The blue railings are leaping at me. My leather gloves are sweat-soaked,
and my right foot is twitching. In three seconds I will die. Two.
My toes curl around the throttle peddle to keep from lifting.
I want to lift. I don't want to die. There's a guy behind me,
his racer's shark nose tucked right up under my gearbox. And there's
another guy right next to him, almost touching his wheels. If
I lift, even a smidgen, I'll collect them both, and we'll become
splashes of fiberglass and scrap metal against the Armco.
One. The guy on my tail is going to try me; I can see his wheel
in my mirror. Well, he's going to have to work for it! The braking
and downshifting are coming up NOW. As late as I dare. A heartbeat
more, impossibly late. Then on the brakes until the tires smoke,
and the rubber peels off in strings. Hold the dance with one hand;
feet flying on the clutch, accelerator, and brake, right fist
flogging the tiny gear shift lever.
This is real life at 150 mph; it's no video game. If you screw
up, you don't just reset and start over.
Tonight, around hilltop campfires, we'll relive it all over cold
chili dogs and warm beer. In the background, the generators will
hum, and fluorescent lights will burn until dawn. Expensive wrenches
will clink on metal and thud into the dirt. Engines will be changed;
brake pads, and gear ratios and a hundred other things. The war
chariots will be attended to, while the gladiators trade parts,
guffaws and war stories. No one will sleep very much.
On the morrow, as the blood red orb rises on Watkins Glen above
Seneca Lake, the gladiators will mount their steeds again, making
memories. The grit and sweat, and incinerated hydrocarbons will
blend in some magical way, and in future years, this will be our
Brigadoon. Where the rolling green-splashed hills, and glistening
lake made the backdrop for what we thought were the best days
of our lives. Where we defied physics and the fates, and became
giddy with it all.
If you go: Watkins Glen. Route 16, Schuyler County. 607-535-2481.
Ticket information, 607-535-2481. Save time to experience the
lovely village at the head of Seneca Lake with its famous glen
and laser light show, dinner cruises on the lake, and much more.
Dave Edney drove open-wheeled racing cars in Sports Car Club of
America races from 1970-74. He believes there's "no such
thing as too much power, too much speed, or too much knowledge."