SPEEDLUST

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Chapter 33

The nympho maniac trophy girls could hardly contain their excitement. The clingy material of their skimpy race award presentation uniforms was showing every curve, every protrusion, and every indention…are you envisioning this?

The brunette’s tongue was licking across her pouty red lips while her large green eyes said, “I want you bad baby!”

The red head was rubbing up against the chief mechanic’s greasy coveralls at every opportunity.

The crew chief, who had just consumed so much alcohol that a water buffalo would have become incoherent, was still getting over the night before, different race, different nymphos, but what the hell, he was in demand right?

The racecars, always ready, always fast were just awaiting their slick drivers with their devil may care attitudes to guide them to unprecedented speeds even though they are hung over from the big party where they out ran the cops and crashed into the Hilton’s swimming pool.

After his enormous victory, the driver must select from his choice of sex crazed, slightly cleaner, better looking, classier nymphos also.

Almost since people have pushed the limits of an automobile in organized competition, these stories have been associated with those events and they are nonsense. Book and film have perpetuated a myth with very little basis in truth.

The people that build and race automobiles make huge sacrifices in their personal lives and have very little time for anything else.

These people routinely work around the clock for very little money or recognition. Their efforts are rewarded with camaraderie, fellowship is strong among team members and even some competitors and a feeling of belonging to something. They also can see something that they have created, do feats of performance that most people would never even dream possible.

While drivers and crew do occasionally party too much or a trophy girl may have loose morals, it is the exception, not the rule, as most people associated with auto racing are professional, steady, hard working individuals with their eyes on the path to excellence. Of course, you still have those Joe Savage types, running around with his two ex-strippers to raise a few eyebrows now and again!

Jake was busy, the two weeks after their disastrous weekend at Road America. Monday, normally a day off after a race weekend began with the ritual removing of the parts from the two wrecks. Unbolt the part, analyze it for flaws, and then throw it away!

While work began on two new cars, others on the crew were trying to put together one back up car for the upcoming event at Watkins Glen. The two back up cars now became the primary racecars until the two new ones were completed.

Amelia Stoudenmire came by the shop and asked Jake to lunch. While eating over at Stoudenmires, Amelia kept flirting with Jake.

Jake found Amelia very attractive. Amelia was wearing a one-piece pantsuit that was burnt orange and it showed every curve on her body. Finally Jake couldn’t take it anymore and just sounded off on her, “Amelia, one of these days I might just respond to all your suggestive moves, and then what are you going to do?”

Amelia reached out with both hands, grabbing Jake’s arm, “Why Jake, I swear, I think I’m scaring you.” Her beautiful eyes were dancing with delight. “Jake, you started it all by grabbing my breasts that wonderful night in New York,” she laughed at Jake’s expression.

Jake’s expression told her that Jake was through with the jokes, “Really, Jake I’m teasing you, because you make me feel…so desirable and I know you’re too much of a gentleman to ever take advantage…so you see Jake you are safe.”

Safe? This was definitely not what Jake thought he would hear. Safe? Jake sipped his ice tea and tried to hide his disappointment. Amelia was a complex woman and Jake had envisioned her pining for him, the forbidden fruit, but now their nebulous relationship was instantly clear. Amelia had just flirted with him knowing he wouldn’t ever do a thing about it…just a comical outlet for this bored rich…Jake never completed this thought, he moved quickly across the table reaching across to the surprised Amelia. Jake’s arm pressing against her ample bosom, as Jake kissed her, grabbing her hair with his left hand, holding her head steady, as he gave her a deep passionate kiss.

Amelia’s arms came up around Jake as she responded by kissing back.

Jake pulled away caressing her breasts as he moved his arm back.

Amelia was breathing heavy and she looked up following Jake’s face with her eyes as Jake stood to full height.

Jake smiled at her then put his shades on, “That, Amelia was just a sample of what you’ll be missing, you tease.” Jake turned and walked out.

“That’s right Jake, walk out on a gorgeous woman…you’re a man of principal.” Jake thought these thoughts walking through ‘Stoudenmires’ parking lot, “now go home to an empty house and pet your cat.”

Reese was back. Steele had arranged a meeting to discuss with Jake what they would say.

“I’m tempted to give Jessica her walking papers,” Steele sounded very sure of himself.

“For what?” Jake’s response really flustered Steel.

“For what?” Steele’s frustration was plainly in control, “Did you see the tape? She wrecked him on purpose!”

“Yes, I looked at the tape and I don’t see it that way,” Jake let that soak in a bit then continued. “I saw a race leader that dominated the entire event…passed on the last lap by a slower car that then took a protective line. She was mad and didn’t think…she just acted. Her action cost her…cost us the race, but she’s learning.”

“So what do you want to do? Fire Reese?”

“No, certainly not, Reese was stuck with a car that, due to the set up, being biased for left hand turns, was at a distinctive disadvantage for the entire race, so he did everything he could, tried everything possible to win! No, we can’t fire Reese for that.”

“Jake I’m confused, just who’s fault do you think this is?”

Jake squinted his eyes a bit as if suffering some physical pain, then said, “All of ours…none of ours. It’s like this Steele,” Jake turned looking straight at Steele. “We all want to win…each of us is searching for that edge. We did it in the dissimilar setups, the drivers did it pushing hard. We each made mistakes, we all suffered and hopefully, we’ve all learned and now we’re a better team for it.”

“What I want to do Steele, is build our cars and go to Watkins Glen…smarter, better, and most important, faster!”

Steele was holding his head propped up on the desk with one arm, looking bewildered now.

“I’ll be damned, but you look at things different. No wonder you were so damn hard to beat.”

“Now Steele let’s go psyche up our drivers!”

Jessica had arrived early and she looked worried. Jake and Steele came down the hallway and she met them.

“Jake, I have something I want to say,” Jessica looked down at a paper she was holding, “before you get started.”

Jake looked at her straight on, “What is it?”

Jessica handed the paper to Jake, “It’s an apology for…”

“Nope,” Jake sounded stern and then walked past, as did Steele.

As the drivers shuffled in, each took a seat at the conference table.

“Ok, looks like we’re all here. We called this meeting to review our strategy for the next event at Watkins Glen…Joe and myself have both raced this track, so we will coach you there on the nuisances of the place. I want Joe and Sandy to finish up at this place so you two will be qualifying this time.”

“Jake, what about Road America?” Joe asked sounding a little confused.

“What about it, Joe?” Jake turned a serious questioning gaze on Joe.

