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July 04, 2022

NASCAR Dreams 04

By Ed Moyer

The tinted helmet hides the wide eyed look that had crept upon him. The helmet was his sanctuary right now. It was the moat between him and the mortals that watched and the enemies just outside that were all staring directly on him. Suddenly the helmet filled with a fog. The fog was blurring his vision slightly obscuring his detailed information. It startled him into remembering to inhale air now. The view cleared almost immediately. Yes he was scared. Where he not wearing thick fireproof gloves he would see that his knuckles were white, white from the tension, and grip that he was straining to use to maintain control of his chariot.

"Incoming bump" [static] is all that he heard.

BAM.

He felt the rear wheels of his car lift off the ground. His head bounced off the seat the tachometer reading bounced up and down and he could feel that he was instantly propelled two to three miles an hour faster. The tires sounded like an airplane coming in for a high speed landing. The rear end of the car shook and threatened to break loose.

He quickly made adjustments in his steering, trying to keep the car off of his fellow chariot drivers. His arms were a blur as he shifted them back and forth in front of him. He suddenly felt light headed. A moment before passing out he exhaled heavily and the helmet was once again shrouded in fog. The fog was making his corrections unsure. He hesitated.

[static] "UMP!" Is all that he heard this time.

BAM

This time his tires stayed in direct contact with the pavement, but the fight was instantly on to maintain control of the wheel as he was now entering the tri-oval. His head didn't bounce this time, and his adjustments were a bit smaller, but his eyes had grown in diameter even more.

"Got cars all around you now, hold your line kiddo. You are doing great!" Tommy was suddenly concerned by the fact that Rob had grown silent inside the car.

"You are the second row of three wide. Let's hold her there for now. How is she handling?" Stan was also concerned by the lack of communication coming from the rookie.

[static] " " [static] Rob had to suddenly release the microphone button in order to not take out the number thirty one car on the high side. The car under the thirteen car had slide up into him as they had entered the first turn of the race way. Again he held his breath and made quick back and forth adjustments on the wheel to keep from sliding up the hill and taking out the others.

Everyone on pit road was apprehensive; all the practice runs they had done over the winter had not included them being this close to the front this late in the race. The sudden silence from the normally very vocal rookie was uncharted ground for them. Scenarios played through their heads. Each one coming to their own conclusion in micro seconds the majority of them not playing out well for their team mate.

"Rob?" Stan asked gently. Not wanting to anger the youth, but also wanting to let him know that he wasn't alone out there either.

"Yeah gimme a sec here." The tension at the situation could be heard in the earphones.

"K," Stan sat down and faced the start finish line. He didn't wanna look. He didn't want the bad images that were playing out in his head to manifest themselves on the backstretch.

"M D Ya ever git hit that hard going into a turn here?" Was Keith's setup question.

"And still hold onto her. Ya mean?" M D said with a chuckle.

"Heck no. ah mean looky here, the rear tires actually git lifted off the ground in the middle of the pack going into turn three. How that didn't result into a huge gathering of twisted sheet metal is beyond me. They are doing about one seventy five, one eighty through there. Bump drafting in increments is fine. But bump drafting into and out of turns is a scary deal man." M D is seen shaking his head as he watches and marvels at the racing going on.

"Tommy, how big a run are they taking to git to me? Ah can't look back there trying to stay out of the others up here." Rob spoke in measured beats.

"Ten four, no problem buddy. Tony says that he's sorry about that huge one. Greg got to him just as he got to you. You took a dual bump and that was pretty freaking amazing." Tommy was struggling to keep the awe out of his voice.

"Tell him no problem, but ah would rather have the smaller more frequent bumps than the bigger and harder ones. IF he keeps em small we can get through this center pack next time or two by." Rob's composure was startling.

Inside the dark helmet he was in his haven, he was master of his own destiny. No harm could befall him whilst he was in his fortress. His breathing had returned to normal. His eyes were pinpoints as he went into a type of tunnel vision only seeing what was transpiring directly in front of him. He finally saw it, he could feel it, smell it, and taste it all at once. The Almighty Draft, he now knew how to conquer it. He now understood all those things that the legends had spoken of, when he was a youth. He was no longer afraid of going too fast. There was no such thing. Adrenaline began to pump through his veins instead of the normal red blood cells.

His sawing on the steering wheel became less frantic less reactive and more proactive. He knew that he could get to the front and lead, all he needed was for the blasted car in front of him to get out of the way. Almost as bending to his will, the number twenty four car slide wide coming out of turn two. Rob and his band of merry drivers quickly filled the void, and surged towards the front on the back stretch. In what appeared to be something that was synchronized and choreographed beforehand the number thirteen car went high to get in front of the number twenty four car. The number twenty car went low to block the number eight car and the number sixteen car seemed to almost be spit out of the pack of tightly bunched cars to take the lead.

BAM

The number twenty four car rubbed along the back bumper of the thirteen car easing him into second place. He raised his right hand up to thank the flaming Dupont Chevrolet car and cut the wheel down to drop in front of the Home Depot car. He knew who had trusted him the entire day and wasn't about to leave him all alone down at the bottom of the race track.

"Tommy tell him to run that adjusted line we were running earlier, ah'll stay low and get a run on him outta da turn. Together the three of us can get away from these guys wanting to race three wide." Rob stated into the microphone. He could see where he needed to be to take full advantage of the draft coming off of the leading cars.

