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
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
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.