“Well, it’s just, I thought that’s what this meeting was all about…you know, both cars being destroyed…Reese hurt…”

“Yes, well that’s a part of this sport, isn’t it? We’re just lucky this time, but as far as your driving,” Jake let a long pause in here, “don’t change a damn thing…we all made mistakes, but we made them trying to win and it’s that…that winning spirit that makes this team the best.”

Jessica’s eyes were welling up. Sandy, Joe, and Reese were staring at Jake with pure admiration.

Steele looked on at the transformation of a bunch of drivers into a team, and then he felt pride in himself and Jake and the team they had created.

Reese had performed at his best and Jake had no doubt that this very talented, intelligent man would have won the Grand-Am at Road America had it not been for Jessica’s impulsive tirade behind the wheel of Jake’s competition automobile.

The goodness of this man, Reese, continued to amaze Jake for he displayed no bitterness towards Jessica or anyone for that matter.

Reese’s eyes were blood shot; a condition racer’s refer to as ‘red eye’, caused by a horrific shock to the blood vessels, resulting in the blood vessels bursting. This is seen most often in rollovers or sudden stops as Reese experienced when he slammed into Havoc.

Reese was also barely able to bend, due to his bruised spine and was suffering headaches, as result of his concussion. All of this and Reese still wore his trademark smile displaying an exuberance for his chosen profession that was ever inspiring.

This was in direct contradiction to the capricious nature of team Rhoad/Steele’s other driver’s, but this made the team interesting, although certainly a greater challenge to manage.

Jake stepped out of the race shop, gazed up into his beloved Texas sky. The heavens were covered with motionless, opaque clouds; much like the future, Jake thought, one never knows what lies beyond those clouds.

Sandy came out quickly, almost colliding with Jake. Shielding her eyes with her hand she looked up to see what Jake was looking at.

“What is it Jake?’

“The future,” was Jake’s only response, never taking his eyes away from his precious sky.

“Jake, I was hoping we could get together.”

“Well sure, we can talk right now,” Jake turns, now facing towards Sandy.

“No, I meant later, away from here.”

Jake couldn’t help but stare at Sandy. She was wearing a middy blouse that was very loose and revealing, sweat beads were already forming on her tan shoulders and neck from the Texas heat, the sun came out from behind the now slow moving clouds.

“It’s always going to be tough for us.”

Sandy’s eyes now twinkled with that mischievous look Jake loved and longed for.

“Why is that, Jake?”

“Let me give this a shot…you’ve been hurt and just don’t trust anyone,” Jake watched for an effect that never manifested itself in anyway on Sandy’s face, “While I’m just a wild uncontrolled free spirit; a confirmed bachelor.”

“Oh, I don’t think you’re that wild, Jake.”

Jake’s self image was rapidly deteriorating, wasn’t he the international jet setter? “Well, I might surprise you.”

“Jake you’re always making threats that you never intend on keeping.”

Jake could see this was leading up to something…something he needed. Jake reached out and embraced Sandy, holding her tight to him, feeling every curve of her body against him. Jake kissed Sandy feverishly and she wrapped both arms around him, one around his neck and the other around his waist.

When Jake finally came up for air Sandy said, “Jake you owe me dinner, dancing and…”

“That, ‘and’ is weighing heavy on my mind right now…you’ve got yourself a date. Drive over to the ‘Corkscrew’ as soon as you’re ready.”

“Jake Rhoad you do like having the girl’s chase you.”

“I warned you, I am uncontrollable, besides you don’t want to leave your rental car here and have all the guys gossiping.”

Jake turned to walk away, that tall rugged handsome man, Sandy realized, had become so much to her. His face, his words, occupied much of her waking moments and her dreams.

Jake turned to wave a ‘see ya’ to find Sandy studying him. The sight of her in the sunlight watching him took his breath away. A wisp of wind touched her hair as she raised one hand in goodbye…for now.

“Who’s playing tonight?” Jake’s excitement could be heard in his voice.

“No band tonight Jake,” Fernandez was matter of fact about it. “It’s the middle of the week and you usually just play the juke box.”

“Can you find a band for tonight, it’s a special date.”

“Sure, who do you want? Willie Nelson? Django Walker? After all its two hours notice.” Fernandez was a trusted employee, a fabulous manager and a true friend, but his sarcasm could be a bit overbearing at times.

“Funny, but call up one of the local bands, someone will want the money.”

“Ok Boss,” Fernandez used the boss title when he disapproved, that’s why he was such a good manager, he was thrifty.

Dropping into the kitchen, Jake had the chef prepare his specialty, lobster and shrimp bisque, that he took great pride in.

This would be followed with grilled rosemary garlic shrimp, grilled tortilla and onion cake. A wilted red cabbage and bell pepper slaw, while finishing off with baked Alaska peanut s’mores.

With this meal Jake selected Pieropan Soave Classico Superiore wine. With dinner all planned and being worked on, Jake rushed home to change.

Jake showered and shaved, then donned his black suit that he saved for special occasions.

Charlie watched with a great deal of interest as Jake rushed about. The western sky was filled with every imaginable shade of yellow, orange or red when Jake walked onto his porch, ready for the short Jeep ride to the ‘Corkscrew’.

‘Aces High’ was already playing when Jake arrived, Jake gave Fernandez a big thumbs up, which brought a smile to the gentleman’s face. He always tried to please.

The ‘Special’s Board’ had the lobster and shrimp bisque listed.

Jake went back to the kitchen to find chef Herbert working over his magnificent culinary creations, “I noticed your bisque listed on the ‘Special’s Board’.”

“Yes, yes,” the chef replied. “This is one of my specialties, as you may know, so once that aroma is flowing, everyone will want it! So I’ve created enough for everybody.”

Jake responded to his chef’s smile with his own.

“Well, I hope you know how much you are treasured by all of us, Herbert. I want to thank you for your years of service, your loyalty, your efforts to make each meal an experience that people will never forget, and most of all, I want to thank you for this bisque! Its aroma is fantastic!”

Herbert looked shocked, his old eyes watering up, “Oh stop it, look what you’ve done now,” as he wiped his face with his towel, which was always over one shoulder. He then turned back to his bisque.

Jake left the kitchen to the chef, thinking just how lucky he always was. Talking with Fernandez, he spoke of this.

“Yes, we are so lucky in the people we surround ourselves with,” Fernandez agreed. “Yes, you do have the best staff, but its not luck, its not even a selection process, as you usually hire the first person you feel earnestly wants the job. No, its neither of these…its you.”

