"Write it down for me," the doctor says. He tears off a little scrap of paper.
Cale bends over the desk and carefully prints out his name in block letters.
"Fine," the doctor says. "Now the, uh, the number, please." He means Cale's age.
Yarborough leans over and prints out "35," which is the number of the Camaro.
"Thank you," says the doctor. "That will be all."
"Best racing physical I ever had," Cale says outside the tent. "Just makes me feel good all over to know that I'm in such fine condition."
The drivers are permitted just two practice sessions, on Wednesday and Thursday evenings, timed so they'll stretch from daylight into twilight into darkness. Strangely, the practice also doubles as qualifying. The problem with this system is obvious: it creates pressure to get out and hammer the car right away instead of shaking it down sensibly. "I got to remind myself," says Cale, "that this here is a ride, not a race. That is, the main thing is, we got to keep that Camaro rolling for 24 hours."
He climbs in through the car window, stock-car style, although the Camaro has a functional door. Chief Mechanic Tex Powell leans in with last-minute instructions. Powell has crewed with some of the best racers in the game, Richard Petty and guys like that, and it was Powell who got the car race-ready at his shop in Asheboro, N.C. Tex is a racing purist; he finds the Le Mans operation a little too slapdash, but he's philosophical about it. "We just do the best we can and let the rough end drag," he says.
With the hotted-up engine, Powell figures the Camaro will get four miles to the gallon at best—or burn perhaps two gallons per lap. "Now, ever' chance you get," he says to Cale, "breathe her a little bit." In other words, ease off on the throttle from time to time so the engine can catch its breath and cool down. Cale nods and pulls on his driving gloves. Then he flicks on the ignition switch. And suddenly, there it is—the sound that shook Le Mans.
There's a heavy cough followed by a huge barrroooooom! and the roar of it spills out on all sides. In the pits nearby, mechanics and drivers stiffen in momentary alarm, then turn to look at the Camaro. It sits there bubbling mightily, going hood in, hood in, hood in, blam, blam, blam. Then Cale pops the clutch and it screams away, trailing pale blue smoke from the tires.