BACKIN’ IT IN - the story of Max Miller a sprint car driver, his friends, his crew and his fans. All of the names and the story are made up !!
A Novel By Wags
When the end of a season happens in dirt track racing, at least for serious racers and super fans, it’s really just the start of the next season. It seems like it’s an endless loop as racers press on, season after season, and fans get their plans together for the new schedule at the same time. Nothing can stop it as the wheel just keeps rolling over, year after year as they keep on “Backin’ it in”! Of course, that is only if your committed to the greatest form of auto racing still going, Sprint Car Racing, as a lot of us still are! Dirt track racing is the best and you will see soon enough. This story starts when two people in love embrace Christmas before the new season loop starts over.
When Max and Maggie Miller sat down in front of the tree on Christmas Eve with the bright lights flashing in their living room, they looked at each other and started kissing to get in the mood. They spoke of their love for each other and looked into each other’s eyes and professed that bond. Their love was very special and they treated it that way, always. Soon they interrupted that fun and games and started opening up their Christmas presents. There were many colorful box’s under the white flocked tree and they couldn’t wait another minute. It was going to be another wonderful Christmas with joy and some very creative presents from each other like always. Maggie opened one small box to start it off and inside there was a beautiful new gold sprint car ring. “Wow” she said, “I’ve been wanting one of these for a long time.” Then Max opened his first box and he got a bigger version and a man’s sprint car ring from Maggie as well! Both rings had diamonds for hubcaps on the wheels and were sparkling. Max said “I guess we are on the same wavelength darlin!” She then opened a bigger box and there was a special red leather jacket and the good stuff just kept on coming. Her next present was her favorite perfume Estee Lauder Youth Dew, which was the first present he ever got her after they met. There was other neat stuff, including a coupon for some new chrome wheels for her Corvette that she wanted all ready to pick up and get mounted. They were 5 spoke chrome designed beauties to replace the stock Corvette wheels and had mentioned it to Max. Max’s other gifts were clothes, some new boots and a particular cologne called Lagerfeld. She loved that on him and made sure he always had plenty on hand. Turns out, it was a marvelous Christmas and they gave each other a warm, long breathtaking kiss and wandered off to their bedroom for a while so she could show him his surprise that she found at Victoria Secret, and it was holiday red for sure! Boy what a night they both enjoyed passionately together. Lefty and Lottie Harper were doing their own Christmas Eve in the house that was next door to Max and Maggie. Lottie had cooked a turkey and they were enjoying the big spread when she said “what do you want for Xmas Lefty?” He responded “Just you dear, I’ve got all I need”. They laughed and she said “we need to go visit your mom soon, but we can talk about it later”. They started opening their presents and she got a new watch which had bell tones to notify the time at the hour. A little ring with emeralds along the top and some small diamonds as well. He got a coupon from the local car wash for a year of free washes and two wax and detail visits. It was getting late and they were tired so they moved to the master bedroom and enjoyed themselves very warmly and then holding each other before falling asleep by midnight. Xmas morning was bright and cheery as music was playing as they had pancakes and eggs for breakfast before Lottie jumped in her little red jaguar and went off to find Maggie who was probably at her cleaners that she owned. That didn’t happen, but she had a pleasant day shopping for dinner that night. Steak and baked potato was always on the menu for Lefty and herself.
Next door on Christmas morning at the Miller house, after a nice brunch of ham and cheese sandwiches, Max and Maggie looked under the Xmas tree again. But alas, they didn’t see any race parts or anything else that was going to get the racing season started today. So off they went to see a movie and spent the rest of the day relaxing and enjoying each other. The next day, Maggie had some things to do, so she got in her little 1960 red and white Vette and took off. Max called his crew chief, who was his next-door neighbor, lifetime friend and longtime partner on his sprinter, Lefty Harper, for some sage advice. When Lefty picked up the phone and said hello, Max said “Lefty, what’s up”? They grew up together so were in tune to each other very well. “I think we need to go to the speed shop, like right now”! A few minutes later, they jumped in the shop truck and headed over to the local speed shop to see what was going on.
The reigning, and now 3-time South Coast Racing Club Champion, “Mad” Max was a 30-year-old sprint car driver that had come up thru go carts, TQ’s, Midgets and traditional sprint cars and won over 150 races along the way already. This would be his 8th year of driving sprints and he was thinking about traveling back East a little this year if they could work in some Indiana races and maybe even a few Pennsylvania races. Lefty was the mastermind on all his race cars since they were 15-year-old wanna be racers running a beat-up old stock car on Friday nights at the local track. They were chomping’ at the bit to get this year started.
When Max and Lefty arrived at Bill’s Speed Emporium in Tustin, Ca on that day, they were not surprised to see a bunch of his race friends sitting around discussing rule changes, girls, new rules, girls and new cars. The proprietor, Billy Bob Bradshaw, was a 5-time SCRC Champion himself, so he knew a few things about racing. His shop had all things open wheel from TQ’s up to and including sprint cars, so his place was a huge super store that did a big business with the racers. He had a comfy meeting room called The”BB” Fun Zone, and many of his customers would use it to research products and generally hang out to visit and often have lunch in. The SCRC had been around a while along with NCRC from Northern California and MWRC from Indiana where many racers went ever year to race a bit when they had a break in the schedule. The clubs had all got together with the same rules and similar purses for the betterment of sprint car racing a few years ago and the racing was getting better and better.
They talked with a few racers as they walked around including Kenny Grayson, Lester Haines, Harlan Billings, Benny Rocker, “Big” Jon Brown and Lonnie Grant. Big Jon nodded a greeting at them, but both knew he wasn’t one of their favorites. “Big” Jon said quietly to the group as the approached, “here come your hero’s boys”. Kenny’s eyebrows went up as he and Max were good friends, but he said nothing. Everyone knew there was bad blood between Max and “Big” Jon, but that’s life. As Max and Lefty stopped to talk, “Big” Jon and Lonnie took off mumbling to themselves. They were birds of a feather and Max had to keep and eye on them. Now Kenny was a different story as the one-time mud scrapper for Max hung out at their race shop they called “the Ranch” a lot when he was younger. Max and Lefty’s race shop was behind their two homes which were side by side. Now Kenny had grown up and was an accomplished driver himself and his friendship with Max was important. Max asked what they were talking about and Kenny said “nothing to worry about” and then Max responded “what’s new”. Lefty observed everything around him and knew what “Big” Jon was up to and was always very aware of that car on the track. Lefty said “our new chassis was delivered here for us, so let’s take a look at it”. Billy Bob had the brand new bare Stingem’ chassis powder coated in black sitting on the floor of the lobby and several were gathered around admiring it as they looked it over. It actually was Max’s new car having just arrived from the Stingem’ Chassis Company in Bumluck, California and was ready to be picked up. Some added bars had been mandated in the cage that was new for this season to keep the top of the cage from squishing down on a hard impact, or so they planned. Everyone was well aware that the “old” Gambler chassis of the 80’s was the pattern that most of today’s cars were fashioned after, and most teams had their own little subtle changes they requested when ordering new cars.
Max’s new sponsor, Maid-Rite Burgers, was footing the bill for the new season, one of the perks for the defending Champion who won the SCRC championship for the 3nd year in a row last season. Somebody, namely Billy Bob, had sprung for pizza and the dozen or so racer types had settled in The “BB” Fun Zone to eat and bench race (i.e. telling lies) when the pizza arrived. Billy Bob was a great host and he often would feed em’ so he could tell stories to entertain as the hours stacked up in the shop. Like the time he crashed at Terre Haute while leading the National Open race when his wheel flew off, sending him on a wild flippin’ ride down the long backstretch. When he finally came to a stop that day, he was wide awake and climbed out of the car and said, “for my next trick, I’m going to build me a brand-new car!” He was out of it because he never built anything, let alone a race car. That mangled car is now mounted on the roof of the shop for all to see and remember the time he crashed on TV. Billy Bob was one tough hombre and had some interesting stories of his old times. He talked about the new chassis and said he had several more on order that were due next week if anyone wanted the latest and greatest.
“Big” Jon and Lonnie were at the end of the table eating some pizza with the crowd, but you could tell they were not happy. Lonnie asked “what are we going to do this year “Big” Jon”? Meaning about Max and his little buddy Kenny. “Big” Jon had harbored hard feelings about Max since the Champ came on the scene. Three years ago, “Big” Jon was leading the points late in the season after years of toiling mid pack. He had a new motor in his car and had been running great when one night he was protested by Lefty and Max after he won his 10th race of the year. On the engine check, after Max put up the $100 protest money, the motor turned out to be 480 cubic inches instead of the 410 it should be. The SCRC motor checker Tom Flanders tried a different side of the motor than usual and discovered it was illegal. “Big” Jon lost the points, the victory and the money. Max finished second in the race, so he inherited the whole shebang and took over the point lead that he would not surrender that season. “Big” Jon was plenty mad and wanted to fight, but he knew Lefty was a golden gloves boxer when they were young and had a gold medal from the Olympics to prove it, so he backed off. “Big” Jon had nothing but problems from then on and, on top of everything, had to get a new motor and it wasn’t as good, so his year went downhill. In the last few years, “Big” Jon never missed a chance to run into Max on the track and kept running his mouth about him every time he got a chance. Kenny, Harlan, Lester and Benny all chatted at the other end of the table, but it was about the new chassis not “Big” Jon and Lonnie.
As they all continued to down the pizza, Billy Bob went over to the two grumblers and asked “what is your problem, you were very rude to Max and Lefty”? “Big” Jon said “it is none of your business”. Billy Bob replied “it most definitely was my business in this shop and you need to learn some manners”. “Big” Jon started in on his problem with Max saying “Max ruined him”! Billy Bob responded “no, you did that to yourself using an illegal motor and got caught”! “Big” Jon said “Max owes me and I’ll get even”. Billy Bob said “watch what you say, you might get yourself in trouble”. Lonnie replied, “no problem, we’ll get him one of these nights”! After that Billy Bob went back to his office and “Big” Jon and Lonnie left. When they were thru lollygagging around, Max and Lefty loaded up the new chassis and one more just like it in their shop truck, and said “see Ya’ll” and headed to their race shop at the Ranch. Two more cars for the team were on the jig at the chassis factory and would be delivered in June.
A few years ago, they had both built large rambling ranch style homes next to each other in a new area near the 91 Freeway in Orange County. They both had large 10 acre lots that were sprawled out next to each other with the race shop behind them on a little knoll overlooking a scenic little stream of water and a small lake behind the backside of the shop. Their homes were attached with an enclosed walkway that made it easy to go next door without being bothered by inclement weather. Each had a 4-car garage at the other end of their house where they could enter into the kitchen from. In the garage, Max had a 2015 Yellow Z06 Corvette, a yellow Hummer, Maggie’s 1960 red and white Vette and her sporty little red Honda Civic that she used to zip around town in, and all 4 cars were nestled inside with plenty of room. Max also had a few hot rods in a section of the racing shop that was closed off, including a wild 34 Ford built by Boyd Coddington a long time ago. Boyd also built him a yellow 23 T Roadster, but it didn’t get out much! Maggie had a red 32 two door Ford hot rod with an 800-horsepower Chevy motor just like both of her hubby’s hot rods and his Vette.
The 20 acres for the houses and the shop was all fenced in with card key access and a security system that worked. When you came to visit, there was a large sign high over the entrance driveway that said “Welcome, and below it was another sign that read “Triple M Ranch” and you passed under that to drive to the house or to the shop in the back. It was a big, long and tall building that had room inside for the at least 4 haulers and work area for more than 8 cars, plus a large parts storage room, where there were six bullets on racks, with front ends, rear ends, shocks, wheels, tires and much more organized neatly. There was one more bullet already stowed in the hauler, so horsepower was in the house with those nearly 900 HP monsters. There was a TV room with an industrial sized fridge, stove, oven, two sinks and a microwave, plus a machine room with various types of equipment to use when needed to improvise and create parts. There were also several bedrooms with nice showers upstairs for race visitors who sometimes stayed at their place when they were in town for a race. The two of them and their crew spent a lot of hours in this shop working on their equipment, fabricating and setting up their sprint cars and generally doing what they loved. The crew often stayed overnight upstairs during heavy racing times, too!
CHAPTER 2 - The building of new cars at The Ranch
When Max and lefty arrived back at their shop, the crew was already there waiting. Dean Landers, the motor man and rig driver, Jim Wilkes, an all-around mechanic and tire set-up guy and Eric Karter, the one who kept the cars cleaned and polished and organized the shop and often got a hand in working on the cars as well. They all were ready to get at it. These boys had been with the team for a long time and had homes nearby about a mile down the same road, but practically lived in the shop during racing season. In fact, after long hours it was not unusual for their wives to come sneak in late to spend the night with them! They unloaded both chassis’ and started the long process to assemble them. They worked together like clockwork, and didn’t have to communicate much because, well they all had the same goals in the shop and knew the routine. After a few hours, Lefty was hungry as usual, as the big guy never got filled up, so they called their wives and invited them on a little trip for dinner. After the guys cleaned up, the two couples jumped in the Miller’s yellow Hummer to go eat. The crew jumped in the shop truck also and called their wives to meet them on the way over to the restaurant. Lucky’s wife Lottie wanted steak and Max’s wife Maggie wanted chicken, so the Claim Jumper was their destination of choice and it was nearby.
It was a short ride and the girls were chatting about the annual SCRC banquet and what to wear. Max and Lefty said in unison, “the same old thing like normal and you’ll be beautiful as usual”! California was a showplace for dressed up revelers, and their ladies never disappointed. Once seated, Max ordered a New York strip and Lefty got the big Porterhouse with Maggie going with a roasted half chicken and Lottie a nice fat Filet. The crew guys were no stranger to a big steak and that’s what they ordered and their wives had the Salmon. Their cute blond server brought some Lemon Pepper Zucchini strips to share. Everybody had a glass of wine with their meal.
Dean wanted to know what happened with “Big” Jon and Max downplayed it. Dean said ”we need to keep our eyes open because “Big” Jon was a mean guy”! Jim noted “remember that protest? It was the belly of all the hard feelings “Big” Jon had, but it was his own fault”. They remembered one incident last year when Max had to almost stop to avoid a spinning car, but recovered quickly enough and moved over before “Big” John hit the wall trying to catch Max on the side and missed. Max had no idea what was behind him, but the race tape showed it clearly and Lefty sent it to the SCRC officials for them to see. Nothing came of it, but that was a close call as “Big” Jon was coming fast with no intention of slowing down. It was obvious that as long as “Big” Jon was around, Max would have to keep one eye on him. Lefty added “we need to watch out for Kenny, too, because they were targeting him sometimes as well”.
A quiet pleasant evening was had as the ten of them reveled in the peaceful night and the good food. They all knew this relaxing thing would be a rare occasion, as racing always took precedence and there would be many nights where pizza, or a roast beef sandwich or whatever was handy and quick at the time, would be the best they would get. That was especially true on the road where late nights at Steak N Shake would see their tired faces after many races in Indiana. Coffee was ordered and all shared one huge piece of Chocolate cake that was the bomb. After that sumptuous feast, they all headed back to the ranch ready to get busy in the morning. The crew went to their own homes and the two couples got busy late that night in their own abodes back at the Ranch before dropping off to sleep. Max and Lefty began planning their week getting ready for the opener in Florida in early February. The cars body parts were already in the shop with their signature bold yellow color with blue, red and silver highlights. The # 1 was on the fuel cell in gold with pride as they kept that number last year after beating Clyde Dawkins by 5 points at the season ending So Cal Nationals with a monster pass on the last corner getting by Clyde and Jack Van Natta. Jack had led most of the race from the pole when Clyde rolled by him with the white flag flying and Max coming fast right behind him. The thrilling ending made people shake their heads in excitement as it was too close to call with the naked eye. Yes, it was a good year ending! The banquet was coming up the next week in Las Vegas, so they had to make time for that.
Meanwhile at the Harlan Billings large home in Ventura, Kenny Grayson was in the house to visit with his girlfriend Dotty, Harlan’s daughter. They were sitting around in the living room with a few others including driver Benny Rocker who lived nearby. Kenny was still bothered by what he saw and heard between his friend Max and “Big” Jon and Lonnie at the speed shop, so he asked Harlan “what was up with those two”? Kenny was still running midgets at the time of the incident and really wasn’t exposed to any of it. Harlan explained in detail, because he was there to observe as a driver rep at the time. “Oh”, said Kenny,” so bad blood only runs one way, right”? “Yes”, Harlan said “Big” Jon was a suspected cheater and it was the first time he was caught”. He did his own motors, so no one had ever been in one of his before. Harlan added “Big” Jon had managed to run into Max several times since the incident, innocently of course, not doing much damage, but pissing off “Mad” Max. He could have avoided most of them, yet the watch was on because they all knew “Big” Jon was going to do it again”. Kenny hadn’t encountered anyone like “Big” Jon before, but he did remember that Jon’s buddy Lonnie Grant seemed to rub wheels with him more often than he should, and maybe that was overflow to his friendship with Max. Harlan said “you better watch him, too, because he looks like you are in his sights also”. They all agreed that most of the racers were good and not so dastardly, but one bad apple or two can really cause some bad things to happen. Kenny was going over to the Ranch tomorrow to visit and watch the team work and would talk to Max about what he learned.
The next day, back at the Ranch, the crew came over early and the five of them got to work. Max, Lefty, Dean, Jim and Eric all knew their jobs, so for an observer it was a lot like watching a huge 3 D puzzle going together, piece by piece. Both chassis were up on jack stands and the fivesome begin putting in the rear end and then hanging the front end on both cars before taking a break for lunch. The girls had made tasty roast beef sandwiches which was washed down with lemonade. Kenny Grayson showed up to visit and quickly sat down to eat with them. He and Max had a little conversation going as they all went back to work. Kenny asked “what is the real scoop on the” Big” Jon thing” and Max gave him his abbreviated version before going back to work. Kenny pitched in and helped for a while before he headed back to his own shop at his house to work on his race car.
After that small pause for food, the motors were lifted in and the plumbing hooked up. They had also picked up some new Durango Shocks from a little place in Huntington Beach that just came out, but weren’t for sale yet. The owner Zac Johns, who went to school with Max, said “try them and then let us know how they work”? They were freebies, so after looking at the instructions, they were mounted with a wait and see attitude. Jim put wheels on both cars and both were now sitting on the floor. All the body parts were already lettered and the special decals added by Jerry Madson, a local famous guy who use to do it all by hand. These days he did it on a computer and printed it out to be wrapped on the cars. He also wrapped the hauler with their car on the rear door and Triple M Motorsports above it and along the side of the trailer. The hauler and toter were bright yellow and it was very striking traveling down the road.
By day three, both cars were looking ready and at last the seats and seat belts were installed, so after everybody gave both cars a once over, they fired them up and checked for leaks and abnormalities. None found, so they loaded them into the hauler with the backup car loaded up above where the primary car would be tied down. Then the yellow Kawasaki Mule was rolled in with the pit cart next and the primary car right behind them. Everything was all belted down and the doors closed signifying they were ready to go practice a little before the banquet. The team uniforms were already in the closet ready to wear along with the new t-shirts that Maggie was in charge of with Mad Max Miller blazed across the front. There would be a play day at So Cal Raceway the next day where they had a chance to get in some laps and make final adjustments for the first race.
When they arrived at the track the next day, several other cars were there for some shakedown laps as well. Kenny had his car and Dick Grandy and Brad Gardner were firing up also with a few more scattered around the pits to see if they were ready to race yet! That all went well as they got in about 50 laps on each car with some adjustments made along the way. Kenny put about 40 laps in his car when smoke appeared and the just refreshed motor might have a problem. Lefty ran over and before Kenny climbed out, and discovered a head gasket was bad. Kenny immediately went to work and fixed the problem and re-fired with another 25 laps or so and pronounced it good to go! They left with cars still on the track and it was almost dark. When they got back to the shop, the cars were cleaned up and a little maintenance ensued to fix anything that needed it. Luckily nothing major happened at the track to their cars, so all was good to go and they were loaded up.
CHAPTER 3 - The racers getting ready for the season
Around the West Coast there were lots of racers getting ready for the new season, too! All around California there were many teams wanting to go south for the season opener at So Cal Raceway in Costa Mesa by the ocean on March 1st. Many were getting their stuff together to make that trip. Up North the NCRC (North Coast Racing Club) that was once a wing group, but now was all 410 non-wing with their home track, Big Sir Raceway in Fremont, CA. Big Sir’s opener would be March 8th. There was new sponsorship money revealed over the winter with a co-op deal formulated especially for the three clubs NCRC, SCRC and MWRC (the Indiana based 410 group). Many teams would benefit from the new sponsorship that included, 25% extra money in the weekly purses, some free racing parts, some motor refresh deals and discounts on fuel, motels, plus some tow money and other perks. This new money encouraged some of the old car owners to come back to racing. It would be a very interesting year ahead. The 3 clubs instituted a new deal for this season. The top 10 in points, after the first 3 races, would get free pit passes for the car owner, the driver and 4 crew members. In other words, the tracks were actually paying them to come race!
In Arizona, Clyde “the Glide” Dawkins was ready to get on the road as he was too busy to stay home on the weekends, and he had his pick of great rides to jump into. His many race nights at Choctaw Raceway out in Chandler, AZ became legendary as he would stay home to race SCRC when they were in town and would follow them around California and run NCRC and MWRC in Indiana the rest of the time. He wasn’t interested in Championships, but would win a few along the way in his career in spite of himself. Next week he was preparing to take the family to the SCRC banquet as he won the most races last year with them. He is a family man and “gun for hire” type of a driver, so he didn’t have to stay home and work on the car like a lot of racers. When off racing, things were different as he knew what he wanted in a race car and never failed to give his mechanics exactly his preferred set-up instructions, that is if he didn’t do it himself. He would be driving for the Braxton Brothers again this year. There were several other notable racers from Arizona and they were working on their mounts as well.
Many of the California and Arizona 360 Racers had moved up to 410’s several years ago as a concentrated effort to consolidate the two groups made sense to unite them. A plan to help the 360 cars that didn’t step up motor wise to be more competitive against their bigger brothers, was always on the table as many theories were bandied about including a little nitro, but nothing got settled! Nobody with a 410 wanted to put something in their motor to slow it down, so the problem was on the 360’s to step up. The downturn in the economy back in the day and with less car owners and even fewer new drivers was a big problem for the club and all of sprint car racing actually because it is never cheap to keep up with the big boys and the ever-changing technology. The newly rumored track being built in Long Beach by Karl Wallace plus many new sponsors coming onboard should be a big help with more money for the teams and more race nights. Most of the 360 motors were sold off to the wing drivers up North so they could step up to the big boy 410’s. That alone doubled the car counts as racing seemed to be gathering a little momentum for a change.
MWRC was going to be a big help as they had a new sponsor in Indiana that would pay the Indiana drivers, who came to California to race, some significant tow, food and motel money as well as add $1000 to the purse for every car that towed west from Indiana MWRC land. A driver that flew out to drive a West coast car wasn’t eligible. The plan was to have 3 of these weekend events called the California Challenge starting the first weekend in June, then on the Labor Day weekend and finishing up the last week of the season. There would be 13 total races in this series ending with the season closer at So Cal Raceway in Costa Mesa, CA. There will be a points system for this series where the top ten at the end of the season will get their share of $200,000 bonus money put up by Wallace Oil who will be the title sponsor with SCRC, NCRC and MWRC co-sanctioning the series. In addition, each club had a scheduled $250,000 payout for their top 10 drivers at the end of the season, and that included $100,000 to the three club Championship teams each. This year would have the highest paid purses and year end championship bonus money for the racers since back in the Frank Lewis CRA days of the 80’s and 90’s.
CHAPTER 4 - off to the year ending racing banquet in Las Vegas
Friday happened and everyone that would attend the SCRC banquet headed to Las Vegas. Max, Maggie, Lefty and Lottie would travel together in Max’s Hummer so the trip would be quick and painless on the 4-hour drive. The racers were mostly staying at The Orleans, where they often did when in town to race. There was a bowling gathering scheduled for late Friday afternoon and it always drew racers and fans to have fun together. The Orleans had a 64-lane bowling alley and the SCRC would utilize half of it. The winter weather was a cool 50 degrees as the travelers hit town and checked into the casino hotel. It was always fun to see all the different race t-shirts on people walking around the casino as they gambled and wandered around town as well. That might make one feel at home on the road. In the future, starting this season, the 3 associations would hold their banquet together in Las Vegas and it was expected have over 1000 attendees. This event will be held after the last race of the year at So Cal Raceway two days later on Monday night.
Max and Lefty were itchin’ to get started on the lanes, so after having a quick lunch with the girls in Big Al’s oyster bar, they headed into the bowling alley and got shoed up to roll some big numbers. The girls were watching this year as they had their fancy nails just done the day before for the banquet and were not interested in ruining them. They had black and white checkers and some yellow stripping for their team race colors on those pretty fingernails. It was always a fun time bowling as there were plenty of prizes for the more successful or, as some might call it, the lucky scorers. The clubs own race scorer, Freddie Boomer, usually cleaned their clock as he was not an amateur. There were over 300 bowlers ready to go at it, and for spectators it would be fun to watch.
As Max got up to bowl someone asked if he knew how to do this bowling thing. They had all been bowling with him before and knew if they didn’t get in his head, he would probably beat them. His first roll was a strike and that shut up the peanut gallery. There was a singles, doubles and team competitions so everybody could get lucky somewhere. As usual it came to pass that Freddie won the individual singles title having a 745 series and took home a nice 64” TV and some bowling accessories. Max and Lefty won the doubles trophy and dinner for 4 at the Prime Rip Loft which worked out fine for later. Other prizes included Buffet passes, free rooms for future stays and several $100 gambling passes, so a fun night for all was had. Many hung around to visit for a while before most noticed the dinner bell was ringing. The Triple M Racing team of 4 went up to the Prime Rip Loft for their freebie and the crew and their beauties tagged along. it was a delicious meal ending the night very well.
