The Magic Butterfly

This was a trip to California for a season starting road race at Riverside. Hope you enjoy it.

 

 

INDEX

These articles, stories and accounts of my life, as I recall them, and are copywrited. Unauthorized use will be pursued at my determination, to the degree that I am inclined. Any hard feeling caused by memories that don't match yours are unfortunate and you'll just have to get over it! Feel free to contact me if you have a request for their use.


It was early January 1974, and we were working our way westward, on our way to Riverside, California, for the first race of a new season, and we were all pumped with anticipation. Any time you are headed to the next race, and at the start of a new season in particular, while you’re working your way down the road, you are chasing the dreams that have been conjuring in your mind about what might lie ahead, with reality swirling around behind you in your dusty wake, and you are hopeful to stay at least one step ahead.

We had just finished building a new Monte Carlo with fresh bodywork and I had worked late the last night at the shop to finish the aluminum interior and the aluminum ductwork for dual tunnels to the radiator, feeling that this would increase the flow rate for the same size radiator, and we could run a slightly less pitch on the fan and give us another horsepower or two. This had the potential of increasing our qualifying position a few spots, and seemed to be worth the additional effort.

Mike and I had spent extremely long hours and worked very hard since Christmas to outfit the new cargo box on the back of the race truck. We had installed new cabinets, added additional fuel barrels, built a new tire wagon and made some specialty roller tools that would make changing tires after a ‘wall’ incident much quicker. Cecil had spent a lot of money on two new motors and we had made a storage rack to store the spare motor in a manner that would allow us to pre-fit the headers, transmission, and other items that would greatly reduce the time required to change motors if that were to be required.

The first race of the year always carries with it the highest expectations for performance, and we left North Carolina looking forward to kicking some serious ass this year. It was only my second job as a crew chief, and I had brought along the few notes that I had acquired from previous jobs to review in an effort to be as well prepared as I could be when we started practice. Riverside was the first road course that I had prepared a car for, and not having any notes in that regard, I was not sure what to expect. I had done my best thinking after talking with some of my more experienced friends and decided to make the chassis settings very similar to a short track, and additionally making the front end settings similar for the left side as I did for the right side, with the exception that I built in more negative camber gain on the left side and a larger degree of caster spread on braking.

I had never driven non-stop to the left coast, and it was going to be a long 4,800 hundred mile round trip, and in addition to all our car preparation discussions, Mike and I spent a great deal of time on the first portion of the ride planning how we would have to mesh with members of other under financed teams when it came to sharing pit duties. Most of the race teams were unable to spend the money required to have a full set of crew members travel with the race car, so it was routine to share pit working duties with other cars. We both had spent quite a bit of time at the shop practicing changing tires on our home made wheel and hub simulator, and were discussing who we knew with what team, that also had traveling crew members that were not tire changers, as we felt that we had gotten to the point where we felt it was not probable to find others that were faster than we were. This was probably an unnecessary conversation as it actually depended on who qualified for the race and in what position they qualified. It was common practice when jointly pitting cars, to pit the car that was running closest to the front of the field first, so you would actually try to pick cars that did not qualify near you, in an attempt to not stack up cars on pit road if an early caution flag was thrown.

Under the best of conditions, this was going to be 50 hours of straight driving, and that only if you could coordinate the fuel stops with the food stops and the piss breaks, and suffered no tire or trailer issues. The most difficult of these issues was going to be the purchase of gasoline. Late last year the OPEC nations attempted to raise gas prices by boycotting oil exports to Europe, Japan and the United States, and it was already have a tremendous effect on gas prices here in the US, as gas was not available at every station and if you did find gas, it was pretty expensive. In anticipation of all this, we had installed two 55 gallon drums in the back of the truck, and brought along a total of four pit road gas cans to carry gas. NASCAR had told us that they had made arrangements with the Union Oil company to bring extra race gas to the track and would make sure we all got our rigs filled up for the return trip home.

We were constantly on the lookout for stations that had gasoline, and just before he headed to the airport, Cecil had instructed us to try and fill up when the fuel gauge indicated that the saddle tanks were just less than half full to avoid having to use any of our spare gasoline, and it was becoming clear that these additional fuel stops were going to add to the driving time. We anticipated this, and had left a half day early, but it was going to get old real quick, having to stop so often for adding fuel.

