August 26th, 2007:
One hell of a weekend…

Last week wasn’t all that great. For starters, the madness at work has been keeping me (and a lot of co-workers) up as late as 2:30 in the morning making changes to the websites to keep things smooth. Most of my team is preoccupied with long-term projects, so I’ve jumped in to lend a hand at actual coding. It’s nice, but I feel like I’m not supporting my team as well as I normally do. However, that was all a light appetizer of crap before the main course.

Saturday morning we were awakened by a call from our neighbor to inform us that a tree (that we warned DTE about) had fallen the rest of the way onto our barn, taking out the power for a 2 mile area in the process. We were pretty sure that our metal-clad pole barn was electrified as well. So, not much sleep for us the rest of the night until we awoke and headed off to the racetrack without the usual morning shower… no power = no well pump = no water.

The weather was… crappy. Rain and overcast with sporadic downpours lightened up enough to not require rain tires for our qualifying session. My times were not so great… I felt that I could have pushed a little more. By the time our race rolled around, the track was mostly dry, but a bit “greasy.” After a clean start we made our way around the track. I felt that I could go much faster through most of the corners, so I pushed a little more. In turn 6, I got sloppy. What would normally be a minor off-course excursion in the dirt got very exciting. What was once a dirt patch, was now a mud pile… and I jumped straight through it. Trying to keep it together I came back on the track. (Note to self: don’t do this again.) Failing to keep the car under me, I lost control and spun, back-end first, into the dirt outside of turn 7. As soon as the rear tires hit the dirt, the car turned and the right tires dug into the mud. I was suddenly on two wheels… then, rather gently, on my right door. Hoping that the car would balance and not roll completely over, I hit the kill switch. After about a second on it’s side, the car completed it’s roll and came over on the roof. The front of the roof crumpled and the windshield tried it’s best to burst into a million pieces.

As I hung upside down in my harness, I wondered if my in-car camera had captured everything. Apparently, it has, and I’ll post it all to youtube in good time. Anyway, I got a ride in the ambulance back to the infield fire station and had a chat with the paramedic. Apparently, I’m no more crazy than I was before the roll. By the time I got back to my paddock spot, the car was back, uglier than ever. After some help from Jason Mellon, I started it up and confirmed that it still ran. “Ran” is a relative term: the thing smoked more than a doctor in the 1940s. But, it ran, nonetheless. I set to work trying to locate a windshield repair company that could do a same day repair… at the racetrack.

While making my 10th call, a gentleman walked over to my car and calmly asked if I needed a windshield. It turns out that this gentleman (Darin O’ Riley… or as Gina and I refer to him: “The Saint”) owns a windshield wholesale company and Motor City Street Rods… and had a windshield for a Dodge Neon in his shop! Shocked, I wrote down all of his contact information and got to work straightening out the roof of my race car.

After a few hours of bottle-jack and 2×4 ingenuity, the roofline started to resemble that of a neon again. So Gina and I packed up the trailer, hooked up to the van and headed out. As we drove out, we could tell that many folks thought they wouldn’t see us racing tomorrow. We headed straight over to “The Saint’s” shop (which was pretty close to our house, actually) and he and his friend Nicole went to work on the windshield. They made it look easy! (But we could tell it was really a lot of work.) After about an hour of cutting, pulling, hammering, and crow-barring, we had everything pretty well lined up for the new windshield. A little epoxy and tape kept everything together for the trailer ride home. Darin gave us a great deal… he’s the kind of nice guy that makes you re-think how nice you are… and find ways to be more nice! If you ever need to get a windshield, look him up. Although I don’t think he regularly installs them, I’m sure he can get you a replacement part for an amazing price.

As we drove home, Gina commented on how things can only get better: the power was back on at home, we could get some sleep and head out bright-eyed to the track in the morning. As we made the left-turn onto the main road approaching our street. We noticed a Mercury Sable completely over the white line at the red light. Making sure to make an extra wide turn for the obstruction, I checked my mirror and to my horror, the Sable had rolled forward and made contact with our trailer. Great.

We parked it and got out to talk to the driver, who stumbled from her car proclaiming, “You hit me!” We could smell the alcohol from across the road. Screaming, she got back in her car, while the driver of the truck behind her gave us his contact information (he was following her for a few miles and noted that she crossed the centerline of the road several times). She pulled her car around and we noticed that her son (probably about 10 year old) was in the car with her. We called 9-1-1 and reported the situation. She called her husband and screamed that a F-ing truck hit her in the intersection. A couple of minutes went by until the husband arrived. He was fuming! He questioned whether or not I knew how to tow a trailer, ranted incoherently for a few minutes, then started yelling at his wife. We assumed he was calling the police as well, but apparently he decided to call his neighbors. They showed up and whisked the kid and wife into the car to give her water coffee and gum. They, including the husband, knew that she was drunk and the police were on the way. I should be noted that once the husband talked to the wife, he was pretty darn polite with us from that moment on.

While we waited for the police to arrive, the neighbor helped facilitated the exchange of insurance information between parties. Gina thought this was all a bit too fishy and called the witness that shared his information with us. The police arrived and got the general facts from everyone. He then asked to talk to the wife (drunk-driver). Our witness showed up and explained her behavior in more detail. All of the sudden, she starts screaming, “Help me! I get side swiped and you’re arresting me?” The husband headed in the direction of the officer and that was the last we saw of them. The officer came over and we introduced our witness who told him everything he observed. The officer then explained the situation: that the other driver was at fault and we may have to appear in court if the charges go that far. At that moment he realized the color of our van/trailer combo: construction barrel orange/bright red and remarked, “I don’t know how she could have missed that!” We thanked the officer and our witness and headed home.

Sunday was better, but the car was a little down on power and vibrated a bit under hard cornering. I attribute it to a couple of flat spots from the pre-roll spin, though I couldn’t spot any on the tires… but I’m pretty bad at finding them. My times were o.k. considering, but it was a rather uneventful day… at least by comparison.

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