Like you, I spend the majority of the week working, but really I’m just thinking about the next time I’ll be at the track. Make money; order brake pads. Make more money; move weekend plans to install coilovers.
Before a track/race weekend arrives, I try to already have all my stuff lined up. The Friday before, it’s always a jam session. You know the drill: pack, load the trailer, load the cooler, triple check what you forgot, go back in the house and grab the GoPro, and try get be on the highway early so you can get a good night’s rest before the big day. But, it never really goes right, does it? If you’re familiar with Murphy’s law, you know that old Murph is always around the corner, waiting to throw a wrench or jack stand in your plans.
After levitating about 2 feet off the bed out of shock, I opened my eyes expecting to see smoke, intruders, ghosts, fire, you name it. Nothing really makes sense when you wake up like that.
My first rookie race was one such weekend where Murphy was going to show up and ruin everything. Years of training, reading, and spent brake pads and tires had led to this weekend. I had just spent the entire week planning. Here I was, Thursday night, ready to get the show on the road early Friday morning to go to Willow Springs. I had it all figured out: I’ll get to U-Haul at around 8 a.m., pick up the trailer, come back to the house, load up the race car, fill the cooler with ice and food, and go.
My trusty tow rig/daily-driver SUV was already packed to the gills with my tools, spares, fluids, a pop up tent, and all sorts of other racing paraphernalia that one may never need at the track, until the moment they do. The race car was aligned, filled with fresh oil and gas, and all the safety items were ready for tech inspection. With a little luck, I’d be on track by 10:00 Friday morning, testing and taking down data.
I was a pile of nerves going into the weekend and needed the test session. Having recently rehabbed a year-long injury, I was out of practice, and this would be my first event in a long time. Planning my weekend kept me sane, I had everything figured out and ready by Thursday. At about 3 a.m. that night, we awoke to every fire alarm in the house going off. After levitating about 2 feet off the bed out of shock, I opened my eyes expecting to see smoke, intruders, ghosts, fire, you name it. Nothing really makes sense when you wake up like that. Totally bewildered and in the dark, I then heard the fire alarms talk to me: “FIRE……FIRE…….FIRE……FIRE!”
I got up, turned on all the lights, and looked over the whole house inside and out. Nada. The alarm subsided on its own, but the adrenaline thundering through my body refused to let up. “What the hell was that?” Shakey, weirded out, we went back to bed and finally fell asleep.
Until the alarms went off again. “FIRE! FIRE!” Sigh.
The next morning, I get up, get in my Jeep to head over to U-Haul. The sounds of the alarm saying “FIRE, FIRE, FIRE” played over and over in my head. Fire in a race car is everyone’s nightmare, and for some reason it felt like this was all a warning. Once I got to U-Haul and did all the paperwork, they wouldn’t rent me the trailer as the Jeep kept blowing a fuse. Off to the local auto parts store — but guess what — this fuse was proprietary to Chrysler and couldn’t be bought at a store. Three hours later, my entire morning wasted, I’m finally on my way out of the dealership back to U-Haul.
Friday’s test day was ruined, and the superstitious part of me was nervous thinking the universe was telling me to pack it in. I almost listened. I’m glad I didn’t, as I ended up winning my race and learning a lot that weekend.
This kind of stuff happens every single time I go to the track. Regardless of planning, flat tires, trailer issues, broken bolts and new fluid leaks seem to pop up at the most inopportune times. In fact, every grassroots level racer, time trialer and autocrosser deals with this stuff. We have the monumental task of playing crew chief, driver, logistics expert, and caterer all at the same time. Finding a successful car setup, building driving competency, and improving on past performances are sometimes secondary to just getting the damned car to the track. I’ll be honest, once in a while I just feel like it’s not worth the hassle.
But this is kind of what it is. All best laid plans are torn to shreds the moment the racing Gods decide they want to intervene. Stick with it though, and the positives will outweigh the negatives. You will learn to roll with the punches and that you’re not alone in the struggle. You will find amazing new friends and contacts who will happily lend you tools, expertise, and an extra set of hands to get you back on your way. I’ve made tremendous friendships at the track over the years and can’t begin to tell you how much of my personal successes have been due to the generosity of friends and strangers who love this hobby as I do.
No matter what you end up encountering in your journey as a driver, short of putting yourself in obvious harm’s way, just remember that this is kind of the way things go. Cars break, parts give up, strategies that worked the year before may become obsolete for this coming year. So put on a smile, grab a wrench and a friend, and get to work. Your next track weekend is only a few days away!