Motorsports notebook: Just another night at the track
By By Steve Swogetinsky / special to The Star
April 16, 2004
His front bumper was almost knocked off, and the steering rod on the right-hand side of the car was broken. When Rusty Harrison pulled his yellow No. 2 modified car behind his trailer at the Queen City Speedway Saturday night following a wreck during the heat race, there wasn't a crew of expert mechanics and body men waiting to work on the car like you see on television at NASCAR races.
As soon as Harrison killed the engine, he jumped out of the car and went to work replacing the steering rod. His volunteer pit man, David Calvert, and his 11-year-old daughter, Lauren, were his only helpers.
"That's just how it is," Harrison said. "If you have a flat tire during a race, the other crews may jump in and help you change it to get you back in a race. But if it is something that is going to be more time consuming, they won't have time. They have to take care of their cars."
It didn't take Harrison long to fix the tire steering rod, but getting the bumper on the car was going to be a problem.
And then there was another problem.
A black poodle had somehow gotten away from his owner and was running up and down pit row. Harrison had seen the dog almost come out on the track during the heat race and was almost as worried about the dog getting run over as he was his car.
"Catch that dog," Harrison said to a bystander. But the dog quickly scooted away.
Back to the bumper. Not only was it knocked off the car, but it was bent. Harrison with Calvert's assistance used a wench to pull it back into shape but he couldn't get it the way he wanted. As the second attempt from a different angle produced limited success, the poodle came running by again.
Harrison is a Meridian fireman. And while it is not known whether he has ever been called out to rescue a cat from a tree limb, this would prove to be his first rescue of a dog at the race track. He and his daughter, Lauren, went after the dog and finally caught it. The Queen City staff radioed the tower and the announcer let the owners know that their dog had been found.
The family was quickly reunited with its favorite pet and all was well. They had not realized that the dog was loose. It seems that the little dog was scared by the loud roar of the engines and his owner put him in the car. The window was left cracked for the dog to have some air, but apparently it was cracked too much and the dog got out.
Now Harrison was working under a deadline. He couldn't put the car back on the track until the bumper was reattached, and he had about half an hour to get it all done. Talk about deadlines!
"I've got a welding tool but I forgot to bring my gas," Harrison said as he looked around at the other trailers to see if anyone was doing any welding. Fortunately, the crew from another team had a welding tool and gas. Harrison pulled into their stall and they helped him bend the bumper back into place and weld it on.
Unfortunately, this story does not have a happy ending for the Harrison racing team. On the third lap of the feature race, the same right side steering arm broke again. Harrison's car turned over in a pile-up and while he wasn't hurt, the car was. The No. 2 is expected to be out of action this weekend when racing resumes at Queen City.
"We have a lot of work to do. Everything is broken under the car," Harrison said. "We'll probably be out next weekend. And then there will be no racing on Talladega Weekend, so we will probably be back after that."
Let there be light
On most Saturday nights during the spring and summer months at the Queen City Speedway, a small army of dirt track stock cars along with an entourage of trailers, trucks and other support vehicles, converge in the pit area for about six or seven hours. Most begin arriving about 4 p.m. to unload the cars and make last minute checks. It's almost like a mini-town.
When night falls, except for a spotlight near the grandstands that provides enough light so you can see where you walking, the only light pit crews have to work by is what they bring. And with generators and high-powered spotlights on almost every truck, that problem is solved.
All in the family
Jason Boleware, who had won two of the three previous races in the Mini Stock division this season, had plenty of problems on Saturday night. He broke an axle on his No. 68 car in the heat race and was going home early.
"The car was perfect. It was running great," Boleware said. "Then I broke the rear axle. I don't have another one here, and there is no way we could get back out their tonight.
"It's aggravating that we can't race, but I'm happy because I know we had a good car."
An employee at Waters International, Boleware is in his second season of racing but he has been around dirt track racing longer than that.
"I helped Lucky Keeton with his car for six or seven years," said Boleware said. "I learned everything about racing from him."
Boleware is also married to Keeton's daughter, Tanya. In this case, dirt track racing is truly a family affair.