Part 1: Setting the Stage
Three days in Heaven. And then:
I felt like it today: chills, waves of pain coursing down my back and legs. Running a fever and coughing. “What hurts?” he asked me. “My fingernails, and the roots of my hair, and my throat and my bones” I replied. “Then you are going to have to stay home sick even if you are the doctor”, then he added enviously “Maybe someday I’ll get sick enough to be able to stay home”
But I digress: now with fluids and chicken soup and Ibuprofen and pyjamas, I can get back to our real story.
Yes, three days in Heaven. Paul Newman once said “If there is a heaven on Earth, it is here at VIR”. The beauty of the grounds, the clear crisp autumn colors, the acres and acres of rolling green grass and the historic, equestrian feel of the buildings just soothe the soul. The faint whiff of smoking rubber tires, the growl of a far away unmufflered engine, and the chemically sweet scent of boiling brake fluids and burnt engine oils all combine to create a chorus of anticipation and the resulting pulse-pounding giddiness as I enter the gates of this hallowed ground.
(photo credit American Le Mans series by Tequila Patron)
Jackie Stewart, Carroll Shelby, Paul Newman and Steve McQueen, among so many other racing greats, loom with their historic presence. Today’s respected racers including Randy Pobst, Patrick Long, and Chuck Hawk and so many of our younger racers who are up and coming spend several days a year up here: Tom Long, Mike Skeen, and James Clay to name just a few.
And so in the shadows of these pros, we the enthusiasts arrive with our cars, tarps, trailers, and RVs to descend on the North Paddock. While earnestly clutching our tire pressure gauges and collecting our registration wristbands, many of us are chatting about our memories of driving this track: that particular driving line through turn 2 and into Nascar bend, or the pros vs. the cons of downshifting before entering turn 10 or waiting til Oak Tree at turn 12?
Yessirree….we were all driving like the wind for sure the last time we came down here.Ha ha!
That’s an exaggeration. In actuality, I’ve found that people who drive in the high performance field are the exact opposite of the stereotypical “fishermen”. They deliberately minimize their successes, and really for the most part are not an obnoxious bunch of high testosterone yahoos! Most people I’ve come across are delightfully kind, and share with me the childish joy in being able to make the car go faster than you thought you could, and hearing it make the beloved noise “Vroooooooooommmmmmmm!”
Find any driver on track, man or woman or beast, and ask them about their car or driving. Their eyes will light up with the delight of any 4 year old child and they will get a ridiculously happy smile on their face. They will tell you about it in ways that give credit to their car, their coach, their mentor, their crew and their track buddies–and only grudgingly will admit that, well–yes–they DID indeed drive like an insane bat from of hell coming out of the Snake.
As I arrived it had gotten dark, and the air was cool. I found my buddies Yoda and RAM. After quietly and formally greeting one another in the paddocks, we hiked it up to the Oak Tree Tavern for an exuberant dinner at Connie’s Pub. Let’s just say the alligator appetizer on the menu had our crew feeling very happy and the spirits ran high!
Next up will be part 2: HeelToe for Real