Jake was not sure where this was going, but he had always thought Fernandez was somewhat of a philosopher of life, so he listened to what he had to say.

“Its nothing complicated or some special insight on your part, sorry, no its just you give people a chance, you trust us when no one, this day and age, trusts anyone or let’s just say its extremely rare. This makes everyone want to do well, so they…we rise to the task at hand and exceed our own expectations. Yes, you do that and it makes us feel…proud of who we are…for that, it is I who must thank you.”

Fernandez smiled then rushed off to run the ‘Corkscrew’.

Jake stood there for a while, absorbing what Fernandez said, then checking the time he went up to talk to the band.

Finally his big date was all planned and everything was perfect…all he needed was the girl.

Jake could picture her in his mind; she would probably wear that turquoise Spanish style dress she had designed, gorgeous, that’s what she was.

Two hours slowly passed. Jake was sipping his third ice tea, while setting at the top bar, checking the time every minute or two.

Sheila set a very large gin and tonic down in front of him. Jake looked up, the question on his face.

“Jake you looked like you needed something…stronger,” Sheila smiled as she moved off wiping the bar.

Jake looked at the drink; bubbles rising to the top, the condensation on the outside made the drink look cold. Cold and delicious!

Fernandez walked up with a soup bowl, with a spoon and motioned for Sheila, “This bisque is about gone and I know how much you love his chowder…so I saved you a bowl.”

Sheila’s face lit up with her smile, white teeth against her red lips, “Thank you…you’re my sweetie.”

Fernandez was turning away when he caught Jake watching. Jake turned away obviously not wanting to talk, so Fernandez left him alone in his silent mood.

Sheila began eating her bowl of lobster bisque…his bisque…that was almost gone.

“Do you want a taste?”

Jake was startled out of his self-pity to find Sheila in front of him.

“It’s delicious…lobster, I believe.”

“Lobster and shrimp,” Jake corrected. “I was waiting on my…” Jake looked down towards the entrance, “yes, I would love a bite.”

Sheila spoon-fed Jake a spoonful, blowing on it before, her pursed red lips, looking ever so beautiful, the bisque was the best Jake had ever tasted and he said so.

“Well, I’m telling you, your date sure missed out on an evening with a terrific guy. I would never stand a guy up like this…” Sheila moved off, taking her bisque with her.

Jake loosened his tie, then downed his gin and tonic, it tasted good, “Better than it should when you’re feeling like this,” Jake’s face grimaced at his reflection on the evening.

“Goodnight Sheila, thanks for the drink,” Jake rose from the bar stool and exited through his office behind the bar area.

The night was quiet and very dark, clouds obscuring the moon and stars. Jake set on his porch watching the occasional set of headlights, far off across the field. Charlie, the cat, was setting next to him on his old Texas glider. Charlie was watching too.

Neither spoke, oh yes, Charlie can definitely speak. They just sat in the dark absorbing the night, not really even thinking, just watching, listening and absorbing…the peace.

The morning sun shined its rays upon the peaceful forest, moving ever higher in the tranquil multi-colored magnificent sky. Suddenly overcoming the obstruction of the hundreds of year old trees, the light rays burned a path into the clearing; illuminating the thousands of humans, already moving, working furiously upon their machines.

The beautiful sight of the sunbeams peeking over the trees was lost on most of the others, engaged as they were in their single-minded purpose of annihilating all competitors, but Jake Rhoad was absorbing the moment. The peacefulness of it all created a solemn moment for a man that had been too busy, for most of his life, to enjoy these precious days.

The moment was shattered, by that harsh sound that had been such a fixture in Jake’s life. The malevolence of the internal combustion engine, free from any encumbrance is nothing at all similar to the workhorse used around the world, day and night, to ferry people towards their destinations. It’s much more similar to a wild beast that only the very bold even want to touch and those bold rascals seldom can get their fill of it. Even when circumstances deem that they be separated sometimes, forever, they still hear it in their heads. They awake in the night re-living the emotions, hearing the engine scream, when the throttle goes to wide open.

Watkins Glen, New York’s Thunder Road, is a purpose built road circuit located in the rural Finger Lakes region of New York State.

This eleven turn, 3.40 mile long, course has been the scene of many an epic battle in auto racing. The track record here, for Daytona prototypes, is one minute forty-three seconds. To turn that time you needed a fast car and a driver with a speedlust.

“Speed and Lust,” Jake told the drivers as they met in their Eagle coach, “that’s what it takes to win at this place.”

No eye rolling here, this group had become accustomed to winning. Now for two races in a row they had failed to finish.

“To finish first, first you have to finish,” Jake’s eyes lingered on Jessica, just a bit longer than the rest, long enough to make her feel uncomfortable.

“While we all know finishing is of the up-most importance, to win here you have to be fast and you have to be tenacious.”

“At the end of the day, at this level, it’s the team that wants it the most that generally takes the checkered flag. That lust for victory is our specialty, no group in auto racing wants to win more than our team, so let’s make it happen. Let’s put it all out there, nothing held back and at the end of the day, if we fail, as a great man once said, at least we failed while daring greatly,” Jake gave that wry look that manifested itself without any conscious effort on his part. He wasn’t a poser, just a wily veteran, who had been here a thousand times.

The meeting then led into technical aspects of the track and the best line to drive it, it was decided that Joe would lead each driver around on his preferred line. On an up-beat tempo the meeting concluded.

Sandy approached Jake as everyone was walking out, “Jake, I’m sorry, I didn’t make it for our date, I….”

Jake turned on his cold gaze and interrupted, “What date was that.”

“Its just that…” Sandy never finished.

“Jake can you give me a hand over here. Oh, I didn’t mean to interrupt,” Eddie had poked his head into the bus entrance.

“Yes, that’s ok Eddie, you didn’t interrupt a thing.” With a final cutting glance Jake walked out.

Sandy just stood there staring into nothing.

“It’s obvious that you don’t know much about men.”

Sandy turned to find Sheila, Joe’s girl friend, setting at the galley table.

“You startled me, I didn’t know you were there,” Sandy collected herself quickly, now, “what I know or don’t know is none of your business, at least I don’t share my man with some tramp!”

Sheila didn’t seem affected at all by Sandy’s comment, “It doesn’t look to me like you even have a man and Wanda’s not a tramp, she happens to be a very nice person. She’s my best friend.” Sheila’s voice was calm, “Look, I was just going to try and help, because I admire you in a lot of ways and you needed help.”

