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Monday, September 15, 2014


jr peels out from a pit stop 

The race this Sunday at Chicago satisfied what I like in a race. No wrecks. Two fenders were crunched from a run-in with the wall, both easily repairable on pit row. A motor or two blew. I saw Joey Logana cross the finish line with a blown motor. He was around fifth heading for the line and the cloud of smoke appeared behind him that says engine blew up. He crossed the finish line dragging his smoke behind. No better place to lose your engine. Nobody was close enough behind him to have advantage from  his sudden loss off momentum. Brad Keselowski took the win. I've been watching both these drivers coming on with some solid racing this year. Logano is a good driver with a passionate drive to win. When he has the car to do it with, he can run out front, in clean air, as they call it. The air at a race track during a race is not anything near clean. The pollution is worse than London or Beijing, much worse. The aroma of exhaust rich with raw gas and the molecule clusters leaving all the tires at all times gives the air it's scent particular to a good race. An upside down bowl of intense air pollution hovers above the track, over the seating area. It's part of the thrill of the race. The volume is like at a good rock concert so you cannot be heard screaming into the ear of the one standing next to you. It is, indeed, that loud. The thrill is much the same as a good concert. I saw the Cars in the early 80s and did not need ears to hear it. The surface of my body vibrated like it was all eardrum. Great concert. A band I never had the opportunity to see, Rage Against The Machine, but have all their cds. The audience at a race I felt when I was in one, was ecstatic as a Jane's Addiction concert. I make these comparisons, because it's how I felt at my one live race in Charlotte. The ecstatic part is remarkably similar. 

joey logano quik tire change

I love the rush of a race so loud you're deaf to anything else and the intense pollution, the scent in the air we've known since birth. Before oil, it was the scent of horse manure in air. The aroma is the familiar scent we are so accustomed to we don't smell it, intensified ten thousand times. Or more. I'd rather watch the race on tv. None of those ecstatic aspects of the race come across on tv, but I can see the race better on tv. And it's a lot less expensive to watch. I can see the cars working for position, passing somebody difficult to pass. Brad Keselowski started the race fairly far back in the pack. I don't remember what kept him back there. All the while he was laying back, I was thinking I'd like to see him pass everybody and win. I knew he could do it. The crew might have been adjusting the car until they found the key. When it came time, he passed car after car, drove up to the front, passed everybody in the lead and left them behind. Clean air. I've been paying attention to Keselowski this year, simply because his driving demands attention. He does not mess around. With the car that will do it for him, he'll win the race. His team has put together some good cars for him this year. Kurt Busch was tapped by his brother Kyle just enough to lose traction. Kurt started into the sideways slide, caught traction and brought it back. Didn't even lose much momentum. His ability to catch traction has impressed me about Kurt Busch's driving for a few years. I've been watching the race enough for the last three or four years to associate drivers with their numbers in some cases. 

keselowski in clean air

Early on, I was just watching the cars. I figured all the drivers were about the same ability, and they are, but there is so much else involved. The psychology of the driver. The skills of the mechanics who build the engines, the suspension, the wheels, their abilities are also about equal. If any one of the mechanics involved in a race happened to be somebody I knew, like a neighbor, I'd be in awe of his skill, his talent, the same as an artist, Jasper Johns, an example. I'm guessing at least a thousand mechanics are involved in the crews of all the cars in a race, most often 43. Not including the pit crews, which are an entity unto themselves, like ants. I am told they practice all week long and work out flexing and strengthening themselves, keeping in tune. All the crews of mechanics and pit have their lead man whose mind directs the process that brings the whole together. The studio musicians and electrical engineers involved in pop music in Nashville, LA and NY, I see artists in the same way I see the mechanics involved with the race cars. The driver races the machine the mechanics put together, a precision machine made of computer engineering, You can see it when a driver has a car that is running just right. Kevin Harvick had a good car. He was a serious contender until Keselowski's momentum took the lead by outrunning everybody else and the one nobody could catch, until #2 turned up in his rear view mirror. Keselowski made some good passes. The race in the last hundred laps was a visible race. Half a dozen cars were taking turns in the lead. It was looking like Harvick might have it when nobody could catch him, before Brad K put his pedal to the metal. 

kyle larson blew his motor

All the drivers were giving it the best they had. Their cars were as good as they could be that day. So many of the cars were equal that it made a good race of one car dominating for awhile, then something changes and another car dominates in its turn. This race satisfied my idea of a good race. It was a race from the green flag on to checker. So many good drivers and cars, it looked like the win was up for grabs between half a dozen, depending on who was in front on the last lap. Then along came #2 and left the others in his air turbulence. In attendance at the track, I would not have been able to see the subtle strategies the drivers use for passing and for blocking while they're driving as fast as the track and the car allow, holding it there in intense heat and intense noise. I watch artistry in the driving the same as I watch artistry in a dancer. I call it artistry when it is a skill that has reached the place of using intuition, feeling, emotion in the delivery. Melvin switched the tv to football when commercials came on. It was so much better to watch football than ads for artery blockage stuff to eat, beautiful cars I can't afford and erectile dysfunction. Viagra commercials bring an association in my head of Lou Reed in his song Heroin, cause it makes me feel like I'm a man, when I put a spike into my vein. On one of the Viagra commercials I hear John Lee Hooker's guitar to the melody, I like the way you walk, I like the way you talk, I like the way you walk, you my babe, I got my eyes on you. The song is just right for the commercial and at once as racist as The Little Rascals. I laugh every time I hear it, but would rather watch football. Saw some good plays. Saw some good catches, some good drives for touchdowns. Good games today. Peyton Manning, quarterback with Denver, has artistry in his skill. I see him the artist as quarterback. The referee calls were good too.  

pit row



  1. Hey, TJ, check this out. Interesting background story on what happened on one of Keselowski's pit stops at Chicago. Good stuff … the kind thing that happens to at least one or two teams every race, and a perfect example of how it's not about the mistakes but the recovery. — R

  2. Oops! Here's the story: