dust floating into the air. The tire carriers placed the new tires into place, and again the air guns barked to life. The right side bounced to the tarmac, the entire time a two man team fueled the car in the rear. One man's sole job was to hold a small 'catch can' in place while another man hoisted the twenty pound fuel cans one at a time to fill up the machine.
The fuel man extended his empty left hand towards the pit wall for the second can, as the left side of the car rose into the air, the tire changers tugged on the rims to pull the used rubber free. The fuel man's left hand guided the full second can of fuel into its receptacle. The catch can man took the empty fuel can from him, as the fresh tires were guided into place, and the air guns barked in unison again. The front tire carrier quickly ran his hands across the nose of the car. To the untrained it appeared to be a good luck rub. To the hardened NASCAR fans they knew that he was merely making sure that there wasn't any track debris hung up on it that could cause the car to over heat unduly.
Each team member lifted their left arm as their individual duties were completed, the catch can man seemed to be doing an impromptu work out with the empty fuel can. Lifting and quickly lowering it to signify that they were good to go, the jack dropped the car once again to the tarmac. The rpm's on the engine shot up and white smoke billowed out of the rear of the car as it slid out of the stall and began trying to merge with the other cars leaving pit road.
[static] "Please tell me Tony is going." Rob asked into the mic.
"Uh, looks like someone got him in the rear quarter panel coming down pit road. They're discussing their options right now. Just git 'er up to speed and fall in line. There will be two lapped cars on the inside row at the start so be careful on the restart." Tommy stated calmly.
"Oh my, look at the number twenty nine car run up on the twenty car. He bent that sheet metal up real good." MD said as the replay showed in slow motion for the viewers at home.
"Man, ah just don't know, Kevin Harvick knows better than to try and get onto pit road that hot. I think that he lost his brakes or something and unfortunately for Tony ended up using him to get under pit road speed." Keith stated calmly.
"Oh yeah, he has been here enough and ruffled Tony's feathers enough to know better than to do that. Stu, did that number twenty nine car have any extra nose damage on that pit stop?" Asked MD, trying to segue to a live report on pit road.
"Actually, there was remarkably little damage to the number twenty nine car, he came on the radio right after that happened and was telling his spotter to let Tony know that wasn't on purpose. Tony none the less, was not pleased with Kevin. I would have the audio but it would have too many beeps in it. It would sound like a beeper convention." Here Stu gave a pregnant pause to allow his stand up routine to get a courtesy laugh from the reporters in the booth.
There were a couple of polite chuckles from MD, "How much damage did Tony's car take?" He asked, trying to get away from Stu's comedic attempts.
"Well, they pulled out the sheet metal and it looked pretty good. But as you know they really won't be able to tell anything until they get up to speed in the draft. The really bad news is that the number thirteen car that's been drafting with him all day is up to the tenth spot. But Tony is back in the twenty-fifth spot. There are a lot of cars between the two of them and I doubt seriously if any of those 'tweeners are gonna help get these two hooked back up seeing how well they worked together last time." Stu grew silent, and the camera re-focused on the crew in the booth.
"As Stu alluded to, the Home Depot car may have its hands full getting back to the front of the pack. We have fifty laps to go and have avoided the 'Big One' so far today. Now that we are getting towards the end of the day, folks are going to start getting anxious and the mentally of 'Its time to git, git going or git outta mah way.' That is when we historically seen the big crashes out here. These restrictor plate tracks draw them in just like a dog draws in fleas and ticks." M D stated.
"And what M D means by these restrictor plate tracks is that here at Daytona and at Talladega the tracks are two and a half miles long. Years ago the NASCAR rule makers decided to protect the driver and fans to limit the amount of air and gas that can flow through the carburetors at any given time. They thereby place a restrictor plate at the bottom of the carburetor that only allows a portion of this needed formula through to give the cars the power they need. The downside to this is you get a huge pack of cars racing at close to two hundred miles an hour, three wide and everyone in that pack of cars wanting to be the one in the front at the end of the event." Keith added.
"Well we are now getting the one to go so we'll be returning to racing soon. What's it that I always say Keith?" M D asked with a knowing gleam in his eyes.
"Um, Cautions breed cautions? M D" Keith stated.
[static] "Tommy talk to me buddy, do ah have any help at all on this un or what?" Rob asked.
"OK Bud, here is what ah've got fer ya. Biffle in the one six car says that he'll drop down after the start line and go with Tony as long as Tony'll get the three of you hooked up." Tommy released the mic.
