The Mustang whipped out of control, the back end snapped around, and suddenly we were going backward. Then it snapped around again in another 360� turn, and all my intestines got up and walked over to cling to the right side of my rib cage. I was sure we were going to roll over and maybe ruin the roof line. The crazy thing kept spinning wildly; another and another, until I could see the mountains flashing by the window every second. Then I began to notice other things. The stakes were flying up, across the hood and over the roof. I was faintly aware that the cockpit was somehow attracting salt. Ye gods, the place was full of salt. It hung there thickly in the air like a white mist. I licked my lips and began to fight the steering wheel. No chance, the car was not having any of that nonsense at the moment. Then, finally, it stopped spinning and sat there, all hunched down inside its own little swirling salt storm. I looked out the window. We were way off the course, and there were stakes lying scattered all around where they had been snapped off and tossed. Then flames started to streak out from beneath the hood.
I turned to Danny, who was blinking. "Look," I said. "We're on fire."
"Oh, Jesus," he muttered and began flicking the latches on his harness. I started unlatching everything I could get my hands on until the seat belts felt undone. Then I clambered out.
Ongais undid the latches and pulled the hood up. The flames were shooting up from what appeared to be about 82 carburetors. He swapped at them with his hands and finally blew them out. He looked across the car at me. "You spin," he said, "you must always put in the clutch so the engine isn't running frontward while you're running backward. It catches the car on fire, see?"
"Yeah," I said, "I noticed that."
We started the car again. It sounded all right, maybe a bit like it was hurting. And we drove back into the pits.
Mickey was pacing about unzipped with his stomach out. "Don't worry about the fire," he said. "Just don't do it again. By the way, you were going 145 miles an hour when you lost control. You like the ride?"
On Sunday evening Mickey got zipped up again and took the red car out. He came flashing around in 2:52.3—142.68 mph. Then 152.41 mph. Then 158.0 mph—a new unofficial world record. But he pulled in and yanked off his helmet. "Ain't a man alive can drive that course out there now," he announced. "I mean, I never spin out, but I had that car sideways; I mean, flat sideways, on the back-stretch, and it went on and on and on. And all I could do was just sit there looking out the passenger window, man. Finally it broke loose and spun to beat hell. And if I spin out, everybody will. Time for a conference."
We decided the course would never hold up for 24 hours of pounding with the red car. Instead, we would postpone the Class B run. We would practice again Monday night, and Tuesday night we would all try for a 12-hour Class C record with the yellow Mustang.
That settled, we got back into Ford's regular-people cars and drove straight to the Utah-Nevada State Line Casino. It is the first whoopee city heading west from Salt Lake; there are rows of slot machines, a crap table lined with high-rolling cowboys and a band up behind the bar playing and joshing with the customers. It was jammed with road-wrinkled tourists and, somewhere in there, our mechanics. They had beaten us. We knew, because there was a little trail of salty footprints—white against the bright green carpet—leading directly to the bar.