Saturday morning dawned bright with blue skies and Max and his gang went off to spend the day wandering thru casino’s, doing a little “slot machine inspections” and just relaxing along the path they took. There were plenty of other racer types along the way and sometimes the group following along with them was large. About 25 of them were just aimlessly walking along at one point when they found Nathan’s Hot Dogs in the New York, New York Casino. The hot dogs were tasty, and everybody liked them, but different than the Der Wienerschnitzel drive through’s Max used to go to. More wandering and the thought occurred to Max that one of those rental scooters would be nice on the long Las Vegas strip, but they were young, right! After a few hours, they were all done with the touring, so everyone headed back to their hotel and crashed. It would get really busy when they got back home, so they took advantage of the down time. The afternoon required a nap and then dressing up for the night’s festivities. They watched some ball games on TV, but mostly just laid around enjoying themselves with a little private quiet time and a nap.
When the four of them plus the crew and their wives arrived at the banquet room in the Orleans, they hit the bar for a drink and stood around in groups to visit with many of the racing club members and fans who made the trip for the awards. Their three tables were near the front and included their crew, Clyde Dawkins, Harlan Billings, Kenny Grayson and a couple of other drivers and a few fans. After the usual banquet feed which was pretty good ribs and chicken, the Master of Ceremonies, Windy Barker his self, began roasting a few dignitaries. All in good fun as the night was to celebrate the previous year of racing. Windy told the story about B B Yanko when he crashed over the wall at Choctaw Raceway and landed in the junkyard where he was greeted by the junkyard dog, grrrr! Windy said B B was in a daze when the safety crew found him still strapped in his car, but OK. His driving suit didn’t have any teeth marks, so it’s safe to say he survived the crash, one that if you saw, you were amazed he cleared the wall and lived to tell about it!
SCRC President Jerry Jones had a lot to say about the banquet and who organized it and the work the club put in to make it a nice event. There were over 500 in attendance as most of the racers and crews and family had come out to celebrate as did a lot of fans that were in the house. The music and video presentation were done by the brothers Birch, Jack and Sammy, who added track photographer “Big Steve” Larson’s stills to the neat visual show. It featured a lot of action from last year and had special highlights for each team’s trophy presentations. It was a great presentation and a copy would be given to each racing team with more on sale for anyone else wanting their own CD.
Next, there was a bunch of drawing items up for grabs that was organized by Billy Bob that included a motor, a couple of rear-ends, shocks, wheels, one chassis and a bunch of other parts and even racing oil. Each team had one ticket and they were drawn out of a hat and the winner each time got to pick what he wanted from what was left. The motor was the first thing picked as low buck racer Tipper Landon got the first winning ticket and he grabbed that bad boy. The drawing was very popular as every team got something they would need and since nothing is cheap in racing, all teams were thrilled. It could all be picked up at Bills Speed Emporium on their next trip there, or could be shipped if needed.
The banquet then got into the awards as the crowd gave enthusiastic applause as each team came up to get their trophies and the video highlighted them for a few minutes as they arrived up on the stage. The most improved driver was Parker Burke and he scored two victories during the year. Rookie of the year was Colton Nelson who made the most features for rookies as he came from nowhere to be fun to watch all season. After Max and Lefty got their gigantic trophies and Max made some enthusiastic comments and thanked the crowd, there was one more announcement before time to go home.
The longtime friend of racing, Karl Wallace, a promoter and sponsor of sorts, plus he owned Wallace Oil Company, had an announcement. He said “as most of you are aware, we are almost done building the new dirt track in the So Cal area of the LA basin where Big Willy use to have a drag strip. We own the land and the permits are all done and work was underway in July and it will be called Wallace Oil Raceway”. His sketch of the facility was amazing as some key items he covered were unique as the track would be built below ground level with a cover that would only close with inclement weather, it had nice sized luxury suites, a number of family boxes with parking right behind them outside, a special seating area for the pit people and the entrance for the racers would be thru a tunnel to the infield with an underground parking area for the haulers to get them out of the way after they unloaded. There was also a tunnel from under the grandstands to get to the infield for fans to go out there to be close to the racers. “We are proud of the new venture and I know you will be, too”!
Karl went on to talk about the track which would feature a “Chili Bowl” type signature event in December every year going forward for sprint cars, when every other track was closed for the winter. The large 3-day purse will be limited to 100 cars, all by points earned in the three racing associations (SCRC, NCRC and MWRC) over the year. Only 48 cars will race on the last night with $5000 to start the main event. It would be all inverted on the last night, like the Trophy Cup was for many years. It sounded unbelievable, but time will tell. The regular opener was set for the 4th of July with one race a month the rest of the year. The 3rd of July was to be the SCRC annual picnic with prizes and games and a lot of fun. There will be Chili and hot dogs provided by Karl and will be served to all. The race track facility would be rented out for car shows and other racing related dates as something would be going on weekly. Oh, Karl added, “some luxury suites were still available for a moderate price”. Max’s sponsor, Maid-Rite Burgers, already had their suite, so that would be a benefit for his team and family for other events than sprint car racing. Karl said “Thank you and I can’t wait until opening night”!!
Once the banquet was over, and with a lot of visiting and merrymaking until after midnight, everyone went off to their rooms to sleep. The subject on most minds was the new track and what it would bring to racing. In the morning, after everyone had packed up, checked out and met at the car, breakfast would be at the Original Pancake House in West Las Vegas on the way out of town where the omelets are amazing and the pancakes great. The trip home was done in short order as they got home by 6 PM. It was time to get focused on racing. Since the cars were all ready with the hauler loaded up with parts ready for Florida, the final loads were done. The food was added with normal ice box stuff and drinks including water and pop. There were a few bottles of the grape for celebrations and of course some beer hidden in the storage compartments outside the hauler. It would be a new year with Max, Lefty, Dean, Jim and Eric all scurrying around getting everything stowed away. It was all finally done and now a nice dinner with the crew and their ladies having a brisket feed with Lucky’s skill on his Traeger cooker showing off. The smoked meat was awesome and the evening went by pretty fast. The crew spent the night in the rooms above the shop, so it was “go time” when they woke up the next morning. It wasn’t long before the night light was off and everyone was fast asleep.
CHAPTER 5 - The triple M team are heading to the opening race of the year in Florida
Monday morning came early and as everyone scurried around to finish get loaded up for the trip to Florida. They were greeted by Kenny Grayson as he showed up at the crack of dawn, getting out of an Uber and ringing the bell at the gate. He begged to go with them because, he said “our rig had a major problem after we started out about midnight last night and broke down 5 miles into the trip when the transmission on the big Kenworth gave up”. Kenny ‘s crew chief went with the tow truck to the shop to await the morning and see how fast it could be fixed, but his dad already called a friend at Kenworth and they said the transmission was on its way and they could leave Tuesday morning. Since Kenny didn’t want to wait and go thru the hurry up trip, he chose to come begging. “Not a problem” said Max and they all said goodbye to the girls, saying they would pick them up in Orlando at the airport on Wednesday. Then the big yellow rig, plus one now, rolled out of the driveway headed South towards San Diego where they would catch Interstate 8 going towards Phoenix. Triple M Racing was on the road again!
Dean wasn’t the only licensed driver of the big rig, but he preferred to do most of the driving. His first stop was halfway between San Diego and Phoenix where they pulled into a truck stop after about 6 hours of driving. Everybody got out to stretch and eat some sandwiches and then got back on the road with Kenny at the wheel. He topped off the gas tank during the stop, so they were good to go there. Kenny was licensed and easily took on some of the duty. They drove nonstop to El Paso and got fuel and ate a fast food dinner before changing back to Dean driving as they left there. On Tuesday they managed to get to New Orleans for a stop for dinner where shrimp and jambalaya were a staple, and then moved on with a big bag of shrimp to snack on. They pulled into Ocala, Fl on Wednesday morning after the long drive and needed a nap. They immediately checked into their motel and snoozed a bit.
They had already picked up the girls in Orlando earlier in the day and so after they woke up, they grabbed a quick snack at a MacDonalds on the way over to Don Garlits Drag Racing Museum for a tour there in the late afternoon. Don was expecting them and greeted them with open arms at the door. Inside they saw the history of drag racing thru Don’s eyes. His many Swamp Rat dragsters from the original up thru the end of front motored cars and his starting the rear engine craze. Before Don, there were a lot of rear engine builds, including one by Don that was not very stable, but most either crashed or didn’t work that well and were parked. Some famous racers tried but never made it happen until Don’s front motor car blew up at Lions Drag strip in Long Beach, CA and cut part of his foot off. After that scare, and while he was recovering in the hospital, he began designing the first successful rear engine car that was the forerunner of todays 330 plus MPH cars that run with NHRA. His first rear engine car was so quick out of the box, all the top teams ordered cars or built their own right away to keep up with him.
The famous cars in his museum included Top fuel Dragsters from Art Malone, “The Greek” Chris Karamesines, Bob Sullivan’s Pandemonium, Bob Langley’s Scorpion dragster, Shirley Muldowney’s pink fueler, Jungle Jim’s Funny Car, a Don Prudhomme Funny car and Top Fueler, one of Tom McEwen’s fuelers, plus a lot of famous other cars of the 60, 70’s and 80’, plus all of the famous Swamp Rats. His Swamp Rat 37 is an electric dragster that has been tested with a 187-mph run, but not raced as yet with a goal of 200 MPH. Garlits set a ton of records in his top fuel cars. Don gave them too much data as they visited on the personal tour by Big Daddy so both Max and Lefty wanted to go try one of the rear engine dragsters at the local dragstrip, but NO, it was time to go get ready to race the dirt track of Gator Raceway. They left the museum and had dinner before going to the motel and getting some more rest after the long trip across country.
Thursday morning came quick and after a nice lunch they were in the pits by 1:30 unloading their racecar at Gator Raceway! It is a 3/8-mile dirt track that runs sprints every spring, and although the weather isn’t exactly warm yet, it would work. Signing in was fun as many other notables were in line. Each year since forever, many top drivers showed up to run in Florida where many visitors thought it would be warm, but no, it could get really chili in February! It was Kenny’s first trip and he was shocked he was under jacketed, but Max had him covered with an old Hoosier jacket he found in the closet until his rig arrived an hour later, so then Kenny was off to catch up with his car and crew.
Max and Lefty went to look at the track and plan their strategy, but with the muddy wet surface, they could only walk around it and get a feel for it. It looked pretty much the same as last time they were there, so back to the trailer. Most of the cars were already unloaded around the pits and now the real work began. Dean said the motor was ready but they checked the shocks and tires and put in the right gear for this track. Hot laps would tell them if a change was needed as Lefty’s “book of memories”, or as everyone knew, his trusted lap top, held all the notes for the times they were here before. Lefty kept good notes and when he was done each race, would load the stats into his computer for easy access later, usually on the ride home. They would be running with the MWRC, NCRC and SCRC, and not the wing cars this trip. In the past sometimes Max ran the All Stars week, but not this year as he was done with the wings.
CHAPTER 6 - And the racing begins for the Max and the team at the Gator Nationals!
After the pill draw by Dean, where he drew the # 23 qualifying spot out of 50 some cars, they were in good shape. With wheel packing about to start, they had the drivers meeting to showcase the news. There were a few rule changes over the winter that got approved. Tony Marks, the race director from SCRC spelled it out for everybody as he passed out the new rule book. These new rules are effective with all three racing clubs this season, so this was a test run as officials from all 3 associations were in attendance. The rules committee decided that the Outlaw format with the quick guys always getting the front spots would not be featured in non-wing racing any more. So, the top 10 who made it through the heats would be inverted for the feature by qualifying time thus giving the fans more racing. Quick time would start in the fifth row of the feature making racing important again. Then rows 6 thru 10 would start straight up by qualifying time if you transferred from the heats. Before that everybody who missed transferring would be in a 10-lap last chance race with the top 4 tagging the rear of the Semi by order of finish. There would be no adding cars that missed the show by their point standings anymore. All California Challenge races and California Sprint week events would invert 12.
They were bringing back the trophy dash of the top 4 qualifiers inverted by time with the winner getting $600 then $300, $200 and $100 cash. It was to be sponsored by Bill’s Speed Emporium, even on this trip. There would be no planned fuel stops in the main events with each team responsible for filling their fuel cells properly. On the longer races a bigger fuel cell was advised. During point races throughout the year, visitors with little or no points the previous year running their first race of the season, in all 3 associations, wouldn’t be allowed into the top 5 rows regardless of their time. After that they would get their qualifying spot when they showed up a second time and so on. Still 10 lap heats, 12 lap semi’s, 10 lap last chance race and 35 lap features would be the norm. In the big money races, they would run 40 and sometimes 50 laps. Thursday and Friday’s races here at Gator Raceway would be 35 laps paying $3000 to win. Then it would be 40 laps on Saturday paying out a $25,000 purse with $10,000 to win. After a few more questions, they all dispersed to go get ready to race.
Dean got in the Mule and pushed the car in line for track packing and Max suited up. Lefty made a few adjustments on the car and Max was the first car pushed by the famous Working Woody push-truck of Art and Carol Malies who came out occasionally, even though they retired a few years back, they like the Florida trip and would stay down here for a few weeks. When the car fired, it was a familiar blast and Max Idled around with the rest of the field warming up and packing the track. Max always got in a zone when his big Chevy burped to life and that amazing feeling that encompassed him would be with him until the checkered flag flew in the feature. After about 10 laps or so, he pulled off the track and headed to their pit, parked and shut off the motor and a lot of work was next. They cleaned the mud off the car and changed the right rear and got the car ready for hot laps. Max fired up with the first group of 15 cars and hit the gas when the green flew. The car was a little squirrelly as he went into the first turn. He felt the left front come up and backed it in as the car roared around the oval, but he was not alone, so he was watchful as he gathered in the top groove and made it his own.
You don’t get a lot of laps during hot laps, so you make it work as best as you can as you try high and low to get a feel for the track. Back in the pits, the crew swarmed the car as Lefty and Max made a plan. Max talked about the race cars reaction on the track and Lefty made some adjustments to the front end while Jim mounted the qualifying tire and they were ready to blast one off. Lefty said “why don’t you try the bottom the first lap, then go up top on the second”. Max mulled it over as he got back in the car and buckled in to get pushed to the fire up lane. Max could see the scoreboard and watched the times appear as he readied himself.
The first car out was “Big” Jon Brown who rolled off a 14.35, about a second over the track record as he had some handling problems. Harold Dodson went 13.95, “Kowboy” Kenny Grayson a respectful 13.57, Clyde Dawkins 13.29 (a new track record), Bobby Hawkins 13.45, Blake Kelly a quick 13.33 and it was time for Mad Max. Max’s motor chirped after getting a push and he roared off and stepped it up going down the back stretch. Coming for the green he was sideways and hard on the gas taking his best shot down low. The first lap was 13.48 and he quickly jumped up to the cushion going even quicker with a 13.34 which was 3rd quick time after the dust settled. Back in his pit, Max climbed out of his car and Lefty was doing his thing and listening to Max’s impression of the two laps. The crew finished up cleaning and adjusting and soon the car was ready to go again. They would start last in the 3rd heat as there were 10 cars to a heat. They had a little time so the girls fixed some sandwiches and most had a bite or two. Max took a couple of bites and pounded a bottle of water and nodded he was ready!
The crowd was packed in and ready for some action when the Billy Bob Trophy Dash for Cash pushed off. Max would start outside row one with “Hurricane” Bobby Hawkins on the pole followed by Blake “The Snake” Kelly and Clyde “The Glide” Dawkins. Hawkins took the lead on the green cutting low going into turn one while Max hit the cushion with Dawkins on his nerf bar. As Max inched up even with Bobby, Clyde cut under Blake and they were into lap two. On the third lap Max took the lead and Clyde powered around Bobby for 2nd. Max was still running up top when Clyde slid up under him and they finished that way under the checkers waiting for the call from the press box, it was that close. What a way to start the year as the crowd roared when Mad Max was announced the winner, but not by much! Max and Clyde stopped on the front stretch in front of the crowd and the noise was outrageous. The two cars were striking setting next to each other as the brilliant Yellow of Max’s # 1 car and the sharp # 2 black car of Clyde’s were sparkling under the lights. Max got a little trophy and $600 cash and the night was just getting started.
There were 50 cars in the house so there would be 10 cars in each of the 5 heats with the fastest qualifier outside row 5 each time. Any rookies, their cars had a yellow ribbon on the cage, would be in the back forcing up the car in front of them one row. There was only one rookie tonight, Wilson Jackson, and he was in the last heat. His background included TQ’s and some midgets before stepping up to the 410’s this season. He was 3rd in the Midget standings last year after 3 years running in California and the Chili Bowl. Wilson is just 21 years old and had lots of potential as he made the podium on his qualifier night in Tulsa a few short weeks ago. The first four of each heat would transfer directly to the main with the next 4 running the semi with the remaining 10 cars running the Consi with the top 4 tagging the Semi like Tony had already explained.
The first heat started with a shunt on the opening lap that left fast qualifier Clyde “The Glide” Dawkins parked trying to avoid a spinning car. Several cars were involved, but they all made the restart with Clyde tagging the field again. It didn’t make much difference as he passed the race long leader, “Bunny” Pam Branson who started on the pole, after 5 laps of the heat. Bunny, a former Playgirl of the month and a very sexy lady with obvious attributes in her tight driving suit, was making her first trip to Florida after running 360’s for 4 years and stepping up this season to the topless 410’s after winning the 360 championship. She is a good shoe and has dreams of going up to NASCAR or Indy in the future. She looked good running 2nd to the winner. Clyde was pretty dynamic moving thru traffic and would go directly to the 5th row in the feature with this win.
The second heat was a barnburner as “Double B” Brent Baker mixed it up with “Kowboy” Kenny Grayson from the get go. Kenny started 7th with Brent right next to him on the fourth row as they muscled thru traffic until they caught early leader “Hurricane” Bobby Hawkins with 2 laps to go. Kenny went high and Brent low for a lap until they both overwhelmed Bobby and Kenny was in the lead when they got around him and the white flag flew with Brent right beside him. Coming around the last corner it was anybody’s race but the high groove worked the best and Kenny did the deed holding off Brent and getting the win.
“Mad” Max would start on the tail of the third heat next to B B Yanko. He was pondering strategy as he fired up and rolled into his starting position. His mind was clicked on just fine when on the start he and Yanko banged together hard enough that both spun to a stop, but they were both able to restart at the back with no damage. Max would be more aware against this youngster on the restart. That start saw “Captain” Mike Midnight take the lead from the pole with “Bad” Brad Gardner on him right away. After a few laps The Captain took control and stretched his lead out to two car lengths as the field strung out. Max and B B hustled thru the pack to end up with B B finishing 3rd and Max 4th when the checkers fell. The four transferred on. Max used a lot of patience to keep focused and an eye on BB, but knew the feature would require more of his mind and he was getting more into “his” zone now after that heat. The 4th and fifth heats were strung out nicely as they both had little passing with pole sitters Bill “The Thrill” Hill and “Darlin” Harlan Billings taking the wins from the front row. There were no yellows and just fast lines streaming around until the Checkers flew. Five heats provided the fans with a lot of action and at the end, they all rushed out to do their business and relax.
After the third heat ended Max had pulled into his pit and the crew began to work the car over. Lefty and Max chatted about the car overheating a little so Lefty found a leaky hose and fixed that. Then Jim mounted a new right rear tire as they also changed the rear-end gear and checked the shocks. The mud was wiped off and the tires given the baby oil treatment to show the car off for the fans. Back in California, there was usually $ 100 shiny tire money up for the fan favorite cheering that would take place on the line-up for the main. Then the crew settled back to relax and have a cool soda and some chips while they reviewed the changes done. Lefty decided to make a few more adjustments to the front end as the car was launching hard coming out of the turns and he wanted to keep the front end down! They talked about the new shocks, but it was too soon to say anything other than they seem to work.
Windy Barker interviewed Max in front of the grandstands and asked him how his winter break went. Max said “me and Maggie went on a cruise with Lefty and Lottie to Mexico and enjoyed the lobster and fresh fish for a week. After that, we went to Indiana to visit with friends and play in the snow for a few days before Christmas. Since then we’ve been building a new car, and so far, the results were looking good”. After some applause Max went to where the car was already lined up in the 4th row on the front stretch for introductions.
The crowd had taken another break to visit, get drinks and some food, but all returned when the cars were lined up on the front stretch. Windy announced the line-up from the rear and after each driver waived to the fans, they climbed in their cars and buckled in. The feature would line up like this with Brent Baker on the pole followed by Bunny Branson, Kenny Grayson, Captain Midnight, Brad Gardner, Harold Dodson, Harlan Billings, Bobby Hawkins, Max Miller, Blake Kelly and Clyde Dawkins in the first five rows. Push trucks got behind the cars and began to move them forward to light em’ up! The roar of the motors was awesome as usual and the cars got in to the 4 wide formation salute to the fans and rolled around the dirt track.
Now it was time for the big show as the long line of 24 cars tightened up and were ready to go. As they came around turn four to take the green flag, keeping in mind it was the first race of the year, silly crap happened! The front two rows took off good, but Captain Midnight got out of shape after a joust in his rear by Harold Dodson and all hell broke loose. Before you could say no kidding, the pile up began with 7 cars bunched up and stopped in front of the flagman. Several others played avoidance and were also parked a little behind them, and 15 cars were eventually stopped on the track. As soon as the red flew, 4 wheelers sprang into action and went to their own cars.
It took 20 minutes for all the “stopped under duress “cars to get to the work area where the crews checked em’ over, making repairs and adjustments. When the restart was ready to go, only 2 cars couldn’t make it, Harold Dodson and BB Yanko, who had climbed someone’s right rear, and the rest restarted in their original spots except for 3 cars that had to change tires and went to the back. With the 22 cars that were left ready to roar, the green flag flew and they were off.
“Busty” Bunny Branson took the lead on a great move over Baker on the restart and it began again. Hawkins and Max were sizing up each other as Dawkins had already passed two cars and the tail setter, Blake Kelly, passed 7 cars by lap 3. Bunny ran the low groove in turns 3 and 4 and the high groove at the other end as she tried to keep Baker behind her. On lap 11, Jerry Powell hit the cushion hard and flipped it up into the turn one wall and crashed back on the track looking like a jumbled heap of broken parts. He was running a strong 7th at the time and would be hauled off before the next restart.
That restart saw Bunny take off still in the lead again and now Max was on her tail followed by Hawkins, Baker, Dawkins and Midnight. Blake Kelly was now in 10th surging forward. Bunny was fast and kept the lead until lap 23 where “Mad” Max made a move under her and headed for the checkers. Dawkins got by Bunny on the last lap as Max, Dawkins and Bunny were on the podium for the first race of the year. Hawkins, Kelly, Grayson, Midnight, Baker and Gardner followed along. Kelly missed the hard Charger award with his 24th to 5th finish, but had to go to the back after crashing and changing a tire on the first start, so he put on a strong charge. And it was a wrap.
The top three cars pulled into victory circle and climbed out where Windy was waiting to talk to them. Bunny was thrilled with her finish and was all flustered when she got on the mike. Bunny was trying to cool off as she unzipped her driving suit a little bit, enough to spill out her stunning cleavage and that made everyone take notice and the boys were getting a little hot, too, just watching her! The pretty blond said “I’m so excited about my finish and I love Florida” as the crowd roared their approval! Windy said hi to Clyde who was smiling after watching Bunny and he said ”I did everything I could but just couldn’t catch Max”. With a smile he also added “wait till tomorrow night and the finale, we will be ready”! Windy asked Max how his new car performed and it gave Max a chance to thank his sponsors, crew and his wife Maggie for their support. After the three got on the podium for pictures that seemed to draw more photographers than normal, Max got his trophy, his kiss from the trophy girl not named Bunny, and the big check, so it was time to go celebrate.
The crowd came by the pit and visited with the winner for more than 30 minutes until the crew started loading up. When the big rear door of the trailer was closed up, it was time to go to the motel and get some rest. It was a short ride back and after getting the rig parked, they all sat in the toter and ate some sandwiches and talked about the night before heading off to their rooms and to bed.
CHAPTER 7 - The second night of the Gator Nationals
Friday morning came and everyone was up early and had breakfast at Dolly’s, a restaurant across the street from the motel that featured pancakes, chicken fried chicken and any kind of eggs you wanted. They gave a 20% discount if you were racers staying across the street. The food was good and only one mishap happened when Lottie tipped over her water and everyone scattered to avoid the stream coming at them. “Clean up on isle two” yelled Max, Ha Ha. After eating their fill, they headed back to the trailer where they unloaded the car and began cleaning and checking it over. They knew they had a few changes to make on the set-up for the night, but would wait until after hot laps before changing anything.
Heading to the track around noon, everyone remembered the track had a barbeque smoker on duty and the brisket was the best. After getting parked, Maggie and Lottie headed over to get some BBQ! The whole crew was waiting when they got back and had a table all set and ready to go. Some Dr Pepper went really good with the sandwiches and a little of the potato salad they picked up at Sam’s the day before. Everybody ate and talked about night two coming up. Max loved good barbeque and was really ready to have some, as were the crew. It would be a few hours before qualifying so everybody kind of hung out and visited with those who came by, because they were ready.
“Big” Jon Brown wandered by and told Max “you are going down tonight”, but the big smile Max had on his face as he replied “good luck” was a strong stand and made “Big” Jon go off on him spewing useless comments and direct threats. It looked like Big Jon’s red face was going to explode, but his partner in crime Lonnie Grant put his arm around him and drug him off. Kenny Grayson was nearby and told his dad to watch in case they needed to go step in and stop anything from happening. Kenny watched “Big” Jon and Lonnie walk off and added “there could be a problem tonight”. Tony Marks, the race director, happened to be standing nearby and was paying attention to “Big” Jon’s obvious goading of Max. Tony and his crew of officials were meeting next week about “Big” Jon as they had some unsigned notes coming into the SCRC club office threatening Max and saying he was a cheater and they should keep an eye on the Champion. Nobody but the officials had seen the notes and they had no proof of who sent them, but the post mark was from Riverside where “Big” Jon lived? They would address it at the next club meeting when they all got back home.
Unknown to Kenny or Max, Tony walked over to “Big” Jon’s trailer and headed inside. “Big” Jon was sitting in a chair with a dark look and something on his mind. Behind him came Jerry Jones, the president of SCRS and Brian Fleming the flagman. They ran Lonnie off and settled down to talk to the unhappy driver. Tony asked “what was the problem when you went to Max’s pit and got upset”? “Big” Jon said “you guys know all about Max, he’s a cheater and I want him caught”. Tony said “where is the proof?” and got no answer, so Tony said ”I remember 3 years back when Max protested you and you were caught with an illegal motor causing you to lose the race you had just won along with no money or points. Did you remember that? “Big” Jon said “that was a misunderstanding and those days are gone”. “That’s right” Tony said “I’m warning you to keep your temper under control” and fined him $ 500 for going into a competitor’s pit and trying to get him to fight. Tony added “If there is anything happening in the race tonight, that you cause, you will be fined again and suspended. Do you understand”? “Yeah” was the answer as the three officials walked out of the trailer and headed to the pit meeting.
