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Creative story racing along walls

Creative Story: Racing Along Walls

"Hey Joe, hand me the 3/16 socket," I mumbled into the underside of my car.

I felt a nudge in my ribs as my friend, Joe, handed me the socket I asked for.

Matching the ends of the hexagonal shaped socket with the stub on my wrench, I

pushed the two together. A loud click signaled the two ends of the socket and

wrench fit perfectly. Reluctantly, I went to work tightening the chassis of my

car. I felt overwhelmed by the number of lugs I would have to check and tighten.

It took me almost a half an hour to completely tighten each bolt and there were

still eight more to go. To add to my frustration, the sun was starting to set

which forced me to use an inadequate electrical lamp to illuminate my garage at

home.

Joe, was working on his own car in the garage space next to mine. He was

inspecting and cleaning the outside of his white 1993 Honda Civic SI. He had a

soft cloth in one hand and a spray bottle of wax in the other. The hand with the

soft cloth would wipe for ten seconds followed by the "sqshhh sqshhh" of the

spray bottle. Always being the meticulous one, he continued his wipe and spray

cycle for many hours to make sure his car was immaculate.

As I turned one of the bolts clockwise to tighten it, I felt a sharp,

searing pain on the upper portion of my hand. Instinctively, I swore, forgetting

all the lessons on good manners my parents had taught me. I brought my hand up

to inspect the wound but the darkness of the garage, the setting sun, and the

little remaining light my car blocked made it so I couldn't see my hand at all.

As I climbed out from underneath the car, I noticed that I was leaving a trail

of thick, dark, drops with my movements. I carelessly wiped off the dripping

blood on my shirt and looked at the length and depth of the cut in my hand. "Oh

man! Joe check out this cut. I'm going to love this scar! It will make my hand

look more manly. Oh yeah! But my hand hurts really bad." I happily exclaimed.

The cut ran the whole length of my hand. Luckily, it was the top of my hand that

was cut and not the palm side of it, so I knew I didn't get any important veins

that would make me bleed to death. It was another scar I could add to my body

giving me more of a masculine look which was always a plus with the ladies.

Grabbing the towel I had used earlier to wipe off my sweat, I wrapped my hand to

stop the bleeding and continued on my work not knowing that this first injury

would foreshadow future events.

"Hey, I just checked your roll cage, and it's a lot more solid than mine.

Is the roll cage on my car tight enough or do we have to take it to a welding

shop before they close?" asked Joe.

"It'll be fine. Plus I seriously doubt you'll need it. If you're really

worried about it, I think the roll cage bolts use a 22 mm. socket so go tighten

it." I replied in the middle of tightening another chassis bolt.

It was July and we were preparing our cars for the Battle of the Imports

the next day. "Battle", as most people that attended the event preferred to call

it, was the largest import drag racing event in the country. The event was

scheduled four times every year at the Los Angeles Raceway. Although the event

was meant for all import cars, Japanese cars dominated the race. My car, a black

1994 Acura Integra GSR was a common site there along with some other Japanese

sport compacts, such as Joe's Honda Civic.

Many people have the impression that a racing event full of small engine,

Japanese, compacts would be a race full of slow cars, that is not the case. Most

cars at Battle, including mine, have modifications that make them extremely

quick cars putting the large displacement American cars to shame. Take, for

example, my modified Acura Integra GSR with Turbo VTEC makes around 325

horsepower with a small 1.8 liter engine while a modified Ford Mustang makes 400

horsepower with a large 5.0 liter engine. Even though the Ford Mustang makes

more horsepower, it is also much heavier because of its thicker steel and larger

engine, so in a race, my car would win by quite a distance. My car and most

Japanese imports weigh less because they have smaller engines and thinner metal.

In some areas, the metal is so thin that what should be small accidents often

end up more severe. It was not to my knowledge that the thin metal that Honda,

Acura, Nissan, and Toyota use in their cars would affect Joe and I the next day.

I finished tightening the last of the chassis bolts and started checking

the exhaust hookups while I was still underneath the car. The bolt connection

from the exhaust pipe to the muffler was a bit loose, but a quick flick of the

wrist with my wrench fixed the problem.

I climbed out from underneath the car and got into the passenger seat to

check the roll cage. The roll cage is a series of light, durable, metal bars

that bolted on to the chassis of the car. If my car flipped or if I hit a wall

while racing, I would be able to walk away from the wreck unscathed because of

the bars strengthening the body of the car. However, the chances of such a

catastrophe were small and I was very confident and at times arrogant about my

excellent driving skills. Joe was even more arrogant and confident than I was at

his driving skills, and it was true that Joe was probably a better driver than I

was. We both reluctantly installed roll cages because of regulations set by the

race directors for all cars that could run a quarter mile in 11.99 seconds or

less which was the category our cars would be in.