“Really?” Sandy’s tone was less defensive and friendlier now, “Do you really think you could help me…with Jake, I mean?”

Jake was headed down the hill to the ‘Tech Shed’, a building where the scrutineers inspected the automobiles.

Joe Savage had tutored the driving team well and Jessica had taken the pole position in qualifying, beating Reese by two tenths of a second, giving Rhoad/Steele the front row for the start, but now there was trouble. Jessica’s racecar was below minimum weight, by less than one pound!

Steele was arguing with Butch, the technical director when Jake arrived.

“The book gives a minimum weight and your car’s below it…that’s all I know.”

Steele’s face was turning red. Jake had seen this phenomenon before and knew what was to follow.

Joe Savage walked up just then grasping the situation instantly. “Let’s not get hot under the collar now, gentlemen,” Joe blurted out, everyone looking over at him.

Joe walked over to a huge heat buster fan aimed off into another bay. Joe grabbed the heat buster and steered it around aiming it at Steele, Butch, and the racecar.

Joe then turned the switch to ‘high’ and walked over placing his arm on Steele’s shoulder, gently nudging Steele out of the air stream.

“Now just what is the problem here,” Joe asked innocently.

“This car is underweight!” Butch stated forcefully.

“Just a little bit, not even a pound!” Steele resumed his argument.

“Well, let’s just see here, Steele you know a rule is a rule,” Jake entered the ‘Tech Shed’ battle, “but I would like to double check.” Jake walked over to the digital read out, pulling out a pen and notebook.

“Let’s see,” Jake peering into the meter, and then turning around he motioned for Butch.

“I believe those figures are well above the minimum weight or am I mistaken?”

Butch looked, and then did a double take, the weight now exceeding the technical requirements.

Bob arrived, rushing over to get in the cool fan breeze, disrupting the airflow.

“What’s the problem?” Bob asked with a stern sounding tone.

The figures danced around a bit until Joe suggested Bob move by pulling him away.

Butch looked from the scales readout to Joe and Bob, and then back to the scales, then he suddenly had a sly grin, looked up at Jake, a man he had always respected, “Looks legal to me, Jake.”

From the adjacent bay a team going through a tear down suddenly realized someone had heisted their fan, “Hey, who took our fan?”

Joe moved it back where it had been, as the crew pushed the racecar off the scales.

“Thanks Butch, for your understanding and patience,” Jake smiled and turned away.

The guy that wanted his fan back pushed play on his portable CD player. The ‘Talking Heads’ were suddenly singing, ‘This Must be the Place’.

Steele looked to Jake, “What the hell just happened?”

“Our luck just changed,” Jake had an amused look.

“I believe we make our own luck in this world,” Steele responded.

“I can buy that, how ‘bout you, Joe?” Jake asked.

Joe was walking along and had fallen in with them, wearing satisfaction as a smile.

“Me, I think it’s like the song says; this must be the place.”

Jake and Joe threw back their heads in relieved laughter, all three were enjoying the moment; living their lives to the fullest.

Jessica was much in demand doing interviews, posing for photographers. She looked to be having the time of her life.

Madison Avenue also had a huge presence at this event, as beautiful a rural setting as this area was; it was just a perfect backdrop to their type of promotional work.

Reese was setting out by the cars just looking at them.

Truly magnificent machines, so sleek, so low…they looked fast just setting still.

Reese was back in the shade, setting on a fold out stool, leaned against the front bumper of a motor coach that was ‘T’ parked, leaving very little space to another coach.

Sandy and Jessica came walking out of Madison Avenue’s Motor Coach, “Well, Jessie you showed the boys who’s boss…they won’t try to push you around again.” They walked on through, heading to another interview.

Reese watched them as they blended into the throng of auto racing enthusiasts, strutting like they were rock stars. Reese chuckled to himself.

“Yeah, those two can be amusing,” Jake stepped from the shadows between the coaches.

“Hey, Jake…where did you come from?” Reese pretended to look at where he came from.

Jake stood now beside Reese, as Reese stood, both looking off after Sandy and Jessica.

“Any thoughts about pushing them around Reese?” Jake’s sarcasm was laid on pretty thick.

“No, hell no! I’d rather mess with a water moccasin than cross those two.”

“Well, just so you know…there are no team orders at Rhoad/Steele.”

They both kept staring in that direction, even though the girls were long gone.

“I do have a question though, Reese.”

“Yeah?” Reese turns and looks at Jake.

“What’s that Jake?”

“Just what is your plan?”

“Why the same as always, I’m gonna drive that car fast, and then…” Reese drifted off in thought for a second.

“Then what?” Jake looked at his protégé.

“Why then I’ll just let Destiny play out it’s hand…ain’t that right?”

Jake put his arm around Reese’s shoulders as they walked off.

“That’s right,” Jake answered in his most southern drawl.

Jeffery Thomas was so above all of this, as a born and bred member of the upper class he considered sport cars only as play things and while he liked money, he would never stoop so low as to actually engage in this barbaric activity, known as auto racing, just to get more of it.

Why on earth, Sandra Jones, a woman of such breeding and sophistication, would participate in this, he would never understand. With her and her family’s fortune at her disposal, it most certainly wasn’t any financial reasons. Finding out about her nobility family bloodline and all the vast holdings they had, had immediately captured his imagination.

While pursuing Sandra’s partner, Suzanne Clark, Suzanne had let these facts slip out. Suzanne told him in strictest confidence, as Sandra just wanted to be accepted for herself, so Sandra herself didn’t even know that he knew her secret.

Jeffery approached the racing car. ‘Sandy Jones’ was lettered above the cockpit door, why did she insist on being called ‘Sandy’. It was so bourgeois and although his family was only two generations from being middle class, he certainly could never introduce ‘Sandra’ to his family as ‘Sandy’. Whatever would they think?

When speaking of Sandra’s interest in auto racing, Jeffery described her as dilettante and that in a few months she would be more than likely collecting airplanes or some such nonsense.

Just then, Jake came walking up speaking with Joe. Jake looked over in his direction and recognized Jeffery instantly and smiled. “Hello, Jeffery…how’s the jaw?”

Jeffery was already mad, his face turning red, “Actually you never hit my jaw…you threw me into a toilet, then…”

“Well, whatever, but I do suspect that you will probably address our elderly men’s room attendants in a little more respectful manner from here on out…won’t you Jeffery?” Jake continued smiling.

