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HANG TIME

The rain beating down on the top of the trailer was a constant reminder of why the race car was still strapped down inside of it. There was just enough room for a half-dozen guys to stand or sit, taking up residence on top of upside-down milk crates, boxes, or the cooler. Of course, the poor guy on the cooler never gets to settle down much if it is after 2:00 PM and the rain looks like it is here to stay, and somebody will end up making a beer run before too long if our involuntary “host” didn’t plan far enough ahead. Hang time.

Most of us in the media know this scenario pretty well, as does any veteran drag racer. It is downtime, when there is no racing to be done due to conditions (or scheduling at some of the larger events). It is a chance to unwind in what can be a pretty hectic weekend, and beyond the tall tales, off-color jokes, and “facts about racing parts you never knew,” it is also a chance to get to know people as more than just car owners and drivers. In my 20 years in the business, it has been the source of a lot of information that might not have ever been spoken otherwise. I could tell you, but then I’d have to kill you…


Racing is still serious business – (left to right) Tom “the Ghost” Coddington, Tom Hoover, Buddy Martin, and Joe Teuton at Indy the morning of the Hemi Challenge.

Of course, it is not always in rain-pelted trailers that this stuff comes up; the racing environment brings a lot of people together who might only see each other once in a great while, and that inevitably leads to recalling “the good old days.” Just recently at Indy, I had a chance on several occasions to talk with former factory engineer Tom Hoover, credited with the rebirth of the Hemi in 1963-64. Hoover, along with fellow Chrysler engineers Tom Coddington, Al Adam, and Larry Shepperd, were on hand for the SS/AH Hemi Challenge. Hoover remains pretty analytical in the way he thinks and describes things, and it is always interesting to hear his point of view about design and technology.

He and I also share a mutual interest in railroading. One favorite story was a model railroad “pulling” contest he had wanted to win. This was in the very small N-scale size, and, taking a page from his racing past, he loaded up a chassis with Mallory metal to get as much adhesion as possible. Unfortunately he didn’t win, though -– that accolade went home with a former NASA guy who came in with an N-scale chassis loaded with depleted uranium! He and I agreed before the weekend ended that we would have to sit down sometime with a couple of beers and just talk railroading for fun.

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