I bid you welcome gentle readers. Today we’re going to visit an old friend that we haven’t seen for quite a while. Yes folks, it’s that irascible gal with a talent for calling names… and getting away with it… “The Lady in Black” and she’s back! The race she’ll be recalling for us today was actually run on September 5, 2004, which marked the first year we’d see two races at the sprawling Michigan clone in Southern California. Count that as mistake #1. It was also the first time since 1950 that the race on Labor Day was not held at the track in Darlington, SC. That would be mistake #2, and it only took a little over a decade to get back to where we started.
For those not familiar with the Lady’s intimate little names for drivers and other racing personnel of note, you can find the actual results of the race by clicking right about here.
One teeny-tiny little note for the gentleman in the cowboy hat and shades (The one not named Richard Petty) that has trouble with my use of the word “scribe”; please don’t worry your little comb-over about it. The way I use it is perfectly proper and correct. At least I know that there was never a “Z” in Blaise Alexander’s name. Perhaps if you had a real editor… Do keep on reading though. Some of your little comebacks are precious… meaningless, but precious all the same. Oh, and if you must continue to bandy my name about on your radio show, the very least you could do is cite the web site.
And now, without further ado, here is the Lady in Black one more time. Please enjoy!
The Fontana Furnace ~ Lady in Black
By: PattyKay Lilley
Good day race fans. This is your raving reporter, the Lady in Black, coming to you this week from California Speedway in sunny (And HOT) southern California, where the gang from Nextbest Cup assembled late Sunday afternoon to wage battle number twenty-five in the Chase for No Sponsorship. As noted, they called it late afternoon, but my internal clock insisted that it was more like bedtime. I’ve mentioned on occasion (Every time we come out here) that these folks are a bit challenged by time and always seem to be a few hours behind where I feel that they ought to be, but this weekend took the cake. Someone tried to tell me that it was Labor Day weekend. Now, how silly is that? Everyone knows that on Labor Day weekend we go to the track that was named after me, The Lady in Black in Darlington SC.
The word “hot” doesn’t really describe the weather out here but the word “furnace” comes readily to mind. There were various temperature reports on Sunday, ranging all the way from 98º to 100º, but my friends, I find very little difference there. Still, it sounds cool when we consider that the ambient track temperature was 132º.
Paying a visit to our combatants this week was Herbie the Love Bug, that loveable little German fellow that has always wanted to be a racer. Our soldiers were in a good mood and let Herbie on track to play war games with them for a while. Heck, he even got to lead a lap. Besides the Love Bug, also in attendance were thousands upon thousands of bugs of a different type, litterbugs. It seems that everyone in California lives on a diet of hot dogs and those little papers that serve to sop up the grease and keep the mustard off your chin were blown about by a stiff, hot breeze so that despite the temperature it appeared to be snowing.
The festivities got under way with the singing of our National Anthem by Brian McKnight. This gentleman had a marvelous voice and presented the Star Spangled Banner in a very reverent and respectful manner…until the last two lines; then he proceeded to follow the urge to stylize and tossed the whole thing onto the compost heap. Brian, you were SO close to excellence.
When the green flag waved, it was Brain Snickers on the pole and to his outside was Jeremy Mayfail. One soldier failed to report for duty when his car refused to run and Can’t Cope spent twelve laps in the bar while his pit bulls coped with the problem. The first lap was led by Snickers followed by Mayfail, the Awesome One, Casey Merely and the Busch League Kid. At lap 10, Mayfail took a turn at the front but by lap 20, Snickers retook the lead when Mayfail’s engine began to overheat. Sure enough, there was one of those nasty little hot dog wrappers stuck to his grill, but he snuggled up to the back bumper of Snickers and cleaned it off. (Hey, it works) Several others, including Casey Merely and Flameboy were already complaining of the same overheating malady. Back around lap 5, we lost our first warrior of the day when Jeff Full of it took Arnold the Green Acres pig to the lounge.
At lap 27, we saw the first yellow flag wave for debris in turn three. Heck, there was debris in turns 1, 2 and 4 too; hot dog wrappers were taking over. It seemed that only a few would come to the bar for refreshments, when only five or six soldiers hit the swinging doors on the first pass, but that proved to be one of those confusing moments when NASCAR says the bar is open, but the flagman waves the red flag anyway. Of course, when that happens, Field Marshall Helton says, “Well, we really didn’t mean that the bar was open so we’ll penalize you for believing us.” The next time by, everyone hit the bar for a Bud break.
