June 9, 2014
The true essence of auto racing is making yourself look as good as possible under the circumstances no matter where you finish, even if your last race had all the success of the RMS Titanic but with fewer survivors.
Before you consider that a joke, please reflect briefly on the career of Danica Patrick.
I will begin by pointing out the well documented fact that auto racing's first legendary driver, Barney Oldfield, set a world speed record at the Milwaukee Mile in 1905 and I beat his time by a wide margin at the same track last weekend. Nevertheless, Barney gets all the glory because he did it first, which in my opinion is objectionable because it reduces success to a matter of dates. No matter. I still beat Barney even if he never knew it.
And I managed this spectacle despite the rear deck on my car collapsing during qualifications. The Boschett Timepieces/Impact Racing #22 lost grip badly in time trials (note to sponsors – I just said your names) and I immediately returned to the pits in search of any marginally plausible justification.
I found one. There was a large hole in the rear of my car. I am fairly certain it wasn't there before. It seems that the air flow over the car at 140 mph was sufficient to crush the trunk lid of my car, pressing it down onto the fuel cell and spoiling the car's aerodynamics. So there. Even Danica can't drive without rear downforce. I use my cell phone to photographically document my alibi.
However, my teammate, Jeremy Spoonmore, did me no favors whatsoever by qualifying third in an identically-prepared car. Now people will think that he is a better driver. He is a better driver, of course. I just don't want people to think it.
The Howie Lettow Memorial at the Milwaukee Mile began on Saturday with my car vaguely distinguishable somewhere over the western horizon in 26th place. Dusty Krebs and his white #80 was right in front of me. I thought I could pass him, thus mildly bettering my post-race propaganda campaign. My spotter, Claire, kept interrupting my thought process by advising me over the radio to save my right rear tire.
WWBOD? (What Would Barney Oldfield Do). Well, duh. Barney would make the pass. That's why he's Barney Oldfield. So I dirt tracked my car out of the corner and passed Dusty.
Aha. A positive. My story just got better. Weird thing, though. The windshield of my car was pressing backward against the supports, and the rear of the roof was collapsing by about six inches at the end of every straightaway. The body on this car is old and tired. No big deal on the short tracks, but it really doesn't like 140 miles per hour on The Mile.
Scott Dunning is always fast in the red #132. His engine started smoking and he pulled into the pits. Too bad. He's a good guy and that was a borrowed engine. But racing is a selfish sport and I'm looking better by the lap. Claire said something on the radio about bad karma, but I figured mine couldn't get much worse.
In defiance of my pitiful practice times, I actually began passing cars. Not many, mind you. But every five laps or so we'd put another one behind us. Fellow Hoosier Tim Fulford was the next car in front of me in his white #21, which also has pink trim. I'm not judging him. Just saying. Pink trim.
Turns out I had more motor than Tim on the straightaways, but he could drive deeper into Turn 1 than me. Okee dokee. Everybody's cards were on the table. We ran side by side for three laps before he hit the marbles, slid sideways and I took the position.
Something smells. Hey, it's Saturday. Lots of people barbecue on Saturday, right? Somebody must have burned the bratwurst.
Wrong. It was my right rear tire. The one Claire wisely told me to save. WWBOD? Avoid the subject on the radio and keep passing people.
Thankfully, I wasn't the only one roasting rubber late in the race. Kenny Joosten had also cooked the tires medium rare on his amazing green and white #47, a car so beautiful that I didn't want to pass him for fear of not seeing it anymore. He slid high in Turn 4 on the final lap and I passed him on the inside. Or maybe he just felt sorry for me and gave me the spot. I wasn't really sure.
In the final analysis I advanced from 26th to 17th in the field. That's nine positions. That's really good, right? Of course it is. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.
I've been repeating it to myself since Saturday. I expect to believe it by Tuesday.
Sopwith Motorsports Television Productions
Co-host, Mecum Auto Auctions on NBCSN
Boschett Timepieces/Acorn Cabinetry #22