Rob contemplated that, it was a good thing to have friends, but it was always a bad thing to owe friends anything. Biffle's car had been strong all day but he hadn't had any help when he needed it. So he may just be trying to get a top ten finish and consider that a victory. He placed his water bottle back into it holder and waited a little for more information.
[static] "Tommy?" Rob asked trying to get something going as far the communication was going. All that he was met with was silence and a slight humming noise.
"Rob can you hear me?" it was Stan. Stan feared that his driver had just lost his radio at one of the deadliest tracks, since he had not heard the kid respond to the Tommy.
His question was met with silence and static. "Rob key the mic three times in a row if you can hear me." Stan was trying to trouble shoot this from the top of the pit box. He stood up drawing the attention of the roaming reporter Stu. Stan was looking for where the red and black car was on the track. The Pace car was just existing turn four. That gave them slightly over two minutes to figure out what was going on and get it resolved before they would be back to green flag racing.
Stu watched as Stan was keying his mic again. "Tommy can you hear me?" Stan was trying to narrow down the communications problem.
"Ten four, loud and clear box man," was Tommy's drawling answer.
"COMM CHECK, please for da love of all dat is holy please tell me you guys read me!" Was the next thing that they were greeted with. It was obviously Rob, a bit on the nervous side.
"Ten four, pit road has you loud and clear big guy." Stan stated, the relief washing over him as he sat back down at his post.
"Ya eyes in da sky got cha loud and clear one three. You through playing around down there and ready to git to werk?" Tommy made light of the situation.
[static] "HA HA. Very funny, sorry about dat guys water bottle yanked the comm. Wires loose. So wha cha want me to do Tommy? Stan? We got a plan on this last little part of da race?" Rob could be heard laughing into the microphone.
"Next time by we are gonna go green. Ah want cha to drop down low, press that narrow pedal all da way on your right all da way down, and go REALLY REALLY fast to the front." Tommy said mockingly into the radio. "Oh and when you get to the end down yonder turn left, ya have two of those ya gotta make."
The pit crew could be seen laughing and even the normally reserved Stan let a grin play across his lips before keying the mic. "Heya now, don't forget to shift and watch that rev delimiter. I don't wanna have to try and explain a blown engine with fifty to go at Daytona."
The Pace Car exited turn two and started its route down the back stretch prompting serious communications to resume between Tommy and Rob.
[static] "OK Kiddo, the one six is behind TS. They're both saying go low after the flag drops, and float to the middle in turn one. Since they are pretty sure they won't get any help low they think they can get to you in the middle. Let people go by ya until you see TS in your mirrors." Tommy rattled off the deal that he had made.
"How badly damaged is the twenty car?" Stan didn't want to lose the support of the Home Depot team, but didn't want to be held up trying to help them either.
"He says that he thinks that they got it pulled back out enough to where it won't hurt. So long as Biffle doesn't bump him too hard they should be good." Replied Tommy.
"Pace Car is on the apron, Forty nine laps to the finish, we've one more green flag stop. Try and save those tires for a splash and go at the end buddy. Remember your best friend is you and dat car right now it's gonna git a little hairy out there." Stan said in a controlled voice. He could tell that they actually had a shot to be in the front at the end of this thing. He felt good about the decisions they had made as a team all day long. He was just a bit nervous about putting the kid into the eye of the storm this late in the race. He wasn't even sure that the kid realized how bad it was going to get here at the end of the race.
"OK, reach up there and pull those belts tight kiddo, you aren't gonna wanna be rolling around in that seat right now. Git yaself a sip of water and let's git 'ere done here son. We got faith in ya and know you can git by that ole number eight and number fifteen car up there. They're running in second and third, so when you get to them you are gonna need friends." Tommy quickly stated.
"GREEN, GREEN, GREEN, let's go git to dat yeller line through that tri-oval son." Tommy almost shouted into the radio.
Rob edged the black and red dodge down to the yellow line that signified out of bounds, and shifted smoothly into third. His eyes danced from his gauges to the mirror that ran the width of his cabin, back across the nose of his car watching the cars around him the entire time. Coming out of the tri-oval area of the race track he let the car drift up into the center groove on the track, reaching the higher end of the rpm range for third gear, he reached up and shifted into fourth. Not bothering to use the clutch or take his foot off the gas. The car rattled and shook as he rolled up into the middle groove, causing him to look around and make sure he didn't get into anyone. Since he hadn't run there all day, he wasn't sure if the others expected him to go there now.
"You have the forty five up high on ya, watch that lapper down low. TS and GB are dropping into your draft as you come outta two so hold that line real steady, be ready for a bump late into that backstretch run." Tommy was all business now knowing that the time for jocularity was in the past.