SPEEDLUST

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Chapter 4

Where to start when building a racing team? We needed a race shop, a crew, automobiles, a sanctioning group to race in, and sponsors to fund the effort. Why? That’s the question always asked by outsiders of any effort. Why do they do it?

Steele had dwelled on this for much of his spare time and had no answer, however, Steele and Jake, like many others, felt compelled to challenge themselves constantly. They felt most alive when testing their abilities, striving to achieve more than they did the last time, and going up against incredible odds, hopefully to win, but regardless of whether they won or they lost, they would always pick up the gauntlet to answer another challenge.

These people don’t understand it themselves, and at times, they hate it. They hate this compulsion that drives them into arenas where they are unsafe, where they may fail, but while at times, they can put it off or deny what is inevitable. Stall it, sometimes for years, eventually they will answer that call, become true to nature and then it’s like a drink of cold water, quenching a long thirst, and they can rest, for a while.

The choice of which group to race in was quickly narrowed to either the Grand American Road Racing Association or the International Motorsports Association, I.M.S.A.

Grand-Am was a subsidiary of NASCAR and very well sponsored and funded. Grand-Am also had television and the most attractive package for potential sponsors. So, for these reasons and the positive attitude of the Grand-Am officials, team Rhoad/Steele decided to launch a new Grand-Am Daytona prototype road racing team.

A race shop was next on their list. Jake was desirous of being near the ‘Corkscrew’ and north east Texas is somewhat centrally located for a road racing series that travels to the extremes of the United States. So, a search began for a building large enough to house their new team.

Jake, being most familiar with the area, immediately took charge and started making appointments with commercial real estate brokers to look at what was existing and available, narrowing his search down to three different locations, each inside a small town. Jake began talks with the city councils of each community, explaining what Rhoad/Steele’s presence would mean to a community, and lobbying for incentives to locate the team in their cities.

This process was moving along quickly when Steele called and said, “Hey, buddy, I found our shop!” Steele’s enthusiasm came across loud, with Jake having to move the phone away from his ear.

“Well, I’m glad you’re looking also, I’ve some excellent prospects and…”

“Forget those!” Steele shouts, “This place is the one!”

Jake stared off into the blue Texas sky. The wrinkles at the corners of his eyes were ever deepened, as he smiled at Steele’s enthusiasm, and his go for it attitude. Jake’s world had become a safe haven, no surprises, everything thought out intelligently, no spontaneity, and now he had to admit it to himself, no one else, boring. All this he created from chaos and now he, with his new partner, was back in that chaotic world of auto racing, but it was different now, Steele was like a live electric wire, and Jake was going to hold on and go for a ride.

“Jake, Jake are you there?” The frantic voice came over the phone.

“Yeah, I’m here Steele and that’s great, what do you need from me?” Jake’s sincere tone calmed Steele.

He answered, “Not a thing buddy. I’ve got it covered, along with some sponsors coming out to talk this weekend.”

Jake was soaking this all in, man that guy moves fast, then Steele added, “I’ll meet you at Stoudenmires in Nacogdoches tonight, at seven.”

“Stoudenmires?” Jake asks.

“Yeah it’s that new steakhouse over near the college.”

“Yeah, I know about it, it’s just that…” Jake gives up and says, “That’s fine, I’ll see you at Stoudenmires at seven,” and then hangs up the telephone.

Jake grimaces and looks into the rafters, then suddenly laughs to himself. His chuckle turns into an uproar, bordering on hysteria, so much so, his whole body is shaking, then it had passed and as Jake recovers he thought. God that felt good, I haven’t laughed like that since… Jake couldn’t recall when, his thoughts turning to other times.

Jake approaches the restaurant noticing the western décor, an old wagon outside and a wagon wheel bench. People waiting in line out the door, creates the illusion that ‘Stoudenmires’ is in demand, well, maybe they were thought Jake upon spying the packed dining area.

Concentrate on racing, ignore the restaurant, Jake told himself, that wagon salad bar is absolutely classless. Jake shakes his head in disgust. What was he doing in this place?

“Jake, over here,” cries out Steele. “You are going to love this place, it has everything we need,” Steele’s enthusiasm is in overdrive.

“That salad bar alone is worth the trip.” Jake’s sarcasm was pretty thick.