After checking the connections of the roll cage bars, I did a final

inspection of the car to make sure I did not forget anything. My friend had also

just finished taking care of his car so we decided to take our cars out for some

practice on gear shifting and clutching. We took our cars to a large deserted

parking lot we always went to to practice and did a couple runs against each

other to make sure both cars were running in top condition.

We then returned to my house to finish preparing for the race. I took my

plastic racing helmet adorned with many racing stickers and emblems and placed

it in my trunk. I fished out my torque wrench and hydraulic lift from the spider

webbed corner of the garage. The lift and wrench would be needed later to

change the tires there. Two sets of drag slicks went into my trunk. We would

mount the slicks at the track replacing the two front tires. They offered much

better grip than normal street tires on a dry track and would improve our racing

times and speed significantly. We brought along a pair of fire suits because of

their flame retarding capabilities. They would make up our "race suits." The

directors of the race required a fire suit for quick cars in case they catch

fire so that injuries from fires would not cause any fatalities.

"Dude, I'm hecka nervous," Joe complained. "What if I break my axle

tomorrow? What if my car catches fire? What if I screw up my starts in front of

16,000 people? And of those 16,000 I know there's a pretty girl in the stands

for me. How can I be a studly pimp when I make a total fool of myself? Just

think, pretty girls all coming in groups to watch guys race. I mean I'm nervous

enough with the 16,000 people watching me make a complete fool of myself but all

those chicks too! And to add to it, those aren't any plain old fine chicks,

they're Irvine girls! Did you hear me? They are Irvine..."

"Look shut up!" I replied in frustration at my friends sudden outburst of

hormones as if the Hoover Dam that blocked his testosterone broke. "You're not

going to screw up badly if you screw up at all. Who cares about the girls up

there. Save them for later. When you're done racing than you go up into the

stands and get your groove on. When you're on the track only five things exist:

you, the track, the starting lights, the finish line, and you're opponent. The

16,000 people in the stands don't exist. There are no fine Irvine girls waiting

to meet a cute guy. If you just chill I'm sure you'll do fine. If you get

distracted and don't pay attention than you're screwed. Got it?"

"Yeah you're right," Joe replied reluctantly. Although he had stated his

acquiescence with what I had said, his voice did not resemble the voice of

someone in agreement. It sounded more like Joe was still thinking with his

hormones and not his brain. His mind was still replaying scenes with girls

scantily clad in tight summer clothing four sizes too small to reveal their

feminine shapes. He only agreed with me to humor my impatience.

"It's eight o'clock. Let's go upstairs and get some sleep." I said.

"I can't sleep now. It's too early and I'm still nervous. I can't sleep

when I'm nervous."

"Well just lay down and eventually you'll fall asleep. Remember, we need to

get up at 3 A.M. tomorrow morning so we can make it to LA on time."

We went up to my room that was reminiscent of a junkyard with garbage,

dirty and clean clothing, underwear, car magazines, and CD's strewn across what

was once a nice, plush, tan colored carpet. It's amazing how worn out carpet

could get in my room after only two years. All the other rooms still had the

fresh-out-of-the-factory smell that we incorporate with new carpet. The walls

were a barren desert of off-white. I never really believed in hanging up

posters; or to put it frankly I was always too lazy to hang any posters up.

Besides the mess on the floor, there were only five things in my room: my stereo,

computer, bed, desk, and closet. Of course my closet remained empty because the

ground had taken over its job making it hard for me to find a nice clear place

where Joe could sleep. I cleared a small area of my floor to accommodate my

friend. I felt lucky that I could sleep on my bed because the insects had found

the "jungle" on my ground to be a favorable environment to their survival. Joe

would be their full course meal for the night.

It surprised me that I was able to fall asleep so easily. My friend on

the other hand, claimed that he fell asleep at twelve o'clock in the morning.

Unfortunately, we were taking two cars and not one so he could not have taken a

nap while I drove. I had a feeling that morning that Joe would be too exhausted

to race and make good decisions but dismissed them as just my wild imagination.

We had two choices of routes to take to LA We could either take 101

South the whole way or take Highway Five. Highway Five was an unanimous decision

because of its four lanes and long, straight, stretches to accelerate on. Being

that we were practically the only ones on the freeway, both of us took our cars

up to 160 miles per hour without the fear of running into other traffic. The

trip to the Los Angeles Raceway was pretty uneventful.