Joe was watching with an amused look, eye’s twinkling.

Jeffery just stood there getting madder, “Where’s Sandra…Uh, Miss Jones?”

“Sandy? Why that’s her bus right over there.” Jake motioned with his head, then turned away.

“I’ll say Ol’ Chap, it is adventuresome wandering around, mingling with the masses.” Joe said this using a heavy English accent.

Jake laughed at Joe’s jest, but in his heart he was jealous and that changed his mood, made him even madder at himself. Why had he ever fallen for that woman to begin with?

Lucky for Jake this was race day and busy hands—busy minds don’t dwell on problems like women, or so he hoped.

As the drivers gathered for the pre-race meeting, the crews completed last minute items and staged the cars on pre-grid.

The meeting was just starting when Sandy interrupted, “Excuse me, however I must interrupt, I’ve set through enough of these meetings while choking on Scott’s cigarette smoke. I’ve asked him nicely before, now I want a ruling…do you con-done this action? As I am not going to set through another of these required meetings while inhaling his second hand smoke!”

Scott Bennet, Indy Car Champion, veteran racer, known to eat pressure on the track like candy started squirming, not knowing what to do…all eyes on him.

The competition director hesitated, and then said, “Please…anyone smoking…please put them out.”

Scott put his cigarette out. A voice from the back called out in a distinctively Australian accent, “Why? Just because some damn Sheila has got her period?” Laughter en-sued.

“Yes…I mean no…uh, please just put them out…thank you,” mopping his face with his handkerchief for a moment, and then he tried to resume his meeting in the right spot.

Jake glanced over at Sandy who was standing with Jessica and Jeffery. Sandy had a look of satisfaction on her face.

Scott was staring at Sandy with an angry scowl, the green flag hadn’t even waved and Sandy was already wearing them down.

After the meeting, as they were all pouring out of the hall, Scott called out to Sandy. Sandy stopped in her tracks, turning toward Scott as he walked up rapidly to her.

“Look, you bitch don’t you ever embarrass me like that again…you got that!” Scott had worked himself up to where he was spitting as he yelled.

Joe started over, but Jake’s motion stopped him.

Sandy looked at him for a long moment, and then real fast she grabbed both of Scott’s shoulders and kneed Scott hard right in his crotch.

Scott grasped and fell to his knees, holding his crotch.

Sandy leaned down, putting her face right in front of his, “The question is…did you get that!”

Sandy and her entourage turned and walked off leaving Scott on his knees, holding his crotch, looking after her.

Joe whistled, “Jake, that girl is really something, ain’t she!”

“Yes, Joe…she really is…a woman of few words too.”

Joe and Jake walked over and helped Scott to his feet.

“Let’s get you over to the doctor, Scott,” Jake told the former champ.

“I’m ok,” Scott shrugged off their support, his voice angry.

“How the hell do you ever deal with that woman?”

“Well, for one thing, we never refer to her as a bitch.”

Jake and Joe left him there staring after them, contemplating life.

The pace cars pulled in, most of the field wasn’t even visible yet when the green flag was waving.

The crowd came to their feet, all the powerful engines sounded as one enormous roar.

Paper and debris flew high into the air as the brightly painted racecars became a collage of speed, blasting past the pits, headed into the ‘Ninety’ with wild rage, looking out of control.

Then they were gone, an empty track that if it were not for the diminishing roar of the engines, from other parts of the track, one could believe that it had all been a dream.

Now—as one—all heads turn towards turn eleven again, watching for them to re-appear. The scream of their engines precedes them; the driver’s fighting, the tires clawing for traction. Only inches separate the drivers controlling their powerful steeds from certain disaster, in a high-speed battle for, at times, their very lives and their livelihoods.

Meanwhile, the spectators are gulping down their beverages, yelling out things, such as, “Kick their ass!” “Put ‘em into the wall.” Not that they want anyone hurt, however they are removed from the true struggle, the great emotions, and lack an understanding of what motivates these people known as racers.

Soon the cars are dispersed around the track and most lose track of just who’s winning. The timekeepers and the crews, they know, but many of the spectators don’t know, don’t care, really it’s just a happening, fast cars, beautiful people, a materialistic speed fest.

The mechanics, the engineers, and for many of the drivers its not the same, for these its really a path leading them from obscurity, if not for anyone but themselves, an endeavor that separates them from the rest of mankind, something that instills into their hearts and minds that they have purpose and that they can reflect back one day to some point in their past and say, on that day, I was the best.

The pace this day was incredible! Jessica led the way for two laps. When coming out of the esses, Reese took control and never looked back!

Reese took Destiny to a place it had never seen. Complete domination breaking the track record twice in just ten laps.

Reese wasn’t the only record breaker that day, three other drivers broke the track record, but none were as fast as Reese. Infamous corners with names, such as, the ‘Toe’, ‘Ninety’, and the ‘Boot’ just became passing zones for Reese.

Jessica suffered with an overheating problem and had fallen back to fifteenth position with three fourths of the race still to go. Spotters reported debris in the cooling ducts, but the team was trying to hold on until a full course yellow or the scheduled pit stop. Jessica was using all of her considerable skill to drive protective lines, while faced with limitations she had not had to deal with. Always before she had the power, she had the speed, now she had to back off. Restraint was not her strong suit.

High above, from the Goodyear Airship, the crew looked down upon the track. It appeared as; black etched into the earth, hieroglyphics similar to the NAZCA lines in Peru. What would future generations decide had happened here? Would some archaeologist suggest that men rode in machines around and around for a given distance or time, just to see who would finish first? This would surely be dismissed immediately, as no intelligent species would be involved in such a frivolous, pointless endeavor. Who said that man was that intelligent?

Suddenly a shattered car came careening across the track, right in front of Havoc. Tires, shards of composite pieces, control arms, and engine pieces were flying all about.

Jessica guided Havoc with instant reflex, no thinking, just reaction. Smoke, flash, debris, and then a momentary glimpse of a ruined racecar with a helpless, helmeted figure staring at her. As fast as it had appeared, it was gone, the track was clean and clear, and around turn ten into turn eleven. “Pit now,” came the command. Jessica exiting turn eleven crossed the track to her right and entered the pits, watching for her number sign. Eddie was out waving his hands back and forth across, over his head, jumping up and down.

Jessica guided the car into the painted off rectangle perfectly. “No driver change,” came the voice even before she stopped.