Towards the end of last season, I had become friends with Harvey, the truck driver for Cale Yarborough’s car owner Junior Johnson’s team and we had mutually discovered the comedic talents of one Jerry Clowers as a result of us both having bought his newest VHS tape ‘Country Ham’. Mike was probably getting tired of hearing these mostly true country humor stories, but I loved listening to them over and over. The rules of the road in these race trucks was such that, if you were driving, you could go as fast as you felt like going, keep the temperature at your prescribed level and listen to anything you wanted to listen to on the radio. If for any reason some one complained, you were well within your rights to pull over and they could take over the driving and make whatever adjustments they cared to make. That tended to keep the complaints and suggestions to a minimum. So any passengers just had to grin and bear it!

And bear it he did. I was born in the rolling hills of southern Michigan and was completely fascinated by Jerry’s country humor, as it roughly simulated some of the experiences that I had encountered as a youngster as a member of a family that was born and raised in the farmlands. We seldom went to town, other than on a weekend for pleasure, and the week day trips were made necessary only by the need for farm supplies.

While I was not a big hunter growing up, most of my relatives were, and I liked the story about Jerry going hunting on another man’s land, where they met each other out in the woods and continued hunting for ‘coon with each other. Accompanying the land owner was a hunter known for his ability to climb a tree and shake the ‘coon down outta there’, just for the sport of it. He had climbed up a tree looking for the ‘coon the dogs said was up there, only to find that rather than a ‘coon, it was a lynx. In the ensuing turmoil the gentleman up in the tree kept asking Jerry to shoot the lynx as it was liable to cause harm to him at any moment, and Jerry, not wanting to accidentally shoot him by mistake, kept declining the request. The man was adamant however, and repeated over and over in the story to “shoooot this thang!”, “shoooot this thang!” This quickly became a salute and a passing comment between Harvey and me each time we caught site of each other at the track, and on more than one occasion we would get a sideways glance as the tone and inflection of this term was out of touch with our current surroundings.

Mike and I had chosen to take the southern route at this time of the year to avoid the cold and potential snow, so we jumped on I-85 to Atlanta where we got on I-20 and on we went, towards Birmingham, then thru Jackson, Mississippi and on into Shreveport. About the time we were closing in on Dallas, Mike was pretty tired of my story telling friend and offered to purchase something else to listen to for the balance of the trip. I acquiesced and, as a joke, he bought an old used, white VHS tape of a smooth, rich baritone singer that I soon began to take a strong liking to, even though the label was gone, and I had no idea who it was. Years later I discovered it was Roger Whitaker. His sound was so soothing and mellow; you would never guess that he was born in England to immigrant parents from Kenya. I loved his music, and by the time we reached Tucson, I had learned all the words to ‘New World In the Morning’ and ‘I don’t Believe in “If” Anymore’, and Mike was looking for some one else to ride with. Anyone! We started to listen more to the radio and feasted on ‘Bad, Bad Leroy Brown’, ‘Ramblin’ Man’, ‘Dueling Banjo’s’ and ‘Killing Me Softly with His Song’.
We finaly got past all that desert, and sighting grass for the first time in a while, rolled into Riverside and got to the hotel mid afternoon, and after getting registered and checking in with Cecil, I ran into Harvey and I told him that Mike was staying with relatives that had come down from Sacramento, but that I needed to spend time with some one else for a while. We both were getting on each others nerves for some reason. Harvey was looking to part company with his travel mate for a time as well, and said that he had a phone number, and that maybe we could get some one to show us a good place to eat or hang out. Harvey could drink a whole lot more than I could, as I was mostly a non drinker, so I was hoping to get invited to a nice restaurant that evening, instead of a local watering hole.

Harvey’s phone number turned out to be a good one, as one of his old girlfriends was available if he had a friend for her friend. Very cool, we all were in luck. They both lived in Alhambra and in about an hour, they came and picked us up at the hotel and I was delighted when they came thru the entrance to the hotel. They were both dressed in mid length shorts and sleeveless, button down tops. They were both very easy to look at, and they both smelled much better than Mike!

We made our introductions and off we went to a local steakhouse, and actually had a very good meal, especially compared to any of the Waffle House platters, that were my normal travelling fare. All during dinner, Harvey and I would recant some of those Jerry Clower’s stories, laughing especially loud as we voiced ‘Shooot this thang” to each other and the girls seemed to find humor in it as well, although, I’m sure some of the country humor was lost on them.

