Friday, February 22, 2013

A memorable checkered flag

Once again, I didn't think to write anything new.  But then I thought of something:

With the Daytona 500 coming this Sunday, I am proud to present an excerpt from the original book.  First, some background.  At the end of the book is the Heritage Cup, in which family teams get their best vintage race cars (one of which is pictured to the right) to compete in one of the short tracks which are at the grass roots of stock-car racing.  Buddy Wayne Barefoot, my made-up three-time champion of what is now the Sprint Cup Series, thought this would be the perfect race at which to bow out.

After 300 laps of spins, chaos, and even an attempt to sabotage the race by real-estate developers (no kidding!), here's the improbable way it ended.  It's on pages 273 through 277:

This was the last of 300 laps of the most important race, indeed the most important social and societal event in all of Idealia. All the preparation, the focus, the intensity, and the hype of twelve months—only a few in Barefoot’s case—now led to one single lap. It was now all or nothing.

Everyone was standing. Some of the families were simply looking for their driving representative as they rounded the course to complete the event. But two of them were looking for the checkered flag and the biggest prize of all.

Around turn 1, Barefoot made yet another attempt to pass [Will] Hawks, again slipping into the inside lane. But again, Hawks let Barefoot get close, but not close enough. But because of the wide lane on the backstretch, the two were able to stay side-by-side throughout the lap...

With Barefoot now back behind lapped traffic, and with only a few yards to go before the Cup was lost, he tried one more thing. It was so daring, so crazy, that no one had even conceived of it before this very time. In fact, it could be argued as the most dangerous move ever attempted in the history of auto racing. It was the very definition of the age-old question, “What was he thinking?”...

Just off of turn 4 and into the backstretch, Barefoot found [Bubba Ray] Lumpkin’s lapped car and tapped off his bumper. He then turned on the accelerator and the #3 car started to barrel-roll. Just at this moment, the momentum of the combination of brake on one foot and accelerator on the other moved the car upside down and in the air. Suddenly, the crowd gasped in disbelief and concern. Where was the car going to land? Would Barefoot be OK when it landed?...

At the very spot of the start-finish line, Barefoot pulled the brake off to land the car. It was upside down maybe 4 to 6 inches from the line. Hawks was in about the same spot, slightly to the outside. Barefoot had one more thing to do before he could complete the improbable comeback: he had to move the car rightside- up before Hawks crossed. To do that, he moved the steering wheel as far to his left as he could. The momentum resulted in the car being flipped over. Then the land’s new king of daring slid the car across the start-finish line in front of the disbelieving Hawks. Then the checkered flag waved, and the impossible happened.

Buddy Wayne Barefoot won the Heritage Cup. By inches!...

For a moment, the fans were stunned into awe by what they had just witnessed. This was one occasion where words were inadequate, where even the best of poets were hardpressed to come up with anything to say to describe the events that had occurred. But once the realization came, the crowd, which was from a variety of families that had come into the speedway as rivals, rose to their feet at one and gave one of the largest ovations ever heard in the history of sports, in this world or any other...

The post-race celebration included the presentation of the trophy, which depicted a knight arriving in a “horseless carriage,” which was an unusual design of a Model T that looked like a convertible. Barefoot clutched the trophy as if it represented his life, which for all intents and purposes it did. Then he addressed the crowd:

I want to thank you for coming to the racetrack tonight. All of us, all these families, gave you a great race and all of you should be congratulated. As for me, you may think I was crazy, but I disagree. I only did what I had to do in order to be the winning driver. When the stakes are as high as they are, you will do anything! But as much as this trophy, my biggest memory is the happy and glorious reunion we all had. In one sense, we compete against each other, but in another sense we drive together, for the common cause of our heritage and our history. From the immigrant ancestors that defied British rule to the daredevil race drivers we have today, our history is rich and strong. We are pleased that we were able to write the next chapter tonight. Thank you, God bless, and good night to you all.

Next came an extraordinary moment. Every other driver and family pit crew member formed a receiving line as Barefoot returned to the car and drove it back to the hauler through the infield. He recognized that scene; it was just as it was when Dale Earnhardt won the 1998 Daytona 500...

The family returned to their Hill Country home and partied long into the night. Of course, it was none other than Buddy Wayne that performed the music. The last song of the night put a climax to the evening. It was the same tune that ended all of his shows:
I must say goodbye to all of you right now,
Bid farewell to family and friends,
But be assured that sooner or later, in some way,
We will be together once again.

At this point, there was no doubt. Buddy Wayne Barefoot would be on Idealia to stay. There were just too much pride, too much joy, too much happiness for him to go back to the world he once knew.

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