The crew scrambled, tires, fuel, ducts cleaned, water sprayed into the radiators, “Go,” came the command. Throttle, swerve to avoid another car exiting his space, shifting, pit exit, accelerating into turn two, curving right into the esses up through the gears. Power, oh where have you been? Back straight, speed; I thought you had left me for good. Passing under yellow, not allowed, hold back. Through the ‘Chute’, around the ‘Toe’, into eight, watch for debris, workers too.

The pack is just ahead, gathered behind the pace car, cool it girl, you’re back in this race!

Pit stop one was history, the crew performed flawless and now as Reese and Jessica battled, at breathtaking speeds, performing amazing feats of skill; the crew was totally engrossed in the unfolding drama.

“Yeah, this dog was so dumb, he wouldn’t even bring the Frisbee back to me…that’s right, he would run off and hide it!” Eddie was describing a dog to Irving and Bob.

“That dog does sound dumb,” Irving agreed, “but, at least a dog is loyal, I mean you don’t have to worry about a dog ripping you off…leaving you broke…” Irving’s mind drifts off as he looks towards the pit entrance at a car entering the pits, “just track fodder.”

“Well, you’re right Irving, but try snuggling up to a dog on a cold night…I mean a cold wet, mangy dog…that’s no comfort,” Bob adds in his philosophy on human animal relationships.

“Do you mean to say you sleep with a dog?” Eddie wants to get this straight.

“Yeah, Bob, what’s the deal with that?” Irving’s attention is peaked now, “you know having a steady woman can be a humiliating experience, but sleeping with a dog?”

“No! No! I was just saying that in defense of women…you see, I mean they do have some value,” Bob is now doing damage control.

“Hell, Yeah! I wasn’t saying give up women. I just think, well, don’t keep one around all the time. I mean for that kind of companionship, a dog is better.” Irving completes that thought, while watching a car go down the front straight spewing oil smoke, “that engines had it.”

“Just say you had a dog, who’s going to feed it?” Eddie is always seeing the practical side, “I think you would have to get a girlfriend just to feed the damn dog…a catch twenty-one so to speak.”

“Twenty-two,” Irving corrects.

“What about him?” Bob is looking for car number twenty-two.

“No, catch twenty-two,” Irving is still trying to set things straight.

“Who, Reese or Jessica?” Eddie has waded into the conversation again.

“Reese or Jessica what?” Irving now is getting confused.

“Catch twenty-two,” Eddie states.

“Exactly,” Irving is now happy.

Bob wrinkles his brow and looks at Irving out of the corner of his eyes, and then thinks, man those guys are something else.

A car enters pit road, rubber flailing from a ruined tire, each turn of the wheel doing more devastation to the bodywork. It passes its pit stop, and then slams on its brakes. The crew swarms out; pushing it backwards to their spot, working frantically the crew begins trying to repair the car. The main bodywork is shattered where the front nose assembly cam-locks onto the main body, just below the ‘A’ post.

The chunks of flying rubber have ripped the brake ducting out. A crewman is tearing the orange hoses away, an official is yelling for them to take it off pit road into the paddock. Racecars are passing down the front straightaway, all the while roaring past, creating additional pressure. Fluid now is pouring out of the overflow tank as the engine boils. Rivets, duct tape, ingenuity, sweat, and furious action, now the car looks to be in one piece again.

The driver accelerates out of the pits, the crew clean their tools, put the tools and parts away, band aids on their cuts, salve on the burns, get a beverage and wait for the next crisis to develop.

Reese has led from lap three and hasn’t misplaced a tire all day; the car is working like a sewing machine and hasn’t missed a beat. Nobody is in his class this day, he’s lucid and at one with his machine.

The pit stop was perfect and the car felt just as good after, as it did before. Reese hasn’t even touched the anti-roll bar adjustments or the brake bias normally used to balance for changing fuel loads…not today, he never felt the need. Reese isn’t thinking about a victory, just concentrating on the drive and nothing else.

“Jake, can you help me?”

Jake looks over from his monitor to find Sandy standing at the end of his scoring cart. Jake removed his headset and stepped down to her.

“I’m having a devil of a time with this Hans device,” Sandy sounds like a pouty little girl.

Jake moves in to attach the Hans to Sandy’s helmet. Sandy turns a little pressing her breast against Jake.

Jake looks up to see Joe Savage standing, suited up, staring at Jake and Sandy…smiling with an amused look.

“Yeah, getting these adjusted just right is important,” Jake pretends not to notice Joe or Sandy’s breast pressing up against him.

“I’m so sorry for standing you up Jake,” Sandy sounded sincere.

“Well, you missed an evening to remember,” Jake continued adjusting the Hans.

“Maybe you’ll forgive me and ask me again,” Sandy looked at him with her beautiful eyes, staring up out of her helmet.

“Maybe I will,” Jake smiled, “there its all set.”

“Thank you, Jake,” Sandy used her most soft feminine voice.

“Ok! Look Sharp! I’ve got Jessica coming in two laps!” Steele announces.

Jake gives Sandy a thumbs up, “Stand on it!”

Jeffery walks up, “Good luck Sandra.”

Joe and Steele both shot him a look, Sandy ignores him and moves forward away from him.

“Never wish a driver good luck, moron,” Bob voices his disdain.

“What? Why I’ve never heard such a thing.” Jeffery exclaimed.

“Yeah, its like eating peanuts in a racecar…strictly taboo,” Eddie reaffirms Bob.

“It’s bad luck, Ol’ Boy!” Joe states in his English accent.

“I don’t believe in luck,” Jeffery states.

“Some people don’t…she didn’t hear you anyway,” Joe speaking now in his normal voice, “so don’t worry about it.”

“You racers are an odd lot,” Jeffery adds.

“Yeah? Well, you must have shit for brains, fella,” Eddie did not sound friendly at all.

“I beg your pardon,” Jeffery is offended.

“Don’t come into our world and tell us we are odd!” Eddie is getting madder by the minute.

Bob shoved past Jeffery zipping his impact gun, making Jeffery jump out of his way, “I’ll tell you‘uns som’em…after this’n here pit stop, if’n this gentleman is still here, I might just show him how odd I really am,” Bob leered at Jeffery with that sideways look that made Jeffery’s flesh crawl.

Jeffery gulped, his Adam’s apple moving up and down.

The car came barreling down pit road, leading a bunch of other cars in, other teams pitted when Rhoad/Steele pitted. They would stay out on the track, missing their own schedule. If Rhoad/Steele didn’t do it, there must be a reason. Steele had noticed this earlier in the season with a great deal of satisfaction.