When they restarted on lap 31, it was still Snickers out in front of the Pfizer Riser, Busch League, the Car with the Flames, and Jeffy’s Mini-me. It didn’t take but a minute or two for the next yellow to fly when J. J. Yahoo, so new to the battle that he can’t even be described as a rookie yet, decided to practice doing doughnuts. After spinning, his car headed down the track, while behind him Long Gaughan went high to avoid the wreck. Unfortunately, Yahoo made a rookie mistake and cranked the car back up the track, collecting Gaughan and sending him hard into the wall. That, as they say, was all she wrote for those two lads as they headed for the lounge to discuss track protocol. There were few takers on the offer of refreshments that time and the One LAP UP (One Lucky Arse PUP) was awarded to Can’t Cope, leaving him only 12 laps down at that point.
They went back to turning circles at lap 39, but five laps later, that yellow rag was waving again, this time for the smoking car of Prince Edwards of Roush. There was so much smoke that it appeared the young soldier had suffered a battle wound to his engine but it proved to be only a flat left front tire, which the beer break gave him time to replace while sipping his Coors Lite. (Yep, I checked and he’s old enough) Most of the combatants decided that sounded good and hit the bar again for their own Coors, but four soldiers stayed out to guard the battlefront. The One LAP UP went once again to Can’t Cope.
At the restart on lap 48, the order of progression now read Busch League, Greg Baffled, Long Tall Mikey and Jimmy who never forgets. The Big Brown Truck had received an invitation to return to the bar for another beer and a lug nut, so that lad would start shotgun on the field. Four laps later, Long Tall Mikey took a turn at leading but around lap 63, he was bested by Mark the Munchkin. At lap 68, Casey Merely took a trip to the bar for a cold one and a grill cleaning. Hot dog wrappers abound!
At lap 72, Greg Baffled blew a right rear Goodyear that in turn blew away his right rear fender and most of the rear of the car as well. Flameboy hit his bar stool early, having collected the maverick tire from Baffled’s car and dinged up his pretty rainbow. Mutt Kenseth also appeared to have gotten a piece of the tire and followed the Car with the Flames to the bar. They were followed on the next lap by the Big Brown Truck, which was also showing battle scars from the tire. That dang thing really got around! Finally the rest of the gang decided it was Miller Time and the One LAP UP went to Casey Merely, allowing him to catch back up to the lead regiment.
The restart on lap 78 showed Snickers leading Munchkin, Candy Man, Long Tall Mikey, Hurrikahne, Mini-me and Texas Terry. Within two laps, the Munchkin took over at the front, only to cede the lead to Hurrikahne on lap 81. A few laps after that, Greg Baffled took what was left of his Ford to the lounge for repairs as Brian Snickers began to complain of overheating and began to fade back in the running order. The warriors continued to turn circles behind the Pfizer Riser as we watched Hurrikahne moving up behind him. At lap 103, the Blue Deuce hit the bar for a cold one and tires.
At lap 105, the fifth yellow flag of the day waved for debris and this time it WAS for the pesky hot dogs wrappers that were everywhere. As the gang took a Bud break, the janitors brought out the blowers and directed the culprits to the infield where they were laboriously picked up by hand. A decree was issued from the Cell Block, officially declaring this battle the “Oscar Mayer 500” and Field Marshall Helton sent a few lackeys into the stands to plead with these people to go on a diet. The One LAP UP went to the Blue Deuce and at the restart on lap 114, the pylon read Candy Man, Munchkin, Busch League, Jamie McCutey, Captain Nemo, Hurrikahne and Long Tall Mikey.
That was good for two whole laps before caution number six was flagged for cars spinning on the infield grass. Jimmy who never forgets had forgotten to turn left, spinning out and collecting Hmiel on Wheels along the way and bouncing off the rolling wreck of Greg Baffled, who had returned to the fray some 27 laps in arrears. The One LAP UP that time was awarded to the Zewo Hewo.
They went back to turning circles at lap 120 with Candy man still in the lead, but within two laps Hurrikahne moved to the front, only to be passed again by the Candy Man. Those two stalwarts swapped the point a few times more before the Pfizer Riser put an end to the debate by taking it for himself.
A round of the green flag beer breaks that this track is noted for began on lap 156 when the Car with the Flames and Kevin Havoc drove through the swinging doors. They were soon followed by the Awesome One and Hurrikahne. The ideal really caught on and before long, everyone had been served a beer and new Goodyears. Can’t Cope had a bit of trouble while sitting on his bar stool, when his pit bulls let a fuel spill catch fire and smoke up the joint, but he left quickly and it extinguished itself.
