Mason's Tips - Dog Day Afternoon
DOG DAY AFTERNOON
Mason Evans, Madness Motorsports
Big Dog Howe was not happy. Howe Motorsports' top gun, Magic Bill Morgenthal, had just blown a hole the size of New Jersey in the case of his Class A1 turbocharged 911.
"Bill, you screwed with The Dial of Fortune again, didn't you?" growled Big Dog.
"No way, Rich. Honest, I never even thought about turning up the boost," protested Morgenthal.
The toasty brown rear end of Morgenthal's car belied his protestations. Clearly, sometime during Saturday's first practice session, the awesome stress generated by the Turbo Dematerializer ripped a gaping hole in the stock case on the car, spewing oil onto the hot engine. The oil ignited and burst into flame, bringing Magic Bill's practice session and his weekend at Sebring to an abrupt end.
"Hey, what happened here?" The question hung in the air unanswered. Mad Dog Mason Evans had just returned from a quick tactical strike to the bathroom. Evans, not known for his technical prowess, seemed to have trouble grasping the gravity of the situation. At first he thought Bobby, head of Howe Motorsports Graphics Engineering Division, had simply done a quick design change to the car's color scheme. Big Dog glared at Evans. Suddenly, it dawned on the rookie racer wannabe that Morganthal's car was jacked up and a puddle of oil was collecting under the car.
"Uh-oh, that don't look good," said Evans. Big Dog cuffed him on the ear.
"You moron," exclaimed Big Dog to his prize driver, "this means you're our only hope in the big race tomorrow."
A small crowd, including international race fans Russ Cramer and Darlene Shirasaki Gray, gathered about the disabled turbo. All eyes focused on the lanky driver/owner. Evans had come to Sebring with no real hope of winning. It was his first trip to the legendary Sebring Interstate Highway Landing Strip Raceway and the MushBucket had undergone extensive modifications over the winter. In addition, the passenger bay of Evans' racecar was filled with state of the art data acquisition equipment. Boy Genius Steve Olson had joined forces with Big Dog and Bobby over the winter. Olson brought his considerable technical and operational skills to the team and he had equipped the MushBucket with enough computer equipment to monitor a NASA launch.
"No problem!" shot back Evans, but his brave facade concealed his true concern about the chances for bringing home a victory. Evans' mind shot back to Friday afternoon when he and the MushBucket set a new personal best: two black flags in one session. The first black flag came when Evans shot around a car coming out of Turn 17. This turn has no line and is variously described as a double apex, a fast sweeper or just a big pain in the butt. Turn 17 is the last turn before the pit straight. An oil spill brought out the slippery flag, but for some reason a Carrera in front of Evans chose to aim for the oil dri spread on the track by the corner workers. The Carrera got loose and slowed way down. Sensing an opportunity to put on a show for the crowd, Evans quickly glanced up the track. The track was clear, there was no danger and Evans zoomed by the rattled driver in the Carrera. As the MushBucket roared down the pit straight, a chill suddenly went down Evans' spine. A standing yellow flag was displayed by the flagger at the end of the lengthy straightaway. Indeed, the entire course was under a standing yellow, for some unexplainable reason. The worker at the black flag station didn't need to point the flag. Mad Dog knew he'd screwed up and headed in for the obligatory lecture.
Evans contritely admitted his mistake to the Scrutineers, then drove back into the fray. But the MushBucket had taken offense at the seemingly unjustified loss of track time. The racecar screamed through turns one, two and three. "Holy jeezus," muttered Evans as the car early apexed turn four, "We're too hot!" The car drifted across the track as it exited the turn and launched itself into the air. The pair landed hard, bouncing wildly with both rear wheels spinning in the flat, sandy soil. A massive overcorrection by the driver shot them back onto the track with the rear tires screeching. A spastic flick of the steering wheel and Evans luckily recovered from an almost certain spin. The car and driver tore down the track at breakneck speed. The second black flag unfurled as the car and driver entered Turn 16. A new record for the OVR stalwart: two black flags in as many laps!
In the pits, the scrutineer peered quizzically at Evans, who had already unbuckled and removed his helmet in anticipation of the expected grilling. "What happened, Ace?" the scrutineer asked acidly.
"Well, we went off a little bit in four," explained Evans. "All this computer equipment on the passenger side has thrown off the car's balance."
"Yea, well, we heard it was quite spectacular," responded the scrutineer.
"Just business as usual for this car. I think we'll go in now and see how this data looks," replied Evans. The scrutineer nodded in agreement, happy to know that the car and driver had survived the excursion.
"Good luck in the big race tomorrow!" the workers shouted as the MushBucket returned to the pits.
"Hey, time to go!" The shout brought Evans back to the reality of the sunny Saturday afternoon. It was the Green group practice session and Evans was late. As he rushed off for the track, Bobby suggested to Big Dog that they take the radio out of Bill's car and use it in the MushBucket.