Jessica walked over to the scoring cart and checked her times.

Joe moved over, talking to her about the track, the car’s performance and other drivers, it was a conversation of mutual respect. Jessica had nothing to prove to Joe. Joe listened attentively and made mental note for his drive, which would begin any moment now.

“Get ready, Joe! Reese in! Two laps!” Steele’s voice sounded excited. The feel of victory was in the air.

The crew took their positions, calm, methodical, serious, these guys were the best and everyone was watching.

Destiny flashed past the pits on the front straightaway, passing three cars, driving into the ninety now, then Destiny and Reese were out of sight.

The crew was lining the pit road retaining wall. Their heads all turned left, looking down to turn eleven. Everyone was in position…one mistake, by any of them, could cost them the race.

The drivers would get fame and fortune, if successful; the crew would only get a paycheck. Their names seldom mentioned unless they made a mistake. On some teams a mistake could mean termination on the spot. Failure could result in their very lives being changed instantly, but these special men still would toe the mark. Steele and Jake weren’t your typical wine and cheese race team. They had no illusions of being better than their crewmen. They knew better, without their crew, the team was nothing.

Destiny reappeared and entered the pit road, heat waves rising behind, shimmering, the heat from the brakes and exhaust was tremendous.

The crew, as one, performed their task, each step choreographed for speed and efficiency, they practiced until it became a beautiful fluid ballet of action essential to any endurance racing team in pursuit of excellence.

Steele and Jake watched with satisfaction at the talented individuals that they, together, had brought into a team.

Joe was in the car, now accelerating out of the pits. Reese was there beside Jake and Steele, his brown eyes showing pride in making the best drive yet, looking towards his mentor, the man that he most respected, that he most wanted to emulate.

Jake smiled that wry grin, the look that said, “I’ve been here before.”

Jake stood with Steele for a long moment, both looking at Reese, and then Jake hugged Reese and told him, “I’ve never had a more talented, professional group of drivers. I honestly can’t see where you could improve upon that drive today…it was perfect!”

Steele looked on, his only eye shining with the excitement that he shared with this special young man, with this group of people that were carving out their niche in a hard world…together.

Sandy was on a mission, tearing through, fighting for every space, and planting each of her tires with incredible precision. Moving up through the pack and no one relinquishing their position without a fight…a fight she loved…a fight she was born for.

Sandy knew this was where she should be and she had searched her entire life to find it…concentrate!

Jake had coached her about allowing her mind to drift, concentrate and look far ahead.

The laps, the hours, melted away, the sunlight became an enemy, glaring at her, obscuring the future, what lay on the track just ahead.

Grime gathered on the brightly colored cars. Brake dust wiping out the numbers and the sponsor’s graphics. Rubber shavings filled the fender wells.

During Destiny’s final scheduled pit stop, Jake was standing by anxiously watching, when Bob pulled the thin plastic film from the windshield, removing the dirt and grime, revealing Joe’s helmeted head staring over into Jake’s eyes.

Joe gave Jake a thumbs up as the car went down off the jacks and Joe took off down the pit road with the roar of his engine.

Almost immediately, the radio cracked—it was Joe, “Vibration.” The word that is anathema to any race team, “Vibration.”

Irving looked over to Jake; nervous apprehension was all over his face. Jake’s expression never changed.

“Pit next,” Jake looked around; Buck was throwing up in the corner.

“Get a new nut and the thread chaser,” Jake’s voice was calm.

“I’ve got them here boss,” Bob displayed the items.

“It feels like the right front,” Joe added, “I’m on the back straight…no one has passed me.”

Irving, Eddie, Buck, Dale, Bob, and Jake crowded together, no further instruction was needed, possibly a mistake had been made, but we succeed…or fail together. These thoughts ran through Jake’s mind, as he willed the car around the track.

Rick Jones was hurrying to the Rhoad/Steele pit. Up and down pit road all eyes were on team Rhoad/Steele. Suzanne Clark, the Stoudenmires, Reese, Jessica, Pete Miles, they were all gathering at the back of the pit, along with a throng of spectators. The leader was in trouble…here at the end…after that disaster at Road America where teammates took each other out and now this.

The television crews were rolling, capturing the drama, “We’re here at Watkins Glen, watching a drama play out…”

Jake looked up into the brassy sky. It was never easy, it had never been easy, but it’s the struggle Jake, which makes it so special when you can do it! Jake was reflecting on the sport that was so much a part of his fabric.

Destiny shaking and shuttering wide, out of turn eleven, kicking up a cloud of dust, then it crossed the track, speeding into the pit road, and then made it into its pit spot.

Up went the car as with uncontrolled fury the crew attacked the car; a center lock nut had been cross-threaded.

Off came the nut and wheel/tire combo, the thread chaser was zipped on and off. On went new tires at all four corners, down went the car and Joe was burning rubber down pit road.

Buck came up to Irving and Jake, “I don’t know how that happened…it didn’t feel right and I was…”

“Buck, don’t worry about it,” Jake grasped his shoulder with his left hand.

“Shit happens,” was all Irving had to say about it.

The radio crackled, “Now that’s much better,” Joe’s voice sounded just the same, was he mad? Frustrated? No, Joe was living his dream.

Joe reclaimed the lead when the other teams made their last stops for fuel. The laps were winding down; it seems, at a much quicker pace. The speeds were record setting, what many referred to as blinding fast.

Sandy made her final scheduled stop, she just sat there staring straight ahead awaiting her signal to stand on it.

Joe drove past, down the straight away into the turn ninety.

“Go, Go, Go!” came Sandy’s signal and she reacted smoothly accelerating down pit road into the turn, and then merging to her left, into the traffic, “All clear,” came advice from her spotter. Sandy was ‘on the gas’ now accelerating uphill and through turn two, into the esses. Three cars were visible ahead; Joe and Destiny were at the front of that line heading into turn four. Like blood in the water, putting sharks in a frenzy, that sight, that line of lead cars, the potential podium, right in front of her sent electrical signals to Sandy’s brain. That sight stimulated her heart like a shot of adrenalin, giving her renewed spirit and energy to make drive.

Joe could feel the sense of urgency from the drivers gathered behind him. They were pouring everything they had into beating him. Joe exited turn four a little too tight to the inside, his right side tires spewing dirt and sand onto the track surface. Joe chuckled to himself as he watched the effect of sand on the track for his competitors.