His lady friend, Barb, was a red headed girl, quite thin and tall, and seemed to be just a little less than an intellectual giant, but seemed willing to please, what ever the request. Jennifer, the young lady that I was asked to tend to, was rather more subdued, well mannered and carried herself in a more ladylike manner. Her makeup was smooth and subtle. A wavy haired brunette, she wore it about four inches above her shoulders, and it swayed gently as she walked. Her perfume was subtle and pleasant, and I was constantly aware of its presence. She was a fair skinned young lass, having only faint tan lines that seemed unusual for a California girl, and in an attempt to pay her a complement, I mentioned that I had not seen many as nice as her and that she appeared to be one of a kind. I noticed a quick glance, and a smile between the girls, but they quickly moved the conversation to the race this weekend, inquiring as to whether tickets would be hard to get this close to the race weekend.

It soon became evident, that even in California, the girls knew that every crew member was allowed one complementary Wife’s Pass for each event, and they seemed to be working around to trying to get us both to offer our passes to them. If they were smart enough to know that we each had a Wife’s pass, then surly they knew that they may have to earn it, and the evening was clearly going to end up with Barb getting Harvey’s Wife’s pass. My pass on the other hand seemed safe, as there didn’t seem to be any pressure from Jennifer, and we actually were having a pleasant time just talking in the lobby after Barb left with Harvey to go to his room. We discussed the weather, the race and the dinner that we just had, at which point Jennifer mentioned that there was a very unusual steak house over near where she lived called Cyclops. It had steaks ‘to die for’, was slightly expensive and you had to dress up a little, in addition to the normal shirt and shoe requirement. I was a big fan of nice dining experiences, so I said maybe we could go sometime, if she would like. Jennifer had ridden over to the hotel in Barb’s car, and we both realized that we had no idea when she would be going home, so we headed on up to my room and started watching TV, and continued just hanging out, and enjoying each others company, no ‘hustle’, no ‘pressing’, just quiet enjoyment. We played ‘footsie’, necked a little, but eventually just fell asleep, only to be abruptly wakened at 2:30 by Barb, ready to go home. And, they did!

The real wakeup call came at 5:30, followed by a quick shower and downstairs to meet with Mike and Cecil in the lobby. We partook of the free breakfast and coffee, and each of us stuffed a few extra cinnamon buns in our pocket that would serve as lunch that day, as you rarely had time to eat during the day.

We arrived at the track about an hour before it opened, but were still way back in the line of race trucks. We had known that not all the East coast guys would make the trip out West, but had underestimated the number of cars that would show up from right here on the West coast. Your position in the line outside the gate determined the order that you are lined up for inspection, and that in turn determines how early you get out on the track to begin practice, and that determines how much practice you get. Good practices should result in a fast qualifying time, and that not only determines your starting position, but your ability to get a good spot on pit road as well. When the gate finally opened, we hustled to our garage area and unloaded the car and the tools as quickly as possible, and began to remove the car cover. We had wrapped it up in plastic before we put the car cover on and strapped it down, and as we uncovered it we discovered that we did well as far as keeping the car dry, but even though the cover had plastic between it and the car, we still found some worn paint areas where the wind vibrations had whipped the cover.

Thursday is practice day only, and we should have gotten three practice sessions, but our deep position in the line precluded us from getting on the track until mid afternoon, and the last practice of the day. We made it thru inspection on the first try, and we finally got the car onto the track. Riverside is a long road track, and the car was well warmed up after only two slow laps and as he approached us on pit road Cecil stuck his leg on the ‘loud’ pedal, and ran up thru the gears right in front of us. Damn, that is some sweet music after two months in the shop! As he exited out of turn nine and hit high gear at the big end of the back stretch it was finally good to hear that familiar screaming song that only a high revving V8 with 180 degree headers can sing. Damn, what a rush. After working in the cold all winter it was raising the hair on my neck to be outside in the warm weather with the sun at my back, the smell of gas and tire rubber burning my eyes, and a trickle of sweat creeping down between the cheeks of my ass, the result of so much pushing to get the car out of the garage area, and thru the gas pumps, then out on pit row. We were short handed, as were many others, and we were working double time all day as a result.

At the end of the backstretch, he stuffed it into turn nine, got the car slowed down and into second gear, with no over steer or tire smoke, and was ready for exiting the turn and on past pit road, to begin another lap. He got it geared down well, no darting on braking and minimal wheel spin exiting the turn. Two more laps and he cut the juice on the backstretch and hot coasted onto pit road, stopping for the Goodyear personnel to stick the tires to give us an idea if we had made good tire pressure and camber settings. Because he had shut the motor off on the backstretch to get a plug reading, once more, Mike and I had to push, taking the car back to the garage stall. Cecil got out of the car and began attending to the motor issues, removing the spark plugs to check for correct carburetor jetting and indications that we had the timing set correctly.

