SI Vault
April 11, 2005
The first time I drive the car it feels like rage, apocalypse in every cylinder, pistons hammering hot and remorseless as hell's forge, the manifold ravenous, roaring for air and explosives, belts shrieking, crankshaft screaming threats, spinning off metal shavings like a lathe, the oil tortured, a black ruin of subatomic corruption boiling in the spattered bowel, rods, valves, lifters and springs flying apart, colliding and crashing back, the relentless cycling a hundred times a second, sickle on scythe, shrapnel clattering in the dark, anxious to fail, to escape, blazing, on razor wings, and the exhaust thundering fire and stench and the mourning blast of Armageddon--
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April 11, 2005

Bad, Brutal Fun

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Don't misunderstand--I'm not saying that it's not dangerous, or that doing it week in and week out professionally doesn't require a set of specific, original gifts and long training, or that any Tom, Dick or dentist can just pick up a helmet and run in the lead pack at Talladega.

I'm only saying that there's a moment after you've gotten out of the car when the voice in your head whispers, I could do this. And for a second or two this is incredibly exhilarating. But in the next instant, the fall back to Earth: Well, shee-it, if I can do it, how hard can it be?

For a peek at your dream, you've squandered your innocence.

Our daily familiarity with driving a car breeds not only that initial heroic delusion ("I can drive!") but also leads immediately to the contempt that follows ("Who can't?"). I think it's that very intimacy, our collective love affair with the car, that accounts, at least in part, for NASCAR's popularity. Most Americans can relate more directly to driving than to almost anything else in sports. Driving too fast? You did that last night on your way home from work. And you'll do it again tomorrow.

As we lumber away in our motor home, headed for Daytona and the first race, the biggest race, of the NASCAR Winston Cup season, my wife has two suggestions for me:

"Stop yelling." and "Slow down." ?

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