Windy announced tonight would be a full show with everyone qualifying just like last night. Saturday’s big feature would be lined up with the first 5 rows inverted by points earned from both nights and the rest following in their point total order. Points were earned by passing points and qualifying with quick time getting 25, 2nd getting 24, third getting 23 and so on to the back”. Lefty walked over to draw the qualifying pill this time and got 17 which meant the lower number was better as the track would go away faster than last night. When hot laps were over, it was time to plan the qualifying set-up. Local driver Jimmy Powell ran a 13.77 as the first car to qualify. Little did we know that would be fast time. Willy Wilkes from Tampa was 2nd quick with a 13.88 followed by Clyde Dawkins, Harlan Billings, Bobby Hawkins, Blake Kelly, Mad Max, Kenny Grayson, Brent Baker and B B Yanko. Only 45 cars qualified so the 5 heats would have 9 cars each. Max would be in heat 3.
After Max and Lefty discussed the track conditions, they decided on changing the rear end gear and putting on a softer tire for the heat races. They watched the trophy dash where Clyde Dawkins won from the pole rather easily. In the heats, the racing was much better on this night as Dawkins, B B Yanko, Kenny Grayson, Blake Kelly and Max won their heats. Max had his hands full making a last lap pass over “Busty” Bunny when she scooted too far up on the track and he took advantage of the sexy blond lady.
Back in the pits, Max said the left front was going down and so Jim changed that and noticed the shock by it was leaking. Lefty then put a new one on, and checked the others and they were good to go. In went the fuel and they all waited. Meanwhile the semi race happened and the feature was set. The feature line-up was B B Yanko on the pole next to Brent Baker followed by Kenny Grayson, Blake Kelly, Mad Max, Bobby Hawkins, Harlan Billings, Clyde Dawkins, Willie Wilkes and Jimmy Powell.
Triple M Crewman Jim got in the bright yellow team Mule and pushed the car with Eric in it to their starting spot on the grid. The rest of the crew gave the car a once over as Max wandered up and sat on the right rear with a smile on his face. After Windy introduced the drivers, they all climbed in the cars. Max settled in and began to buckle up while Lefty watched closely. Lefty pulled hard on the belts to tighten them and Eric handed Max his helmet. Pretty soon all was ready and the push trucks pulled behind the cars and started getting them fired up. The roar was like always, an amazing sound all fans loved as the cars roared by!
When the green flew, B B Yanko looked like he was shot out of a cannon as he flew past Baker to take the lead and head to the top of the turn one cushion. Baker ran up behind him, hit the cushion too hard and got it up on two wheels before gathering it back in. His momentary problem gave “Kowboy” Kenny Grayson an opening as he surged into 2nd with Blake Kelly hot on his heals. Clyde Dawkins got aggressive and ran up under Max, who was in 5th, and the two touched wheels. Before long Max was dropping back and stopped on the track with a flat tire. Baker also had a problem, that turned out to be a broken shock, and he was going to come from the back with Max. The yellow came out as Max was pushed to the work area and Lefty and Jim quickly pulled off the left rear and replaced it with a new one. Max got pushed off and lined up in the back of the pack.
The line-up on the restart saw B B still leading with Kenny, Kelly, Dawkins, Hawkins and Billings following as they raced up to the green flag and roared on. By lap 10 Kelly took over second with Dawkins in third, Max 12th and Baker 15th. Yanko stretched out his lead on Kelly as those two pulled away for a nice lead on the pack behind them. On lap 20, Max was on Clyde’s tail and looking for a little revenge, when the yellow flew for Blake Sims who had a flat after nailing the wall after some incidental contact with another car. The crew couldn’t get the tire off, so after three laps of waiting, the green flew again. Blake was the only car that had any real damage to his car this night.
Once again B B Yanko was fast and uncatchable as Kelly tried to keep up with him while Dawkins and Max were now pressing him hard. On lap 33 Clyde tried going up high past Kelly, but got blocked by a lap car and Max took that opportunity to dive low under all three for third with a lap to go. Coming to the checkers, B B had them covered and won by a car length as Kelly and Max would be on the podium with him followed by Dawkins, Grayson, Hawkins, Baker and Billings. The usual chatting by Windy with the drivers happened next as the crowd began going out to the parking lot or heading to the pits. BB Yanko was ecstatic as he said “my ride was awesome and I have to give credit to the crew and our sponsors” before heading off to shake the bubbly. Blake Kelly was low key as he said ”thanks to the fans for coming out and I am proud of my finish”. Windy asked Max if he was mad at Clyde for his flat tire and the response was an emphatic “NO”! He said “Clyde always raced him fair and sometimes things just happen”. Max’s finish would put him starting 10th next to Clyde in the Saturday feature, so there was more to come from those two, Max added “ya’ll come back tomorrow night”!
Back in the pits the crew opened the cooler and they all shared a Shock Top Raspberry beer, Max’s favorite. Clyde came over and had one with them. Clyde was looking forward to the next night as they shared a few stories for a while. Those two had raced each other since Max was a rookie and they raced for a lot of wins against each other. Clyde asked Max “did you know “Big” Jon was talking behind your back and had some plan to “get even” with you”? Max nodded “yes, I am aware and wonder how long ”Big” Jon could keep his mouth shut and avoid the Club sanctioning him, and it wasn’t the first time another driver had it out for him”. Clyde said “OK, be cool and I’ll let you know if I hear anything coming from that guy”.
After it quieted down and the fans had gone home, they loaded up and headed back towards the motel. There were still some BBQ left from the afternoon feed, so they made fresh sandwiches and knocked them back and then headed to their rooms to get some rest. Max was still wired from the nights racing so he and Maggie huddled together on the couch and soon he was hugging tight and kissing her softly and they got lost in each other until the lights went out and sleep took over later. Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh, ain’t life great!
CHAPTER 8 - The fanali is a great race for $10,000
Saturday morning Max was up early because he wanted to win the big race tonight and he had some things to talk over with his crew chief Lefty. He and Maggie went across the street for breakfast where they were greeted by some racers and fans who were also hungry. Max signed a few autographs and got into a couple of selfies as he enjoyed the morning. As soon as they returned to the motel, the trailer was open and the crew were fast at work. Max wandered into the trailer and looked at some of the shocks mounted on the wall. He had a feeling that there was something there that could make his car go faster.
Max was reading something about the new shocks on the PC when Lefty walked in. Lefty asked what he was up to and Max said “lookie here”! as he pointed out a setting on their new shocks that they hadn’t noticed. When the track went dry slick like they expected tonight, you could adjust for it with the new adjustment screw on the side. Lefty said “that looks like something to test tonight”, so that info went in his head and he walked out to sit down in a chair and have a cup of hot tea. Everyone was relaxing and the subject of food came up. They decided to stop at a Steak N Shake for a burger and a milk shake on the way to the track.
Tonight, they would break out their new race wear that included nice new snappy blue jeans with the just created bright yellow shirts complete with names and sponsors with a few red and blue swashes of color. On the back was the Triple M logo with the car, nice! The old shirts were red white and blue and would still be used on prelim feature nights! The crew looked sharp in their new duds!
When everyone was done fussing with the car, they loaded it back in the trailer and headed out to the track. The lunch destination was a few miles down the road and they had plenty of room to park. Both Lefty and Max got out to get lunch. Burgers, fries and milk shakes filled two containers as they got back in the toter and settled down to eat. Max had one triple burger, as did all the men, while the girls just ate double burgers and all had fries. After a bit, they were all satisfied and relaxed so the discussion began on the track conditions they expected. On the third day of any race you can’t expect the track to be as wet and cushy as on the opening night, but you could try to outguess the glazing over of the groove and be ready. Eric complained “this track had a very sticky gumbo that was hard to scrape off the car”, but he was always up to the task as he had his secrets on how to keep the car shining. Dean noted the motor was singing loud last night and had already changed the plugs and checked the wiring. Jim had the new right rear mounted on a new wheel, grooved and ready for the feature and they would use last night’s tires for the preliminary racing laps. Pulling into the track, they all had that “feeling” everybody gets when they went racing. It just put them all on a sharp and focused edge and it prepared each for the competitive zone they got into as a group. Max’s zone was his own as always, and he would be settling more into that later. To a man, the crew all felt like they were in the car when it was on the track and racing under Max’s guidance, so the day begins the minute they unload the car in their pit. There would be no pill draw tonight for Max as the first 5 rows were already set from the points earned the first two nights and would be inverted by the totals. Max had 48, Clyde 46, Blake Kelly 45, Kenny Grayson 39, Bunny Branson 37, Jack Van Natta 36, Brent Baker 36, Bobby Hawkins 35, Mike Midnight 34 and Harlan Billings getting the pole with 29. The remaining cars, only 35 left now that a few more went home, would requalify and run 4 heats and a semi with the top finishing 14 cars tagging behind the set ten in order of finish. The main event would start 24 cars in an epic 40 lap main event with $10,000 to the winner and $5000 for the runner-up!
After everyone got on the track to pack it, Max pulled back in the pits and the crew got the car ready for the “main Scramble” which was where the top 10 cars would run 10 laps with no particular starting order before the nights semi, thus getting their first shot at the track for the night in order to set up for the main. Qualifying was next for the rest of the field with “Black“ Bart Wagner from Longhorn, PA getting the quick time of the night, but it was a half second slower than last night at 14.33.
Max relaxed as the quest to tag the main with 14 cars went on and on until the main event field was set. B B Yanko won the Semi with Jerry Powell, Ronnie Rose, Big John Brown, Brad Gardner, Hot Rod Haines, Wilson Jackson, Seth Howard, Blake Sims, Rod Taylor, Tommy Tucker, Anthony Jones, Sammy Stockdale and Jimmy Winters all made it with poor Red Sanders crashing on the last lap trying to pass for 14th and the last transfer. He wasn’t hurt, but his car sure was and he had wadded it up for a dumpster toss.
Lefty and Max looked at the shock instruction book again and decided they would make one more adjustment to the shocks after the 10-lap scramble warm up run. They had never done this adjustment before, just noticing it was available, so were a little conservative on the new setting. They would adjust it either way if there was a red flag along the way and it needed a change.
Intermission was going on so all the cars were pushed out and placed in their starting spot on the grid. The drivers all lined up side by side in front of the crowd with their event hats on that were black cowboy hats with Gator logo’s on for this annual event. One by one they were interviewed, from the back, and announcer Windy Barker got a few quips from each. Then the drivers walked to their cars and got buckled in. Max was still getting buckled in when Windy asked Harlan Billings where he was from. He barked “Ventura, Ca where I grew up running the best little track by the sea and I’m ready to get back home as soon as I win tonight”!
The cars were finally getting pushed off and the 24 motors barked loudly as they lined up and looked ready to rock and roll. Lining up in the traditional 4 wide pattern that sprint cars had been doing forever, it was a lap of that before they dropped back into the 12 rows of two and were set for the green flag. That had the crowd standing and cheering their favorites like mad. After that ceremony, they got pulled in tight ready for the green.
On the green flag start, Harlan Billings and Captain Midnight shot off like two big Panthers coming around turn four with the top groove showing strength as the Captain was in the lead coming out of turn two with Harlan tucked right in behind him. It was on, as the angry sounding sprinters were dipping high and low trying to find their groove. Clyde used his high groove position to get up around Blake Kelly and drop below Bunny gaining two spots with Max following right behind him. By lap 10 it was The Captain followed by Harlan, Kenny Grayson, Bobby Hawkins, Clyde, Max, Bunny, B B Yanko and Brent Baker leading the way. Behind them Wilson Jackson had breached the top ten from his 17th starting spot. Max was struggling when he went to pass Clyde and the car didn’t stick and he almost went around. Bunny and Brent went by him as he gathered it back in.
On lap 19 Harlan took the lead when the Captain got caught behind a lap car and couldn’t recover quick enough. Mike darted high, slammed the cushion and hit the wall hard enough to tip over, and the red flag flew. Several other cars had stopped on the track, including Bobby Hawkins, Brent Baker and Brad Gardner, sending them to the back on the restart. Max’s crew arrived at the work area and Lefty asked Max, “up or down on the shock”? Max signaled more and Lefty did his thing as the car was checked over and found ready to go.
The restart had Harlan in the lead followed by Kenny, Clyde, Yanko, Bunny and Max still in the mix. They were getting strung out on the top going nose to tail when Max made a quick move to the bottom and went under Bunny, Yanko and Clyde for 3rd as he put on a classic pass that would be remembered by all in attendance as the move of the weekend. The shock adjustment gave him an edge suddenly and he was stoked! Yanko took the opportunity to slide above Clyde as he was distracted. They ran that way for about 10 laps and everybody looking for some bite to make their move. Harlan was still leading with ten laps to go when he had a tire going down and started to fall back. Kenny rolled by him with Max, Yanko and Clyde following along. Max was taking aim at Kenny with the top 4 all on the top and the cushion was their saving grace as the bottom was gone. Each banged the top in the corners and held on to keep moving forward.
When the white flag flew Kenny had a two-car lead on Max, after a lap car got into trouble, but recovered and continued on, keeping Max at bay. Suddenly, Clyde surged past Yanko to make one more run at Max and hopefully a big win. He and Max were practically side by side now as they pulled up on Kenny. Kenny wasn’t to be denied tonight as he kept his cool, stayed in the groove and got his first ever win in Florida by a wheel as Max and Clyde made their last gasp charge at him almost work. The crowd stood and roared as the three cars stopped on the front stretch and the motors went silent! It was only 11 PM, and the annual Gator Classic was in the books with a new winner, “Kowboy” Kenny Grayson who was suddenly $10,000 richer.
Windy Barker was crossing the track as the drivers climbed out of their cars with their crews surrounding them in joy! Clyde told Windy “I needed a few more laps, but I’m happy to be on the podium”. He then thanked a bunch of people. Low key Mad Max had a few things to say about his crew, his wife and Maid-Rite Burgers, his sponsor. He said “I got hit by a rock in the arm right after taking second and was hanging on at the end” but added “young Kenny’s win was a great job. Max got a $5000 bonus for earning the most points on the weekend and that was cool. It turns out Kenny had bought last years Championship car from Max and got a lot of help from the team, so it was kind of a family thing as Kenny had been tutored by Max for several years. In fact, Kenny was a crewman on the Triple M team several years ago wiping down tires, scraping mud, chasing after things as a gofer. He wasn’t a gofer tonight!
When Windy went up to Kenny, who was sitting on the right rear looking stunned with a big grin on his face as he took in the scene around him. Kenny had won a bunch of 360 races in the past and a few 410 SCRC races along the way, but this was the biggest win yet for him. Windy asked how he felt and it poured out of him as he was overcome with emotion. He said “thanks to the crew, my sponsors, my mom and dad and a bunch of other people”, until he teared up and said “none of this would be possible without Max”! He was Max’s shadow for a lot of years as he grew up and hung around the shop and he was so thankful and happy to be here on the podium with the Gator trophy in his hands. The trophy girl was a doll named Sally and she came up to hand him the 1st place Gator trophy and grab a kiss from the young man as the photographers flashed away. He wasn’t bashful as he kissed her back and whispered in her ear something prompting her to shake her head yes. Later they would celebrate together as she was from Arizona and this might go somewhere, unless his girlfriend Dotty found out? Windy remarked local driver Jackson Johnson had destroyed his car on a “tommy tip over” and it was a big night for collections from the fans and they really dug in a gave up some cash to their own rollover fund.
When Max was back at his trailer, the fans were waiting for him as his popularity was something special in racing because he gave each and everyone of them something in his smile, his handshake, often a big hug and many selfies as the night went on. Max wasn’t happy about not winning, but he thought NEXT TIME! He shared a brew with his crew as they all realized it was a great start of the new year and they would head home in the morning after dropping off the girls at the airport so they wouldn’t have to ride back to California in the hauler. There was a lot more visiting and merrymaking, until it was time to load up and head back to the motel.
Max and Maggie and the crew sat around their room for a bit and rehashed the night and talked about the positives. The new shock ability had worked because before Lefty made the change at lap 19, Max wasn’t moving forward at all and had his hands full with the car. Afterwards the car was more manageable and he immediately felt racier and made the move of the night to get from 6th to second in one great pass. The car stuck like glue and it was a big advantage. Nobody would hear about the new shock ability as any racing secret is held close to the vest to keep an advantage. Lefty would do a little more research on the shock and see where they could benefit on nights when the dry slick happened back home. They had grabbed a few burgers on the way to the hotel and finished them off before it was time to hit the sack. Max and Maggie were pretty excited with their weekend and the resulting glow made their night even better.
Morning happened as they loaded up the hauler and headed to the airport in Orlando to drop off the girls and Jim, who had an early Monday appointment with his doc back home and didn’t want to miss it. It is always difficult to maneuver into an airport with a tall trailer, so Max stopped a block away and put the three air travelers in a cab to get to the check-in at the airport. Big hugs and goodbyes were done and Dean got the rig moving and on down the road.
The long trip towards home was pleasant as they got into Amarillo the next day and wanted to try the big 72 oz steak challenge at the Big Texan Steakhouse. All of them had passed it by many times after always checking out the Cadillacs planted in the ground alongside of the highway nearby. Today would be a challenge as each wanted to see if they could eat the monster and get it free. They parked and went inside the barnlike structure. After entering the restaurant, the meat display at the entrance was very interesting. You could tell the big steak from the rest as it looked like the shape of the United States in meat form next to a bunch of smaller looking cuts like a New York that was like Indiana, a filet like Ohio and a porterhouse like Texas. They settled in at their table and learned the rules from a pretty waitress in overalls and red accessories. She explained you had to eat every bite of the big one plus the salad and potato in order to get it free!
Their order was placed so they sat back and looked around and found the place relaxing, but didn’t see anyone with too much meat in front of them, so it didn’t look like there were any others stupid enough to try the challenge. Max already said no way as he ordered a nice New York steak. Lefty, Eric and Dean said why not as they ordered the big one? As the time passed and steaks appeared, Max was done way before the rest and he just settled back to watch the idiots. Lefty came the closest as he only had a few bites left but was struggling. He managed to finish his quest for the freebie as the others wrapped up their unfinished meat in a to go box and they were outa there. What an experience they all agreed, but it wasn’t likely they would do that again! Before they left the restaurant, Lefty visited the bathroom and then took a nap in the rig to recover on the road. As they stopped much later to gas up before moving on, they all shared what was left of the steaks and on they went. They arrived back at the ranch about 2 am Tuesday morning and parked the rig inside the big shop before heading off to bed. Dean and Eric went home and left Max and Lefty to visit with their wives in their own homes before finally falling asleep in dreamland.
CHAPTER 9 - Home from Florida and everyone catching their breath
Back home at the Ranch on Wednesday, everyone took the day off and just did things around the house in the morning catching up on the honey do’s and taking a nap or two. Both houses used the same cleaning service that came twice a month and it was cleaning day at the Ranch. Maggie and Lottie went off in the afternoon to do a little shopping that included looking for a new outfit for the pool party on Saturday night and some much-needed groceries. As soon as they got into the mall, Maggie loved Victoria Secret stuff, so they went directly there where she and Lottie picked out some sexy unmentionables for later. They wandered into Macy’s for a bikini and a wrap for the party and ended up getting some nice jeans and a few tops before they were finally shopped out and done at the mall.
Next, they stopped at a Red Robin for a burger and fries before heading on to the local Sam’s for their groceries. Lottie went to the meat case and got two really big briskets and then headed to the veggies where Maggie put some corn on the cob and asparagus in the basket. Maggie would make potato salad and Lottie a big pot of beans for the party. They added some pies, one cherry, one mixed berry and two apple, some ice cream and some Crown Royal before grabbing some sodas and heading to the car to go home. It was getting late so they stopped at Church’s Chicken for a bucket of fried chicken and some chicken livers for the boy’s dinner as it was now getting a little late in the day.
When the girls took off earlier, Max and Lefty headed to Bill’s Speed Emporium to pick up some race parts that they ordered on Monday on the way back from Florida. They needed a new wheel to replace the one that had been beat up on a track incident plus some oil and other items that were loaded in the big yellow Hummer. They went back inside and sat around and watched some racing tapes in The “BB” Fun Zone and talked about the racing in Florida the past week. There were several others that had raced down there and they had some interesting stories to tell. Brent Baker talked about getting on his head when he made the wrong move up against the cushion too hard while fighting for the lead and noted that cost him some money when the rear-end broke and two shocks went south on the landing, not to mention the Chassis needed straightening, too. Kenny Grayson was still pretty giddy, after the big $10,000 win on Saturday night, he couldn’t get the shit eatin’ grin off his face!! He said it was a thrill to beat Max for the first time, but knew next time might be different. A little pizza fed the boys as they all started talking about the So Cal Raceway opener coming up in two weeks.
Harlan Billings was in the house as he had some business in town and needed stuff, too. He said his daughter Dotty didn’t make the trip to Florida because she was home working on her tan and one of the back-up cars, ha, she just wanted some time alone with her mom before the season started locally. Her love of working on race cars began in Junior high School when she helped him build a new car when his crew was off fishing. She was a quick study in how to set up a car and got hooked on the race shop and everything in it. She had turned out to be his right-hand man, so to speak, and for the last few years now she did the books, ordered the parts and kept the shop in pristine order. She just turned 21 and is a gorgeous shapely little black-haired beauty that doesn’t even believe that she is hot. Her boyfriend is Kenny Grayson and they are on the same page in this racing life. She never works on Kenny’s car, but that didn’t mean she wouldn’t suggest things to him. She had heard stories about the trophy girl at the Gator Raceway, but wasn’t worried. Of course, Kenny told her nothing happened!
Dotty was sitting with Bunny Branson as they commiserated about racing. Bunny made the podium one night in Florida and that was special. Dotty talked about their new Stingem’ chassis and how it performed in Florida. Bunny had one on order, but it would be next week before it arrived and she was doing fine with last year’s Used model. They talked about their boyfriends a little before getting ready to leave the speed shop. Bunny was dating Tipper Landon when she had time. Landon was a low buck racer who did most of his own work on his car and ran a Buick motor, of all things, as his dad built his strong motors for him. His new Chevy 410 that he won at the banquet was going into the car for the next race, so he was anxious to see if there was a difference. He had been racing 360’s like Bunny, and when she stepped up to the 410’s, so did he. Tipper was a nice guy who everybody would help when he needed it as his Dad was his pit crew. Bunny left and said she would see Dotty Saturday at the 3 M Ranch pool party!
Max and Lefty went into the dyno room to watch them test somebody’s motor. Watching them gas it up and figure out horsepower and stuff was pretty amazing. After enough of that, it was getting late and they knew dinner would be on the table by the time they got home, probably take-out, but dinner nevertheless. As they drove back to the ranch, Lefty said “I’ve done some more research on the new shock adjustment screw and now figured it was a good new speed secret that we should say nothing about to anyone. I’ll call Zac at Durango Shocks and tell him of the progress and ask for replacements of the leaky ones”. As they entered the driveway, they saw Maggie and Lottie unloading the car of groceries, so they parked and helped out with that. When Max saw the fried chicken, he just smiled as they all loved them some fried chicken on a lazy night. And tonight, would be a lazy night!
CHAPTER 10 - The Triple M pool party with the racers is fun
Saturday morning dawned bright and with blue skies. The temperature would be around 75 to 80 on this fine day, so the annual pool party would be great. Lefty had put on the two big briskets in the Traeger cooker the night before to smoke all night. That would be the main course with potato salad, baked beans, some veggies and whatever pot luck the guests brought with them to add to the table. The big Olympic sized pool was right behind Max and Maggie’s house stretching across their back yard with a covered patio that attached the length of the two ranch style homes, but didn’t cover the pool, making it a great party area even if you didn’t go swimming. Both homes had a hot tub tucked right out the back door of each master bedroom housed in a gazebo that made them very, very private. Lefty’s was a little bigger than Max’s but often after a long trip or big race you could find the couples each in their own hot tub relaxing away. That’s what had happened on Wednesday night as both couples had a quiet fried chicken dinner, some wine and then a nice time in their own hot tub and never saw or visited with their neighbors.
Maggie and Lottie had the patio decorated up a little with race motif. Plenty of those sturdy picnic benches were scattered around, probably 15 or so, and the buffet table was up against the house. All the table tops were decorated with black and white checker material. Coolers with beer, water and sodas were near the food table. There was an industrial ice machine in the shop, so they never had to buy ice. The party would start about 2 in the afternoon and go on into the evening where the stragglers who hung around would settle in the big family room of Max and Maggie’s that seated about 40 with a couple of TVs’, a shuffle board, a pool table and other games to play. The walls in the cathedral high 15-foot ceilings were covered with trophies and racing pictures, so it was kind of like a museum and everybody always loved to look around in there.
The first to arrive was their crew and their significant others. Dean and Mary, Jim and Carol and Eric and Ann settled in by the pool with sodas to relax. Drivers started coming in with Bunny Branson and her beau Tipper Landon, Harlan Billings, his wife Sally and their daughter Dotty who was dragging Kenny Grayson along by the ear as he was laughing at something, Brad and Patsy Gardner, Bobby and Laurie Hawkins, Lester and Suzy Haines and on and on until there were probably 100 people out back. There was plenty of parking between the back yards and the shop, so no problem getting into the Triple M compound and it was time to party!
Some got in the pool and enjoyed that while there was a volleyball game going on in a regulation sized volleyball court behind Lefty’s house. Max and a few drivers were in the shade drinking a few tall ones until about 4 when Lefty pulled the briskets out of the Traeger and the chow down began. There was even a big screen TV outside in the shade by the food and a ball game was on with a Dodgers and Giants exhibition game going on. The sunset was really pretty as the big crowd settled in to watch it for a while. By 8 o’clock about half the crowd had left and it wasn’t long before the rest went inside as the evening cooled down and made the swimmers put on some jeans and sweaters and relax a little. The drivers had a discussion on the new rules and even the president of the club, Jerry Jones, was in the house talking about futures. The new Wallace Oil Raceway was talked about and all agreed it sounded like the Taj Mahal of race tracks. Did it really have a cover so no more rainouts? Were there heaters in the suites and around some of the reserved seats? They knew the 3/8 track would be awesome and they found out it might have a little quarter mile track inside for Midgets Lightning Sprints and other smaller horse powered cars, but that wasn’t finalized yet.