I poured over the tire sheets obtained from Goodyear, looking for proper tire inflation and determining if any camber changes were in order. I had set the caster setting relatively close to each other to account for both right and left hand turns, and aside from the possible addition of a thin shim in the left front camber settings, 1 or 2 more pounds of air in the left rear tire and an additional two rounds down on the track bar, we all agreed that the chassis was pretty close. At least for the speed we were currently going.

“Bad news boys” said Cecil as he stuck his head out of the motor compartment after checking the valves on the drivers side. “we gotta change this frickin’ motor”.

Damn, we just got here, what do you mean we have to change the motor? He went on to explain that he thought that he had felt the motor skip or miss just as he had cut the motor for the plug check. The tachometer had a tell-tale needle on it, but we had no rev limiter on the motor, and it looked like Cecil may have pushed the clutch in just a little too soon before cutting the switch, or the motor may have just ran over the valve springs. Regardless of the reason, Cecil had discovered what he determined was a dropped valve, and it would be quicker to change the motor rather than rebuild this one, so here we go, in double, double time to get this done before morning and the first qualifying attempt.
We had preassembled our spare motor for just this very reason, and it wasn’t our first rodeo, so with all the effort and precision we could muster we jumped on the project. This was not the way we envisioned the season to start, but this was the occupation we had chosen, and this part of it. Mike and I had only one good night of sleep in five days and like it or not, we had to dive in. I had built a boom from old wheel bearings and roll bar tubing on the back of the truck, so we were able to put the car up on jack stands and both remove the old motor and install the new one without having to move the car around. Track officials normally run us out at 5:00, but if they see you are having trouble, you can often get one of them to stay another hour or so, to make it a little easier for you to get the work completed, and one of the newer, local officials was kind enough to stay late and oversee our work, and we had gotten the one motor out on the ground and the fresh motor sitting in the car, just on the motor mounts. As we threw our wrenches on the work bench to end the day, they landed on the cinnamon buns that we had brought for lunch, reminding us all that in the melee of the day’s activities, we had not had taken time for lunch.

At 7:00 or so, we were headed for the gate, our butts were dirty and dragging, and we were looking forward to some food and sleep, when I heard “shooot this thang!”. I turned around, and leaning up against the chain link fence with both hands and elbows, was Jennifer. I went over to talk to her, absolutely delighted to see her, and asked her what she doing here. She said that she appreciated that I had not tried to ‘jump her bones’ last night, and had been thinking all day that she might like to spend time with just the two of us tonight. She told me that she had her own car, so I waived Mike and Cecil on, saying that I would see them later that evening.

I was beat, but it was nice to be in the company of such a nice lady that smelled much better than the burning tire rubber and gasoline after the day we just went thru, and we drew stares from some of the few remaining folks at the track as we walked to her car, as I was dirty, disheveled and stunk to high heaven and was walking side by side with an attractive brunette in nice fitting jeans and a bright yellow tank top.

Things were looking up. When we reached her bright red Camaro, she spread a beach towel on the seat, and I got in and we headed back to the motel. Mike was still with his relatives, so she accompanied me to my room and waited as I showered. While dressing, we discussed where we might like to go to eat, and I asked that it be somewhere close as I was tired, and didn’t want to spend much time driving, so we went back to the steakhouse that we attended the night before, down near Rubideoux.

After dinner, we returned to the room, where I went ahead and gave her my ‘Wife’s pass’ because I really liked her pleasant demeanor and the way she smelled, and also because she was not being forward about trying to get it. Then like the night before, we began to just enjoy each others company in a slow, romantic manner, with no mad dash to the bed, but we did eventually end up there, watching TV and slowly exploring each others bodies. When we decide to remove our clothes, she headed to the bathroom and as she came out she was wearing only a smile, and when she turned to switch off the light I noticed a tattoo of a small butterfly at the very center of her left butt cheek, and commented that I liked the shade of the dark blue coloring. The evening continued in a manner that was most pleasant and eventful, and I was surely enjoying her softness and her perfume, both of which are at odds with the hot and poor smelling environment of the normal day’s activities. We seemed very suited to each other and seemed compatible in many areas, and as she made a return trip to the bathroom, I was once again able to enjoy the view of the blue butterfly on her left cheek, and it appeared to float and flutter as he strutted out of sight. She came out , again in those jeans, kissed me goodbye and left about midnight and I fell asleep immediately in the midst of visualizing that blue butterfly.