"Radio? He don't need no stinkin' radio. At his speed, I can run out and tell him how fast he's goin'," shot back Big Dog. "We might as well use a sundial to time him today." Still upset about the loss of Magic Bill, the disgruntled Big Dog paced the paddock. It didn't look good for the big race on Sunday.
Sunday dawned sunny, the third 78 degree day in a row. Jim Schardt, Dick Steppel and John "Tire Wall" Schuette hoped for class wins in the first race of the year . It was Steppel's and Schuette's debut in PCA Club Racing. OVR global publicist Theresa Bakken had jetted in to cover the action for the Bent Pylon. But the mood was somber in Big Dog's Kennel. The data acquisition engineers had spent the night pouring over the reams of information collected from the MushBucket. They'd also poured over uncounted beers and bottles of distilled liquor, making it virtually impossible for anyone to function Sunday morning.
The extra weight in the MushBucket was dimming the rookie's chances for a win. Qualifying turned out to be a disaster. Hemmed in by a lack of driving ability, Evans couldn't get a clean lap. Managing to qualify 41st in a field of 55, Evans remained optimistic. "Hey, this far back I gotta be able to pass somebody! " His efforts to cheer up the Kennel fell on deaf ears. The big race was drawing near and there seemed to be little hope that the OVR racers would make their usual grand impression at this event in Sebring.
The Green race went off without a hitch. Evans actually passed some non-disabled racecars during his race. The MushBucket spared him the embarrassment of finishing last in class when it roared by another F Troop 911 that ran out of gas during the race! Yes, a fellow driver, whose identity we will protect to spare him the pain of public humiliation (THANKS DAVE HARDEE SR.) had some kind of fuel trouble (mechanically related no doubt) but in true racer wannabe fashion managed to finish the race and by now has no doubt diagnosed and fixed the troublesome fuel glitch. Big Dog, mollified by Evans' spectacular finish, patted the boy on the head and gave him a biscuit. By finishing the race without incident, Evans won his much coveted Permanent Competition License from PCA Club Racing. The MushBucket was pleased, since it would no longer have to sport on its trunk lid the racer taped rookie "X" designation which the impish Dick Steppel, with the liberal application of more racer tape Saturday night, somehow managed to distort into an obscene phrase. A good finish for the now professional team, but less than the sensational showing expected from OVR troops.
Luckily, Tire Wall Schuette took it upon himself to carry the flag for the gang from the Midwest. Tire Wall was running in the Almost Real Racecar group, between Allegedly Stock and Supercars. He'd qualified well and was running fourth in class about four laps into his race. Naturally, the crowd from Ohio was in an uproar. Suddenly, Theresa realized Tire Wall hadn't zipped out of Turn 16 with the cars he'd been chasing. Thirteen agonizing seconds passed before Tire Wall reappeared on the back straight. A collective sigh of relief went up from the crowd as Tire Wall zoomed down the track. "Oh, fooey," muttered Bakken, wondering why Tire Wall had fallen off the pace.
"He musta spun somewhere or somethin'," commented Evans, who having gained his PCA Club Racing Permanent Competition and Insightful Commentary License, was now authorized to provide probing observations on racing and all matters of obviousness.
"Thanks for the insightful comment, Mad Dog," said Bakken, although her tone of voice countered the statement to him. No matter, still elated from his spectacular finish, the world class driver was oblivious to the sarcasm. Actually, most people think he is oblivious, period.
Anyway, the Yellow race ended and the pack from the Kennel watched in despair as Tire Wall was directed to the Scrutineer station. Could it be? Yes. In true form, Tire Wall had tagged several of the round rubber bumpers coming out of Turn One. A 13/13 violation in his very first race! Probation and opprobrium, all in one. Oh well, at least Tire Wall could count on the comfort and support of his friends in the Kennel.
"What a knucklehead," observed Evans sympathetically.
Bakken could only shake her head in amazement and ponder philosophically, "Another track event, another trip to the body shop. No surprises here."
"Hey, Steppel just DQ'd," shouted Dort, one of Big Dog's race technicians. Sure enough, the grizzled veteran had crushed all competition in the H class, but his car weighed in under the minimum poundage requirement.
"Those woosies!" The old hand took the DQ right in stride, vowing to drink enough beer to make weight for the next big race. Jim Schardt, also running in the Almost Real Racecar group, managed to bring in a 2d or 3d place, insuring that OVR would receive some legitimate recognition at the event. Congrats to both Dick and Jim.
The weekend was proclaimed a resounding success. PCA Zone 12 sponsored a wonderful event that was enjoyed by all concerned. After spending their last night at the scenic Headquarters Hotel, Inn on the Swamp, the Ohioans headed off for more action packed adventures as the 1996 season gets ready to unfold. Stay tuned, cause we'll
See Ya in the Corners!
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Copyright © 1996 Mason Evans