Friday, August 23, 2013

Wrecks Racer

Against his father's wishes, young Rex Racer took the family owned race car and entered a local race. He was only 18 years old. Practically a boy, racing against veterans who knew every turn and chicane on the course. But the kid was a natural with uncoachable talent. He picked his lines through the turns with ease. He worked his way from the back of the field all the way to the front. Incredibly, without any previous experience, Rex was leading the race with only one lap to go. He could practically taste victory. Oh, sweet victory.

But it wasn't to be. On that final lap, Rex lost control of his car and plowed it into a wall.

After emerging from the car unhurt, Pops was furious at Rex. Furious for wrecking the car. Furious for disobeying his orders. Furious that a snot-nosed kid was talking back to him in front of his peers. Where was the respect? Kids, these days. GET OFF MY LAWN! -- That kind of stuff.

The argument resulted in Rex running away from home. From then on, he hid his identity from everyone, including his family. He took on the new persona of the mysterious Racer X.

And though his younger brother Speed and Pops both would eventually concede that Racer X was the most skilled racer around, Racer X would unselfishly sacrifice victories to protect and allow his younger brother Speed to win every race he entered.

I was probably five years old when Rex' crash was etched onto my retina. I'm quite sure that I was in front of the boobtube, wearing pajamas (with footsies), soggy Lucky Charms in a bowl of sugary milk, and eyes wide open while the drama unfolded before me. That single episode changed me. Forever. From that point forward, racing was in my blood. My lessons were the 52 episodes of syndicated Speed Racer anime, dubbed/voiced-over in hilarious fashion. The latter just added to the enjoyment. But the racing instruction was top notch. My coach was Pops. My teammate, Racer X. Speed Racer was my avatar. And my mechanic was Sparky. And I'm sorry, but no girlfriend could ever, ever compare to Trixie. I mean, she was all that and could pilot a helicopter, too? Hubabuba!

Don't even get me started about the fabulous Mach Five race car.

The late '60s Speed Racer cartoon was, in a word, AWESOME.

Oh snap. Hello there, audience. I have a point to make here. Really, I do. I am sorry, I get carried away sometimes.

Anyway, I was reminded of the legend of Racer X at this past weekend's Arrows to Aerospace Cat 1-2 Criterium in Bellevue, NE. The course was punchy and technical, causing a number of wrecks earlier in the evening. There was also a crash early on in the cat 1-2 race, too. But after about a half an hour of solid racing, a break was finally established that included Nicholas Coil (Trek Think Finance), Jordan Ross (Kaos) and Jonathan Wait (MWCC). The trio worked well together, keeping the chasers away at a 20+ second gap. There was lots of suffering and stuff shared among those three. But the real drama unfolded after the final lap's bell rang. Wait punched it through corner #1 and opened a small gap while climbing the ensuing hill. But Ross and Coil chased and quickly closed it down. Then, on the backside of the course, Ross countered with an attack of his own, opening up a three bike length lead. The three racers were flying through this stretch. As they entered the final two corners, Wait was closing the gap before they disappeared behind a row of trees obscuring the view. The grand stand's spectators stood in anticipation as to who would be leading into the final sprint.

Surprisingly, Coil was the first to emerge.

Then there was a lengthy and dramatic pause. Ross and Wait were nowhere to be seen. And Coil wasn't even standing to sprint. Race announcer John Lefler Jr's voice then crackled over the PA system: Ross and Wait were involved in a crash in the second to last corner. A few people started running down the sidelines to check on them. Meanwhile, the entire chase group came barreling around the corner at full gas for the sprint.

It was pandemonium.

A short while later the sprinters crossed the line. Then, Jordan popped out around the corner. He was evidently fine, slowly riding his bike towards the finish line. He was followed a few moments later by Jonathan, also relatively unscathed. Jonathan, however, was walking his bike: its handlebars were pointing sideways, and his chain wrapped up in places a chain shouldn't be. He walked the entire final stretch, crossed the finish line, racked it, and then headed over to where his wife stood, embracing her when he got there.

There was no yelling, no glaring nor any finger-pointing afterward. Certainly, nobody ran away to became a masked racer. Yet it was nonetheless quite dramatic. A victory so close, and yet so far away, a mysterious wreck, and some minor family melodramatics to cap it all off.

[video: 2013 Arrows to Aerospace Cat 1-2 Criterium finish]

Witnessing that finish took me back. Way back.

Now please excuse me while I pour my sixth bowl of Lucky Charms.

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