As we left the track area the night before, we had asked for and gotten, permission to arrive at the track an hour early to get started on completing our motor change, As we were driving out to the track, I remembered that I had not set a date to meet with Jennifer any other time, and was disappointed to realize that last night might have been the last that I would see of her, as she had already received a ticket to the race, and I would not be of much use to her if that was all that she was after. It would not be the first time something like this had happened, and I just shook my head at my situation, reacting to the thought that once more, my smaller head had prevailed in the thinking department. I tried to dismiss that thought and began to run thru in my mind what we needed to get accomplished today, and mentally prepare a sequence list.

Friday brought about a late morning and an early afternoon practice session, followed by the first round of qualifying in mid afternoon. We’d have to work like dogs just to make the second practice session, so we had our work cut out for us. Our pre-season preparations worked well for us, and we got the motor installed in time for the tail end of the first practice, but were able to get in only two fast lap times, followed by the usual plug check and tire reading. We were very close on both the carburetor jetting and the chassis changes and tire pressures, so we ended up having the time to fine tune both those areas, make several hot laps in the early afternoon practice, and then get ready to set up for the first qualifying session.

Everyone has a bag of tricks and a checklist to make sure they get all they can out of their car during qualifying. In addition to the normal checklist to make sure nothing was loose, etc., we put automatic transmission fluid in both the rear end and the transmission, blocked of the brake cooling ducts, bumped up the timing, installed new spark plugs, put on ‘sticker’ tires with an additional pound or two of air pressure, We leaned the carburetor jets slightly and increased the ‘squirters’ to compensate for the leaner jets coming off the turns. Then we pushed it out on pit road for our qualifying attempt.

Poor weather was predicted for the weekend, as they were calling for rain off and on for the next three or four days, so it was a mad rush to get in this first qualifying session, because no one wanted to have to attempt qualifying if the rain had washed the rubber off the track surface. Generally speaking, the more rubber that has been put down from driving, the more adhesion you get, resulting in quicker lap times. We were very fortunate to have made the engine change with out an issue, and were lined up about tenth or eleventh on the starting grid.

All the motors were silent because it was going to be about an hour before the qualifying would begin, and as we were walking back down pit road to the garage area, hoping to get a sandwich or some kind of food before trying to post a qualifying time, a now familiar voice rang out from the infield grand stand, off to the right and just behind the Union 76 gas pump, and I heard: ‘Shooot this thang’. Everyone that heard it looked around to see who was yelling so loud, and of course, it was Jennifer. It was a refreshing sight, and I was happy to see her and headed over to chat with her, pleased that she still wanted to see me. She was wearing a light sun dress, my favorite feminine attire, and as I approached, she glanced down at my work pants, and smiling she commented that she was glad to see that I was happy to see her as well. I have never been good at hiding my ‘emotions’, so I asked if we could talk about the cars only, until I had a chance to get things under control. We chatted for a few minutes, established a time and place to meet this evening, and I went back to work.

The weather actually favored us by clouding over about three cars in front of us, and we went out on the track to qualify with almost 15 minutes of no sun hitting the track. Cecil was a good qualifier, and got his leg in it early, hitting all his corner entrance marks which resulted in us qualifying in the 13th position out of the fastest 20 cars, locking us into the starting field. Roughly half an hour after qualifying was over, we were deluged with rain, and it continued into the night and on into the morning on Saturday. As hard as you have to work at the track when you are practicing and qualifying, it’s just the opposite when it rains. You can clean out the race truck and clean up your garage area and sort your tool box, but then all you can do is sit around with you finger in your butt, bored silly.

The good thing was, we were able to leave the track a little bit early and I got up with Jennifer as soon as we got back to the hotel. I took my time getting cleaned up, and she had brought some nice clothing, anticipating the possibility of finally going to Cyclops. While I was showering, she set about dressing up for dinner, and when I stepped out of the shower, there she was in a dress. She said that she remembered my reaction to her dress earlier in the day, and she was dressed to the very detail that I would have suggested, had she asked in advance for my suggestions. A light yellow, sleeveless, low cut sun dress, cut to mid thigh. She had put on high heeled shoes, exposing bright red toe nail polish that matched her fingernails and her lipstick, and had applied a slightly darker shade of eye shadow, and she smelled terrific. Damn, it was pretty difficult to think about eating out, but she was interested in taking me to Cyclops, so out the door we went. We got into her Camaro, headed west to Mission Boulevard and north to Mire Loma.

