Finish line

Ceegar felt pretty bad about causing the wreck in Turn 14 at Road America. He was pretty subdued in the pits after that race. He took most of the blame, too, I think, at least as far as he could.

After spinning off the track because of too much speed, or tires not fresh, or because he’d already raced, and won, a pretty grueling competition over some of the best Mustangs in the nation, or even because he had dialed it back a notch and was out of sync with himself, he tried to come back on and finish what he’d started.

But he came on at an angle, launched across the track when his front tires again found traction at the edge of the pavement, and took out a Corvette. His own car suffered too, driver’s side scraped and torn nose to tail. But his vintage and real Trans Am car could and would be repaired. The Corvette, maybe not.

Many things happen in the heat of battle, and we don’t always use every option available, sometimes not even the best one. Ceegar felt bad because he didn’t control his car and he hit somebody. Of course he didn’t want to hit anybody, and didn’t expect to hit anybody. But sometimes, physics is hard to anticipate if you’re trying to stay in front.

There are some pretty significant consequences if you do hit someone. Stuff happens in racing, and it can be tough knowing who’s at fault. I have spun many times, and I have seen other cars spin and then launch, usually backwards, back across the track.

Ceegar’s real infraction may not have been the spin, but trying to come back on. Reining in the nearly overwhelming need to keep fighting, half thought half emotion, after clawing around the track to be at the front, lap after lap. It’s that emotion that puts us out there, driving inches from a concrete wall at 160 mph, balancing on the knife edge of traction between going fast and sliding off the track, trusting mechanicals (and mechanics) with our bodies if not our lives.

Don’t give up! Go! Take him! Go deep! Find it! Brake late! Get back on!

We all know that need. I also know if I were driving through that turn in my Corvette, and saw him in the grass but still moving, then he hit me, my reaction would have been “I was still racing! He was in the grass!”

But I didn’t see the wreck, I was out racing. This all comes from Ceegar, and others who saw it from the stands. There may be other interpretations. And there was a lot of contact out there. We have all screwed up, and more than once. Every one of us.

Cowboy got tagged and put into the wall. Was he hit by another Mustang? One had nerfed him the day before. Maybe the blue one, this time? Small block tagged a Porsche, but Small Block went into the wall and suffered far the worse for the contact. The Porsche sustained some damage, though.

Falcon had somebody bump and run against him, but it wasn’t too bad. His car even wears a band aid from encounters. I have some rubber marks on my side pipe from the day before when another Vette moved for track position I already occupied. But Canuck and I escaped any noticeable damage during the real race, maybe because we were out front and away from most of the uberenthusiasm.

It’s hard to explain this passion.

Stang didn’t even get to race, though his blue Mustang won an award. No small accomplishment, either. There was a lot of competition.

Stang was still happy he’d come to Road America. He was happy about the huge and enthusiastic crowds, the unbelievable track (he’d run a couple days of practice before his engine decided enough was mostly enough), the great weather and town, all of it. The whole show. Yeah, running in the race would have made it a lot better, but being here was better than not.

Stang is right in the middle of all this. Stang recently bought a couple of pallets of car parts. They came with a couple of cars. One of the cars Stang bought was a Pontiac station wagon, a Safari, with two doors like a Chevy Nomad. I’ve never even seen one of those, never even heard of them, and I like Nomads. And of some of the Pontiac’s, too.

Stang isn’t even a big General Motors fan, I didn’t think. I’m always surprised at what I don’t know about these guys. He couldn’t have surprised me more if he told me he liked to wear a tuxedo to his favorite ballet.

He and Canuck and Falcon sort of formed their own team, too, before and at Road America. Swede was helping with their cars, and we all tend to cluster around our mechanics. Stang’s admiration for those other guys was on full display even as he didn’t race, because Stang calls it as he sees it, and he’s been around. He said Canuck has worked hard to be the best driver in our group, and no one can disagree.

It’s hard not to feel a bit let down after a race like Road America, especially when friends have broken cars and we only have one or two races until the end of the season. We don’t know what’s going to happen as a result of sanctions, we don’t really have a lot more to prove.

Canuck was generous to me after that last race, congratulating me on my 10th place (he was 7th) and being 6th in class (he was 1st in his). I wondered if we were starting to mellow out.

But we have at least one more race, in Portland, and I’m not supposed to lose in Portland. It’s my home track. Jake has the Labor Day weekend free, and Labor Day has always been one of my favorite races.

I hope Ceegar has his car back together, and Cowboy, too, and that Canuck will make the trip down from Canada. If Beater is going to up his game with a huge engine in a new chassis and drive like his hair is on fire, I’d better do the same.

I’ve ordered some new parts. They’ll be here in a week, then we’ll have a month to get them in.

If you want to know what it feels like in the cockpit of a race car at Road America, click here.

Here are some still photos of the weekend.

 

 

About Erik Dolson

Erik Dolson is a writer living in Oregon
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2 Responses to Finish line

  1. Del Mackenzie says:

    Thank you Erik for the fine words and memories of this great event. I am pretty sure that Duck can find you at least a second or two, a very good performance! I will send you some pix of the Safari. They were and still remain a beautiful piece of art. I will travel to LV in August with an Art Morrison frame for a fellow car collector, the frame will go under his 1956 Safari and I will return with a totally matched frame and running gear from his Safari. At that junction I will sell or make the decision to re-power the new frame which includes every extra offered on the 1956 Safari(427??) or just keep her totally stock as is now. Hard decision when you have a survivor.

  2. Richard Albrecht says:

    Loved the ride along.
    To bad about the accidents; saw a lot of that at the SCCA vintage races at Laguna Seca. One of the many reasons I thought it was time to retire from racing and sell the Mustang while she was in one piece. At this time we are in Portland getting ready for the Monte Shelton Northwest Classic Rally.

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