Jerry Jones was a bricklayer in his youth before he went on the MWRC circuit for many years and accumulated over 100 wins during his time racing. His business grew so big, he had to turn it over to his two sons, so he could keep traveling. He then became a car owner for a few years, but eventually started working for the club as the race director until he was elected president of the club. He was influential in some of the new rules changes and everyone seemed happy with him and his staff. His secretary is his wife Julie, Tony Marks is race director, Lance Stanton the publicity guy and he had a few more dedicated hard-working club officials.
Finally, everybody said goodbye and headed home. A cleaning crew was going thru the house cleaning up and putting everything back where it belongs as the night faded away with Lefty and Lottie heading to their place and Max and Maggie bedding down for some night time adult action and eventually falling asleep. Another great party with good friends and good food highlighted the event.
On Sunday morning Max and Maggie headed off to Long beach to meet some folks and have brunch near the pier. There was a PF Chang’s that they liked and the bar was open and a few folks from his old bowling team met them there. There was a time that bowling was a weekly thing and both Max and Lefty were pretty good and won plenty of trophies over their younger years, but racing took over and they only get to go once in a while. They talked about subbing on the Thursday night league this week, but nothing firmed up before they finished dinner and were on their way back home. When they arrived back at the ranch about 5:30, they saw that Lefty’s family day get together was about over as cars were leaving out the gate. Even though both Max and Lefty had garages at the end of their houses for their own cars, there was a large parking area in front of both houses for those that came to the front door.
CHAPTER 11 - Dinner at Captain Jack's and then more shop time
Maggie owned a nearby cleaner’s that she inherited when her folks passed away a few years ago. She had worked in “The Steam Shop”, as it was aptly named, growing up and did the books and supervised the employees for several years before it landed in her lap. It did big business and had 10 people working with one just answering the phones and dealing with the customers. The rest did all the cleaning. There was a laundromat with a separate entrance off to the side, so that did a busy business, too. Many of the racers used the cleaners and it’s good guy discount for their race stuff at least. Maggie liked to go there once or twice a week, but her people were really nice and hard working. When she walked in on Monday afternoon, she had to deal with a broken steam machine and a leak in the restroom. She already knew about the problems and the plumber was still there replacing the pipe that had broken. She loved the time she spent there because some of these people she grew up around and were actually friends. She often left them tickets to the weekly races and today was no different as she had 4 tickets for whoever wanted to go. Her manager said she and her husband and two kids would be there Saturday. Back at the house Max was looking over some old drivers suits. He had a request from the club to donate one, a helmet and some driving gloves for an upcoming auction that would raise money for the club’s benevolent fund that was getting low. There would be a fun auction at the annual SCRC picnic over the 4th of July with a lot of neat items going up for grabs. Max and a number of drivers would also be auctioned off to have lunch with the big bidders who would host them at another time. The fundraisers really helped the club as there were plenty of opportunities to help injured drivers as the season went on. Luckily, it had been a long while since the club lost anybody due to a crash, but race track injuries were fairly common and racers often didn’t have enough insurance even when the club required them to have the club sponsored insurance. He showed Maggie some of the stuff and she noted he didn’t use the old blue one since they came up with the yellow paint job on the race car. They were both hungry so decided to head off for some food. She wanted fish and Max was dreaming of Lobster and shrimp so they headed to Captain Jack’s in Huntington Beach on Pacific Coast Highway where the steaks were the best and the seafood fresh and amazing. Captain Jack’s has been open for 40 or 50 years and it was always a treat to go there. They got settled and ordered a glass of wine and two shrimp cocktails and the King Crab Legs appetizer. Maggie added some Sea Bass and Max ordered the special, a succulent Filet and a huge lobster tail. They talked about the next out of town trip up North to Big Sir Raceway in Fremont, Ca. The property had stayed unused after Baylands Raceway closed years ago after the promoters were afraid of lawsuits from a spectator death and a dragstrip crash. They tried to use the land, but it was a lot like Ascot down south where they tore it down, but couldn’t get permits to build anything. So, when the car auction that had sprung up there failed, the land was available again and became the new Big Sir Raceway with a 3/8 sized track, again. Anyway, they liked to stay at the Hilton nearby and would do that in about 10 days. There was a pianist playing quietly and it made the atmosphere very nice and pleasant. The shrimp cocktail was always a must at Jack’s as they were unusually large and very tasty. Before long a salad was enjoyed before their main course and they took their time. They didn’t often get much time alone, and took advantage when they could. Maggie loved the grilled Halibut with some veggies as Max dug into the medium prepared Filet and the lobster dipped in melted butter. It was so rich, but worth it as he shared a little with Maggie and took a bite of her fish. Afterwards, they took a short drive to the Huntington Beach pier and grabbed an ice cream cone to enjoy as they walked out on the pier. It was past sunset with the bold colors darkening the sky and disappearing into darkness after a bit. Being around the ocean was always so special to them both as the got married on the beach in Laguna Beach and they relived some of the fun times they had there as they walked along hand in hand. They watched some fisherman down at the end trying to get lucky, but didn’t see anyone getting any bites. They were high in the air above the beach and could see a lot of people milling around in both directions. Time to head home as they walked back to the car, Max’s bright yellow Corvette that he loved and didn’t get to drive very often. It was a 2012 Z06 with about 850 horsepower with a 6-speed transmission and Spin Tech sprint car mufflers for that awesome rumble he loved. It was a pleasure to drive thru town and on the highways. Max couldn’t help but gas it up a little, but he restrained himself after a few seconds of acceleration getting on Highway 605 towards the Ranch. They were home in an hour and Maggie went off to get ready for bed as Max had some e-mails to check and reply to. His sponsor CEO from Maid-Rite Burgers wanted some tickets to the opening race as he and his wife would be in town Friday night and wanted to take him and the crew to dinner at Morton’s, a nice steakhouse in the South Coast Plaza in Orange County. Bill and Suzy Adams would be staying with them a couple of days and going to the race and talking with Billy Bob at the Speed shop on Sunday before flying back to Des Moines, IA on Monday. Max got a note from NCRC about their opener at Big Sir next week. They said they reorganized the pit entrance road to allow more cars in the pits so you entered around back, instead of on the side like the old days. It allowed the building of a nice pit grandstands that the racers could get in and out easier than the old one. As Max was done with his little communication chores, Maggie came back in the den in a cute little red number, that barely covered the subject but looked delightfully nasty on her, and handed him a glass of wine and settled in on his lap facing him. Soon they were involved in a little hanky panky that would keep them up for a while. Before heading off to bed to sleep, they jumped into the pool and cooled off. What a day and night this turned out to be! There was one more work day on all the racing equipment before the SCRC season opener as the crew came over on Wednesday and they unloaded the hauler and cleaned it out. Nothing had been touched since the Florida trip, except all the perishables had been removed and the uniforms had gone to the cleaners. They only used the one car on the trip, so only it got attention. Off came the wheels as shocks, bars and all nuts and bolts were checked and tightened. The rear-end got a once over by Jim and Dean worked on “his” motor. He pulled and replaced the plugs, drained the oil and added new synthetic oil, then checked the injectors and finally announced he was done. They swapped out the shocks with new Durango models and boxed them up to drop off at the factory nearby. The girls had made sandwiches and some strawberry shortcake for dessert, so they all went to the patio and had lunch. Lefty wanted to fire up both cars after lunch, just because, and they had plenty of room to get that done with no neighbors nearby to bother. Max got in the car and Jim pushed it off with their work truck. It fired up like normal and he pulled in the shop and stopped while the motor cackled and Lefty checked it over. Max shut it off when Lefty was done and they moved it aside and pushed off the back-up car next. Max brought that one back into the shop running and it ran a minute before it shut down with a nasty noise that they had all heard before. A little smoke appeared and Lefty shook his head. This one hadn’t been fired but once on their play day before the trip and obviously something had gone wrong, hmmmm. Maybe it was a rod? Soon wrenches were flying and the motor was lifted out of the chassis and put in a shipping box to go to their motor man Rob Tracy. He had been doing their motors for the last 6 years and was really good at it and he came from a family of motor builders. They would drop it off on Monday at Tracy’s Engine Shop in Long Beach. A new bullet was brought out of the parts room and installed in the back-up car with ease. These guys had done a bunch of motor swaps over the years and it was second nature to them now. Max got back in the car and they fired it up again. He made a couple of laps around the back yard to warm it up before bringing it back inside for Lefty and Dean to look it over. It all looked fine and soon both cars were back in the trailer with plans to run the back-up car this week and test it out. The girls had put in the clean uniforms, shop rags and replenished the drinks, so everything was ready to go except for what food they needed on opening night and they would add ice from the big ice maker in the shop kitchen. It was a good work day and after some thought, they decided to go to dinner and a movie together so everyone got cleaned up and they headed out to the Texas Roadhouse for some steak, those tasty rolls and some peanuts! The crew wives met them there so it was a festive time eating peanuts and telling stories. After some great food, service and some servers dancing it was near time to go to the movie. The servers always do a line dance number about every 45 minutes and they can get pretty enthusiastic. If it was your birthday, they brought out a saddle on wheels and put you on it to sing Happy B Day to the unlucky cowboy! Out to the car they went and headed to see one of Clint Eastwood’s old “make my day’ movies called the Mule. Great movie and the popcorn and Milk Duds were part of the experience. That done, everyone headed to their own home to get some rest.
CHAPTER 12 - Max's sponser Bill and Suzy Adams come for the SCRC opener at So Cal Raceway
Friday morning the crew met at the Triple M race shop for breakfast. The girls made scrambled eggs, bacon and sausage, some pancakes and fresh peaches and cream for a treat. They had an open discussion that always included Lefty’s race day list to verify everything that needed to be done was. He was always a little anal, but it was just his way. His list was all checked off and verified complete by Jim after an hour of discussions and ideas to improve performance. Eric said “the shipment of racing tires arrived yesterday and are the latest compound offered by Hoosier”. One would be tested Saturday in their heat to see how it worked. Max reported “the issue with the recently broken motor would have been a lot worse had the motor been racing hard. Tracy’s Motors sent a note about the broken motor. Yes, a rod broke that had made a mess in the block. It was all repairable and It would be refreshed and ready for pick up in a week or so. Lefty talked a little about the new shock adjustment and had some new info from the manufacturer on how to make it work better when that was needed. They would meet back here about 7 PM and go to dinner with Bill and Suzy Adams. Max would pick them up at Orange County Airport at 2 pm and bring them to the ranch. Lunch would be some chicken salad sandwiches and watermelon. Lefty and Lottie joined them and they laid around on the patio and napped, watched TV, yakked about this and that and generally relaxed. Lefty said he heard that the Big Sir track had some new clay and that would be a boost for the already racy place. Max and Maggie took their Hummer to the airport and picked up Bill and Suzy. They pulled up in front of the airport terminal and out came the couple with some big suitcases and carry-on baggage that filled the back end of the Yellow Hummer. On the road to the house, Bill said they just ate on the plane and would make it to dinner just fine, so they didn’t need to stop for anything. When they got home and Bill & Suzy got settled into the guest bedroom, they joined Lefty, Lottie, Max and Maggie in the den to chat. Bill had two sharp new driver suits in bright yellow with red and Blue down the sides of the legs with Mad Max’s name reading down both sides in silver. Maid-Rite was in bold letters on the front and 3-time SCRC Champion on the back. Max was enthused as a new suit was always nice. Max responded with new triple M racing jackets for Bill and Suzy with their names on them, something he had made when they came on as sponsors, but weren’t done until recently. Maid-Rite was bold on the front. Bill and Suzy were thrilled to get a little present of their own. Before long the crew arrived and after having some fun teasing each other, the 12 of them loaded up in Max’s yellow Hummer and Lefty’s red Hummer and headed to Morton’s for dinner. It wasn’t a long drive, but Friday nights on the 405 freeway is always a crap shoot. This time it wasn’t bad and before long they were setting down on time in Morton’s. Lefty had one of those little wine lockers that are in the lobby of every Morton’s, so he got some of his preferred wine out of his locker for their enjoyment. Bill ordered some appetizers beginning with a chilled seafood plater that included Maine Lobster, jumbo shrimp, jumbo lump crabmeat and Alaskan King Crab Legs. Oh my, what a feast! In addition to that he asked for miniature crab cakes and some scallops dripping in butter. It took some time to finish that all off, so next came the Lobster Bisque that was to die for plus a small dinner salad and an hour had gone by already and they hadn’t ordered the main course yet. The girls all chose the fantastic Filet and the guys a mixture of Porterhouse, New York and Ribeye steaks. Various prepared potatoes, Asparagus and spinach and mushrooms accompanied the meal. While they waited for the meal to be served, Bill had a few words “Thank you all for the opportunity to sponsor your race team, and it is going to be a good deal for our company. Maid-Rite burgers are getting more popular and I feel you had something to do with it”! Max had been getting some money from them for a few years before they stepped it up. There were over 50 locations in Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota, Missouri and Ohio. They would be showing off the car at one of the stores in Des Moines, IA when they were back on tour later in the year. Suzy toasted the team and it felt warm and fuzzy in their private room that was nice and comfy. Then dinner arrived and they dug in. When they finished all the good stuff, they shared Morton’s legendary Hot Chocolate cake, some white chocolate bread pudding and a little of the key lime pie for desert with some Irish coffee afterwards. It was nearly 10:30 pm when they finally climbed back in the Hummers and headed back to the ranch with their hunger all sated just fine.- and everyone was in bed before midnight.
CHAPTER 13 - Opening day at So Cal Raceway
Bright and early the next morning, breakfast was catered from a nearby IHOP which brought pancakes, omelets and more to eat, courtesy of Maid-Rite Burgers! Afterwards, the boys plus Bill all loaded into the hauler at noon and headed to the track. The girls and Suzy hung around until about 2 pm before they left to go to the track. They stopped on the way at a Togo’s sandwich shop and put a couple of dozen sandwiches in a cooler and continued on, arriving at So Cal Raceway by 4 PM. They maneuvered into the pit parking area and headed into the pits to the # 1 race car with all their stuff, including the food and some jackets, all settled on their little yellow wagon they used to haul everything that wasn’t already in the hauler.
Max and the crew were starving because they missed lunch, and the box of fresh Frenches pastry didn’t appeal much to anybody just yet. Bill offered to go get some burgers, but no way, the girls arrived and unloaded dinner that included some potato salad and baked beans! They had to get busy because the pill draw was done and hot laps would start at 5:30. Everybody chowed down and relaxed for a few minutes until dinner was done and the girls headed over into the grandstands to visit and watch the racing from there. The stands weren’t full yet, but it was early as the cars streaming in from the freeway off ramp was non-stop for now.
There were 65 cars in the house with some No Cal guys, the Arizona bunch and a few from the mid-west. It was the biggest opener car count in 20 years. The SCRC should be excited because there would be a real consolation on this night. The first 50 cars in qualifying would be in the 5 heats, with the remaining 15 cars in the consolation race with 4 transferring to the back of the semi. The first four in each heat would be in the main, with the top 10 inverted by qualifying times. The other 6 from each heat would run the semi in qualifying order with the four consi transfers behind them in their finishing order. The top 4 from the semi would line up no closer than the 6th row by their qualifying order. So, if you set fast time and missed the transfer, the closest you could start in the main was 11th. Max was suiting up when the call came for the cars to hit the track and pack it in. There was plenty of water on it tonight and before long the cars fired up and moved onto the wet squishy surface. With all those cars it began to tighten up in short order and many of the pack pulled off when the flag flew notifying them to do so happened. The first of 4 hot lap sessions started with Max set to go off in the third one. By that time the track was pretty good and soon qualifying would begin.
The top four in qualifying were fast timer Brad Gardner at 16.66 a little off the track record of 16.44 held by Harlan Billings set last year in the final race, 2nd Blake Kelly, 3rd Max and 4th “Rowdy” Rod Taylor. They would be inverted in the trophy dash to start the evening. The top 10 continued on with Clyde Dawkins, Harlan Billings, Blake Sims, Mike Midnight, Kenny Grayson and Bobby Hawkins.
Max was pleased with his qualifying laps, especially when he pulled in and the left rear tire was going flat. He must have run over something because there was a small rip on the inside of the tire. Jim took care of it and the crew went over the car checking for anything else. They fueled it up and were ready for the trophy dash. Before that happened, the pomp and ceremony took over the place. The announcer, Windy Barker, interviewed “Bad” Brad Gardner the quick timer of the night. He asked Brad “what is new for the year”? Brad responded ”my family car was all brand new this year with another car of our own design. We have been building our own chassis for years and I feel this one is the best one yet. They planned to follow the SCRC all season and run a few Indiana races and even some NCRC events that were co-sanctioned. This family was very unique in that they tended to do their own thing, including building the motors. The family success went back a lot of years, including several Championships, both here and in Indiana.
Windy next talked to Blake “The Snake” Kelly out of Bloomington, IN who is the defending MWRC Champion. Blake would stay out west for a few weeks and run the big races and then head home for the opening races back there. His success over the years was outstanding as he had the most victories for their club and was planning on adding to it this season. He said “we’ll be staying at Max’s Triple M Ranch and working out of their shop until we get ready to leave town. We just arrived a few days ago and had a chance to take the kids to Disneyland and see a few of the LA sights that interested us. Thanks to all of the fans for coming out” before he walked off.
Windy introduced Max to the crowd and he was a popular champion as they roared their approval and cheered him on. Windy had mentioned he came to the barbeque at the ranch a few weeks ago and wanted to ask a few questions. Max wasn’t interested because he knew Windy was up to something, so he played dumb. Max took the mike and said “thank you fans for coming, please come on down after the races and we will have candy for the kids and a few championship t-shirts to give away. If your program had my picture signed in yellow, you will get a free one”!
Windy was quiet as the national anthem played and then the Billy Bob Trophy Dash contestants lined up to be pushed off as the night began. Max was next to Taylor on the front row with Blake and Brad behind them. The green flew and Taylor surged into the lead with Max rolling the top chasing. When the white flag came out, Max slipped under the leader with Brad right behind him as they crossed the finish line one/ two. A quick interview and presentation of the $ 600 cash with a nice trophy presented to Max was done as the call for the first heat was made.
The track was in really good shape and would make for some great racing as the track prep man, the one they called “The Dirt Man”, had done it again. It was never easy, but being close to the ocean was a good thing as the water was always deep in the mud and usually meant a racy place. Brad Gardner was on the tail of heat one, but that didn’t stop him from passing the field to win the first heat and put himself in the 10th starting spot of the main. The second heat was won by Blake Sims after he fought off a determined Blake Kelly who had the lead briefly before Sims snookered him on the last corner by diving under him when Kelly thought he would stay on the top where he was blocking. The last three heats were spectacular as they mixed it up with a few yellows included. “Captain” Mike Midnight won the third heat after the leader Sam Browning ran over a wheel and lit up the wall with his quick rollover crash throwing out sparks along his route. Max finished 3rd after all that going on. Kenny Grayson won the 4th coming from the 5th row and taking the checkered just in front of Rod Taylor. The two of them had a spirited battle until Rod briefly took the lead and had to avoid a spinning car and Kenny surged ahead to stay as the spinning car kept on going, thus not causing a yellow. The last heat was the best as it had 4 different leaders with Bobby Hawkins finally getting the edge over Clyde Dawkins at the very end.
The crowd was all buzzed as they waited for the Consi to appear. The 15 cars were lined up by their qualifying times straight up, so there wasn’t a lot of movement forward. There were several yellow flagged rookies in the battle and one of them, Solomon Masterson from Riverside, CA hung in there for his first win of any kind in his short career that started the middle of last season. Him and three others would start at the back of the Semi, which was coming next.
Meanwhile back at the “mini-ranch”, which was what Max’s crew called their hauler because it was chocked full of parts and supplies and everything needed to compete at the races, it was very busy. Max was happy with the new tire compound, so he wanted to try it again in the main. The new tire seemed to perform fine, but it was still early and 35 laps sometimes meant disaster if the new rubber had a problem. The crew settled in to review their results so far and talk about the track surface. So far it was hooked up and Max said it worked high and low, so they would decide on the set-up after the semi. Eric had the car all clean and the tires had a fresh coat of baby oil to make them shine, too. They were ready for the main and would watch the semi from the backstretch grandstands.
The Semi always lined up in order of qualifying times with 4 cars from the Consi on the tail. This race saw the top four cars maintain their starting spots, but with a lot of passing and a few yellows along the way. The winner, Lester “Hot Rod” Haines went from the pole position back to fifth on the start when he bobbled and lift the wheels as his ride went sideways, but he got it under control and worked his way back in the 12 lapper to take the lead and the win on the last lap over Pat Patterson who led 11 laps. Pat ran second with Colton Nelson and Troy Bonds moving on to the main event.
The intermission allowed Windy Barker to do a little business as he interviewed the track promotor Tony Watkins who thanked the crowd for busting the seams in the packed house. He started by saying “it is a record attendance and we ran out of water and had to have another truck come to deliver more! Plenty of beer at the bar though as he chuckled. He wanted to thank all three associations who came to compete and was glad it was a point race for each club and thankful for all the extra MWRC travel money and looked forward to the California Challenge events coming later in the year”. Tony then announced “the regular main event purses this year went up to now pay $ 5000 to win, $ 3500, then $ 3000 then $ 2500 and $ 2000 for 5th with $ 500 to start the main”. That got a roar from the crowd and he continued saying “ the “NEW” money coming into the coffers was due to Karl Wallace and some of his friends chipping in”. He then introduced Karl who not only was opening up his new Super Track in July, his Wallace Oil Company was a SCRC, NCRC and MWRC sponsor as well. Karl stepped up and said “thank you” to Tony “and I want to assure everyone our events at the new track would always be on So Cal Raceway dark nights and that we not to competing against this track with our Sprint Events. We will not be running any wing shows, but might add some Midgets and motocross to the schedule and maybe a Super Modified exhibition, too”! His event schedule for the other dates would not always be racing related with concerts, some high school events and other gatherings, maybe a few tractor pulls, plus some TV and movie filming and maybe some large company type meetings. Some of these events would have sprint cars put on demonstrations occasionally for marketing purposes. Windy went back up top and the cars were all lined up for introductions.
On the pole tonight, Windy barked, would be “Hurricane” Bobby Hawkins from Riverside, with “Kowboy” Kenny Grayson from Irvine outside him. Row two is “Captain” Mike Midnight from Haubstadt, IN and “Bullet” Blake Sims from Sparks, NV, row 3 “Darlin” Harlan Billings from Ventura, CA and Clyde “The Glyde” Hawkins from Phoenix, AZ, row 4 “Rowdy” Rod Taylor from Campbell and SCRC Champion “Mad” Max Miller from Tustin, row 5 Blake “The Snake” Kelly from Bloomington, IN and “Bad” Brad Gardner from Torrance, row 6 “Double B” Brent Baker from Long Beach and NCRA Champion “Jumpin” Jack Van Natta from Petaluma, row 7 Sam Darnell from Kokomo, IN and Lonnie Grant from Grass Valley, row 8 MWRC Champ Fred Kaiser from Olitic, IN and Brandon “B B“ Yanko from Mesa, AZ, Row 9 “Big” Jon Brown from Riverside and Pam ”Bunny” Branson from Costa Mesa, row 10 Jerry Powell from Reno, NV and Bill “The Thrill” Hill from Colton, row 11 Lester “Hot Rod” Haines from Bakersfield and Patrick Patterson from Half Moon Bay, and row 12 Colton Nelson from Malibu and Troy Bonds from San Francisco. As they were introduced, the drivers would then buckle in their cars and get ready to be pushed off. The push trucks came down beside the long rows and each pulled in behind a car ready to be pushed off. There were over 15 push trucks, so it didn’t take long and they were all roaring by the grandstands getting into the four-wide line-up. A wave to the crowd and then they pulled back into the two by two formation and scrunched up tight looking for the green flag as the crowd was standing and cheering!
The starter, SCRC’s Brian Fleming, played it cool until they pulled around turn 4 before he threw the green and quickly all hell broke loose about halfway back in the pack! Up ahead of the disaster behind them, Bobby and Kenny were locked side by side as they led the field down the front stretch, neither giving an inch with ‘Captain” Mike and Blake Sims doing the same pattern right behind them. This frantic four group looked like a trophy dash separated a little from the field, but hell bent on looking for more than the measly $ 600 cash. Back behind them Brent Baker and Jumpin Jack were trying to do the same thing, but Blake Kelly didn’t get a good start when he pulled the wheels and turned right into Brad Gardner and things went bad behind them piling up most of the followers with about 10 cars total in a clinch up next to the flag stand. Geesh, it was a mess as the red flag flew. Some cars were high up in the air before crashing down on the muddy surface ending their night.
When it all got sorted out, only 20 cars restarted with Sam Darnell, Lonnie Grant, Pat Patterson and Troy Bonds unable to repair and get back in. The rest restarted the same line-up as before, just 4 cars less. When Brian showed the green this time, Bobby got the jump on Kenny and hit turn one fast, first ducking low and coming up in front by himself out of turn 2. Kenny followed with Blake Sims, Clyde Dawkins, Max with Harlan and Taylor behind them. The Captain had a serious bobble on his start and went low to correct it, but the freight train went right up around him, leaving him back in 8th with two laps down. Kenny was stalking the leader as the pack did some shuffling as they were putting on a wild show. The track was sticky and it was hard to tell where to look as the action was everywhere. All you had to do was just pick out a favorite and watch, you were going to see some special high-speed action! If you watched the front, you saw Kenny take over the lead with a cushion leaning ride around the top and pulling away from Bobby going under the flag stand completing lap 10. Behind them Sims and Clyde were both down low digging for a path forward and “Mad” Max took advantage to hang it high on the cushion and pull right up behind Bobby, who was running third.