It only took about half an hour to get there, and the only thing that actually had anything to do with the mythical Greek character was a circular entrance door. Once inside, the layout was very unique, with three short main hallways leading to what amounted to be cul-de-sacs. At the end of these three cul-de-sacs, there were five or six small rooms with oval shaped doors. Once inside these rooms, the first thing you noticed was that there were no corners; it was like going inside an egg. The table was oval shaped, and to get to the far end of the table you had to slide down the seat. The interior walls appeared to be thin cedar slats overlapping just enough to not have a joint, and all the lights were recessed into the walls. Very, very cool!

We ordered right away, and began more small talk. She was attending UCLA, was majoring in Art History and had skipped the last two days of class because Barb had told her that the race was a hoot and she had never been to one. She mentioned that she had a sister who had also been attending UCLA, but dropped out and was currently looking for work. We each had ordered a filet mignon, and had been sipping on a red blend Bordeaux, that was her preference, and by the time the food arrived she was in second gear and veering toward the apron, but after a few bites into the meal, she was back up on the track and in the right groove. The remainder of the dining experience was excellent, and I complimented her on her choice of restaurants.

The music being piped in was to our tastes, and as she consumed more wine, I saw the need for me to keep to the soft drinks as it was apparent that I would need to do the driving home. When the music switched to Roberta Flack, she slid over right next to me and began rubbing around my pants pocket. When I asked what she was doing, she said she was looking for her car keys, but they were in plain view on the table next to her purse. Sometimes I’m a slow learner, but I alertly asked for the bill and soon after, Cyclops was getting small in the rear view mirror, as I headed back to the hotel, trying to remember just what the name was of that red Bordeaux.

It soon became one of those wilder nights in the West, and in the morning I caught another glimpse of that little blue butterfly as I was headed out the door to meet up with Mike and Cecil to head out to the track. She was still sleeping all north-assed, so I raised the sheets and took one last peek.

There was no need to hurry, as it had rained all night and the track was wet from one end to the other. I noticed that even before we got there, they had started drying the track by dragging tires and having 15 or 20 maintenance vehicles make laps to try and get the track dry enough for the second round of qualifying. There was a slight breeze and the sun came out mid morning and they were able to get the track dry and completed the field by getting all 35 entrants in the show.

We took the entire day getting our car in race trim, checked out our pit equipment and aligned ourselves with two other cars from the East coast crowd. We had out qualified them both, giving us the first stop in the pit road dance. Between them, they had a good jack man, gas man and a tire carrier with some experience, so we felt pretty optimistic about the race on Sunday. We had spent the balance of the day walking thru the pit stop procedures, as every crew does things a little differently and we wanted to be as smooth as possible with this blended bunch of asphalt jockeys. We got out of the track at the last minute, and I jumped into Jennifer’s car, as she was waiting for me just outside the back gate to the garage.

I explained to her that on the night before the race when you’re traveling, you want to get as much sleep as possible because you always have a long drive home and this was the worst case scenario. She said she understood, but still wanted to spend some time with me, she stopped for some burgers, fries and a Coke, then I had her stop so I could go in and get a bottle of red Bordeaux. That evening was a short but very pleasant rodeo and I did manage to get some sleep. I made sure she had her Wife’s pass and kissed her goodbye as I did not expect to see her again because when the race is over, we’re all hell bent for the highway home and looking for traction.

There is a lot of below the surface tension in the air on race day mornings. You go over last minute details, recheck your checklist, and pour over the car looking for anything that might come loose or out of adjustment. It went unsaid, but everybody knew we all came though the gate vertical, and we wanted every one to leave vertical as well, and no one wanted to make a mistake that might cause an issue on the track or in the pits. We all had relatives.

