|"Alright, alright. Stop whining. Now, what is it you want me to do?"
"Just hit the 'start' button when I jump off this cooler. And then push 'stop' as soon as I drop the jack and the wheel touches the ground."
"I really don't have time for this, Jim..."
"...Almost ready. Hand me that box of drill bits, would ya please?"
"What's with the toolbelt? Aren't you just changin' a tire here?"
Okay, it's not like I was lookin' to enter this weekend's annual Pit Crew Competition at Rockingham. I was just wantin' to know my time: How many seconds it took me. Besides, I wasn't changin' all four....I was only swappin' out the spare after gettin' a flat fixed. At Rockingham, they had seven gazelles out there to change four tires and fill it full of fuel. I was doin' this alone. They had air wrenches, while I hadda lug wrench. And when they put the new tires on, they had glue holdin' their nuts to the wheel.
...Actually, through a freak accident, so did I. But that's another story.
Anyway, I leapt from the top of the cooler with something less than 'gazellian' grace. The Igloo was pretty much empty, and flew out from underneath my legs at launch. I hovered a bit, then belly-flopped into a Wile E. Coyotic cloud of dust.
"......Clocks ticking, Jimbo."
The NASCAR crews can do this stuff blindfolded. Every footstep, every lug-stab, every hose whip is choreographed. Watch closely and sometimes you can catch 'em doin' that zen thing where they close their eyes and practice....zzz-zzz-zzz-zzz-zzz. The wheel-changer doesn't look that goofy doin' it. But, the jackman-...
I stumbled to the Jeep in no less than 26 unchoreographed steps. Didn't have to do the hose whip but I did readjust the toolbelt.... Then, CRUNCHHHH! - "Mommy!" (........shoulda worn the kneepads.)
Unfolded my wrench and stabbed it onto the first lug.
"Let's see. Lefty-Loosey? Yeah. GRRRRRRR! GRRRR - GRRRR - GRRRR - GRRRR."
Loosened 'em all and reached for the jack.
Now, a NASCAR jack and a home jack are two completely different tools. For example, my floor jack was made here on earth. That hydraulic beast that your favorite jackman it swingin' around was developed by some higher being, and can lift the state of Vermont in three, quick heaves of the lever. I had to pump on mine like I was drawin' water for Grandpa Walton's bath. Finally locked her down and spun the lugs off.
At this point, NASCAR has a tire carrier handin' the changer a new tire. He helps line it up with the lugs and holds it while the changer clicks his air wrench to 'right-tighty' and zaps the wheel back on. I didn't have that luxury and had to line it up on my own. It was like threadin' a needle. A 52lb needle. I spun the first few lug nuts down fingertight, then stabbed the wrench at 'em and started twirlin' it like my baton....my pretty silver one with the neon knobs and pink streamers. (Again; another story.)
In NASCAR's contest, teams are penalized for spilled fuel or loose lug nuts. In MY contest,....eh, "that's seems pretty tight to me." I drug the old tire out of the way and made room to let her back down. Twisted at the jack and my Jeep came crashin' home, body bouncin' like a Joie Chitwood Chevette....As for me & my body, I opted for the traditional Coyote 'poof' over by the cooler.
"......19 minutes, 42 seconds. Are we through here, Jim?"
Pam - Kenseth's crew took the $30,000 prize this year, and got another thou for settin' a new world record: 17.695 seconds. That's pretty fast.....Today, he'll finish 17.695 behind the winner. That's pretty eerie. He'll finish 18th. That's pretty normal.
Carl & Stacy - Jeff Gordon's pit crew finished second with a time of 18.323 seconds. Coincidentally, that's his magic number. He just needs to race 18.323 seconds in each of the next 4 races to win the championship. A 3rd today.
Reagan - Bobby's Labontians came in sixth with a 20 plus second stop. Oddly enough, that'll also be the time of his last pit stop today. The one where he drops from 2nd down to 5th.
Andrea, Lori, & Tony. - Rusty's crew finished 9th after eatin' 3 seconds in penalties for a 21 and a half second stop. The team comes back with a 1st today, finishing the race 21 and a half seconds ahead of the last car on the lead lap.
That car will, of course, be Michael. Waltrip's team isn't in the top-25, so they didn't get to pit wits yesterday. Today, he'll have fits wit his tires, but his crew keeps him in the top twenty all day. The nits wit a 19th.
Dave - Sterling's crew took a 3 sec. penalty and clocked 21.8 to round out the top ten. As he dropped off the jacks and rolled away, the officials thought they saw a loose nut.....A loose nu---. (sigh) Coo Coo's kin tuckies an 8th.
Paul Parker and Deshanna (...Attorneys at Law) - The #8 team has been a little loose all week. Junior's loose lips on Leno the other night has thousands of women chasin' after him. His team's loose lugs cost them 3 seconds in the competition and they finished 12th at 22 seconds. The team needs to buck up. And Junior needs to get Jay back on the phone. 22nd today. Hmmm.
Sue - Jerry's team left a coupla shoes untied and was penalized 6 seconds. 18th place at 25.3 seconds. Nadeau starts second row and kicks his aglets around the top 15 most of the day, but drops to 25th.
Kathy - Jarrett's team also left a couple lug nuts loose, and finished 19th at 25 and a half seconds.......Oh yeah. Like I'm gonna pick DJ to finish 19th or 25th or 26th. The man once finished runner up in 6 outta of 7 straight races here. He'll do okay.....I'll second that.
Doc & Jeff - The Home Depot team lost 6 seconds and dropped down to 20th when they left one lug loose and one lug completely off. Luckily, no one spotted the oversized lug behind the steerin' wheel. A 6th today, if he can save his tires.
Kim & Paul - Martin's crew just flat forgot to put Humpty Dumpty together again. The Viagra car was penalized for 6 loose nuts and havin' a little bit of gas.....Who'd ya expect, Bob Dole? If they can keep that jalopy in one piece they should rise to a 10th.
Ted & Granny - Ricky's team forgot to turn the air on to the wrenches before jumpin' the wall, and was disqualified.....Hey guys. Let's try to make sure we get THAT part ironed out before today. 11th.
Roy - Atwood's not in the top 25, so his team didn't get to play the pit stop game. Loose lugnuts aren't really Casey's main problem right now, anyway. The loose ends on his contract are. Ray Evernham may field a different driver next year. (Hmmm, I wonder who?) Starts 3rd. Finishes 23rd.
Mollie - You'd think the Foyt team coulda walked through this competition, with all the practice they've had this year. They must get a good 8-10 pit stops in per race. Sometimes more.....Like today. 34th.
I don't envy these pit crews today. They've got a workout comin'. This place is sandpaper and eats Goodyears. I'm lookin' for each team to come in every oh, 7 laps or 8 laps for new tires....I'm lookin' for some sub-16 second stops. And I'm lookin' for my cordless drill! Where's my cordless drill? WHERE'S MY CORDLESS DRILL?!!!!
"Relax, Jim. Remember? You had duct-taped it to the garden hose earlier today."
Oh yeah....That's another story.
|Rockingham - Pop Secret 400
One-Tired Pit Crew...