If you watched the back, there was Lester Haines, who had started 21st and found a sweet spot on the bottom and was in 10th place by lap 12 chasing BB Yanko down for more. Several other cars were in the mix and the pack was shuffling fast and furious as everybody wanted a good start for the year. Unfortunately, as it happens in racing, it didn’t go non stop from the restart as young Colton Nelson bit off more than he could chew on lap 20 when he tried the cushion for the first time this night and hit a rut and planted his car high in the air and up into the turn one fence, sticking there on the top and dangling as another red flag flew. He was alright and climbing down with some help from the safety crew, but the bucket loader got in some work as they had to untangle his front end before bringing it to the ground in sad shape. The leaders were far enough behind him, that they all were able to go into avoidance mode and go under the crash and make a slow stop. During the red flag stop, Lefty made one small adjustment on the shocks for Max and sent him back in to race.
Several cars beside Colton had dropped out, so only 16 would make the final restart with Kenny, Bobby, Max, Harlan, Clyde, Jumpin Jack, The Captain and Fred Kaiser in that order. With 10 laps to go it could be a barn burner, or not, depending how they sorted it out. Bobby made a run on Kenny, but tapped him slightly as he tried a massive slide job under the leader, but still took the lead momentarily. Kenny did a crossover down behind him and retook his spot with both cars up against the cushion and flying. This gave Max the opportunity he had been looking for as he was already searching the bottom for bite and he hooked up hard with the left front dangling as he rushed forward, and before they could say “Mad” Max is coming, he was already by them in the lead! Max got into his high groove sprint, a lot like the old rim rider Chuck Gurney used to do back in the day, and never looked back going on to win his second race of the year already and took over the point lead.
Kenny managed to stay ahead of Bobby after their tangle, but Clyde took Bobby for third on the last lap to go to the podium with Max and Kenny at the end. They were followed by Bobby, Harlan, Taylor, Jumpin Jack, BB Yanko, Lester and “Busty”, I mean, “Bunny” Branson as she came up smiling at the end on a good ride for the pretty blond lady. The top three pulled in side by side and all popped out of their cars as Windy showed up to talk with them. Clyde said “I am pleased with my ride tonight, thanks to my sponsors, but I will be up North next week for the NCRC opener and will try to do better”. Kenny was just flabbergasted as his 2nd place run was great, but he wanted to win tonight and would look forward to that happening soon. Max smiled as he said ‘it was a great way to start the season and thanks to my crew and especially Lefty who found a little something on the last restart that put me over the top for the win. He then told the crowd to get on the road for next week and I will give you a show on the track I like a lot”! Now he said, “bring the kids on down for the candy”! Windy was done and closed the mike and walked away.
When Max got back to the trailer, there was a big crowd to greet him as he smiled and signed autographs, let the fans take selfies of the two of them and got a few hugs with some of the girls who liked him a lot. Someone put a Raspberry Shocktop in his hand and he took a long swallow and kept smiling and shaking hands. His wife Maggie was selling a lot of the new t-shirts as the crowd clamored for them. There were 5 program winners ready to collect their new t-shirts, too. It was a great night as Max was pleased with the car, the back-up version by the way, and would send the Stingem’ Chassis guys a note to say thanks this week.
When the crowd finally started going home and they were alone, the crew started loading up after the motor checker, Tom Flanders, did his job with normal results as “Big” Jon stared at the scene before walking off shaking his head and muttering “he’ll get his, soon!”. When it was all done and the door closed up, Max had everybody in the toter and presented them with new lightweight team jackets that were bright yellow with their car on the back labeled Triple M Motorsports and their names on the front. They were sharp and would give them something new to wear when out and about. They showed their pleasure with big smiles and Maggie said let’s get back to the ranch as a late supper was waiting for them at the shop as soon as they got settled in. It wasn’t a long ride from Costa Mesa to the Triple M Ranch, so 30 minutes later they were setting down to some charcoaled steaks, baked potatoes and corn on the cob with buttered hot bread, all prepared by Max’s Sponsor Suzy who had been at the race, but she got a ride to the Ranch as soon as the checkers fell with one of the girls who wanted to help. A little celebration Champaign was poured, only because of the win, but it was a great ending to a great day. Everyone was already thinking about next week’s trip North. Everybody stayed the night, with both hot tubs filled with bodies having fun, and most got in some rest.
Sunday morning arrived and everybody but Maggie and Lottie had slept in so breakfast was at 10 Am with Pancakes and scrambled eggs, bacon and toast with orange juice for the feed. Some headed off to church and when they got back, the boys went out to the shop and unloaded the trailer and cleaned up everything. The car was serviced and placed back up top in the trailer as the primary car would go back in service for next week. It took most of the afternoon to accomplish everything, but when it was all done, Lefty had grilled some chicken on the Traeger and everybody chowed down before going home. It signaled another successful weekend with a forward look to more next week. Max and Maggie settled down in their hot tub and enjoyed the relaxing interlude before heading to bed about midnight.
Bill and Suzy would be on the early flight in the morning and would take an Uber to the airport as they were up and out before 6 am. Lefty and Max were heading to the Bill’s Speed Emporium to chat about last night and review anything new from Billy Bob while Maggie was headed to her Cleaners to check in with her people and review some bookwork. A nice crowd was in the meeting room at the speed shop and after the congrats to Max and Lefty, Billy Bob wanted to show them something. He was also one of Max’s sponsors and had a new sticker for their car. The red background with his shop name on it in gold would look good on the yellow # 1. Lunch was served with pizza the usual, but it was good with Dr Pepper. Every one chatted and enjoyed each other until it was time to go home.
Maggie discovered all was well at her cleaners and for their monthly meeting she brought in lunch from her favorite Italian restaurant Peppino’s and deserts from Frenches, who has the best Cheese Danish wheels of all time. Everyone had a good lunch and reviewed the business while talking about some new things Maggie wanted to try. She said Max was going to have one of his old restored sprint cars, with an old motor, mounted on the top of her cleaners and it should brighten up the roof some. The group said that was great and were looking forward to it. A new air conditioner was replacing the old one on top of the shop and that would be a good time to mount the car, too. The weather in So Cal didn’t require an air conditioner much, but sometimes in August and September it was a nice benefit. Maggie was done and headed over to the speed shop to visit a little before she took Max on a little shopping trip for hauler supplies that were needed. Costco or Sam’s were fine for those items and off the two lovebirds went arm in arm.
When Maggie arrived at Bill’s she settled in to watch the tape of the last race and commented right along with the group. There was so much to talk about, several hours went by before they could get away and do their shopping. They were home by 6 pm having picked up some pulled pork, corn on the cob and some banana pudding from Lucille’s. A lot of conversation on the week ahead and then it was off to bed to recover from another good week.
CHAPTER 14 - Lunch at the Chart House in Dana Point
Max was wanting to go to Dana Point today and see the ocean and the many boats moored there. Maggie said “I’m in, lets go!” He called Lefty and told him what he was up to and suggested they meet for lunch about 1 PM. That would give the two of them time to walk around and be looky loos. They drove down the 405 until they hit the beach road and drove into Dana Point. They walked around looking at a few stores with touristy items, but didn’t see anything worth buying, until…. Maggie saw a neat yellow Hawaiian shirt for him. She gathered it up in a bag and they continued to wander and visit with a few dogs that their owners were walking around with. Maggie saw a cute little Dachshund and stopped to pet him. “isn’t he a cutie?”. Max looked at him and asked his name. The owner a cute blond said “BoisD’arc”. Maggie asked “what is that name from?” The lady said “Bois-D”arc is a tree found in the Midwest that bears hedge apples. The wood is so “iron like” and strong it was often used as a club in the old days. “Interesting” said Max, are the hedge apples edible?” “Not really she said, but they are green and rough looking and sometimes displayed like a gourd. They are also called a Osage Orange, for what it’s worth”! They wandered off and looked at each other, both thinking maybe they needed a dog. “Let’s talk about it later” said Maggie and it was getting close to time for lunch. Lefty and Lottie would meet them at the Chart House on the cliff in a few minutes.
They had chosen to drive over the bridge first and check out some boats because they still had 30 minutes or so before lunch. When you go across the bridge you can see the breakwater barrier that keeps the big waves from crashing the island. Driving around the small island is quick and there’s always people walking around and picnicking in the grass alongside the street. They enjoyed the scene and decided they would try to find someone with a boat so they could go out deep sea fishing maybe. Driving off the island, they turned left to go towards the steep little road up to where the Chart House was perched on the cliff. It’s a rush when you go up or down this street as it’s almost straight down! Off to the left as they started up the hill was a tall ship that is moored there year-round and it was always fun to go and walk around it and check out those amazing tall ships of another time once in a while. Max pulled into the driveway of the restaurant and the Valet took their keys and they quickly walked inside. The hostess took them downstairs to their table and they were seated where they could see the ocean and were greeted by Lefty and Lottie who already had a cocktail in their hands and two on the table ready for them.
Greetings they all said as it was a fine sunny So Cal day. ”What’s everybody having today the waitress said as she took their order?” Max wanted the 1-pound Lobster Tail and the 9 oz Filet while Lefty got the Alaskan King Crab Legs that were special here. The girls got the King Salmon and veggies and they settled in with dinner salads and some bread. The surfers weren’t out now, but a lot of little sailboats were putting on a show as they darted about racing each other. It was fun to watch. Lefty said he knew a guy who had been asking if they wanted to go out…. that had a boat and could probably be talked into taking them on a little adventure this week, if they wanted? Of course, Max said they had been thinking about just that earlier. Lefty said “one of the car owners, Gary Woodhouse, had mentioned it several times to him”. Gary’s driver was Bunny Branson and the large boat slept 16 so there would be plenty of room. Lefty would hook it up and let them know later.
Lunch was just fabulous as fresh seafood was always the best here. Maggie shared a little Salmon and stole some lobster off his plate. Lefty and Lottie were up to the same playful game and everyone was having fun. They had Cherries Jubilee for desert and it was special with two orders split amongst the four of them. They relaxed with a beer and went outside on the patio to finish off the afternoon. There was very little wind and the scene was just another beautiful day in Southern California. The smiles were relaxing as it was rare they could sneak off and have a nice dinner. After a pleasant time together, it was time to get a move on.
Saying goodbye to their neighbors, Max and Maggie scooted off to the Pacific Coast Highway to head home. But first, they wanted to drive up the coast a bit. They had fun watching everything along the way and eventually pulled up in their own driveway and parked in the garage. She wanted to watch TV and Max went into his office to check on a few things. He had a few e-mails and would go thru those, then he looked at the racing ledger to view if it was up to date and see if he needed to order anything. The books looked good and Eric’s report on the parts room was complete with nothing needed this week. It was another of those lazy nights at home that they both cherished with no interruptions and nothing to bother them. A glass of wine, a little bread pudding and thee made the night relaxing and romantic! Max took her glass from her and set it on the table, then kissed Maggie and she folded into him on the couch and the night of bliss began.
Meanwhile in Ventura on that Sunday, Kenny Grayson and his lady Dotty Billings were with her dad Harlan and his wife Sally grabbing a bite to eat at the Habit to take to Ventura Raceway to watch some racing. There would be motorcycles on the docket for the unusual day show as it was kind of a bike show with some racing on the track for some of the fast bikes in the house. They parked their own bikes in the big packed lot in front of the raceway and pulled out the food and ate their burgers. Kenny and Harlan talked about their race cars as they ate. Harlan and Sally rode his Harley today and Kenny and Dottie were on his Kawasaki 1000. They then went in and started walking thru the pits looking at the two-wheel wonders that were all around the pit area. It was a fun afternoon for the two couples and a lot of talk about the next race kept coming up. They both had some maintenance to do as last night was a race night and next Saturday was coming fast. After dark they sat in the grandstands and watched for a while as the racing started. After an hour or so of that, it was time to head home and get some rest, and off they went after having spent some quality time together.
CHAPTER 15 - Catalina trip
Before you knew it, the phone was ringing at the triple M Ranch on Tuesday afternoon and it was Gary Woodhouse. “Hey Max, I heard you want to go for a boat ride, so were planning to go tomorrow for a couple of days and will be at the dock by 9 AM waiting for you and your group. My wife Mary Anne and I will be taking you all on an overnighter that should be fun. Max asked “what do we bring” and Gary said “nada, just be ready to eat breakfast when you get there”, and it was a done deal. After a couple of calls, there would be 10 going as Kenny Grayson and Dottie Billings, Pam Branson and Tipper Landon and Harlan and Sally Billings would round out the group as his crew was busy. He and Maggie hustled around and found boating wear and stuff needed for the trip and put it in the SUV. Lefty, who made this happen, brought his stuff over and loaded it in too, as they would be riding together.
At 9 am the next morning, everyone was in the parking lot at the Long Beach Marina ready to go. As soon as the group boarded the big beautiful ship named Mary Anne, the captain, Gary’s guy who was in charge of the boat, Captain Barney Jackson, manned the helm as his son and 1st mate Chester cast off the lines. The 80-foot Chris Craft moved along smoothly and headed out to sea. Riding in the Cadillac of boats is pretty nice and was on everyone’s minds as they sailed off into the ocean. There was even a helicopter on the roof!
The Chief Cook and bottle washer Alice Jackson, yes, it is a family affair, had a breakfast of eggs, sausage, toast and cantaloupe with tea and orange juice in pitchers on the table in the lounge. It was relaxing as Gary explained the boat, what we needed to know about it and what we were going to do today. We would stop and be doing some fishing along the 26 miles to Catalina, where we would hang out and have some fun and then spend the night. After a couple of hours slicing thru the ocean water, the ship stopped and they dropped the anchor. All the girls were in some pretty racy bikini’s, especially Bunny and Dottie who both needed a lot of sunscreen to cover their exposed skin. Both looked like they could win the Gold Cup bikini contest, they were so hot and sexy showing off a lot of skin! It was hard to concentrate on fishing with that side show going on, but Maggie and Lottie got their share of looks, too!
Gary had plenty of fishing gear for those who wished to take part, and most got baited up and relaxed in a nice deck chair to await anything biting. Max and Lefty had their lines out and watched as time passed slowly. Before long, several shouts of “reel em’ in” were heard and some Red Snapper and Sea Bass began hitting the deck. Chester was quick on the draw as he had a net ready to help everyone land their catch. Some he threw back and some he kept in the wet locker. After a while fishing time was over as they quit biting. Little did we know the Captain had a Lowrance fish locater and that’s how he found this spot.
Everybody headed back into the lounge and lunch was served. Nice big roast beef and turkey sandwiches were served with your choice of drinks. Water, beer, pop and even wine were available as Gary and Mary Anne really knew how to treat their guests. Conversations included racing and boating as they enjoyed an hour or so before heading on to their next stop. By about 3 pm, Catalina appeared in the view ahead and they circled the island just looking it over. It was a nice day for a “drive”, so they did. They eventually pulled into the harbor and tied up to the dock.
Gary gathered everybody around him and said “we have several things we can do today and he listed snorkeling, a Museum, the Botanical Gardens and a tour of the island. Gary and his wife wanted to see the Museum, so they all jumped in to go there. It was walking distance so they kind of shopped and looked around along the way. When they went inside the museum there was a sign that said there were artifacts from more than 800 years of settlement on the Island. Interesting to note that unbelievable stat as they went thru and enjoyed the exhibits. It was about 5 pm when they were done walking around the place. Next, Max, Lefty and the guys wanted to go snorkeling while the women wanted to see the Botanical Gardens.
The guys went to get in the water to see the underwater life twirling around and managed to use up 2 hours just being in the colorful scene before it was time to go back to the ship for dinner. While they were all out having fun, Alice was charcoaling the fish they caught that afternoon. With that went Asparagus, Carrots and some baked potatoes. Everyone settled in to the feast and it was all good. Gary was smiling as everyone said the food was delicious. Fresh strawberry’s dipped in sour cream and then brown sugar was the bomb. The big red berry’s were amazing and a nice finish to the meal.
After dinner they all headed to the largest building on the island, the Catalina Casino, where they played some slot machines, danced in the ballroom, grabbed some drinks and snacks and generally had a great time for several hours until it was time to return to the vessel that brought them here for the night. Back on the boat, a few drinks were served and the evening was toast by midnight. Everyone headed off to bed as Gary said “we will be leaving in the morning about 6 am, but nobody needs to be up if you want to sleep in. Most of them would be on the road to the Big Sir Raceway by mid-afternoon and all of them were staying at the Hilton for the 3 days they would be there.
Max and Maggie set out on the deck and relaxed and enjoyed the quiet surf sounds against the ship before heading to their cabin and getting some sleep. They woke up about 7 am and showered and got dressed and packed away their stuff ready to hit the dock when they arrived about 8 am. Out on deck most were stirring and hanging over the guard rail watching as the city of Long Beach slowly came into view. You could see the Queen Mary as they moved into Gary’s docking space. The ship was tied down quickly and Gary said “come on, let’s have breakfast before you go”! That they all did and it was a smashing end to the short voyage enjoyed by all. Pancakes, omelets and more were shared before it was time to go. They all thanked Gary and Mary Anne for the amazing outing and deboarded to get in their cars and go home.
Max, Maggie, Lefty and Lottie arrived back at the ranch by 10 and the boys immediately went to the shop where the crew was already done with the final loading, except for the food. The girls brought that out and put in the toter and they were locked and loaded and ready to go! Max headed to make a few calls and catch a nap with Maggie as they had outdone themselves on the short vacation. They were awakened at 2 pm by a loud what used to be a dinner bell, clanging outside near the shop with Lefty’s help. Max had put it up to signal when it was time to leave to go racing, so the girls would never be late. Their bags were already packed, so they rolled them up to the hauler put them inside and settled down as Dean started the big Diesel. They slowly moved along the driveway out of the Ranch and off they went down the highway with music blaring and everyone happy to be on the road again, together!
CHAPTER 16 - Racing at the Big Sir Raceway
Usually the LA super maxed freeway system was often pretty slow and sometimes unbelievably stopped and go for miles, but today, Dean was doing 55 MPH and loving it as they went by UCLA and headed into the San Fernando Valley. The big rig had a strong motor, so going up the mountain towards Bakersfield was a snap. They planned dinner at the Harris Ranch where good steak was always cooking there. After several hours, they pulled off at the turnoff for the restaurant and drove into the gas station next door where mostly trucks filled up and there were never people on site. Dean did the honors as everyone else went inside. They had made a reservation about 30 miles back, so a table was ready for them when they walked in the big building.
They had ordered drinks by the time Dean came in, so ordering dinner was next. Yes, the boys had steak and Maggie and Lottie had roasted chicken. There was some travel chatter as they looked at another 5 hours or so, putting them in after midnight. No dessert this time as they went thru the little touristy store on the way out and got some brownies and coconut macaroons for a snack on the road. They walked out to the toter, climbed in and off they went. There was a dirt track race from Lucas Oil Speedway in Missouri on the TV and they watched the Power I midgets put on a great show. The hauler had DirecTV, so they could watch anything they wanted. There were a bunch of movies on the shelf as well, so one didn’t have to just sit there while traveling. The toter also had WIFI, so there was always the internet to surf on.
They pulled into the Hilton about 12:20 am and Maggie went to check everyone in while the hauler got parked in the big well-lit parking lot that was full of racing haulers already. They all hit the sack and morning happened too soon. Today they would be off on the Bart to downtown San Francisco where they would ride the cable cars and hit the shops near Fisherman’s Wharf. The Bart goes underwater for a bit under the Oakland Bay Bridge, so there is nothing to see down there. When they stopped and got off near downtown, they jumped on a cable car and took an hour just clanging along looking at the sights and realizing the hills were amazingly tall and dipped very low so it was like a Disneyland ride at times. They finally got off and rambled thru a bunch of shops before they hit Alioto’s on the Wharf. It was a big restaurant, and they had to go up some stairs, but settled down in front of the windows to look down at the ocean scene.
Lunch was a mixture of shrimp, lobster, sea bass and soup and salad plus mixed veggies. They spent an hour just gazing out to sea and enjoying the company. After dinner they went back down to walk down the touristy street and look in some shops and watch the “shows” put on by the people trying to get tips from the crowds. One guy juggled three 16-pound bowling balls, there were some people standing without moving for long periods of time plus more side shows were enjoyed along with some music artists that played as the group walked by. They went in Boudin Bread shop and bought a bunch of Sourdough bread to take home, picking from many forms like ducks, gators, hats and so forth as the bread came in all shapes and sizes. After they had wandered for a while, and instead of eating again, they stopped to get some shrimp cocktails and broke out one of the loaves of bread to enjoy while walking around some more. A trip in the Ghirardelli Chocolate Company added some sweet stuff and it was getting late. They jumped on a cable car that took them back to the Bart station and after another hour or so, they were back in Fremont. They walked to the Hotel and picked up some sliced roast beef for tomorrows lunch on the way. After a drink in the bar with a lot of other racer types, it was off to dreamland for the whole crew.
Saturday morning was bright and today’s fun started off at the local Walmart parking lot showing off the car and talking about the races tonight. After the free continental breakfast at the Hilton, it was near 10 am when they headed over to the parking lot where they unloaded both cars. Maggie and Lottie went in the Walmart to get some stuff for the weekend. The sprint cars soon drew attention and plenty of people wandered over with questions about what kind of race car is this? One guy, who said he was a former sprint car fan who lost interest when Bayland’s closed, wandered up. He didn’t know anything about the Big Sir Raceway at all, so that was a surprise to him. He said he use to go to all the WOO and NARC shows there and remembered the times when the CRA came North to run there. Max introduced himself and asked who his favorite driver was and he said it was Lealand McSpadden who drove a black # 01 car. Max told him about the new racetrack and gave him two tickets for tonight and the man said, I’ll come see you in the pits, it’s been a long time.
One of the young guys who traveled with his dad Wilber Watson’s car on trips, but didn’t always help out, came by and immediately saw a cute blond and he put her in one of the cars. Billy Watson was just a fan and didn’t like to work on cars, but liked the racing. He would come over and scrape mud sometimes when they came racing where Max was, just to be doing something not in his family pit. Billy had blondie under a spell and was talking her into coming for the race tonight. She was interested, but her parents, who had wandered by without stopping, wouldn’t be going. Billy said he would come and get her, imagine! Other fans knew who Max was and came to talk to him and would be at the track later. Maggie got back in time to sell a few t-shirts and before long it was after 2 and time to head to the track, Jack!
When they pulled into the pits, the promoter, Dave Welch, greeted them and thanked them for putting the car on display. He had lunch sent over from a local Italian Olive Garden for the teams that helped out today. They signed in and drew a pill and then settled down for the chow. The breadsticks are always tasty and lasagna was on the table. Everyone had their fill and then a team meeting happened. Lefty had his lap top out and was reviewing the last trip here. They decided to change the rear-end gear and adjust the shocks back a little because this track was always heavy and tacky. The fact that it was close to the water helped. Jim picked the qualifying tire from one of the new compound ones and mounted it. They added fuel and were set to go.
There were 60 cars in the house with two 360’s trying on the 3/8 mile track tonight. Both were former wing guys who had plans to step up to the 410’s with new cars in a few weeks. Max had his new driving suit on and as he walked the pits, and people really noticed him in the bright colors. Max had a white cowboy hat he wore pretty often, but hadn’t put it on yet this year as the races had nothing but cloudy overcast weather up to now. The bright sunshine made him put it on as he sauntered around. Max got in the Mule with Lefty and they took off to check the track out. After a lap around the racy 3/8 track above the top, they didn’t see anything different and went back to their pit.
“Big” Jon Brown was standing with Lonnie Grant when Max walked by. Lonnie whispered “is tonight the night”? “Big” Jon said “hopefully, and I will be ready if an opportunity comes up”. Lonnie mentioned “you should really think over what you are up to and maybe even just give it up and forget the incident 3 years ago”. “Big” Jon responded “I’ll never forget!” Nevertheless, Lonnie said, “it’s time to get over it before you do something stupid”!
The call for hot laps came over the loud speaker and Max was pushed off to get fired up very quickly. The roar was music to his ears as usual and he gassed it lightly and moved to the top. Most of the cars had new paint and were sparkling under the sun, but before long the mud covered the bodies and the beauty was hidden. When everybody but the first hot lap group got off the track, a flag was flown by the starter, Max got off as he was in the second group of hot laps and would qualify 23rd. Eric got right on the mud wiping while Jim checked the right rear and then checked the fuel level. Lefty just smiled as he walked with Max to the push off area and waited for the car to arrive.
It wasn’t long before cars started taking the 2 laps for the best results. First car out on a somewhat still soupy track was Sammy Stockdale and his time was a slow 16.99 after having trouble both times around. He would end up 49th, just barely making it into the heats. Local driver and defending champ in NCRC, Blake Sims, ran a quick 14.65 that was a few ticks off the track record and on it went. Harlan Billings was 2nd quick at 14.665 and then Kenny Grayson was 8th. Max ran an impressive 14.666 and a near tie, but still 3rd quick regardless. Brad Gardner was 4th and so on until the 60 cars finished that chore. Max and Brad would be on the front row of the trophy dash with Blake Sims and Harlan Billings behind them.
The opening ceremonies included a few words by Dave Welch talking about the new year. The co-op venture with the local club NCRC and SCRC plus MWRC had brightened the racing scene in Northern California also with the new increased purse and features that brought a lot of car owners back out of their garages. The car count is the best in years and with Wallace Oil spearheading the new money for the 3 clubs, the future looked good. The admission price had even been cut back a little with other lower special prices for service men, high school students, a new family rate and Seniors making it a good deal for all fans. He had nothing but good news and finished with a “Thanks, and good luck to all” as he wandered off.
Windy interviewed NCRC Champion Blake Sims next and asked how he was doing. Blake said “our new sponsorship for this season will keep us in the game as the last few years had been tough. My old crew chief came back from a bad car accident and is good to go now. Our new car and more helpers will make this year great for us”. He talked more with tonight’s fast timer and noted new colors on the car. “Yes, Blake said the new sponsors wanted red with blue highlights and it would be the first time he wasn’t in black for years”. His number 1 car would be one to watch.
After the National Anthem, the Billy Bob Trophy Dash lined up and off they went with “Mad” Max taking the lead and running off from Brad Gardner who did a giant wheelie on the start, but recovered quickly and chased Max to the end. Afterwards, Windy asked Max how the track was, Max said “it was excellent and the fans should get a great show tonight”. Max’s car was already in his pit when he walked back there and Lefty said no change for the heat as they got the car ready to race again. Max set down and drank some water and thought about what was coming in his heat. He would start in row 5 next to his little buddy Kenny Grayson, so there was work ahead.