“Joe, you’re twisted and dirty,” was Sandy’s thoughts as she watched the second place car almost lose it at the exit of turn four.

Joe had gained a lot due to increased caution by the following drivers, at the spot with loss of traction, so he did it again around turn six into the ‘Chute’.

Sandy out braked the third place car on the entry to turn five; passing on the inside, and heading into turn six, now in third place herself. Following the rampaging ‘Snake’ Santorin, who suddenly lost control in turn six sliding wildly sideways, giving Sandy just barely enough space to blast right through.

“Sandy’s in second,” one of Joe’s spotters reported.

‘Snake’ Santorin knew what had happened; now he was angry, actually he was always pissed off about something. ‘Snake’ had collected it up fast enough to hold fourth position and now he was tearing the track up! Using the power from his prizefighter body, he began physically assaulting his car, no finesse here, and just brute strength with rage to guide it.

Sandy could see the leader as she exited turn eleven; he was just disappearing into the ninety. Havoc was perfect; the power felt unlimited, the people standing at the fence and along the pit road was just a blur as Sandy poured the speed on.

Team Rhoad/Steele was gathering all the Stoudenmire guests; the Madison Avenue personnel; even Shelia and Wanda were watching this drama unfold. Eddie was dancing, listening to his personal CD player through earphones and the music was moving him. Dancing in-situ arms, moving, reaching out back and forth, bent slightly, singing along to the Mellencamp’s ‘Authority’ song, “I fight authority, authority always wins.”

The timekeeper marking off the laps and Steele is checking each car’s lap times, writing them down.

Jessica standing arms folded, sunglasses hiding the strain, her mind screaming, “Drive the hell out of it, Sandy!” Meanwhile she remains silent and tense.

Irving stood one leg up on the pit wall, sweat beading on his forehead, running into his eyes, making them sting, silently waiting…waiting.

Three cars race down the straight, each driver desperately wanting to pull ahead trying to will his car to the front, each vowing to never lift…each lifting as sanity and self preservation prevail over the desire to win.

A cloud passes over the sun shadowing all, the flags are whipping, creating their beating sounds, the engines are roaring, screaming from all directions, the multitudes of crews, sponsors, spectators were gathering pressing forward into and behind the pits. All these experiences Jake had been through many times, always creating a moment of sudden intuitive understanding that this, this moment is what his mind, his soul craved.

“Sandy’s gaining.” This flat statement from Steele broke Jake’s trance just as the sun rays shot down from the heavens, lighting up the track with its intense heat.

“Five laps to go,” Steele was punching numbers on his computer, “With her interval behind Joe…the rate she’s gaining…they should finish, uh…simultaneously.”

Jake stood up looking down track holding onto the awning pole, “Simultaneously.”

“Third place is gaining also.” Jake looked back around at Steele. “Yep…he’s gaining on both of them…at this rate he’ll finish…just about the same time!”

Steele took matters in his own hands, “Look, Jake each of them is under the current track record…on every lap. I suggest we leave it to them, I mean no added pressure…no pick the pace up, at this speed that might just cause them to overdrive a corner.”

“Yeah? Well you know ‘Snake’.” Jake’s voice held contempt.

“Yeah, I know that son of a bitch alright, that’s what worries me…at the end like this he’s mean. He’s real mean and he’s dirty. Just like us, he’s a fighter when he’s cornered, that’s when he’s the most dangerous.” Steele, this rugged old man with his bronze leathery face spoke of his former driver with reverence.

“Sounds like you miss the guy,” Jake’s statement was made in a quizzical manner.

“Well, Jake it’s like this…this just ain’t a business for nice guys.”

“It’s not a business at all, it’s a sport…regardless of that maybe being ruthless is just about to go out of fashion…’cause these here nice guys, me and you, are going to win this race…today and there is nothing ‘Snake’ or anybody else can do to stop us!” Jake exuded confidence.

Joe flashed by with Sandy right behind him. The crowd was on their feet screaming and gesturing.

“Yeah? What about our own team?” Steele had a worried look.

“Not twice in a row…” Jake’s voice had lost some of it’s confidence.

“Maybe team orders are called for?” Steele’s question conjured up the image of team Rhoad/Steele strewn about the ‘carousel’ at Road America. Jake winced at that picture.

“No, absolutely not…it’s hers to take…and she is capable, if Joe underestimates her, that’s his mistake. We know Joe and he’s going to make any pass on him mighty difficult, but that’s racing and we all win either way.”

“Well, ok partner, but we didn’t win at Road America,” Steele’s growling voice was tinged with fatalism.

The white flag was displayed to a three-car line up, only inches separating them.

Nothing was said on the radio, each driver was immersed in the concentration and the heat of the moment, no time even for the last lap jitters, a time when a driver feels or hears things that they know are going to shatter their drive before they reach that coveted checkered flag.

The lap which lasted only one minute and forty seconds, seemed to last forever.

Then the leader appeared exiting turn eleven on the right side of the track. Joe was fighting to save his position and aimed Destiny straight for the flagman’s stand on the left side of the track, just past the pit entrance.

Sandy was on Joe’s left, getting pinched off the track by Joe’s line and his momentum. Havoc’s left side was now spewing volumes of dust into the air, as Sandy battled to bring Havoc back to track. Joe moved Destiny slightly right, allowing Sandy onto the track. Her momentum carrying her alongside of Joe, as Sandy had never lifted!

A nose-less car driven by ‘Snake’ Santorin finished third place to complete the podium.

Team Rhoad/Steele’s pit area became a scene of wild disorder.

Jake turned to his partner, who sat staring towards the flag stand in stunned silence. The look on Steele’s face would be forever embedded in Jake’s mind.

“Jake, you know…I’ve never won at this place…” Steele’s voice had a tremor to it.

“No, I didn’t know that, I mean you’ve won just about everything…”

“Every time I came close…you would take it away,” Steele looked upon Jake with respect in his eye.

“Well, you’ve won it now…and we did it clean. No regrets, no doubts, today team Rhoad/Steele is the best! Let’s Go!”

“Where?” Steele knew, but he just wanted to hear it.

“Where all winners wind up eventually, Victory Circle!”

As Jake and Steele ran past, headed for champagne, trophies, and the start of a celebration that would carry far into the night, they failed to notice the young man with a glint in his eyes. A dirty, tattered racing uniform, a smudged face, burned hands, and shattered dreams that stared off after them, saying to himself, “One day…One day…”
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