I may have won a couple of races, but Swede was champion of the Columbia River Classic in Portland, and it wasn’t even close.
Swede doesn’t drive, either.
And his car never turned a lap.
Jakester and Jakester’s Dad had me set up on Friday while I was trying to get back to the track from visiting a childhood friend and his folks south of Portland. Traffic in that city gets worse by the week, and an accident at the Terwilliger curves plugs it like bad plumbing.
Tireman and Son helped. They had brought both their Studebaker and their Camaro. Tireman hasn’t raced in two years, but the two of them played evenly every time they were on the track. How cool that a father and son get to race against each other. It’s even cooler that Tireman appreciates it so much.
On Saturday, we all had gremlins. Excalibur came in after only a few minutes in the morning, his steering wheel shaking so badly that he didn’t know if something had come loose. Ceegar was playing catch up with two cars, and the Mustang was acting like a bronc. Cowboy didn’t know it yet, but his brake pads were worn down to the steel.
And I was still chasing, after three races, an electrical issue that seemed to be moving from part to part around the engine compartment just fast enough to stay out of site. Replaced the starter after the spring race. The battery after the first July race. A connector ate the last race in Portland. As I sat on the grid for the first race on Saturday, I saw my battery wasn’t being charged. Again, or still? Too late to do anything except hope I had enough juice in the new battery for a 20 minute run.
Cowboy was on the pole, and I was to his left. Excalibur was right behind Cowboy, and Nice Guy’s Camaro sat right behind our three, big-engined, tuned, loud Corvettes. But not too loud — they made us tone it down after we lit up the meter during qualifying.
When the green flag fell, Cowboy and I had a drag race going to the first turn.
We both had the same idea. Go deep, start in front. I couldn’t believe how deep Cowboy was going, but I was going to take him as far as I could before I hit the brakes. Finally, I hit my binders as hard as I dared, trying keep a balance between stopping and spinning. I didn’t know if I was going to make the turn into the chicane.
I looked to my right to see if I was going to turn in front of Cowboy or into him, and just in time: he comes whistling past me and doesn’t even try to make the turn. Remember those brake pads? He just used up about the last of them. He has to stop at the stop sign in the center of the turn but off the track and let the field go by.
I pushed hard, trying to build a lead on Excaliber, but I don’t see him in my mirrors. I see Nice Guy’s Camaro falling back (his engine is two-thirds the size of mine), but that’s all.
Mule, who wrenches for both Cowboy and me, comes over after helping Cowboy complete the sale of his new Garcia Corvette to Polished. Actually, it went to Ms. Polished. They drive matching Lotuses, but were now stepping into our rude class of ground-pounders. The Garcia car was supposed to be for him, but he didn’t fit. Ms. Polished fit though, and so the car was hers.
And she did a damn good job driving it, only a few seconds behind those of us who have been muscling these machines for decades. And that’s one concession that will be made: power steering.
“My shoulders!” she said after coming in off the track. Imagine wrestling a car like that at speed, working at it so hard your shoulders were talking back to you. Hat’s off to her.
Mule finds, for the fourth time, the source of my electrical problem. It’s in the start switch. I wiggle it while Mule looks at the volt meter, and the problem jumps up, tries to hide, then I wiggle it again. It jumps up, then tries to hide, again. Mule sends me over to Armadillo for a new switch.
I started in back in the afternoon, to play with Excalibur and Ceegar. I cut my up through the pack, but it started to rain, and everybody but me was smart enough to call it a day. Jakester and his dad wipe the car down.
We were all disappointed that Canuck didn’t show with his new car, Alice. He was supposed to, but it’s a lot of work building a new car.
It wasn’t supposed to rain all day on Sunday. Twenty percent chance, according to my weather app. Yeah, I know that doesn’t mean it will rain 20 percent of the time. But still, you would think we’d get a break, right?
Nope. It was pouring at dawn, it would let up, then rain hard again. Most of us don’t race in the rain. I was told long ago, you pucker so hard when racing a Corvette in the rain, you can’t sit down for a week.
Banker asked me to convince Ms. Polished it would be a real bad idea to go out. What she was driving now was no Lotus. A cough can put you into the wall. I told her what I was told long ago. Not very classy of me, but had to get the point across.
But the winner of the weekend showed up. Canuck arrived with Alice, a car driven by, and wrecked by, some of the fastest drivers we’ve known. Alice was a complete rebuild. And that’s why Swede was champion of the Columbia River Classic.
We all do a pretty good job on our cars. Some are better than others, but each shows time spent, and attention to detail.
Alice was unbelievable. Not a dime was spared on pieces, and hour upon hour was lavished on detail. No trailer queen, she’ll be raced as hard, or harder than, all of the others.
But there were no short cuts taken in her build. Holes were precisely drilled in places no one would ever see to manage weight (or air flow), Heim joint bearings replaced rubber bushings anywhere precision might be lost, her black paint was so black you could walk through it into another dimension; the names of all previous drivers were written respectfully on the top.
The guys standing around her know cars. They know what goes into a job like this. There was nothing to say, but to praise to Swede, and what he’d put together for Canuck. Alice has arrived.
But we were rained out, first the morning race, then the afternoon. It wasn’t supposed to be that way. Which leaves only one more weekend this year, the Finale in Seattle at the end of the month.
It’s been a strange season, and feels incomplete, for some reason. Maybe it’s because we didn’t get out on the track on Sunday, maybe it’s because I didn’t get to race against Alice. I guess we’ll see. Maybe it’s just never enough.