“What?” Steele momentarily confused then understands. “Not this restaurant. I mean our shop!”

Two women walked up and Steele jumped up to seat them, beginning his introduction. “This is my partner, Jake Rhoad.” “Jake, I would like you to meet…”

Jake interrupted Steele, “Look I don’t know what Steele told you, but I don’t like blind dates, and I’m not the kind of guy that goes out with…women like you, look I’ll pay you for your trouble.” Jake reached in his coat for his money clip.

Steele said, “Jake, this isn’t…”

The brunette’s green eyes were glowing intensely as she interrupted, “Mr. Steele, your partner is rather presumptuous, isn’t he? Just what service were you planning to compensate me for?” Her anger now turned to amusement, a cat toying with her prey.

Steele throws his head back, laughing, as Jake squirms, looking like he would rather be someplace else.

Steele seats the ladies and continued his introduction, saying, “And Jake, I would like you to meet Ms. Sandy Jones and Ms. Suzanne Clark owners of Madison Avenue Apparel.”

Jake smiled nervously shriveling under Sandy’s glare, until he regained control and just glared back.

Suzanne had an amused look now, her green eyes showing a little sympathy for Jake’s obvious discomfort.

Steele now oblivious to any pain or prior happenings, it’s behind him now, goes right in to his plan. “We are going to represent the Madison Avenue Apparel line. Further establishing that Madison Avenue is the chosen apparel of the successful man of the world. Sophisticated, exciting, well dressed, and fast, that’s the image we will instill for Madison Avenue.”

The women continued their silent vigil revealing nothing.

Jake gave a wry grin and motioned for the waiter. “I want a bottle of Don Perignon ’52, we have celebrating to do!” Then winking at the ladies, he adds, “We may just have to change restaurants to have some sophisticated refreshment,” and then he laughs, creating uproar at the table. His mood was contagious, with everyone suddenly happy, laughing, and excited at their new endeavor.

“If you can’t find Don Perignon in your cellar, then bring us Lonestar!” Steele adds.

The evening turned into a joyous occasion, the awkwardness of Jake’s first remarks forgotten, the excitement of being associated with a potential championship winning road racing team.

How Steele made this sponsorship deal so quickly was just a mystery to Jake, but the contracts were signed and team Rhoad/Steele was a reality.

Jake’s first trip to the new race shop was the next day. The building was old and huge. It had been used over the years for a variety of industries, an auction house, a warehouse for fruit and vegetables, a manufacturer of clothing and caps, even a slaughterhouse for processing chickens.

Jake liked it immediately and could see enormous potential. Workmen were laying Saltillo tiles in the office areas.

Steele sees Jake and runs over smiling, “Isn’t she great!”

Jake tries to not show too much enthusiasm at first, as he prefers to analyze every thing before committing. “Well it’s brick and I always….”

“NO, NO, this isn’t brick, feel how cool it is in here, these are ceramic tiles… uh, brick like things…. Anyway they are way better than brick and way more expensive.” Steele suddenly seems embarrassed, “I just love this place and it makes me feel… safe.” Jake looks around a bit, and then Steele adds, “Look Jake, I know I’m impulsive, but I had to have this place and well, I bought it outright and you don’t have to worry about financial issues, as now I own it.”

“I thought we were partners and that means we share 50/50 right down the middle. That’s good or bad, right?” Jake put it in a sincere, firm tone.

“Look, Jake, I didn’t want to start our partnership with any financial hardships. I’ve seen my share of race teams fall apart for just that reason, so I thought I could bear the burden for the shop and if things don’t work out for any reason, then that won’t be a factor.” Steele smiled a warm grin, Jake thought, how could this guy have ever been his adversary?

Then Jake stated very quietly, “I understand, but I don’t want to be a minority partner, hear me now and it’s not fair you going out on a limb for hundreds of thousands of dollars, while I just keep my war chest full and intact, won’t you reconsider?”

“No, this isn’t about money or control of our team, we are fifty/fifty on every decision I…. we make,” chuckling at his ‘I’ Steele continues, “now what about this shop?”

“It’s terrific, now let’s lay out where everything is going to be,” Jake points to a room and says, “let’s see, that should be our dyno room.”

Steele jumps in and the new partnership moved full throttle ahead.


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