I was still smarting from my poor performance from the previous year. And then there was that “incident” with the El Camino, where it dusted me in the twisties. This year, I had a new plan...
First of all, I went up in speed class to 120 mph. I added a 5-point restraint to go into this category. My maximum allowable speed was now 125 mph.
So what was my Great Plan? I decided to do exactly what worked last time, since I was going without a navigator again. I taped key times to my steering wheel, and used the stop watch in the car. I also used my regular stop watch as a backup, but I refused to touch it during the race.
My backup plan was to just go banzai, ignoring all rules, if I lost all track of time. If you’re gonna be a bear, be a grizzily, right?
How did I do this time? Better than last year, but not without a lot of luck.
(photo by: EMan 6/97)
So what does a blow-out at 150+ mph look like? Fortunately, everyone was all right (with the exception of additional laundry to clean that night). The owner (Larry from Acton, CA) of this 1987 Monte Carlo has upgraded it with a roll cage, fire suppression system and a fuel cell. He was running in the unlimited class ahead of me when it happened. No wonder I couldn’t find him at the bar after the my run...
There were no El Caminos in front of me this year, so that was a good sign. Coincidently, five other drivers who were in my 110 mph group last year were in the same 120 mph group this year, including the “Big Jerk.” Mr. BJ apparently ticked off several of the competitors last year with his mannerism (and EGO), and therefore failed to get any points in the Mr. Congeniality contest. Mr. BJ also happened to be ahead of me.
So the guys who had moved up to the 120 mph group with me thought it would be a Very Good Thing™ if someone were to pass the “Big Jerk.” (Hey-- every race needs some drama.) Some how, while I wasn’t looking, they drew straws and decided that I got the short straw. That meant it was my job to pass him in the race. (He was obsessed with passing everyone last year.) I hadn’t really talked to this guy before, but it’s a long drive to the finish line with not a whole lot to do, so I said I would do it. Subconsciously, I also began to think of him as a jerk (why not?) Now I had a Plan and a Mission.
As the starter sent me off, I gave him my customary (well, two years in a row) good-bye wave and took off after Mr. BJ. With 30 seconds between us, that translates to one mile at 120 mph. It took a while before I could see him. I finally started to see him in the distance as we approached the “Narrows,” the twisty portion of the road. I could almost taste synthetic oil as I closed in on him. I wasn’t going to make the same mistake last year. I was more familiar with the Narrows, so I kept my foot on it. After passing through the 6-mile Narrows, I was actually closer to Mr. BJ.
At this point, I stopped thinking about winning. All I wanted to do was catch him and pass him. After a few more miles (remember, this would only be about 2 minutes at 120+ mph), I was right behind him. I then began to have second doubts about passing him, since he would have to re-pass me if we were to finish close to our 120 mph target speed. Fortunately, adrenaline has a way of dominating decisions. I gave the car a little more gas and passed him. Eventually, he started to fade back. Mission accomplished.
I was now hurtling towards Austin, NE in pretty good shape (I thought). After passing Mr. BJ, I was actually ahead of schedule. I could start backing off and work on hitting each mile marker at exactly 120 mph. I only had one problem-- my mind wouldn’t let me slow down.
After driving around 130 mph for over 50 miles, every time I dropped below 115 mph, I felt like I was crawling. I was almost a minute too fast, and I couldn’t seem to slow down. With about 10 miles to go, I was still too fast. Mr. BJ had caught up to me and passed me, and I still had about 30 seconds to get rid of. I kept trying to drop my speed, but I couldn’t slow down fast enough. I was also afraid of slowing down too much, and then not being able to make up the time.
Before long I saw the finish line coming up. I guesstimated that I was about 20 seconds fast. I didn’t know what else to do. I just gave up and coasted to the finish line, hoping to stay above the minimum required speed of 90 mph (they check this at the finish with a radar gun). I didn’t really check my time when I crossed the finish line. I knew it was too fast.
After letting the car cool down, I headed into town to talk with the other guys in my class. The pair in a blue Scarab/Datsun 240 told me they were right on the money, or maybe just a second off. Others were claiming to be within seconds of the required time. It didn’t look good for me. There’s always 1998, right?
At the award dinner they start with the third place finish and work their way to first for each target speed. When they announced the 120 mph class, the pair in the blue Scarab were called for third place. I was hoping they would win so I would have a chance. Then, miraculously, they called my name for second place at 120.046 mph! It was an undeserved prize, but I’m taking it anyways. One can never tell what would happen in 1998...
So who won first place in our class? Mr. Big Jerk, of course. Now he can be referred to as “First Place Jerk,” I suppose. Who was the winner of the Unlimited Class? Rick Doria, the ex-husband of last year’s winner, drove the same car to an average speed of 194.069 mph. Yowza!
There wasn’t a 1998 for me. That’s because I moved to Germany in 1998, where one can average more than 120 mph on the way to work. Is that cool, or what?