Just as the last of the soldiers had marched through the bar, that same lad had some more trouble when something broke in the front of the car, carrying him hard into the SAFER barrier. He was slow to exit the car, which is always scary, but eventually he emerged, though with a visible limp. We hope you’re okay Derrike! It took a while for the bar to open, while Field Marshall Helton and his troops worked to figure out who was on what lap. Those green flag beer breaks will do that to one.
When the bar finally opened for business, most of the lads hurried on in, though they opted for a wide variety of tires with their Bud. The One LAP UP that time was awarded to the Cheerios Cereal Bowl and when the green flag waved once more, the lineup showed Rubby Gordon leading Candy Man, Flyin’ Ryan, Prince Edwards of Roush, Mayfail, Hurrikahne and the Busch League Kid. That lasted less than a lap before Busch League went for a spin that might have been courtesy of Mini-me, flattening a left front tire and bringing out a record-tying eighth caution on the day. The One LAP UP winner was Cow Patty and they were back at war by lap 182.
For a while, we got to watch one of those neat battles for superiority on the track as the lead changed hands several times before settling at around lap 200 to a front five of Hurrikahne, Candy Man, Munchkin, Flameboy and Prince Edwards of Roush. At lap 207, the Car with the Flames began to smoke and cough, which are not pleasant symptoms in a racecar. Flameboy brought the car to the attention of his pit bulls, but when he left the bar to go back on track, the smoke increased to the point of being hazardous and he was forced to head for the lounge. (Yep, another Fantasy Racing game gone awry)
With the long laps winding down, we watched Hurrikahne and the Pfizer Riser dicing again for the lead, while a few stalwarts were forced to make early forays into the bar. Shortly after Rubby Gordon, Mutt Kenseth and the Silver Bullet had been served, Dale the Lesser spun his ill-handling Budmobile into the outside wall and then cascaded into the infield, bringing out yellow rag number nine. Of course, everyone that hadn’t yet taken refreshments headed to the bar for Miller Time and the One LAP UP went to a grateful Matt the Brat.
The trouble had only begun for the Bud Stud when he hit the wall. First, he was issued a summons for passing cars on his way to the bar; then on leaving the bar, he hit the NAPA Parts Cart, necessitating yet another stop for repairs, and relegating him to 34th on the pylon. They went back into battle on lap 224, with Brian Snickers leading the Pfizer Riser, the Candy Man, Hurrikahne and the Blue Deuce. In front of those lads were several soldiers being scored on that dreaded tail end of the lead lap. We were spared the usual outcome of that situation when Cow Patty’s toilet paper car began to smoke on the restart and he kissed the engine good-bye.
That of course, brought out yellow flag number ten, giving Bobby the Bounty Hunter a free pass around the track along with all of those “tail-enders.” They restarted once more at lap 230, with the Candy Man leading Mark the Munchkin, Hurrikahne, Snickers and Jamie McCutey. Four laps later, the final (Hooray) caution waved when Kenny Shredder shredded an engine, spewing oil all over the track. Behind him, a hapless Bud Stud spun in the oil and hit Shredder right in the Swan, sending them both against the wall. Shredder’s car then burst into flames, but he managed to exit the beast without being burned. Shredder seemed quite upset to lose an engine so near to the end but the Bud Stud uttered a little sigh of relief and opined, “I think everybody beat me but Herbie.” It had been a very long day.
They marched back into battle on lap 241, but it was really all over but the shouting at that point. Though he gave it an all-out effort, Hurrikahne wasn’t able to best the Candy Man and settled once again for being a bridesmaid as the checkers waved for M&Ms. Behind those two, the pylon showed the Pfizer Riser, McCutey, Flyin’ Ryan, Prince Edwards of Roush, Scoot Riggs, the Big Brown Truck, Rubby Gordon and the Blue Deuce.
Candy Man asked for permission to do a burnout (Such a polite lad) and proceeded to set up a wall of smoke several stories high at the start/finish line, finally emerging from the cloud, waving to the fans in the stands and heading for Victory Lane. When he got there, he was visibly out of breath, though I suspect that was from excitement and not fatigue. As he recited his thank-you list and gave proper credit to all of his sponsors, one couldn’t help but notice that he stands almost as tall as that omnipresent blue bottle. There was the usual showering with soft drinks, but this week Victory Lane found itself the recipient of several showers of M&Ms as well. All in all, it was a good battle and a good day, but I still say it lasted past bedtime.
That’s exactly the way it was in Fontana on Sunday. Would I lie to you?
Be well gentle readers, and remember to keep smiling. It looks so good on you!