The girls made up some sandwiches using some of the sour dough they picked up yesterday, for any hungry crew members and a few grabbed a bite and got ready to race. The first heat saw Dickie Dickins from Kokomo, IN on the pole and he shot off to a big lead before Brandon Yanko caught him on lap 3. Back in the back Blake Sims was on the hunt as he pulled into 4th by lap 6. Blake Kelly made a couple of good moves before taking both Dickins and Yanko on the turn four corner for the lead with the white flag flying. Yanko held off Sims for third with “Big” Jon Brown getting the last transfer from Dickins on a shaky move, nearly taking them both out on a bad slide job.
The second heat had some wild action as Clyde Dawkins and Harlan Billings started in row five and fought each other all 10 laps, often running side by side and was the show of all the heats. While that battle was waging, Parker Burke took the lead on the green from his outside row 1 spot and never lifted until he bagged his first heat win of the season. Lonnie Grant came from the third row to get second as he was fast enough to fight off the Dawkins and Billings battle. Max was ready when in his heat he took the green in last place and rode the top of the cushion past 6 cars into 4th place with a strong start in the first two laps. Brent Baker took off and made two quick moves for the lead from the second row and looked like he was long gone. Bobby Hawkins jumped behind Max when he went by and the two of them were splitting traffic headed forward. Max grabbed 2nd on the last corner with Hawkins and Sky Marks right behind him as they crossed the finish line behind Baker.
The 4th heat was an extremely fast 10 laps after a glitch on the start. Sammy Stockdale, who had all kinds of problems on his qualifying attempts, but still made the 49th spot in the heats and started on the pole. Jerry Powell was next to him and on the start and he did an unusual squirrely thing past the flag stand as he was suddenly upside-down sliding on the cage after clipping the wall coming around turn four on the gas. The red allowed everyone to catch their breath. Powell was fine and his car not so much, but the crew acted like it might be fixed as it was towed off. On the restart Sammy looked like the former champion he was as he led the field for 10 fast laps and won this one with Tipper Landon and the back row right behind him. Brad Gardner and Jack Van Natta had quickly found their transfer spots by lap 3 and chased hard to the end.
The last heat might have been the best as the track was awesome and the racers were making it happen. Fred Kaiser, the MWRC Champion started last next to “Bunny” Branson, and on the green, she rushed under him and moved forward with some excellent moves. Tommy Tucker and Seth Howard started next to each other in the third row and they swapped the lead to the front several times before they were running one/two after passing early leader Dick Candy. Bunny kept up her frantic pace and she and Fred caught them by lap 6. This is where it gets interesting as Fred made a bold move driving up and around Bunny, Tommy and Seth on lap 9, but it wasn’t over. Fred was strong, but Bunny wasn’t done. On the white flag lap, Fred went high and Bunny low into turn one with Fred leading by a car length. When he stayed up there, Bunny took a run at him going into turn 3 and slid him hard out of turn four to grab the lead and they charged to the finish line side by side. Fred wiggled a little gathering his car up and Bunny hung on for the win as the crowd went wild.
Max had watched this one from the pit grandstand with Lefty and he said “wholly S**T, that girl is on fire tonight”. Lefty laughed and noted “she would start on the front row of the main, so you better get with it in the feature as you would start 8th”. Not to worry as they headed back to the pit and talked about the new shock a little. Even when it wasn’t dry slick, the new settings were a great help locking the car down! They agreed to give the manufacturer all their details on what they did and the results as part of the test phase on Monday. The shock itself would go on sale by the middle of May if all went well with their testing. Eric had the car sparkling again and Jim chose a brand new tire as fuel was poured in and the shocks adjusted and they were good to go, but the last chance and Semi were yet to run.
The last chance race sent Zack Wilkins, Rex Roberts, Phil Waller and Phil Cloudburst to tag the Semi, but none of them ever got a look at moving any farther. The semi was won by Rod Taylor getting a 11th spot in the main as he missed a transfer to the front 10 in his heat. He was followed by Mike Midnight, Kenny Grayson and Lester Haines. The feature line-up would be Jon Brown starting on the pole, then Bunny Branson, Jack Van Natta, Blake Kelly, Clyde Dawkins, Fred Kaiser, Brad Gardner, Max Miller, Harlan Billings, Blake Sims, Rod Taylor, Kenny Grayson, Lester Haines, Blake Kelly and so on.
During intermission the cars came out of the pits to be placed in their starting order as Windy had words for everybody. It would be interesting watching the 3 champions tonight with starting positions of 6th with Kaiser, 8th with Max and 10th with Sims. Who would get the brass ring tonight? He had all three next to him as they talked about the race. Local star Sims said “I am up for the challenge and would roll the dice”. Indiana’s Kaiser would start ahead of the other two and had plans to keep it that way. Max, well Max just said “pay attention, it was going to be fun tonight” as he wandered off!
The cars were in place as the drivers were introduced and all buckled in their rides so it was showtime! The grandstands were packed and all the fans were on their feet cheering when the 4-wide formation came by. The rumble of the motors went up a pitch in volume as they took the green and shazam, they were racing. “Big” Jon and “Bunny” jostled for position into turn one with the sexy blond lady taking the lead and Jon right on her tail coming out of turn two! Clyde Dawkins jumped into 3rd as the Arizona hot shot was on the gas. Behind him Fred was in 4th, Max 5th and Sims next followed by Harlan, Gardner and Kenny Grayson as positions changed every lap.
On lap 13, “Blue” Sky Marks and “Captain” Mike Midnight had a little disagreement on track space and banged together, sending the Captain into the wall and on his head with Marks stopping right by him as the field tried to avoid them as the red came out. A couple of other cars just barely tagged the pair and hooked into the pile. The Captain was done and would load up and be gone soon. Surprisingly, Sky Marks was able to restart at the back with the other two and the field would restart only one car short.
“Busty Bunny” Branson was still leading “Big” Jon with Max challenging Dawkins and Kaiser and Sims in line behind them. Brandon Yanko started 20th, but had made it up to 12th by this point as the battle escalated. On lap 25, Max made a move on Clyde and scooted in front of “Big” Jon as well. Now he had his sights on Bunny as she was still running the high groove with a smooth launch out of the corners each lap. On lap 30 Blake Kelly had a flat tire and pulled over to a stop. He got that changed in the work area and now Bunny, Mad Max, Clyde, Kaiser, Sims and Kenny Grayson were in that order on the restart.
Max had followed Bunny for a while and he saw her having a little trouble going into turn one hitting a little rut that Max avoided each time. When she did this on the restart, she was going too fast and it upset her car enough that Max slid under her for the lead with Clyde right behind him. Bunny got it straightened out and went on to finish on the podium behind the two leaders with some fast moves. With 4 laps to go, Clyde made his move and slid Max on the white flag lap clearing him as he took the lead, but old Max had been here before and saw it coming. He cut down hard and launched a little wheelie going back under Clyde and surged back into the lead and rolled up top to finish it off. Clyde lost a little momentum and had to settle for second with Bunny, Sims, Kaiser and Grayson coming along behind in that order. It was a wild race and the crowd showed its appreciation with their screaming and hollering afterwards.
Max was beaming when he stopped his car in front of the crowd and jumped out. Windy told Busty Pam she was amazing and asked how her car could be faster than last year, obviously. She said “my crew built me a new Stingem’ Chassis car this week and they had a new crew member who asked how she wanted it and he gave it to her. I am thrilled to death and I can’t wait to go celebrate with my boyfriend Tipper later“, and she added, “it was an awesome night for me and my team”. Clyde then had a lot to say, “I loved the battles Max and Me were having and I’m looking forward two weeks and the next race at So Cal Raceway to get some revenge”. He added “my car ran great and I’m pleased but not happy to miss out on a win”. When Max stepped up to the mike, he said “thank you to all my sponsors and especially my crew as they worked like clockwork all night and put me in position for this win”. They overcame a couple of small problems, the most serious was on the lap 13 when a bolt broke on a shock and it was about to fall off when they pulled into the work area on that red flag stop. Other than that, it was another good night and then Max said “hey kids, come on down and get some candy”. The photogs then got their podium shots and the big trophy looked great in Max’s hands as he handed it to Lefty as he climbed down off the podium and worked his way back to his pit.
When they all got back to their pit, the car wasn’t done getting checked out yet by Tom Flanders, but the Champaign was flowing. Maggie poured a little on his head, but gave him a hug and a kiss and they celebrated before the crowd showed up. The fans began to clamor for selfies, t-shirts and handshakes as they settled into a fun crowd enjoying the aftermath of another great race. Clyde and Bunny both came by to say congrats and some pics of the 3 of them happened. Bunny was already out of her uniform and the blue jeans and tank top made the crowd smile, she was a beauty, and she could drive, too!
After Flanders said AOK to their motor, he came over to let Max know “Big” Jon had protested your car tonight and everything looked fine, so it would be posted in the club newsletter what “Big” Jon was up to tonight”. About that time “Big” Jon walked up smiling and asked Max “how’s it hangin’ Champ?” When Tom gave him the good news about the car, “Big” Jon exploded and screamed “Max is a cheater and they needed to prove it”! The president Jerry Jones came over and took” Big” Jon for a walk. “So, Jon, what are you up to now”? “Big” Jon said “did you check the fuel, the rear end width, the tire size and weight”? Jerry assured him all was legal and he should move on. There was a board meeting next week and Jon needed to show up and plead his case why he shouldn’t be suspended for harassment.
Meanwhile back at the Mini Ranch, the hauler got loaded up and with the lights going out and the crowd gone home, they made their way back over to the Hilton for some rest and an early morning drive back to the Triple M Ranch! They finished up the sandwiches and some cookies brought to them from a nice lady whose family use to own top flite sprint cars and now just were fans. She made great cookies and they were gobbled up by the crew before you knew it.
CHAPTER 17 - Trip home and dinner at McClintock's with Wild Bill Banks
It was a peaceful but 9-hour long ride home after breakfast at the hotel at 9 am and getting on the road with traffic flowing very nicely. Everybody got loaded in the toter and off they went. Dean was having fun behind the wheel like always and suggested they take a little side trip for dinner at McClintock’s Saloon and Dining Restaurant and a visit with an old racer who lives in the Nipomo area. Jim knew Wild Bill Banks who used to run Non wing stuff and ran Santa Maria as his home track. He had tons of records there and made NARC his home back in the day. Jim gave him a call and they agreed to meet at the restaurant at 2 pm.
They rolled into the area and parked the hauler out front of the restaurant on the street. They all got out of the toter and walked back to the drive way and went up the incline before taking a left and going in the door. Once inside McClintock’s, they saw Wild Bill and his wife Sally waiting for them. They got settled in at a table with a view of Highway 101 and the Pacific Ocean beyond. One of the unique tricks of this place is that waiters stand on chairs to pour water in your glass, while holding the pitchers high above their heads. Occasionally it might get a little damp, but only when a newbie is just learning. Bill retired from racing nearly 30 years ago and only goes to Santa Maria for the races when the NCRC or SCRC comes racing. He rarely takes trips to LA or San Francisco for races in either area. Other than that, he likes to go ocean fishing locally and has his own boat and a few friends that share his love for the sea and the fish they bring home.
The place features Ranch style Oak pit barbeque steaks and ribs, so everybody ordered some good stuff and the conversation continued. Bill said “I would like to come south for a race and hang out in your pit”! Max responded “that will be easy just give us a date and we’ll be ready for you” and the plans for that happened! It was getting late, and after 3 hours of dining and drinking slowly, and with some hugs and goodbyes, the Triple M hauler hit the road. It was after 9 pm when they rolled into the Ranch and parked the rig. There would be a work day in the morning and then they had a week off and Max had a plan. They would talk about it in the morning during the clean-up.
The next morning about 10 AM, the girls emptied out the perishables from the fridge and cabinets in the toter and cleaned everything up, while the boys unloaded the car and pit cart and the mule. Eric would use the high-powered sprayer to speed clean everything before the motor got a once over. Lefty checked the shocks and then spent an hour on the phone with the shock people explaining to them how they worked great. Lefty would send them his data and it was looking like they would go on sale May 1st. That gave the team a little edge in performance until then, but they still had more to learn.
Lefty wanted the motor removed and sent to Tracy Engines for a refresh. The had a lot of laps on this one and there was no reason to put it off. They got the tools moving and lifted the motor out and dropped in the shipping container. Soon it was loaded in the team work truck. A new bullet was rolled out of the parts room and quickly installed with the oil checked and the plugs looked at. Max got in and got a push and fired it up for a look see. He rolled it into the shop as the motor cackled perfectly. Finally, they shut it off and put the car back in the hauler. Everything was done, so they all headed back in the house where Maggie and Lottie had created a nice lunch with hot chili and hot dogs and some home-made ice cream for a finisher.
Everybody relaxed as Max and Lefty had a plan. Lefty said “we have planned a little fishing trip out of San Diego on Thursday on a boat that is headed south to Cabo San Lucas where we will spend a few days fishing, exploring and eating a lot of seafood and returning on Tuesday next week. It was all paid for by their sponsor and he would join them, so who’s going”? Jim and Dean were in, but Eric had stuff to do, so it would only be 8 of them on the trip plus Bill and Suzy Adams. When everybody had agreed to be here at 6 AM Thursday, they were done for the day.
Lefty had some family biz to take care of for a couple of days as he and Lottie went to their place. Max looked at Maggie and said “let’s go to Vegas”! A smirk appeared on Maggie’s face and she made the call for air and room reservations quickly. They both went to shower and pack a few things and then the Uber arrived to take them to the Orange County Airport. After a quick ride to the terminal, they checked in and were in the air quickly and were landing in Las Vegas by 7 pm. They jumped on a shuttle and soon were at the MGM Grand where they would stay for 2 nights. After checking in and getting up to their room and settled in, they went down to Wolfgang Puck’s Bar & Grill for dinner. They both had some wine and Calamari for an appetizer. Then some delicious Salmon grilled to perfection was put on the table. A Chinese Chicken Salad went well with the fish and they finished it off with their famous Crème Brulee. After that the midnight show was next.
They were big Eagles fans and Maggie got the tickets reserved before dinner, so they walked over to the Grand Garden Arena and went in to their seats about 5 rows back from the stage. The Eagles were doing their Hotel California album and it was tremendously awesome! Maggie and Max were rocking away in their seats the whole time, having a ball! Then, after 3 curtain calls, it was a wrap. They left the showroom and stopped at one of the little bar areas to have a drink and check out the ball scores on the TV before heading to their room. They were plenty tired after the long day, but not too tired to enjoy each other. Max opened a bottle of wine he bought downstairs as Maggie came in with a little yellow Victoria Secret number she found last week, and needless to say she was stunning! The music was soft and slow and the lights were down real low as she climbed on his lap and began kissing him. Max responded quickly by kissing her back and holding her in his arms. It was a nice finish to their evening………………O M G!!!
Morning happened and they practically fell out of bed and showered together and then dressed for the day. Off they went in an Uber to the outlet stores where they often found strange things to take home. There was an IHOP in that parking lot, among a lot of chain restaurants like Outback, Chili’s, Buffalo Wild Wings, Chipotle and more. So, they had pancakes and omelets with some orange juice and a little hot tea. When they walked into the outlet mall, there was a lot of junk, but also some interesting things to look at and buy. Max found the Franklin Mint store and amazingly his Vette was one of the models on display for sale. “Wow and only $180” Maggie said, as she paid for it. Maggie had a 1960 red and white Corvette that was totally restored by Jack’s Corvette Center in Long beach several years ago. Max came smiling over with a model of her car and a special garage made for it that was to die for. It was only $400, but taken care of by Max quickly. As soon as she saw it, she got really excited and hugged Max. They then were walking along in the mall and found a store with a lot of neat suitcases. They found one that they could carry on the plane home with the diecast cars in, so she got one that was a bright yellow with red and blue striping. It was very similar to their racing colors, but they would see if it matched when they got home. She added a couple of small blankets to use as packing in the suitcase and before long they noticed it was after 3 pm and time to go back to the hotel.
They talked about dinner and decided to go to Joe’s Seafood, Prime Steak and Stone Crab Restaurant in Caesars’ shopping mall on the Las Vegas strip. It wasn’t very far, so they walked the few blocks and went inside the little mall. Joe’s was always very busy, so a reservation was needed and Maggie had taken care of it before leaving the hotel. They were quickly seated in a comfy booth and the waiter suggested a few things before taking their drink order. Besides the wine coming, Max wanted some Jumbo Alaskan King Crab legs and a shrimp cocktail to share. Maggie ordered the Alaskan Halibut while Max decided on the New York Strip and several Stone Crabs. A baked Potato and some creamed spinach went with dinner. Everything was amazing as they stuffed themselves until they were done, done, done!
A Bailey’s hit the spot as they talked about dessert to go. Two items were picked with one piece of Key Lime Pie and one piece of Peanut Butter Pie put in a bag and they were outside walking it off on the way back to the hotel. They grabbed some milk in the lobby to go with the pie and headed upstairs. Their room was very nice with a view of the many lights on the strip. They settled on the couch that had the view as they were on the 17th floor and it was mesmerizing. It would be their last night in town as they had to go home on Wednesday. They watched some TV for a bit before destroying the pies with the milk chaser and then hit the sack with soft music playing low, again. Maggie whispered “ I can never seem to get enough of you Max” and he responded, I know, me neither” as the night slipped away.
Wednesday morning was nice and they slept in a little, then ordered breakfast and ate in bed before rumpling the sheets one more time before hitting the shower and packing up to go home. They took the bus back to the airport and checked in. Max’s phone rang and it was Bill Adams. He said “Suzy and I would be landing in Orange County at 1 pm”. Max said “that was perfect because we arrive at 12:55 pm and will meet you at the baggage claim for Southwest”. Max called Lefty suggested he come pick the four of them up. When they landed and got their bags, they gathered in Bill and Suzy and went to the curb where Lefty had his red Hummer waiting for them. Lefty was already going near the airport to pick up some stuff so he was in the area. They were back at the Ranch before long and planned a nice dinner for all the fishing travelers about 6 pm. It would be catered by Lucille’s Smokehouse restaurant, so barbeque was in the air.
Bill and Suzy and Max and Maggie spent a couple of hours in the hot tub and relaxed while watching some movie on the outside TV mounted on the wall. A few beers were tilted and before long it was 5:30 and time to get ready for dinner. The Catering truck just pulled in and were setting up on the patio as the rest of the crowd came in. Everybody would be spending the night so they would be ready for their 6AM leave time in the morning.
The dinner was smoked brisket, beef ribs, tri tip and pulled pork plus fried chicken, corn on the cobb, BBQ beans and for dessert some old-fashioned banana pudding and some cheesecake. The group made quick work of it all as they leisurely relaxed, ate and had a little wine to choke it all down with. Max got to telling some racing stories and the girls went inside to hang out in the den and tell their own stories. Max told the story about the time at Terre Haute when it rained all day, but they got started about 9 PM with a pretty good track after a lot of work by the track crew. It was a National MWRC race and the car count was over 50 cars with a packed but wet grandstand, except under the covered main grandstand. Max had started 8th and was working his way forward when they had a red and he was in 5th. During the delay, a thick layer of fog moved in and the crowd could not see the back stretch.
They pushed off with 15 laps left and Max said “I could hardly see more than 15 feet ahead of me. So, I just tried to be smart and played avoidance and just thought I was going nowhere. When I saw the checkered flags, I just pulled into the pits and climbed out of the car”. Lefty was looking the car over when an official came rushing over and said “push your car to the front stretch”. Max wondered why, but when he sat down the official said “you too, because you won the race”! Surprise, surprise as he had no clue. When he got there the crowd was waiting and it turned out they saw more of the race than he did. When he thought he was passing lap cars, he was actually passing the leaders. There was a picture of him in the trades that showed a big smile and goofy look that week. This was one race he had to see on tape so he told Sammy and Jack Birch to hold one for him as he normally never bought them. Little did he know that Maggie had every tape he ever raced, put away in her little tape library. That news came out years later when she looked for a race he was talking about and he realized what she was doing. In addition to tapes, she had all the programs, hat pins, his t-shirts and other racing memorabilia from his career all booked in order in the library. Everyone liked the story, because everybody but Lefty had never heard it before.
Bill had an announcement when he said “you have a new sponsor” and showed them the decals ready for the car. Max had a question on his face when Bill said “the Durango Shock Company had called and would be at the shop next Friday with some new stuff and their contract. He said they were really pleased with the teams results and wanted to talk more on the adjustments made so far”. It looks like Durango Shocks would be making the announcement on May 1st and that they would be available at a bunch of places around the southland and back East. The price was $50 under the brand most of the hot dogs were using now, but would go up a little after the special opening price and they got into the market. Bill added “they wanted one of their techs at all the races until the announcement to be involved close up”. With that good news out, it was time to hit the sack as they would be up and early on the road to San Diego in the morning.
CHAPTER 18- The Triple M cruise was next
Everyone was up and ready for the morning ride as Bill had scheduled a Limo that could handle the 10 of them. Breakfast was at a Jack in the box drive thru with meat burrito’s, shakes and some coffee for those who needed it. The road south was the famous Highway 5 as they made the San Diego harbor where the boat was waiting by 9:30. Gathering in all their stuff, they boarded and found their staterooms were amazing and all close together. The views would be fabulous on the open sea and it looked like they needed to plan the food intake, because you could gain a lot of weight on one of these cruises.
The boat left the dock at 11 am and they began to enjoy the nice day out on the deck where they all sat around in lounge chairs and had a snack and some fruit drinks. Some shuffle board was played around them, but they all passed. They toured the boat and found an exercise room, a stage for productions, several pools and hot tubs and a lot of places to eat. They went back to their rooms and got ready for dinner. Dinner was a dress up affair with all the food you could name on the table. They had chicken and beef and fish and some fresh seafood and all kinds of vegetables. There was some gaming in other areas of the ship, but having just been to Las Vegas didn’t have Max wanting to indulge, so they went to a movie and ended the night getting some sleep.
They arrived in Cabo the next evening and got off the ship. It would be going back to San Diego and return for them in 3 days. The group checked into a hotel and planned to go on a fishing trip the next day. The little boat they chartered had room for them and the small crew as they boarded at 9 AM. As soon as they were under way, the fishing gear came out and the guys and a couple of the girls began fishing as they moved along. Deep sea fishing can be fun, but a lot of work, too. Max was the first to hook something and his big rod and reel sang before he got help to stop it and start the process of reeling it in. He could see the big Blue Marlin flying off in the distance hooked on his line. Others were catching some Red Snapper, some Albacore and a few Mackerel. The boat stopped at some of the personal traps they set out and the crew removed some lobsters and King Crab out for dinner. All the fish caught weren’t saved because of size, but the well was filling up. They were using Mackerel for bait. Dean had also now got hooked on a Blue Marlin like Max’s and the fight went on for several hours for him.
Max had some help finally getting his big 14-foot-long fish aboard after 4 hours. They said it would weigh 1400 pounds, yikes, but it was magnificent. He said he would have it mounted and hang it in the ceiling of his den at home. Dean’s was also pulled in, but was just a little too small to stuff, being only 6 foot long, so they let it go back to the sea. The boat pulled into a little harbor south of Cabo at dark where they decided to spend the night. The crew got around and put some Snapper and Albacore on an open pit with some corn on the cob and some beans. The Lobster and King Crab were boiled. It was a nice night and dinner was really spectacular. After that, everyone was tired so they hit the bunks for some rest after the busy day.
In the morning, most decided to go swimming as a shower of sorts. Once breakfast was done, they set sail again and the second day was a duplicate of the first except Lefty caught a Blue Marlin that would rival Max’s from yesterday and Jim also caught one, not quite as big but about 12-foot-long. They caught a lot more fish and the well was now totally full when they pulled back into port that night. The group got their stuff back in the bus going back to the hotel while Bill organized the fish to be shipped back home to a friend who owned a restaurant and would put it all on ice, including some lobsters and crab, for a fish feed Friday night when they got home. There were so many fish caught on this little trip that the Captain bought what they wouldn’t need and that he would sell it to the local markets after the crew ate their share. The 3 big Marlins that would be stuffed, would be done locally and shipped to them in a month or so. They picked out some Albacore to feed the bunch back at their hotel this night along with some lobsters and they were on their way back to their hotel.
They all went to their rooms and took showers and then went out to the outdoor pit where the hotel cook was finishing up on the Albacore and Lobster and had veggies, some special fried potatoes and some key lime pie for dessert. Another great meal and now they had to get some rest for tomorrow as they would get back on the cruise ship to go home. Max and the boys had some cognac while Bailey’s was the gal’s choice as they discussed the trip, then some racing and talked about their new sponsor. Soon all were asleep and getting some much-needed rest.
They all got on the big ship the next morning and left for San Diego about 10:30 am. They found some things to do for until they got back. Swimming seemed to be the most popular with darts and even some shuffle boarding keeping them relaxed and busy. Maggie won $1000 on one of the Wheel of Fortune slots and was excited to get some cash to spend in the ship store. Before they got off the boat, she managed to buy some swimming apparel and a few other things. They got back to the harbor in San Diego on Tuesday evening and quickly loaded up and headed for the Ranch. It took a while with traffic, but they pulled in and everyone went home except the four who lived there and Bill and Suzy who went to the guest room. They had dinner on the boat, so no food was needed. Max and Maggie hit the hot tub and invited Bill and Suzy, but they chose to go to their room and watch TV and get some rest. The hot tub was so relaxing, the two lovebirds almost fell asleep, but before too long, they dried off and went inside to hit the shower together before ending the night with a few kisses and……………..some sweet dreams.
CHAPTER 19 - Huge Seafood feast up next
The six of them at the Ranch all slept in on Wednesday and it was near 11 when they took off for brunch at Gladstones in Long Beach by the pier. You can see the Queen Mary from there as it’s very scenic. Max ordered for everyone. For starters Shrimp Cocktails and the Lobster Bisque soup with a small garden salad. Next, he ordered Hawaiian Ahi and Halibut for their entrees with rice and steamed veggies. For dessert, he picked a chocolate brownie with a tasty chocolate sauce spiced with Amaretto and served warm with vanilla ice cream. It took a while to work their way thru all the food and an after-dinner drinks. They left the restaurant and went out to walk the pier for a little while as it was a nice day with no wind and so peaceful.