His adjusted line worked, the three cars slowly forged away from the pack, rotating leading laps in order to get their cars the needed air, but never racing more than two wide for longer than it took to slide the next car up into the next track position. Before the rest of the field realized it they had lost the draft coming off of the lead three pack of cars and soon were left scrambling for the scraps. The eight and fifteen car hugged the yellow line trying desperately to regain the lost ground in a hurry.

As the three pack crossed the start finish line a mere twenty laps from the end. The big one happened. White smoke puffed out of the right front side of the black and white number ninety seven car. He was in the worse possible position, between turns three and four. In the center of the second pack. His car took an almost immediate right up into the number fifty five car. They had been in the second row of cars. They had been getting ready to start making their final pit stop of the day and hoping for someone else's bad luck to get them drawn up close to the leaders.

The smell of burning rubber as folks tried to lock up their tires to avoid being swept into the accident taking place in front of them was heavy in the air. The smell of hot water and coolant being sprayed across hot engine parts hung in the air like a canopy. Threatening to steal the breath away from those that wandered too close. The ninety seven car rolled onto its side, sparks showering the driver, the fifty five car's driver stood on his brake and clutch pedals trying to get his car to come to halt.

As this transpired others took evasive action. However this more times than not lead to them running directly into another driver who had once seen the same piece of unoccupied real estate. The commentators were quiet. The crowd was silent. The only ones truly talking were the spotters whose job it was to try and guide their drivers through the sudden mine field that was once a race track. The smoke and fires obscuring their views almost as much as their drivers. Their brief staccato like orders being obeyed as quickly and unquestioningly as possible.

The wreck had swept high and then almost as soon as it had started it was over. It then had started to wash back down the track. The wreck gawds were attempting to collect the stragglers that had somehow managed to come to a complete stop before reaching the pinnacle of the cliff before it was too late.

"OK, pits are gonna be closed the next couple times by we had a couple of cars come to a stop at the entrance. Rob wha cha wanna do with the little lady?" Tommy asked.

"Where is Greg pitting compared to Tony?" Was Rob's only response.

"Greg is two stalls back from Tony. Tony says he has got to make an adjustment to the rear end. He says that dinner is on him tonight for the entire team if you two will take four tires and wait for him." Tommy responded. The thoughts of steak, lobster and margarita's already filling his head.

"Tell him it's a deal. I need four tires as well. I think something went outta balance on the left front that last run. Towards the end she was starting to shimmy like that gerl we saw at [static] on our way down here." Rob halfingly joked.

Stan interjected, "So we going a can and a half and four tires and no further adjustments?"

"Yeah, boss ah think you guys did a great job putting this little lady together for me today. Ah don't think that she's gonna need anymore adjustments the rest of the way." Rob nodded into the microphone.

"One more time by, and then pit road will be open. Greg says he needs fuel and tires as well. I'll let you know when he starts outta his pit box as well as Tony." Tommy said.

"Guys, I don't need to tell ya how much ya have GOT to hit your marks on this un. This is the time for your best pit stop." Stan spoke with a command in his voice that relayed the gravity of them doing everything perfectly if only this one time in their lives.

Rob was roasting with the visor of his helmet still closed. But he didn't dare to lift it to get extra air into him. He didn't want to lose his vision of the draft. Even at pace car speed he could still see the air currents playing across the tops of the cars. He didn't want to do anything to jinx himself or his team.

"As you can see here, the ninety seven's right front tire just gave out, which turned him up and into the pack. That looked eerily like the wreck that the great Dale Earnhardt was involved in a few years back. The big differenced between then and now is we have a safer barrier wall out there. The head and neck restraints that all drivers have to wear as well as the wrap around helmets that NASCAR has mandated also go a long way to helping the drivers walk away. Were it not for the fifty five being collected up with him he would have hit that wall head on at over one hundred and ninety miles an hour." Keith stated sagely into the camera as the playback faded into the background.

"The only thing that I can think of that would have caused that tire to give way this late into a run without any contact. Which we can't see any clear indication of, is that they're running too much negative camber and that wore out the edge of the tire." M D was trying to come up with an answer to the questions that no one had clearly asked yet.

"Let's go down to Jeff in the cut away car to get a better understanding of this 'camber' situation." Keith stated calmly.

The camera focused in on Jeff bent over and straddling a used racing tire.

"What negative camber is how the pit crews rotate the angle of the tire left and right on the hub axis. What negative camber on the right front tire does, is it allows the car to ride down the straight aways on the inside portion of the tire. Then when the car enters the turn at these high banked super speedways the weight of the car actually will roll the tire flat onto the track surface, allowing for a larger surface area and allows the car to turn better. The down side to all this is, with too much negative camber, you will build up a great deal of heat on the inside of the tire and that is the first area that will fail. When the inside of the tire gives way, it isn't pretty as you can well see now." Jeff stood up after the impromptu physics class.

It was evident that Keith was attempting to come up with a simple way to explain the explanation to those sitting at home. Never being one at a lose for words M D jumped in with,

"What Jeff was saying is ya run negative camber on the right front to help it turn better in the turns," as he smirked into the camera.

"And for those wondering at home, yes you run negative camber on the left front as well. It is just that the majority of the weight is transferred to the right side of the car so more of it ends up on the right front. It isn't unusual to have a right front tire run down on ya at these high banked tracks like this. Heck it will happen a lot at Britstol where we will be in a few weeks." M D continued until Keith was able to pick up his chin again.

Article © Ed Moyer. All rights reserved.
Published on 2005-06-20
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