We double checked the front end settings, tightened the lug nuts on the car, glued lug nuts to the spare tires, set up the nitrogen tanks and bled the air guns. Here at the road course it was especially important to check the shifting arms and levers on the transmission, making sure that all the fluid levels were up. We would sweep the pit road in front of our stall to keep the wheels from locking up and allowing the car slide when coming to a stop, or perhaps hitting one of the crew members. Each crew member had their own pre-race routine. I made sure my shoes were double tied, then wraped the laces with grey tape around the entire shoe to keep them from coming untied. I would use grey tape to overlap my buckle so that it would not catch on any part of the car as it left the pit stall. I would weave safety wire in a manner that I could carry three spare lug nuts and attach it to my belt. I liked that grey tape. I would wrap the upper part of my left forearm with it to keep my skin from being ripped in the event we had to pull the fender out to get a tire changed. The jack man would make sure he knew how many pumps it would take to get each car off the ground. The gas man would make sure the cans vented correctly, and the catch can fit over the tank vent. The crew chief of each car had a different set of commands to let the driver know it was safe to leave the pits, and we had to make sure that as a blended crew, we didn’t send a driver out when one of the tire changers was having a problem. The rear tire changer was especially vulnerable because if a driver lit up the back tires while he was engaged on a lug nut, he could not get loose quick enough to keep from getting twisted up in the air hose, and a real possibility of broken fingers or even a broken arm. The front tire man has to get up with his back to traffic and get the air hose back across the wall before he gets hit or the driver ran over the air hose.

Finally, they get all the pre race hoop-la and BS out of the way, and we get ready to put our tin in the wind. When they say ‘Gentlemen, start your engines’, there are no words to describe how exciting it is when all those motors literally come to life, spewing heat and fumes, and the ground begins to shutter, as they all pass you on the way out on the track. Your ‘girl’ becomes a nasty ‘bitch’ and you’re expecting her to go out there and take names and kick ass. You want her to run screaming down the backstretch like a banshee from hell, stand on the brakes, roll into the apex of the curve, then shifting gears and pawing the ground, exit the turn and do it all over again, running wide in the curves and just daring some one to try and ease under you in an attempt to pass.

As a crew chief, you watch your ‘girl’ with one eye and keep the other one on the stop watches, timing each lap to see if she’s taking a break or chewing her Wheaties. We did not have two way radios at this time and had to rely on hand signals from the driver, to assess what needed to be done to the car on the next pit stop. This was more complicated here at Riverside because the cars ran in the opposite direction placing the driver on the far side of the car, making the hand-to-roof signals hard to distinguish.

We began to move up in the field, had a good first set of pits stops, and were looking for a good finish, when it clouded up and began to rain, and the race was stopped after 63 of the scheduled 191 laps. Everyone waited, hoping to be able to finish this race on the left coast and hit the highway home, but it continued to shower and the race was called. After a lengthy discussion with the track owner, car owners and NASCAR officials it was decided to wait until next week, to finish the race because the weather forecast indicated at least two more days of rain. The race was rescheduled for the following Saturday, and we all moved our cars to the garage area where they were impounded and a group of security guys were assigned to watch over them so that no ‘corrections’ would be made in the meantime.

Mike and I drove the race truck back to the hotel so that we could work during the down time to get the original race motor repaired. That night we all relaxed, watched TV and just hung out with other race crew members, as you seldom get an opportunity to have time off once the season began, and we picked each others brains regarding what changes we would try to make to the cars right before the race began next weekend.

I had never asked for Jennifer’s phone number, and figuring that she knew that the race was postponed, I was somewhat disappointed that I had not heard from her. Harvey had said that Barb had gone back to the dormitory at UCLA, and we assumed that Jennifer had gone with her.

It was probably a good thing as we were going to spend some time getting the motor rebuilt while we had the time. Mikes parents and sister had left for their home, and would now be sharing the hotel room with me now, and I was a little surprised when he suggested that we use the bathtub in our room to clean the parts during the motor rebuild. It was not uncommon to use a hotel or motel bathtub during a motor rebuild, but was little risky doing it so early in week when were going to be there the entire week, as it is seldom done without getting caught and being told to leave. You had to bring the parts in after dark, seal off the tub, put in varsol solvent for cleaning and when you were done cleaning you had to pump out the solvent and carry it out to the truck along with the clean motor parts, then take long, soapy showers to hide the remaining dirt and grime and fill the air with tons of deodorant and aftershave to try and hide the smell of the fumes.

We spent all of Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday reworking the race motor, doing maintenance work on the race truck and drying out the pit equipment that had gotten wet in the rain storm. Mike and I had finally gotten most of the smell out of our room and no one had asked us to leave, so we were getting bored and trying to decide what we could do for the balance of the week. Early Thursday morning, Mike called some other crew members, and they decided to head off to look at the Queen Mary, that was docked some where nearby, and I wound up spending some time cleaning and sorting equipment in the back of the race truck. At about 10:00, a Jeep pulls up ext to the truck and I hear it again. ”Shooot this thang’. Hot Damn, it’s Jennifer I thought, and looking out I see her smiling, and I jumped down to talk to her and she asks if I have any time for some fun. Of course, I did. I had two days to kill, and she suggested that we go out to see either Knotts Berry Farm or Magic Mountain. I chose Magic Mountain, and asked where she got the Jeep. She said she had borrowed it from her sister.

