Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Auto Racing Not Just For Inbreds

For the longest time I have held an aggravated spite toward the sport of auto racing. It has never seemed in any way, shape or form appealing to me. But not just non-appealing, I saw it as a complete and total waste of money, gasoline and fried foods. The concept of 50 guys going around in circles all day long at 100 mph never seemed to catch my attention. Ever.

But what about the crashes, one may argue? Don’t those get your motor revved? No! Why would one car colliding with another at near-Autobahn speeds, putting both drivers’ lives at risk, excite me? That is just mere stupidity. Sure, it may be a rush of excitement for .8 seconds, but is anyone thinking about the long-term consequences? I doubt that highly.

I once had a man attempt to explain to me that auto racing was an “art,” and that there were so many other variables and directives in place that keep one entrapped in the beauty of such a competition. The turns, the driving maneuvers, the politics of the race, the precious seconds at a pit stop all made the race so much more complicated and wonderful.

Swamp Thing: “Now look here, Mr. inebriated walking advertisement for the anti-Jared diet, auto racing is as simple as this: Hold down the gas and turn left.”

I hope I have adequately explained my distaste and loathe for this ridiculous concept thus far. Having said this, one can only assume my frustrations this past weekend when I was invited to be on a pit crew at a race in Salt Lake. With my journalism pen handy to describe to all of you the stupidity of an auto race as my goal, I set out to destroy this perplexing sport with this blogpost.

I don’t think I made a quicker 180 in all of my life. While the hours passed before the race that day I observed one of the most beautiful and intriguing activities I had beheld in my life. As I was up there, I was looking for error, for flaws, for moronic behavior. All of my remarks were degrading and sarcastic, until I was shut up five minutes after arrival.

One of my first words was to a fellow pit member.

“Why are the tires bald? Is it because this civilization hasn’t figured out the concept of treads yet?” I said scoffing.

“No,” he smiled back, “It’s so the drivers can get more traction on the track. The hot rubber grips better on the asphalt if it doesn’t have the air running through it. From a physics standpoint it just makes more sense. Less air flow on the underside of the car will create less drag and make the car go faster. It’s a science really if you think about it.”

Oh. Yeah. Of course. Open mouth, insert foot. And it only went downhill for my sadistic views from there. I learned about the science of creating a car. I learned of the mechanics of what a car needs to work better on certain kinds of tracks. I was taught the chemistry of what fuels to use because of how hot it burns and keeps an engine producing at its highest level. I learned about the mental preparation a driver goes through as he is going into a race. I saw the politics of racing, the unwritten laws and rules of a sport moving at heartbeat speeds. I saw the mutual respect given to the senior drivers, sort of like a racing hierarchy. I heard the communication between driver and crew chief on how to most effectively stay the race and most importantly, stay alive.

It was incredible! The whole thing! From “gentlemen start your engines,” the checkered flag, the smell of the excess fuel burning off into the night, the sounds of cars propelled past me at momentum speeds to the sights of the thousands of fans cheering for a single cause, I was in heaven.

After the race was over, I sat back in the cold stands reeking of secondhand smoke and motor exhaust. My face was dirty, my body ached with fatigue, but my heart and mind paced with adrenaline from such an enthralling evening. I was in a semi-redneck utopia. Life was bliss. Before we left, I had a chance to approach one of the drivers and ask him about the race.

“What was it like out there?” I gushed. “What was your strategy and thoughts as you went around and around pulling for position and trying to win the race, and save your own life? How did you do it?”

He chuckled and looked down for a few seconds, wiped the grease off his forehead, and then replied: “Oh it was easy. All I did was hold down the gas and turn left.”

What do you think?

1 comment:

  1. Im gonna go fast and then Im gonna turn to the left.