We arrived early so my friend proposed that we wait in the parking lot

so he could take a nap. The doors to the track opened at nine. The track was

setup in an arena like fashion with the seats surrounding the oval shaped track.

Whenever there was a straight stretch of at least a half mile, there would be

lights setup at the beginning of the stretch and large, scoreboard-like, towers

with digital numbers at the end of the stretch. These two landmarks indicated

where the quarter mile drags would be. In all, there were five areas of the

track set up for the event.

Since the track was still virtually empty at nine thirty, I took

advantage of my time by stripping out my rear seat and passenger seat to save

weight. The hood, trunk, and rear bumper came off next. Every pound made a

difference so every racer attempted to lighten their cars as much as possible.

Some go so far that they replace the windshield and windows with lighter

plexiglass. I raised up the car with the hydraulic lifts I brought and swapped

out the rims I had on my car with the racing slicks I had brought. With the car

still raised, I went underneath the car and disconnected my exhaust pipes after

the downpipe from the motor. This would allow a better flowing exhaust with less

restriction, a must for turbo cars and good for another 20 extra horsepower. I

also decided to take a little risk by raising the compression of the turbo from

1 bar to 1.5 bar which would give me an additional 90 horses. I crossed my

fingers and prayed that my car would be able to handle the extra boost. When a

car is boosted beyond its limit, the engine usually detonates leaving it

unusable. By this time, Joe had also started preparing his car in much the same

fashion that I had done. I decided to wait for him to finish so we could go

check in.

By ten, both of us started racing on the track. My first run was against

Joe since both of us signed up together at the same time. We lined up at the

starting lights and staged our cars flush with each other. The starting lights

went yellow, yellow, yellow, green with a 0.500 second interval between each

light. By the third yellow, the squeal of our slicks filled the air as both of

us revved our engines and side stepped the clutch. By the time the green light

lighted, we were both off in a streak of a black blur next to a white blur. My

left hand fought the steering wheel, my right hand went through the gears, my

right foot was standing on the gas pedal, and my left foot was modulating the

clutch between a gear shift. Racing required the whole body to coordinate with

each other. The coordination and the intense slam-you-back-into-your-seat pull

of the turbos are probably the factors that give racing its appeal. I lost the

race by three hundredths of a second. The time it took him to speed down the

quarter mile was 11.64 seconds at 123 miles per hour, while my time was 11.67

seconds at 129 miles per hour. I should have had a much faster time because my

speed was higher than his, but he probably shifted gears better than I did.

By 10:30 the stands were nearly filled. It looked like there were more

than the projected 16,000 people attending. Most of the people there were young

like ourselves and enthusiastic about cars.

The first run was the only time we would race against each other that

day. We each had different schedules of people we would race against. After my

fourth run, I decided to take a break, mainly to eat, but also to meet new

people. I bought a hamburger and drink to satiate my developing hunger. There

was a girl that caught my eye. Her dark, tan, skin and wide, puppy dog like,

eyes gave her the Filipino look. Unlike the other women that looked trashy, her

clothing was modest and in good taste. I was thinking of ways to approach her

and what to say without sounding stupid when I heard a loud crunch of metal

hitting concrete that caught my attention. I looked down at the race tracks and

saw a white Civic crushed against the wall. Crowds of people had started

gathering around the car as if a car crash was good entertainment to them. In

fact, the crowd was so thick that I could not get to my friend and pull him out

of the wreck. Luckily, Joe crawled out of his car unassisted and the medics were

able to force their way through. They lightly rolled him onto a stretcher,

taking special care to keep his back unmoved. An ambulance arrived and took Joe

to the hospital. Joe broke his right clavicle, right knee, and right elbow. He

also broke the tendon in his right ankle. As for his car, he no longer has that

one. Insurance declared it a complete wreck and bought him another Civic. The

whole right side of his wrecked car was gone.

Joe and I frequently discuss the events that led up to his accident now

that he has fully recovered. I told Joe that I thought he was not paying

attention when he was racing and probably checking out some girl in the stands.

Joe disagrees and says his tires overspun and his hand slipped on the steering

wheel. However, we both agree that the roll cage fell apart because of his loose

bolts and that if the roll cage had been tightened, Joe probably could have

walked away from the accident. We both agree that the weak body of Japanese cars

also had some play in his injuries. I believe his helmet saved his life because

his head had hit the windshield and caused it to shatter. His high level of

testosterone and ego makes him think that his head was hard enough that he did

not need the helmet.

Despite the accident, we both still yearn to return to the track. There

is no point in dwelling in fear and stop doing what we both found to be the most

enjoyable activity in our lives. Next time, we will be more careful and

hopefully we will also pay better attention when racing.



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