After that they headed to Bill’s Speed Emporium to see what’s new. Billy Bob wasn’t busy so he showed them some new wheels that came in. They were from American Mag where mostly street machine wheels came from, but they put together a light strong wheel and wanted to test it on a few cars. Max said they would try one so he took one out and loaded it in their Hummer. Max ask if he knew about Durango Shocks yet? “No” Billy Bob said, “but I heard a rumor there was a new one, but haven’t seen it yet”. Max said “come to the Ranch on Friday and he could meet the owner and see the product and get in on the ground floor with them”. Billy Bob was happy to come by and would see everybody Friday.
They left the speed shop and headed home. They would be just watching a movie and eating in this night, so they stopped at the store and got some nice thick steaks and a few other things. Lefty and Lottie came over and it was a quiet evening with some food and a few libations. Max charcoaled the steaks and the baked potatoes while Maggie steamed some veggies and made Chocolate pudding for dessert that she put in two pie crusts with whipped cream on top.
On Thursday Bill and Suzy borrowed the work truck and took off to do some visiting around the southland. didn’t say where they were going, but would be gone until evening, so don’t cook or wait up. Max had paper work to do and Maggie went off to check on her Cleaners to see how they were doing. Max was lost in his work in the office 4 hours later when Maggie came back and whistled dinner was ready to kind of wake him up! She got some great tacos at a new place near her cleaners and said let’s eat. They had Dr Pepper with the taco’s and quickly finished them off. They caught up on some Netflix programs they were watching when they could. An early bedtime happened because the crew would be here in the morning and they had a lot of stuff to do and in addition the Durango Shock people would be here, too!
In the morning Maggie called the Crab Cooker that was nearby and worked out their schedule for the big fish feed tonight. They had a banquet room that seated about 40 and Maggie figured that would work. She then called a few of their racer friends and invited a dozen more to add to “party” and it was set for 6 pm. Out in the shop Lefty and Max were looking over their data for So Cal Raceway where they would be running tomorrow night. It was just a regular SCRC event but some of the Mid-west boys were still in town and NCRC was dark so another good car count was expected.
The crew showed up with a bunch of Jimmy John Sandwiches that they all liked, so first lunch and then it was work time. The Durango Shock people were due about 2 pm from their shop nearby. They sat down with Lefty’s “to do list” and began checking off items. They were all set except for the shocks. The Durango boys were bringing them some new models to try today. They had the car out of the trailer in the shop now with no shocks mounted just waiting.
At 2 pm the Durango Shock Company owner Zac Johns and techie Sam Stone arrived with a big box! They all shook hands and unloaded the box. Zac said thanks for the detailed info on their shocks so far and today they would put a new modified version with an extra adjustment screw on it. Lefty and Max sat down at the table as Zac began telling them the changes and what to expect while Sam installed the new models on the car. All done so the car was loaded and the hauler was ready except for perishables that would be added in the morning.
Max, Bill, Billy Bob, Lefty and Zac all met in his office to talk contracts. Zac said they were thankful for the help they got on their new shocks and had learned a lot about their product thru Lefty’s reports. The new version shock was a culmination of all the data they got from Lefty. Zac said they were pretty close to finalizing, for now, and their shocks and would be ready for sales in about 6 weeks on the May 1st announcement date. They had a contract that would get the product free to Max and put $500 in their hands every month of the agreement for the extra work they would be doing as their prime tester, plus pay $1000 for every win. It was a pretty good deal for a top product, they all agreed. Then Zac and Billy Bob went off to talk about him signing up as a key distributor. Billy Bob said later that they would be the sole distributor for the Durango Shocks from now on and handle everything from the factory that was nearby. That too was a great deal.
While the business meeting was going on, everybody else went into Max’s den and settled in with more shock talk. After another hour or so, it was time to go eat. Now we had 14 so it took two Hummers to get the job done. They arrived at the Crab Cooker where the owner greeted them and put them in the banquet room, where there were already more than a dozen friends relaxed with a beer and waiting. The fish, lobster and King Crab were all getting ready, but first, a nice Cobb Salad with cheddar instead of that Blue cheese crap. Some peel and eat shrimp were provided by the owner because as he said, there was soooo much fish, he was already serving Albacore to customers since they weren’t going to run out and made some money on that, thanks Max!
The racers who were added for the feed were Bunny Branson and Tipper Landon, Harlan Billings and wife Sally, Kenny Grayson with Dotty Billings, Clyde and Janice Dawkins, Indiana’s Fred Kaiser and wife Morganna, Blake Sims and wife Dolly from up North and Bobby Hawkins and wife Laurie. There were a couple more gate crashers that were welcome setting there as the total was 35. And then out came the Albacore, Red Snapper, some 1-pound Lobsters and Big King Crab legs. It was a heavenly feast and went on for several hours. It was really great and the crowd had fun with all the stories bandied about, and it was hard to keep up. The feed was free, except for the booze, but Max suggested leaving a nice tip and that bundle collected was really big. Probably because the two servers were young and sexy girls with great smiles as they enjoyed playing to the crowd in their tight white shorts. After everybody left, Max caught up with the owner and thanked him. He said no problem because they only had to cook the food that Max brought, so all was good. Max gave him and the two girls Triple M jackets and some t-shirts. Bill gave the man a check for the booze and other extra’s and a handful of tickets for tomorrow night’s race. They got back to the Ranch and the crew went home and Zac and Sam went to the rooms over the shop for the night.
CHAPTER 20 - So Cal Raceway
By the time everybody had breakfast, it was time to load up the toter and head to the track. Maggie and Lottie added some fresh bread, roast beef, chicken slices, cheese and the rest of the fixin’s including some potato salad and baked beans, and they were loaded and off to the races with a familiar saying “to the track Jack, and don’t look back”! Maggie, Lottie and Suzy joined the rest when the bell clanged out by Lefty and Dean took the big yellow hauler down the driveway and on to Costa Mesa. It was nearly noon when they arrived and the gate was open like usual so they could all get in, park and start getting the car out. The track had a new kiosk out by the pit gate where they all could sign in and get pit passes without a delay, just like at the airport. It took two minutes and they were moving to their usual spot in the pits. Karl Wallace had this system built and they shared it with a few tracks at a good price.
As soon as the back door opened, the car was rolled out as was the Mule and the pit cart. They put up a couple of tables and brought out chairs and soon lunch was laid out and everyone served themselves. The roast beef on Italian bread was pretty good with lettuce and tomato and the baked beans and potato salad was the best. There was plenty for now, but later the guy with the smoker had a bunch of brisket going and that would be dinner. The officials came around to check on everyone and before you knew it Dean drew a pill (# 27) and hot laps was coming. There were 63 cars signed in so 5 heats of 10 and a 13-car last chance race to put 4 in the back of the semi where 22 cars would line up by times and 4 would transfer to the nights main event. It would be the last race for the MWRC boys in California for a while as their season starts in two weeks at Elden Raceway in Ohio.
Max suited up when the call for hot laps went out. They had the new wheel on and would run it thru the heats then put on the old favorite for the feature. The half mile track became pretty packed as the cars came on to iron it out. After a while it looked good enough for hot laps so Max and a dozen others stayed out as the rest pulled off to wait their turn. Max and those left on the track were throwing up some mighty tall rooster tails and the crowd down low got a little peppered. With his time done in the mud, Max pulled back into his pit and climbed out to go clean his suit and helmet off. The crew jumped on the car and scrapped mud until Eric said it was good. Lefty checked the new wheel, the shocks and looked over the front end. Jim looked at the right rear and it looked good to run the dash with, so the car was ready to qualify. Sam gave the shocks a once over and pronounced them good also.
The first car out was Kenny Grayson who turned 16.66 and by the time Max hit the track it was perfect. He ran 16.39 and set a new track record! 2nd quick was Clyde Dawkins with a 16.43, also under the old record. 3rd was Bobby Hawkins at 16.45, 4th Blake Sims at 16.55 and 5th was Harlan Billings at 16.65. There were a bunch of 16.70’s and 80’s, so the track was going to be fast tonight. As Windy Barker was reading out the times after qualifying was done, the crowd was busy walking around and yakking it up. It was a packed house and that is always good to see. Windy had much more to tell the crowd as he said some drivers would be in the midway to sign a few autographs before the night got started like usual, and they were out there now. That included Max and the podium three from the last race, Kenny Grayson and Clyde Dawkins, plus a few others.
Some lucky person tonight was going to get a new Kawasaki K1000 street bike from a drawing during intermission. The Kawasaki folks had a booth and were getting people to sign up for the chance to win that green machine. Also new this week was an old item that the club use to do years ago, but time had passed and so did the volunteers that made it work. All the kids under 10 could pay a dollar to be in a drawing for 2 things. One, a new bike donated by a local bike shop and two, to get in the picture with the winner after the race. The bike would be given away by drawing their name out of a hat and the 24 kids whose names were drawn would be assigned a driver before the race. The winner and his lucky youngster would meet up on the podium after the race ended. The winning driver would also have a t-shirt for them. It used to be very popular with the kids and let’s see how it goes. The dollars collected would go into the SCRC recovery fund.
The Billy Bob Trophy Dash for Cash was up next with Clyde and Max behind Bobby Hawkins and Blake Sims, who would start on the pole. After their introduction, the four drivers climbed in their cars and buckled up. The fast four got pushed off, then lined up perfectly where soon Brian Fleming waved the green flag. Swoosh, they took off and Bobby took the high groove into turn one and had the lead out of turn two. Bobby was fast and so were the three chasing him. Clyde got by Blake on the second lap, but the race as too short to catch the leader, giving Bobby the win and $600 cash. Max got around Sims, but that was all he could do and was happy to pull in to his pit when it was over.
Bobby looked happy when he got the little trophy with a pocket mounted on it for the cash. It was his first ever dash win and he was excited to be a winner, finally. He said “we just got this car back together after our trailer was mangled going home from the last race. The crash tore the trailer off of the truck and the car rolled out of it down a small hill before hitting a big rock where it stopped suddenly and crunching the car a bunch. It was the worst crash for this car and we put it in the “to be fixed” category. Toby Craftsman, a local Mr Fixit guy, had it now in his shop to see if it can be straightened out. We now have a new Stingem’ Chassis that seemed to work pretty well so far. It was also the quickest I have ever run here, so maybe the crash helped me out because the old car was used when we bought it and hadn’t performed like we wanted”. He added “more good things happened this week when we got a new sponsor who brought a brand-new Tracy Engine for us and hooked us up with a new trailer”. Bobby then went off to get ready for his heat race.
The Triple M crew didn’t have much to do on the car besides wipe off a little mud so they were ready for the first heat where Max would tag the rear with his fast time and all. The Durango shock guys were looking the shocks over that they had installed and made a few adjustments before they were smiling. The call was already out for the first heat so Max got fired up and went to the track and pulled next to his little buddy Kenny Grayson. On the start, Max went to the top and passed Brad Gardner and Jerry Powell before the lap was over. The front row was in control as Benny Rocker was on the gas into the lead right away with Mark Larson chasing him. Tipper Landon made a few moves that got him from 5th to 3rd quickly and it was racy out there. Max seemed like he was cruising with Kenny on his tail. They rolled up on Tipper and both got by before the white flag flew. Benny was still in the lead, but Mark was dropping back and pulling off before the checkers flew. Benny won his first ever heat race win with Max breathing down his neck. They were followed to the main by Kenny and Tipper
While the second heat was starting, Max was concerned about his right rear. He got banged in one of the incidents and although the wheel didn’t look bent they didn’t think, but something felt wrong. They dismounted it and rolled it on the ground and it was wobbly. Jim put their favorite one back on and they all waited for the main. Max and Lefty were in the backstretch grandstands watching the track and the racing by now. They saw Dawkins had the lead on lap six and was leading the Indiana champ Kaiser to the checkers. Rod Taylor and Brent Baker would also transfer to the main.
The next heat pushed off and Charlie Zipper took the lead while the action in the back was notable. Starting side by side in the last row, Blake Kelly and Bobby Hawkins were on the move from the green flag. Blake led Bobby on the top and by lap 6 they were running 4th behind Zipper, Jack Van Natta and Sammy Stockdale. Stockdale had a flat on his qualifying and only got one time in and it was 38th. On lap 7, Blake moved into second with Bobby still on his tail. When the white flag flew, Blake was under Charlie for the lead because Charlie hit the cushion hard, unsettling his ride, and was quickly passed by 5 cars. Bobby got 2nd around the last turn passing Van Natta and it was a wrap with Stockdale getting the last transfer.
The fourth heat featured “Hot Rod” Haines jump from his outside row 4 position into 3rd on the first lap and continuing on to take the lead by lap 7 on a great ride. Carl Malone was the last car Lester passed. Lonnie Grant hung on to 3rd and Blake Sims passed Bart Wagner just before the finish line to get the last transfer, wow was that close for the NCRC champ Sims.
The last heat was a runaway for winner and pole sitting Parker Burke, but rows 4 and 5 put on a show when all 4 went at it looking for transfers. It wasn’t easy as each had the lead spot of the four until the end when Brandon Yanko grabbed 2nd way behind the winner Burke with Harlan Billings and Bunny Branson transferring. Bunny was running second when a lap car banged her sideways when she was lapping him and she dropped back quickly, but still recovered to get the last spot. The crowd was into this stuff as they stood up and cheered before heading off to get more beer.
Back in the pits, Max and the crew were looking over the car and it was shined up and ready to go before the last chance race started. The lead car pulled off before the green flew and the 10 laps went by without a pass? Those four transfers were not going to be noticed in the Semi as Jerry Powell won that 12 lapper from the outside front row and was followed by Zac Wilkins, Bart Wagner and Anthony (A J) Jones to the A Main. They would be tagging the field because their times were too slow to move up in the field.
Intermission came and the Kawasaki folks gave away their K1000 street bike to fan Earl Jones of Billings, Montana. Earl was in town to see the races and visit family a little. He had flown in, so it looked like he was riding home on his new green toy, that’s what he said anyway when they presented it to him. Windy interviewed Max because he was the new track record holder. He told Max that lap looked really fast, but did he have it in him to come from 10th in the main to win. Max said “I’m going to give it a shot, Windy, and if I don’t win I’ll pay the winner $500 of my own money”! Wow, where did that come from. Max said “my crew told me not to worry, they had my back and that ol’ Number 1 was ready to go”. He sauntered off and waved at the crowd and they cheered his challenge tonight.
Windy asked Clyde Dawkins what he thought about Max’s comments. Clyde said “I think that $ 500 would look good in my pocket tonight and I’m up for the challenge”. He added “I will do the same challenge and give $500 to the winner”. So, if neither won, some lucky winner would get a $1000 bonus this week. His car was the famous Braxton Brothers # 1 car out of Northern California and they were ready to race. He added “remember next week they would all be at Choctaw Raceway in Tempe, AZ, where I am hard to beat and I’ll be glad to get Max on my turf for a change”. He also said “it will be the last they will see of the boys from back East until later in the year and it should be a good one”. He then invited the fans to come on over to Arizona and watch some good racing!
Windy caught Karl Wallace and asked how that new track was going. Karl said it was nearly done and the new clay was coming in next week. They would have a test and tune day at the new track on June 5th, the day before the California Challenge first two events are happening at So Cal Raceway on June 6/7. It will be free to fans and racers alike, so could be a great thing to take in that night! There are reserved seats going on sale that day for fans who want to pick a spot out. He also said he will add another $1250 to the winner’s pocket tonight. Max’s Sponsor Bill Adams stepped up and said he was putting another $1250 up to the winner, even if it’s Max or Clyde! It was starting to get very interesting as the winner gets $5000 for tonight’s race before the extra $ 2500 of added money, $3500 if someone other than Max or Clyde win.
Max and Lefty were laughing as they planned their strategy. Lefty said the track was still really tacky so the new adjustment was for just that, a heavy track and not close to slick. They thought the new Hoosier compound and the new shocks were made for this race! Everyone had been snacking on the barbeque Maggie got from the Smoker Man and so far everyone but Max and Lefty had some. Maggie gave Max a small half a sandwich and a bottle of water so he could get ready to rock and roll. Lefty got the other half with his water.
When Windy shut up entertaining the crowd and pumping them up on tonight’s challenge, it was time to introduce the drivers. All the cars were in place on the front stretch and each driver approached their cars as Windy barked out their names and a few stats about where they were from and noted what club the represented. Starting from the back in position # 24 from Reno, NV - Anthony “AJ” Jones of NCRC, in position # 23 from San Luis Obispo, CA - Zack Wilkins of NCRC, in position # 22 from Longhorn. PA – “Black” Bart Wagner of MWRC, in position # 21 from Reno, NV – Jerry Powell of NCRC, in position # 20 from Memphis, TN – Sammy Stockdale of MWRC, in position # 19 from Ontario, CA – Tipper Landon of SCRC, in position # 18 from Long Beach, CA – “Double B” Brent Baker of SCRC, in position # 17 from Mesa, AZ - Brandon “B B” Yanko of SCRC, in position # 16 from Haubstadt, IN – “Captain” Mike Midnight of MWRC, in position 15 from San Pedro, CA -Seth Howard of SCRC, in position # 14 from Bakersfield, CA – “Hot Rod” Lester Haines of SCRC, in position # 13 from Petaluma, CA – “Jumping” Jack Van Natta of NCRC, in position # 12 from Campbell, CA – “Rowdy” Rod Taylor of NCRC, in position # 11 from Torrance, CA – “Bad” Brad Gardner of SCRC, in position # 10 from Tustin, CA –“Mad” Max Miller of SCRC, in position # 9 from Phoenix, AZ -Clyde ”The Glide” Dawkins of SCRC, in position # 8 from Prescott, AZ – “Hurricane” Bobby Hawkins of SCRC, in position # 7 from Sparks, NV – Blake Sims the NCRC reigning Champion, in position # 6 from Ventura, CA - “Darlin” Harlan Billings of SCRC, in position # 5 from Irvine, CA – Kenny Grayson of SCRC, in position # 4 from Olitic, IN – Fred Kaiser MWRC Champion, in position # 3 from Bloomington, IN – Blake Kelly of MWRC, in position # 2 from Riverside, CA – “Big” Jon Brown of SCRC and starting on the pole from Costa Mesa, CA – “Bunny” Pam Branson of SCRC. That’s your line-up and let’s get ready to Rumble.
Max was already in the car and buckled up by this time and soon the push trucks would get them all fired up. That mighty ROAR sends chills thru all the fans as it was showtime and Brian Fleming showed them the green before they went on around and came roaring out of turn 4. With the green flag flying, “Bunny” Branson got the jump on Jon Brown and claimed the lead going into turn two. Before a second lap could get going very well, the red flew after Stockdale and Bart Wagner came together with Bart going out on a hook after a wild ride and Stockdale tagging the rear after getting a new tire. It looked like Bart got up on someone’s wheel and crashed into Stockdale as he was in the air with no control and couldn’t avoid the crash.
The restart had Bunny, Brown, Kelly, Kaiser, Kenny, Hawkins, Clyde, Max, Billings and Gardner in that order. Off they went with Blake Kelly getting a jump on Brown and taking over 2nd with Kaiser and Kenny having a battle of their own until Kaiser slowed with a flat and the field slowed down. Kaiser got a new tire and the restart took off with Bunny flying away. By lap 15 the field had shuffled some with Hawkins grabbing second over Kelly and then Dawkins, Max, Harlan, Gardner and Kaiser back up to 10th. “Big” Jon had accidently (?) just veered into Max when he went by on the restart, but no damage as they both kept going with Jon back in 12th before he got his car under control. At lap 25 Bunny was fading with something wrong, but she stuck in 6th as the leader was now Kelly with Clyde and Max right behind him. Hawkins was 4th with Harlan and Gardner looking for more.
There was another yellow on lap 31 when A J Jones hit the wall in turn 4 and waddled to a stop with the right-side tires hanging wrong and his car was a dumpster diver, and too far gone to fix. The wrecker took him off and the restart had 4 laps to go as they took off. Clyde was chasing Kelly and Max was high on the cushion. With 3 to go, Max dove under both taking the lead and Clyde, trying to keep up, got a little sideways when he and Kelly banged wheels. Clyde was good to go, but Kelly gave up 4 spots trying to keep from spinning out. Now Clyde was pressing his friend hard with Bobby Hawkins and his new toy in the mix. Bobby went to the cushion and pulled next to Clyde with the white flag flying and Max was just a few feet ahead of them both. Max knew the best spot on the track now and glued his car to the middle of the track and he flowed around turn four with a car length lead. As they approached the checkers, Bobby was just a wheel ahead of Clyde, and as Max won by 10 feet, Clyde barely slipped by Bobby for a podium finish like no other. It was hard to sit and watch these last few laps and the poor short people had to clamor onto their seats to see the finish. All three cars were in the photo finish by “Big” Steve Larson and the cool down lap was greeted with cheers and excitement.
Bobby was with Windy when everybody stopped and climbed out of their cars. Bobby said “this was the best I’ve ever run and I don’t feel bad a bit”, as he looked at the two Champions beside him and knew he done good! He then said “gotta thank my new sponsor, who will remain anonymous for now, and I am thrilled with my new car and motor that never missed a beat”. Windy told him he was third quick, second in his heat and now 3rd on the podium, what a night for the youngster that just got his college degree last year.
Clyde was smiling as he handed Max $500 and said “it was one of the best races I’ve been involved in for a while”. He then said “thanks to the Braxton Brothers for a great ride” then told his wife Janice to “get ready to party”, it was a great night. Windy said it looks like next week’s rematch between these two would be fun to watch in Arizona.
When Max came over with Clyde’s $500 in his hand, he was greeted by Karl Wallace and Bill Adams who both handed him $1250. With the purse winnings, it was an $8000 night for the SCRC Champion and he said “thanks to my crew and my sponsor Maid-Rite Burgers and other helpers along the way, plus thanks for the bonus and thanks for the fans coming out. I will have t-shirts for the program winners again tonight and some candy for the kids, so come on down”. He was pleased with his win and looked forward to next week at Choctaw Speedway.
When he got back to the car, a big crowd greeted him and Champaign was flowing. Lots of hugs and selfies and t-shirt sales and handshakes from some of the racers who came by to say congrats, it was pretty busy. Even the track officials and Karl Wallace dropped by before leaving. Karl said he wanted to talk to Max about using their car as a logo for the new track! Max smiled and said “we’ll talk later”. Then the crew started loading up everything and soon they were on their way back to the Ranch. As usual, they parked the rig in the big shop and took out some of the perishables, but quickly headed in to the den to relax and have a drink together.
Max addressed his crowd in the den by saying “I’ve won a lot of races over the years, but this one was one of the best. The car worked perfect and the track was great, the competition was tough and I won, dammit”. He then shook everybody’s hand. Everybody had a beer and they toasted to the win and many more. He shared the bonus they got tonight by handing $650 to each crew member, including Lefty, and said thanks once again. That was a topper as the crew was pretty excited. In addition to all of that, Zac handed him another $1000 as per their new contract they just started and Bob equaled that $ 1000 with a smile. Max divided that up and handed another $400 to the crew and smiled again. Bill noted that and then handed Max $1050 to make it even he said, because Max gave all the bonus money to the crew and Bill just matched their $1050 for Max. what a sponsor! Everyone that was leaving did, and the remaining 8 remembered where there were sleeping and hit it about 2 AM.
Max wanted a shower so he jumped in and soaped up, but before he finished rinsing off, Maggie climbed in and began washing him with interest even without soap. He got in his own washing of her and before long, they lost interest in the water and jumped out to towel off and hit the big king size bed. She was going to put on a nightgown, but Max said “don’t bother”! They finally fell asleep a while later and were dead to the world, happy as can be!
CHAPTER 21 - Bubba Gump feed on Sunday
In the morning Maggie fixed breakfast with Lottie’s help and after everyone finished eating, Max and Lefty took Bill and Suzy to the airport for their 3 pm flights. The girls were going to meet them at Bubba Gumps in Long Beach for dinner at 4:30. Max drove by Bill’s Speed Emporium to drop off the wheel to have checked out. Jim thought there was some kind of air pocket that collapsed in the wheel, but they wanted to know what happened regardless. Billy Bob was there doing business as usual and took the wheel and would get back to them.
The tired pair arrived at the restaurant on time and met the girls who were early and already had a cocktail setting in front of them. Of course, there were two Shock Top draft beers there too. They were pretty hungry as they started with some peel and eat shrimp then some Scampi, the Shrimper’s Heaven with 4 kinds of shrimp, and Shrimp Mac N Cheese to share. Dessert was a chocolate Chip Cookie Sundae and they were done. It was a quiet way to end another weekend.
They would all be busy next week as each had some things they did alone. Lefty built model cars, from scratch, and had quite a collection of his models he built over the years, each was a one only version. The only models he didn’t build himself were die cast cars he collected and he had a ton of them in his den.
Max was a long-time watch builder and repair guy. His little business was done basically when he felt like it, then he would do it. He was so good at watch repairs, several local jewelry shops had him on retainer for work that could have gone to the factory, but he was cheaper and just as good, so it worked out for their customers. His little room back near their garage was chocked full of watches, parts and the tools to work on them. The racers knew he did this and occasionally someone would ask him to repair their favorite watch. There was good money in this business and it was called “Just Watch Max”! He had enough work to last at least 3 days and that was his plan for the next 4 days before taking off to Phoenix and the next race.
Maggie had her cleaners to keep her busy and Lottie, well Lottie made racing jewelry. Rings, ear rings, necklaces, bracelets, pins you name it, she was a master. She made all the team hat pins some with a car, some just a logo, but they were all striking and her products were sold at several tracks and were available on line. No wonder they both had nice homes, Ha Ha! They discussed their business world for a while and finally finished up and took a walk on the pier with an ice cream cone they got from one of the outside vendors along the way. When they were properly unwound, they each got in their cars and headed back to the Ranch for some much-desired R & R.
Monday morning, after a bowl of oatmeal for breakfast, Max went into his watch room and began having fun with his repair work. This all started when he was in high school where he hung around a kid whose dad did that for a living. The two of them were hanging out one day and went to visit dad at his shop and Max immediately started asking questions and soon was encouraged to sit down and try to fix a cheap old watch. He had it apart and back together in a short time and the old man said he could come work for him on weekends. He was doing so well helping the man that when the dad died, his work propelled him into doing it for a couple of jewelry shops and it just grew.
