Greetings from the pits at Sebring International Raceway in sunny (and hot) Florida!
I have always wanted to race on this track. A racetrack bucket list if you will. I was scheduled to run with this same team this time last year, but a family emergency came up and I had to stay home.
It is looking like this won’t happen either. As I sat down to type this, the car spun and now it won’t restart.
But I am happy to be here. The gentlemen that surround, drive and support Fat Crack are exactly the people that make this sport worthwhile. They are honest, industrious, patriotic, kind and generous. They are also an absolutely blast to be around. Even when the car is broken.
I know there are a lot of great tracks out there, but my bucket list has been whittled down to 5 remaining. Watkins Glen, Laguna, Road America, Willow and this one. Last year was a banner year; I drove COTA, Mid-Ohio and Daytona. Bonus, Daytona was at night.
No sooner than I typed the above three paragraphs when the #969 Fat Crack Honda came in on the hook. The decision was made to change drivers and bump start it, so I sprinted for my gear. My 90-minute session was interrupted by an extended stop for a power steering belt, but I did get to check off another track. So now, that list is 4.
For those keeping score, I ran a 2:49 and kept it in the mid 2:50s consistently.
I have read that racing is a learning curve, and by that standard, we are doing great. This is the same Accord I drove last year but with a better engine, upgraded brakes and a wider stance. When sorted, it can and did run down E36 BMWs. But anytime you start modifying anything; computers, work processes and especially race cars, there is always a period of sorting that needs to happen. Big money teams rent out racetracks and drive their mods until they break while amateurs go racing and struggle.
I was once part of a choreographed song and dance designed for the singular purpose of keeping inspectors from opening our hood and finding a newly installed turbo. During the practice session, the turbo overheated the car and it lost power. We swapped it back to its original configuration. I suppose that’s what we get.
On the odd occasion when the when the mods do work, that’s not always good, because you are not always certain as to why. Or there is a tendency to use more (Well if I added one and it was faster, I should add 10!).
As I am uselessly typing this, the hardworking young team of Fat Crack is under the hood of the Accord and she will be on the track again. We had run as high as 4th in class, and as low as 10th in field of 11. We are a solid 7th, and unless one of the lower place cars returns to the track, we will at least stay there. But the car will see the track again and today. It may not finish, but it will run. Because if you want to race, you need a car. Team Fat Crack wants to race. Like many other they will struggle and get the car back on the track.
If you have the chance, watch Love The Beast. It was supposed to be a documentary about Eric Bana returning to the Targa Tasmania, a road-rally race he competed in when he was an up and coming stand-up comedian (yes, that Eric Bana).
But when he wrecked the car, the film took a turn. The Ford Falcon he was driving was the same one he had competed with in the previous race, which is the same car he had owned since he was 16. In fact, that Ford Falcon is the first car Eric Bana ever owned.
The film and the story then becomes about how this car is the common thread that still keeps him with his childhood friends. He calls the car “a campfire” that he has gathered around for decades with his buddies.
Team Fat Crack is named for the car owner’s Uncle, by all accounts, a delightful man who passed before I met them. These young men are all in their late 20s and have been friends growing up in Florida since they were young. Their parents are all here and there are friends as well. The team members still refer to the parents by titles (“Mr. B,” “Ms. C,” etc. Last year, two of the team has moved to Dallas and Indianapolis. But they travel back for these events. They have lives, careers and families. But one little Accord and a handful of races keeps them together.
So while I am here chalking another track off my list, right now, they are gathered around a campfire of a Honda, struggling to nurse the car back on track. By keeping that car running, they are tending the light that has kept them together for decades, and ideally will be the common thread among their children in the years to come.
Me? I am just blessed enough to be a part of it. That my dear reader, is a bucket list beyond any racetrack.