Monday, May 19, 2014

Dispatch #22: Driving Mr. NASCAR

by Lupe Fernandez

The red fire suit is hot in the Stockton sun at the racetrack. The white helmet has scratches and dents. I cradle it under my arm, playing at being a pro race car driver.

At Rusty Wallace Race Car Experience, me and my bachelor party wait at under a tent at the Stockton 99 Raceway for other drivers to finish their laps. The short half mile track smells of fuel and rumbles with engines.

Before suiting up, we listened to our instructor brief us on how to drive on the oval track. He tells us which taped marks to follow, which orange cones to watch for, how to put on the steering wheel and most important, how to listen to our spotter yelling in our ear phones.

It's a briefing. A real briefing. Under a tent out of the sun, sitting on folding chairs. A cool breezes rattles the metal canopy and shakes the fences in the background. The breeze cool my face. It's only play time but I imagine it's important.

Me and my party have our gear, our uniforms, our wits and our mutual glances of "Are you sure about this?"

For my bachelor party, I wanted to engage in some adrenaline surging activity. Gaping at scantily clad ladies is not my petal to the metal. A comedian who's name I forget said watching a stripper is like going to a restaurant and paying them to look at the food. While I'm sure such ladies are working their way through college, I'd rather do something more viscerally exciting.

I am the last driver of the day. My fellow drivers have all run their laps and recited their glorious and not so glorious moments.

I climb through the driver window and slide my butt onto a hard seat. I slid my head into a brace as the pit tech straps into a five-point safety harness.

The cockpit smells of grease and sweat. There's a lot of clinking and clanking and I love it. The race tech jams my helmet over my head. My sunglasses sit on my lap. I hope the guy puts them on for me; I'm nearsighted. I shove flat audio ear pads under the helmet and place them over my ears.

The car feels flimsy with its fiberglass shell and barren cockpit with red roll bars. When the race tech flips the ignition and the car rumbles with power, I realize I'm behind the wheel of a powerful machine. I cruise up to the track. I can barely move my head, limiting  my field of view to whatever I can see above the vibrating hood. I can't see or feel the brake pedal.

"Brake! Brake! Brake!" I hear yells from outside the car.

 I almost run down one of the race tech.

My spotter speaks to me through my ear phones and I'm ready.  Green light.

Vrrooomm....I do my laps, watching for orange cones that mark where I "mash the gas" and where I "mash the brake." I drive too slow.

"Gas. Gas. Gas," says my spotter coaches me to drive faster.

I think I'm going to collide into the wall. If I wreck the car, I'm liable for damages. After the eleventh lap, I'm getting used to control the car, hitting my marks, accelerating and braking at the cones when I see the checkered flag.

The ride is over.
I cruise off the track and putter to the other parked cars. The race tech unstraps me and removes my helmet. I climb out of the car, pull off the black stocking hat - keeps the helmet interior clean - and pose for a picture.

I unzip my fire suit - I like saying fire suit - and turn in my uniform and helmet to the nice lady by the trailer.

I'm no longer playing race car driver.

In the future, I'd like to play astronaut and submarine captain and lion tamer.

For some of these, I'll purchase pretend time. Others, I'll write and pretend on the page.

That's what I do.

And now a word from The Management:

Our Foreign Correspondent aka Red Zip would like to thank Troy, Johnie, Larry, Carl, Andrew, Aaron and some NASCAR wheels. Troy, his best man, generously arranged this event.

If you don't believe a word Red Zip has written, watch these videos and you be the judge. 

Prep to Drive

Driving 12 Laps


  1. Hi Lupe, Congratulations on your engagement, upcoming nuptials, and this great idea for a Bachelor Party! It was good to meet you in person at the SCBWI Plot Intensive Workshop last Saturday. I wish you all the best at your Santa Cruz wedding! (I live just over the hill, hint hint.) Blessings and hugs!
    Penelope Anne Cole, Award Winning Author of "Magical Matthew" and "Magical Mea."

    1. Dear Penelope,
      I appreciate your patronage of our humble post. Nice to meet you at the Plot Intensive.
      Four 1/2 Gear

  2. Replies
    1. Dear Mina joon,
      I know, I know. You're thinking, "Hey, he looks cool in the red fire suit."
      Pronoun Retardant


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