Magic Mountain, it was. I showered, changed clothes and climbed in the Jeep. She looked very nice in her jeans and sleeveless blouse. I noticed that her hair was pulled back into a small pony tail, and I told her that it looked nice, and her new perfume was appealing as well. She had a very broad smile as we headed north to the 210 and then west on I-5 to Valencia. It took us about an hour and a half, and she inquired about how we did at the race, and did I like going to Cyclops, and assorted small talk, but what I noticed most was the way she kept looking sideways at me, up and down and she had a different sparkle in her eye. It was a real mischievous look that I found exciting, and had she taken the time, she would have noticed how much I enjoyed her mischievousness.

We rode a few of the rides and held hands, but she did not seem to have the intimate familiarity that I was expecting, given our recent past encounters. We stopped for an early evening supper at one of the theme restaurants and ordered a steak for each of us, and when I started to order wine for her, she said that she would rather have beer. No problem, but I sure missed a chance to be a gentleman with the wine, as I had mastered the cork smelling, etc., even though my knowledge of wine types was somewhat lacking. We really had a good time, and on the way back, I drove and she sat next to me and snuggled gently on occasion, but it was not as close as in the Camaro. I asked if we could spend some time together when we got home and she said we could go to her apartment. Recalling that she had said that she stayed in a dormitory, I asked her about that and she said that this was her apartment when she was not in school, that it was pretty nice and that we would be by ourselves.

As soon as we got inside her apartment, she became more aggressive, and after a short period of time, we ended up in her bedroom. She excused herself as I got under the covers and when she returned, I got to see that voluptuous figure once more, and it was ‘on’ from there. One of the early things that I noticed in her bedroom was a mirror mounted on the ceiling. It was not a large one, but had been placed in a strategic manner that left no question as to its purpose, and in the course of some frolicking, I glanced up and saw that small butterfly tattoo, but I could swear it was on the other cheek and was a different color. I mentioned that to her and she said it must be the mirror, and the dim light, or maybe it was just a magic butterfly, and laughed. Her next movements dissuaded any concerns I might have had about the butterfly.

I ended up spending the night there and in the morning, she showered while I went out to pick up breakfast. I could not find a Waffle House, but found a small diner and brought back some bacon and egg sandwiches as well as some coffee. I showered while she finished dressing and we headed back out to go to the Knott’s Berry Farm amusement park, and I remembered being there a number of years ago when our family visited relatives in Hollywood. It was less than an hours ride, and again I drove while she slid next to me, and was attentive and playful in a pleasant and sometimes funny manner.

We had just as much or more fun at Knott’s Berry Farm as we had at Magic Mountain, but had gotten there earlier, and ‘Jennifer’ suggested that we head home a little bit early as traffic would be horrendous on Friday afternoon, and that besides, she had a surprise for me. Man, was she right about the traffic. It had taken us less than an hour to get out there, but took over an hour and a half to get back to her apartment.

It was almost eight o’clock when we finally got back to her apartment, having stopped for gas in the Jeep. Once inside the apartment, she headed directly to her phone, made one call, and when she returned, I began asking what the surprise was, and she said to just get showered and cleaned up and she would show me the surprise in a few minutes if I promised to take her out to Cyclops afterwards. I was interested in going back there as the food was delicious, so that was an easy thing to agree to. When I stepped out of the shower with only a towel wrapped around me I got my surprise right then and there.

As I came to an abrupt halt at the doorway from the bathroom, I could not believe my eyes. Laying face down on the bed was not just Jennifer with nothing but a blue butterfly on her left cheek, but next to her was an identicle naked body with nothing on but a green butterfly on her right cheek. They could not contain their laughter as they rolled over and motioned for me to join them. ‘Blue butterfly’ Jennifer introduced me to her twin sister, ‘green butterfly’ Jessica. Jennifer then explained that she had described the details of our liaison to Jessica, and when the race was postponed and she was unable to get out of school, had suggested this little scenario as a possible way to get a fantasy they had been discussing to actually come true. They said they had wanted to try this for a long time.

We did make it to Cyclope’s later that evening, much later!

Magic butterfly, my ass!