Kimberly Rickard went out in the first round, but her brother, Jason, won a heat. So did Alethia Cline, Big Al. But eventually Jason and Big Al were also eliminated.
As the climax neared and the tension mounted, more and more spectators left. The heats came so fast and furiously—each lasting about 27 seconds and change—that the results of some close races were announced after another race had been run. As a consequence, a great deal of the drama was dissipated—not to mention that a lot of people got mixed up.
In the finals of the junior division, Matthew Margules, a little blond boy from Newtown, Conn., the same leafy hamlet that sent Bruce Jenner out into the world, raced in Lane 1. When one of the officials heard the P.A. declare Lane 3 the winner, he picked up that boy and hugged him, as Matthew started tearing up. Only, that Lane 3 victory announcement was for some earlier consolation heat, and it took awhile before everybody figured out what race was what, and then they announced 11-year-old Matthew the winner of the junior division. The other little lad, who had victory snatched from him, handled it remarkably well, as Matthew went off to collect his power tools.
Matthew's father, Richard, is good with his hands, of course. A surgeon. This was the third car they had built together, Dad Margules and his son. After the victory, Dad picked up Matt and held him high, as if he were the trophy.
A little later, after a few more people had left, Brian Drinkwater, 14, from Bristol, Conn., home of ESPN, won the senior division and the grand prize, a $5,000 scholarship. Mom Margules had not journeyed to the Rubber City, but Mom Drinkwater was there with Dad Drinkwater, and she clasped her bouquet of red roses. Then Brian was escorted over to meet grand marshal Bob Turner, who seemed on the verge of tears himself.
No matter how long you live, it's always neat to have been a big deal one day long ago in August when you were in Boydom and your father had cleaned his fingernails for the occasion and then you made him the proudest Dad in all the land.