He had a dozen or so repairs to make and some needed parts, so he fixed what he could, ordered parts online to be there the next day and kept busy until Thursday. He got up Thursday morning and loaded his work up and made three deliveries. At each stop, there was more work added to his Hummer, where he had a small safe mounted in the back to keep things from getting lost. At home he had a big safe hidden below the floor under a table that rose up by using an electric switch, that everything important was in, including a few guns, several important documents, some cash, Maggie’s good jewelry and the watches to be repaired. It had been a busy week and when he got back to the Ranch at noon, lunch was ready and the crew had already loaded the hauler and checked everything. After lunch everyone took off for home as they were to meet at the Texas roadhouse for dinner on a night out before taking off to Arizona in the morning.
Max and Lefty were planning on a trip to pick up their refreshed motor at Tracy ‘s engines and stop at Bill’s Speed Emporium to see about the wheel results. Maggie and Lottie came along as they all hit the road in the yellow shop truck. They did Bill’s speed shop first and there were a dozen racers at the speed shop when they arrived. Billy Bob took them and two other teams back into his shop where he had the answer to the wheel puzzle. When the American Mag people cast the new wheels, some kind of bug got in them and when the wheels were done, they had some empty spaces where the bugs has disappeared from the casting, leaving air pockets. It set the balance off enough that they didn’t roll correctly, especially if they hit anything. Max said he didn’t get it, but understood what happened. There were three new wheels for the teams to try again and Lefty loaded one up before they left.
While they were there, they found out that there was going to be a big barbeque feed at the track on Friday night hosted by Choctaw Speedway. It was their opening night on Saturday and they wanted to feed everyone who came a day early and it was a last-minute thing, so they didn’t have time to send out a notice, but had it posted at several race shops. Plans for steaks, beans, corn on the cob and all the fixing’s plus a band to play while they ate and could even dance a little if they wanted. They agreed to drop in when they got settled.
Next stop was Tracy’s Engines and they arrived and went inside. Rob smiled and told them their motors were ready. One was a refresh and the other a repair after a rod busted on a warm up. They had them loaded up and were on the way to the Texas Roadhouse where the crew and their significant others were with them. Most of the buildings in this chain restaurant looked the same with the rustic outside and peanuts on the floor when you enter with a couple of barrels with more peanuts packed to the top to eat as you wait, if that happened. They had a small pail with more peanuts at all the tables, so it was part of the deal when you set down. They had reservations in a small banquet room at the back and were hustled right by the display case where the steaks were laid out to view. You didn’t get to pick one, at least Max said he never was asked, but the red meat looked good.
Besides the ten of them, there were two more waiting for them as they came in the room. Billy Bob and his wife Brandi were there to host them as they did several times a year. It wasn’t a dirty dozen, but the 12 of them ordered up a few cocktails and some beef. The fresh baked rolls are some of the best you’ll find and had a cinnamon butter spread that made them hot and tasty. If you didn’t watch it, you would eat too many rolls and dinner would be hard to finish. That was hard not to do as they kept bringing them out until the steaks arrived. A Cactus Blossom onion thing was brought out and it was tasty. It was always pleasant relaxing and eating a big steak with a beer to chase it, and with friends. The girls had the Dallas Filet, Max had the New York, Lefty the big Porterhouse and the rest liked the Ribeye tonight. They talked of racing and Max asked “Billy Bob do you ever get a chance to go to races on the road anymore”? Billy Bob replied “when I raced, I went everywhere, but now with the business, the doors were always open on race days when the local tracks raced and I just couldn’t make the trips anymore”. His parts truck went to all the SCRC races with his son Billy Jr in charge, so it was busy. He added “I plan on going to the last California Challenge races at So Cal Raceway for the year-end closer for sure”.
Dean wanted to know what time they would leave in the morning, so the talk about the trip and their plans started. They always stayed at Clyde Dawkins place in Tempe when they went to Arizona as he had a nice shop on his property and a rambling 8-bedroom house where they all could stay if they wanted. They would this trip as Clyde had a nice pool they could jump in after the races in what could be some hot nights in the desert. Clyde only stayed at the Ranch occasionally, because he usually flew in and was on the red eye home after most races, especially if his wife Janice didn’t come. They spent 3 hours in the restaurant before it was time to head back home.
CHAPTER 22 - On the road to Choctaw Raceway
Friday came a little early, but the crew was already there and fed before Max could get to the shop. He and Maggie had some bacon and eggs before packing a suitcase and getting dressed for the trip. When they pulled their luggage out to the shop, the rig was loaded and the dang bell was rung at 9 am. Soon Lefty and Lottie walked in and they all jumped in the hauler and Dean hit the road, going onto the 91 freeway and headed out to Riverside where they caught Highway 10 and aimed at Phoenix. The TV was on and they watched a couple of the recent SCRC races and checked out their car in action. Lefty had them stop the action and then back up to see Max coming around turn 4 at So Cal Raceway. He said “look at the way the car tracks now, it’s different than the past”! Max and Jim nodded and agreed that something was keeping the car hooked up lower without the left front hiking up like it always did, but it was obvious that traction was hooked up on the car!” The Shocks are the difference”, they all said together, and it was true, they had made a difference. Next month everyone would have that secret when the shocks hit the speed shops for sale. Of course, it might take them longer to dial it in than it did Lefty, but time marches on. They will just have to find another secret to keep their edge up.
They continued on down the road until it was time to eat and they found a Subway along the way and grabbed some sandwiches to eat on the way into town. They got thru the traffic on highway 10 until they hit highway 60 to Tempe and headed to the Choctaw Raceway about 15 miles further down the road. It was already nearly 5 pm when they pulled in the gate. Dinner was at 6, so many haulers were already parked. They would leave the trailer overnight and take the toter to Clyde’s after dinner to spend the night. They parked the hauler in their usual spot and unhooked the toter, then settled in to relax a little while and finish the movie they started before exiting and going to get some food.
There was a good crowd of racers lining up to get the big steaks. All the fixings were on one group of tables and the steaks were on three different cookers going like mad. You grabbed the corn, bread, beans and salad and went to a table to put it down while you walked over to pick out your steak. They were all big porterhouse monsters and cooked medium, well done and a few rare. Max and his group got their own steak picked out and grabbed a Dr Pepper on the way back to the table. This was a lot like the Wichita Speedway feeds the Halls had back in the CRA days. Back then for $5 after the races, you got a big steak, baked potato, some salad and bread with usually beer or pop. Imagine $ 5 for all that, and it was fresh butchered meat! Those were the days!
A lot of talk and activity went on as Ricky Jackson the track promotor presided by walking around greeting people and shaking their hands. He was glad to see so many here early and told everyone that their special homemade strawberry ice cream was for dessert. He asked if anyone had questions and right away Kenny Grayson stood up and asked “where do you get your fuel for the racers since I know the former supplier went out of business last year”. Ricky responded that a new parts truck and fuel guy was here eating so he called him up. Gary Molton stood up and said “hello, I recently moved from Texas and have supplied parts and fuel for the Devils bowl for many years”. He was experienced and the prices were right. He got the fuel from the same supplier the last guy did, so there was no difference. Tonight only, 55-gallon drums were half price and if you wanted more than he had, he would ship it to you from the LA area where it comes from for the next week.
The next question was about how many local cars would be running with us tomorrow. Ricky said the local 410 club was in town and would have 18 to 20 cars tomorrow. They were running in Tucson tonight in an open show, but would be here early tomorrow. Most of them would be joining SCRC as their club disbanded at the end of last year and they had a meeting last week and decided to start traveling more so SCRC was the answer. Those who don’t join might go back to 360’s as that group is still going strong, but they haven’t made a decision yet. It might just depend on tomorrow and the local opener next week to see how that goes and what the purses will be for local shows.
Ricky then explained “we installed new hand rails in the main grandstands and the pit grandstands as some of the challenged patrons were aging and needed a little help”. Max stood up and said “I am glad to see the track dimensions change to a big half mile as they had the room and he liked having another big track since most of the SCRC tracks were 3/8 mile and it’s nice to see speed still a part of the Phoenix lore”. Ricky said “I know it is a better track now and the new mud is looking fast and tacky, even here in the hot desert! If there are no more questions, finish eating and you can leave the haulers here as we will have security all night to watch over them. Thanks for coming, let’s have a great show tomorrow”!
Max and the crew finished eating and visited for a long time until they grabbed up Clyde and headed over to his house which was only 10 miles or so. His wife Janice was waiting for them as she left the feed a little early to come home and fix a little bedtime snack of meatballs, cheeseballs, some crackers and punch to drink. She welcomed them inside and offered up her little treat. She showed them the rooms they would stay in and everybody got their bags inside and unloaded. Back in the den, Clyde and Janice offered drinks, but water was the preferred choice for all because tomorrow was a race day. As they snacked a little, Clyde told a few stories before Max asked” did you ever run a fuel hydro boat at the water track next to the dragstrip down the road”? Clyde said “I had a weak moment once and jumped in a friend’s blown Chrysler racer, the kind with the enclosed cockpit that broke away on a crash, for a shot at it. Even after all the training and need to know stuff was done, it was too weird, but I did make a pass”. Max said “So”? Clyde responded “perhaps the most unsafe he had ever felt in any kind of racer because when he hit the gas, the boat pulled the front up a little and he hardly went 100 yards without seeing the water and he knew it was time to abort and shut her down. I never had the urge to do it again”. He mentioned he made a pass in an AA fuel dragster once, and it felt nice compared to the boat.
Lefty said he tried a big blown Chevy dragster once, but knew Max would kill him if he found out when they were young and just getting started out on the sprint car trail. Max smiled, because he did find out, but never mentioned it. They talked about the new Wallace Oil Raceway a little and Clyde wondered what the layout would be for the new 3/8 mile one of a kind racetrack. Max said “I saw the plans and we went there last week and the track was graded and ready for the new clay. It looks like a small Eldora for those who ever saw that high-speed place, and the banking is pretty steep”. He added the grandstands were all done and the roof is done, so they are getting close. I am anxious for the test day they will be having pretty soon. It looks to be the fastest 3/8 track in history if all works the way it should”. Clyde was wondering what the cover will be like and if it would stay open during good weather. Lefty said “the only time it will close, besides when it’s raining, is if it’s really cold and windy, then that will make it fan friendly”. All in good time they agreed and it was time for some rest. Max and Maggie practically fell into bed at 9 pm as they were worn out from all the business the last couple of days.
CHAPTER 23 - Racing in Arizona
Max and Maggie were the last to get up in the morning when the smell of bacon woke them up. A quick shower and they went in to eat bacon and eggs and some toast. They would leave for the track about noon and had some sandwich stuff in the toter, so didn’t stop on the way. The track had a big smoker in the pits, so dinner was going to be some kind of smoked meat. Clyde and Janice jumped in with the rest of the crew and they went back to the raceway where his rig was waiting for them. The car owners, the Braxton Brothers would stay at their place after the races and go home in the morning, just like Max and his gang.
They pulled into the pits in front of the trailer and hooked up so they would be ready to leave later. It was really early so the crew had the car out and were giving it a once over. Lefty’s laptop gave them some tips and they made a few adjustments. Sam Stone had flown over and rented a car and brought more new shocks for them. He installed them and said this was probably going to be the final model that will go on sale May 1st. The shocks were now painted a cool light purple, so were obviously different than other models most cars had. No biggie as no one yet had noticed or asked about his shocks so far, but he expected someone would soon enough. He was to tell anyone who asked nothing except it was just something he was trying, and leave it at that. He would be with the Durango Shock people when they make an announcement.
Max and Lefty took off to check out the track but it didn’t look too different, and they noticed there was plenty of water down and that would bode well for a racy track later. The stopped at the SCRC trailer and pulled their qualifying pill, # 33, and talked with Jerry Jones for a bit. Max asked about the meeting with “Big” Jon and Jerry said he would cover that at the pit meeting. They picked up a list of who’s running tonight and took it with them back to the trailer. Time for the lunch sandwiches with ham and roast beef the choices with a potato salad and some chips. Everyone enjoyed the break and then they looked at the new shocks and learned from Sam Stone what was new. He explained the adjustment change and said they were in a little stronger casing as there was some slight bending going on with the early models.
At the pit meeting Ricky Jackson welcomed everybody and told them the work area was in turn four of the little ¼ mile track from now on. The track was new this year after the big track was enlarged and it just made sense to put the work area there. There would be a cone in turn four for restarts and everyone should already know the drill. Any questions, and sure enough a few had some of the usual banter. After that Jerry Jones stepped to the front. He apologized to “Big” Jon Brown but after the meeting the other night, the officials didn’t finish their decision about his recent behavior. Today, all the officials spent an hour going over the grievances on him and suspended him for 6 races and fined him $2000. His demonstrations against Max Miller and over aggressiveness on the track towards him and Kenny Grayson, plus the harassment protest and the following screaming fit will not be tolerated! Unfortunately, “Big” Jon towed over and had already got ready to qualify today, but the suspension is immediate starting now and he will be loading up and going home, as he can’t be in the pits until his time is up. Jerry went with Brown to watch him load his rig and go on home. The crowd went back to their cars ready to get to work.
The # 1 car was ready to rock n roll and the call for wheel packing was heard. Max suited up and climbed in the car and Dean pushed him to the push off area and he was ready to go. Things didn’t feel right as he plodded around the muddy surface and after the track was coming in, he pulled off and went to his pit. There Lefty gave him a look and he just shook his head. When he gassed it just a little, the rear-end seemed to chatter. They were already starting qualifying and after a closer look, the rear housing was cracked, egad. The crew went into work mode as the car was jacked up and the whole rear-end was pulled out. A new one came from the Mini Ranch and it was installed, but the gear was wrong. They didn’t trust the gear in the broken rear-end so put in the closest size to it and buttoned it up, by the time they got back to qualify, they had missed their spot and would get one lap at the end. Dean went over to the parts trailer and bought the size they wanted to run and took it back to the pit.
It took a while waiting for the rest of the field to qualify, but after Bobby Hawkins set fast time at 17.25 and Clyde ran 17.28, then Kenny Grayson got a 17.29 and Harlan Billings locked up the dash four with a 17.33. Max knew he was under some pressure as he pushed off. The track was not as fast as it was earlier, so he hoped for the best. He got a warm up lap and it didn’t feel good, but as he rolled into turn one for his only shot, the car picked up considerably and he ran 7th quick at 17. 39, but didn’t know that until he got back to his pit. Lefty was smiling because he knew they had picked the wrong rear-end gear, yet it would be fine. Max was happy when he heard the number and went off to relax. The new gear was installed and the right rear wheel changed to their tried and true wheel they like and the new Hoosier tire that was working well. They used the new American Mag wheel in qualifying, but Max wanted a change for the heats.
It was a long delay before the dash, because of some light malfunction on the back stretch, so Maggie and Lottie went off to get some delicious brisket for the crew. They had plenty of time to relax and enjoy the food before the dash was called up. “Kowboy” Kenny Grayson won that 3-lap deal with Clyde leaning on him at the end. Max was in the third heat so he still had time, but the car was ready to go.
The first heat rolled out and lined up with Tommy Tucker and Sam Browning on the front row. Fast timer Bobby Hawkins was on the back row with Brad Gardner and they took off flying. Benny Rocker looked like he was shot out of a cannon when he snookered the front row and had the lead after a lap was down, behind him Jack Van Natta was pressing hard and took 2nd with 3 laps to go. The back row had worked up behind the new leader and it was getting furious for the 4 transfer spots. Benny made a mistake on his dive into turn one with the white flag coming out, and “Jumping” Jack stormed by him into the lead with Bobby and Brad coming along with him. Benny hung on for the last transfer and the checkers flew.
Karl Thomson and Sky Marks were on the front of the second heat and Karl took an early lead as everyone’s eyes were on the local bad boy Clyde “the Glide” Dawkins roaring thru the pack. Clyde was smooth and fast as he took the lead on the last corner of the last lap and beat Blake Sims, who had led from the 3rd lap, by 3 car lengths. Brent Baker was 3rd and Karl hung on for the last transfer.
Max was thinking about his buddy Kenny when his heat pushed off and how tough he was getting. They started in the back row together, so it was on when the green flag dropped. Before a lap was done Sammy Stockdale had grabbed the lead from his 3rd starting position and looked like he was a shoo-in for the win when he pulled away from the pack, but Tipper Landon had followed closely behind him and was running a strong second. Max used his veteran moves to get by Kenny and charge by “Bunny” Branson for third with two laps to go. Kenny made a great move on the bottom to get side by side with Bunny for the rest of the race, and only inched ahead at the checkers for the last transfer. Sammy had a little luck this week after all his various problems on this trip and won this one with Tipper close on his tail followed by Max and Kenny. The track was holding up fine and was racy as the new clay was worked in good.
The last heat was a literal barn burner as Dick Gandy took an early lead for two laps before his motor blew and was on fire when he stopped and jumped out with the track boys putting it out. Poor Dick as he was looking good until the explosion. Parke Burke assumed the lead on the restart, but from the third row Fred Kaiser had his Indiana racing shoes on and was coming fast. He and Rod Taylor were putting on a show and they passed each other several times, including twice on the last lap, before Fred claimed this one. The MWRC Champ was hauling the mail and looked ready to challenge in the main. Rod was second, barely, with Blake Kelly and Harlan Billings getting the last transfer.
The crowd had been standing for the finish of the last lap of the heats and now were off to the concession area where the beer was flowing. The girls had ducked out of the grandstands and headed back to the pits to be with the team before the feature. They laid out some more food and the crew just picked at it. Maggie gave Max a small sandwich and a bottle of water and sat with him while he prepared his mind for the battle ahead. Lefty and the crew went over the car and fueled it up and put a new right rear on. Lefty and Max talked about their secret adjustment and Max said he thought everything was good the way it was, so they left it alone and both smiled. Maggie got Max’s helmet cleaned up and shining and added new tear-offs before brushing the mud off of his driver suit. They had a few moments before he wanted to go watch the semi and he and Maggie headed to the pit grandstand with Lefty and Jim.
The last chance Consi was lackless and unracy as the front four Stan Martin, Charlie Zipper, Wilber Wilkes and Seth Howard finished in their starting order, surprise! They would tag the Semi Main. Sixteen cars lined up in that one and Brandon Yanko won with Bunny Branson, Lester Haines and Mike Midnight getting their spots behind row 5 and the rest followed in their finishing order.
Windy was at it again as he introduced the cars from the rear forward. Starting last was Sky Marks from Perris, CA, Sam Browning from Whittier, CA, Harper Bowers from Santa Maria , CA, Randle Handle form El Centro, CA, Anthony Jones from Reno, NV, Lonnie Grant from Grass Valley, CA, Sammy Stockdale from Memphis, TN, Benny Rocker from Ventura, CA, Karl Thomson from Fresno, CA, Mike Midnight from Haubstadt, IN. Brent Baker from Long Beach, CA, Lester Haines from Bakersfield, CA, Bunny Branson from Costa Mesa, CA, Brandon Yanko from Mesa, AZ, Bobby Hawkins from Prescott, AZ, Clyde Dawkins from Tempe, AZ, Kenny Grayson from Irvine, CA, Harlan Billings from Ventura, CA, Brad Gardner from Torrance, CA, Blake Sims from Sparks, NV, Max Miller from Tustin, CA, Rod Taylor from Campbell, CA, Jack Van Natta from Petaluma, CA and starting on the pole Fred Kaiser from Olitic, IN. Alright Gentleman and Lady: Start your engines!
With all the cars fired and lining up into the 4-wide formation, the crowd stood and cheered their favorites on! They lined up back in two’s and the green flag dropped and off they roared. Kaiser and Van Natta raced for turn one supremacy and Van Natta had the high groove that was cooking and he roared out of turn two with the lead. Rod Taylor and Max bumped together slightly, but both got out of shape and the freight train came by and forced them back to 8th and 9th place with Max leading Rod. Kaiser made a move on Van Natta successfully and pulled out to a 3-car lead by the 8th lap. Behind him was Van Natta, Sims, Gardner, Billings, Kenny, Clyde and Max with Rod going back a few more spots as he had a problem and stopped on the track.
On the restart Sims rushed up and around the leader, putting Kaiser back to 2nd and Kenny, Clyde and Max moved in behind him. Gardner wasn’t giving up, but Billings shut off his nasty attempt of a slide job and both of them slammed the wall, but continued on losing a few spots. Meanwhile Bunny was up to her tricks as she was closing in on 6th place with 25 laps down. On lap 30, Brent Baker’s steering gear dropped off his car going down the back stretch and he was out of control with no way to fix it. He hung on as the car hit the wall causing him to fly up in the air and hook a wheel on the top of the fence, where he dangled like a fly in a spider web thrashing around until the red came out and everything stopped. It took a little time to get him out of the car, get the car down off the fence and clean up the mess. He was fine and the car looked repairable, but not tonight.
The next restart had Sims, Kaiser, Max, Dawkins, Bunny, Kenny, Bobby Hawkins, and Billings in that order. Off they went with 5 laps to go. Sims and Kaiser were hard at each other keeping them busy and Max saw an opening. When the two leaders went into turn four, they were both up high almost hooked to each other, leaving Max room on the bottom. Max jumped off the cushion and dove low to plant his # 1 on the very inside of the small infield berm and his car stuck like glue as he came out of turn four and went under the white flag with a narrow lead. He went back up top and rolled around turn two to blast down the back stretch with now a two-car lead on Kaiser, no, Sims, no it was local driver Clyde who had followed Max and cleared the two Champions in time to grab second. While no body was paying attention, Bunny had used the two champs battling each other to slip by them for a podium finish for herself, by a nose!
Awesome screamed Windy when he arrived in Bunny’s face with his mike. “Wow” he said to Bunny who was so excited she was ripping open her hot pink driving suit and everyone stopped to watch and listen to her response. “I can’t believe my guys gave me a car that came from the 12th starting position to get on the podium! I am so thrilled I can’t wait to go party! Thanks to the crew, the sponsors, for Gary Woodhouse to give me this awesome car and thanks to all my fans, come see me in the pits”!
Clyde said “I am obviously disappointed in not beating Max, again, but you know the Braxton Brothers have given me a great car this year and I won’t give up trying to beat the younger than me driver who I love being friends with. We aren’t friends on the track, but we race well together”. He went on to thanks sponsors and fans and said “We’ll get him next week at So Cal raceway, so look for it”.
Max had a real big grin on his face when Windy asked him how he feels about winning 4 in a row. “Well I guess I’ll have to ponder on that, but I couldn’t do it without my wife Maggie, my Crew Chief Lefty, my crew, my sponsor Bill Adams of Maid-Rite Burgers, Stingem’ Chassis, and everyone who helps us, and that’s a long list! This is the best car I have ever had and I’m looking to keep it going”! Windy remarked that his car was really hooked up out there and made passing look easy, but knew it never is. He said “congrats to the point leader” and he went quiet.
The photographers were in a snapping zone so long, partly because the trophy girl was a knockout blond from Budweiser and was hanging all over Max in her skimpy red bikini as they shot away. As he climbed down off the podium, the blonde wanted to follow but saw Maggie grab her man and she knew she’d have to find another racer to get excited over. The car was checked out as they walked back in their pit and the crowd was really packed around his pit. Clyde wormed his way next to Max to shake his hand and said “we need to talk about a race at Terre Haute in 2 weeks back at the house”? Max nodded and went back to celebrating with his fans. This went on for over an hour and final the main lights went out and that was a hint to clear the pits. The crowd walked off and the boys loaded up the trailer. Clyde and Janice would go with the Braxton Brothers back to the house.
They pulled out of the pits and headed to Clyde’s and were there in 15 minutes. They went inside and settled in his den. Clyde said “Sam Braxton wants to talk about the Terre Haute race”. Everybody had heard the rumors on the newly announced race, and Sam explained it. “If you don’t know about this race, listen up. The race pays $100,000 to win, $50,000, $35,000, $25,000, $15,000 and 5,000 to start. Friday’s race is 35 laps paying $5000 to win and Saturday 50 laps. They are taking only 62 cars with the two-night show and only 40 make it to Saturday night. They hand picked all the cars they wanted and have extended two spots to me with one of them yours Max, their choice. It’s two weeks from tonight and the money is coming from the Indiana Dairy Association”. Silence greeted that little speech and then everyone wanted to talk at once.
Sam then said ”If you are in, I plan to take my back-up car and have room for yours and your equipment, if that’s what you would bring, because I don’t want to take the primary car on the road right now. We can carry everything we both need in my new hauler that I just bought that will be converted to my number one rig when we get back from the trip. Are you in because you know we have a night off and it doesn’t get in the way of our regular schedule”?
Max and Lefty looked at each other and said “Hell Yes! “Sam can pick up our stuff after the next race at So Cal and we’ll be good to go. The truck will leave from their shop in San Jose on Monday and both crews will fly in on Thursday and stay in Terre Haute. It sounds like a plan as everybody was excited”! A new race!! It was getting late, but a dip in the pool was on the agenda. Most everybody jumped in and some spirited water fights began. There were no winners and everybody got beat up a little and it was time for a shower and some sleep.
Sunday morning was like a walk in the park. After saying goodbye to all, the Triple M Hauler hit highway 60 and stopped at a Waffle House just before getting on the 10 to go home. It was one of those places you had to be in the mood for, and everybody got on board for this feed and they stopped. The waffles and syrup with some bacon and eggs filled their tummy’s and then back on the road for the 5-hour tow back to the Ranch. They talked about the $100,000 race and Lefty got his lap top out to check his stats on the Terre Haute track. They had raced there many times before so it shouldn’t have any surprises for them.
It was nearly 3:30 when they pulled into the Ranch and parked inside the shop. Everybody unloaded everything that needed to be out and the truck and hauler got a good cleaning, inside and out while the winning car got some maintenance. After that was all done, it was nearly 9 pm and the chickens Lefty put on his Traeger cooker were fully smoked and ready to eat up. Maggie and Lottie had run out to get some veggies, potato salad and some baked beans to go with it. She found a couple of Bundt cakes and some ice cream to go with that. Afterwards, the crew headed home and the neighbors headed for their hot tub to wind down. It was pretty late when they went off to dreamland, looking forward to the next day.
Until next time when we see that the Triple M boys are going to Terre Haute for the $100,000 to win Dairy Association Event.