The roar was deafening. With my heart racing, and my pulse barely able to keep up, my eardrums numbed with every pass. I coughed and spluttered through the smoke, still managing to scream, gasp and panic. I was on the edge of my seat, watching as the car careened into the sideboards, losing a fender here, bending an axle there, and watching as a wheel caved in submission against the force of the speed.
“Oh my God! He’s gonna crash!”
When it was over, I turned to my sons, stunned and alarmed, unable to make sense of my racing emotions. My earlier moans of exhaustion and sore back long forgotten. It was all too much for me.
“Calm down, Mom, they’re only qualifying right now. Ya know - to see who gets to race first?” He rolled is eyes, his brother echoing his actions, a smirk hinting somewhere in their exasperation.
That’s why there was only one car on the track.
I missed that part.
We were at Western Speedway, in the City of Langford, 15 minutes from downtown Victoria, BC. Despite the track being surrounded by forest, the trees didn’t protect us from the breeze coursing through the grandstands we were in; I needed more hairspray. Between worrying about my hair and the guy, both equally important, I was a tad…flummoxed.
His now dented car – well, it already had enough dents so another few wouldn't matter, anyways – limped it’s way back to the pits; center-track. 14-second Nascar pit crew teams had nothing on this driver’s pit crew of one. It was something to be reckoned. The guy ambled his way over to a pile of tools and spare parts, grabbed a sledgehammer, and gave the fender a few wacks. When the pit crew of one was satisfied, and with one final kick, gave the thumbs up. Another driver was on the track ready to go, so there was no real urgency I realized, anyways.
My oldest son won tickets to the event, and despite my protestations of being tired, having a sore back, and being cranky, I went with my family – in the name of fostering family unity.
And was I ever glad I did. Talk about bringing out the woman in me!
Demo cars and trucks, all refurbished in the owner’s garages, had seen better days. ‘Hit to pass’ was where it was at, I would soon learn. A simple tap, or ‘crunch,’ from the trailing guy’s car on the leader’s rear bumper would send the leader spinning out of control – the trailing guy now gaining the lead. Every crunch of metal on metal, every car advancing to yet fall back, would send the crowd into a frenzy, taking me right along with them.
The driver’s momentum as they came ‘round the backstretch seemed to hydroplane the beasts, and as they struggled to gain control, I was wishing I had mainlined Alka Seltzer before I got there.
True, we’re not talking shiny, billion dollar Nascars, here. But to these drivers, their beat-up demolition cars that had seen many races, better days and one to many sledgehammers, were even better. Everything from Monte Carlos to mid ‘80’s Toyotas were there. Honda Civics, Mustangs, and hatchback Ford Escorts all graced the track in all their fender-trailing glory. Heck, I even owned two Ford Escorts when my kids were small, both cars sounding and smoking a lot like these racing machines – burst transmissions and all! Go momma!
But the best was the ‘76 Chevrolet Camaro. I teared-up a bit as I watched it race around the track, the same canary yellow machine as my first car was – minus the huge scoop and number. My boys were most impressed with their muscle-car maniac mother.
There were smash-up derby’s on the front straightaway, followed by figure-eight racing around tires, all involving MORE loud revving and more metal-crunching-metal. Then full-on racing around the whole track had me screaming for more - the need for speed and destruction was coursing through my veins. What had I become?
Smoke from barbequing hot dogs and hamburgers competed with the combination of car exhaust, burning rubber, oil and God knows-what else. The breeze that was ruining my hair had no affect on the mixing fumes. All that, combined with grease from French fries and onion rings, and I knew I was going to have some major deep-poor cleansing when I got home.
I couldn’t keep track of what was going on, and I tried to keep up with all the different races and events in constant action. Everything was so big and LOUD that trying to get a word in edge-wise to anyone to around me to was impossible.
Race after race, they readied at the starting line, revving their engines, smoking their brakes. By the time they got the green flag, you couldn’t see any cars at the starting line, so masked they were by smoke.
A receptionist by day, writer by night, I am just a city girl who, despite all my screaming, yelling, and panicking about drivers and my hair, still had her purse perched primly on her lap through the whole thing.
As the fireworks display started later that night with accompanying music vibrating through the bleachers under my feet, and the drivers long done for the night, I was glad I came and stood out like a sore thumb to be with my family. Sore back, dirty pores, bad hair, stomach ulcers and all.
But I knew I wouldn’t – shouldn’t - be coming back; I don’t think my psyche would be able to handle it.
Unless I was racing…