Sunday, December 2, 2018

2007 VIR 13

So here's my account of what happened. It's been 10+ years so who knows how much if this has been embellished but it's a good story, I reserve the right to embellish subject to corrections of fact, of course...anyway...

2007 VIR 13, we're running Pablo Deuce. We're pretty amped after the 24 Hours Nelson Ledges win, I'd won the ARRC the year before, the team was rocking. Team Boss (Knestis) was battling the flu so I was doing 2.5-3 hour stints and running a good pace all day. Think I did something like 6-7 hours of the 13 that year...

We'd worked up a multi-lap lead by the end of the night. As I was closing the event I came up on some clod in a Pontiac Solstice that just was out there with no clue. I'd come rolling up on him in the night like I was beamed down by the Starship Enterprise and pass him, but then he'd "assimilate" my speeds (and headlights) and rocket in front of me on the straights (after all, I had - what? - 100 wheel horsepower?) And then, because he was now in front, he'd park it in the friggin corners and I'd be all over his ass again. I'd eventually get some distance on him but inevitably we'd come up on traffic, I'd get balked, and he'd catch up. Time and time again, lap after lap, we'd have this argument where he'd pass me on the straights and then park me in the corners. I was getting pretty frustrated.

About 45 minutes or so from the end of the race, I thought I had enough distance on him out of Oak Tree (when there actually was an oak tree) and I'd be good for that lap, so I stayed mostly toward the right at the end of the straight to "discourage" him from passing. But he stuffed in a late, really bad pass into the right-hander at Roller Coaster and there he was again. By now I'd just flat had enough: as we came out of the right-hander, he'd gone wide left and I got a bumper on him to his right; he tried to move toward the right for the left-hander down the hill and I just didn't lift, kept my foot in it. I may have even made an ever-so-slightly early turn into the left-hander as he came across me (hard to say, no video, right?) and Mr Big Power Late Braker found himself "PITted" (I called it Tiddly-Winked) off driver's right and out of my life. Buh-bye, see ya.

Next 15 minutes of the race were of no consequence, I did my best to toss in some hot laps to finish the night. We were way ahead, let's bring it home.

Right about then, a small pack of various cars come up on me, and I started pointing them by. Coming out of NASCAR, some idiot Spec Miata driver broadsides the GTI! I'm all like "what the fuck, you idiot!", signal to him he's #1 (a fruitless nighttime gesture) and I just let him by. He slows out of Left Hook so I start to pass him and then he suddenly starts hammering the side of my car through Snake! WHAT THE HELL?? So I just maintain control of Pablo and hammer the throttle for the Esses and this idiot stays even with me and keeps hammering me side-by-side up through the Esses, trying to intentionally knock me off the track! Over a finger?? I'm on driver's left and I'm all like "Ok, you want this sonuvabitch? Let's go!" and we're side-by-side through South Bend where I make him earn it - shoulda put the idiot off the track right then and there - and then we go side-by-side through Oak Tree. I don't know how many dents we put in those cars on that lap but by the time we get down the back straight and to Roller Coaster IT'S FUCKING ON!!! Hog Pen, up the front straight, and by now I'm starting to think this is one seriously psychotic dude but I am NOT going to let this go. I beat him braking into Turn 1 - that's how motivated I was - and then as we go around Turn 2 toward NASCAR I pull over and PARK the car on the straight. And by "park" I mean I STOPPED THE CAR ON THE STRAIGHT driver's right, dead stopped, and this psycho pulls up and stops right behind me.

By now I'm on the radio, a bit rattled, trying to tell our crew guy Bill that there's some psycho motherfucker trying to kill me and someone needs to do something about it RIGHT the FUCK NOW. The response I get is along the lines of...

"Ooookay, Greg. Yeah, no problem. There's only fifteen or so minutes left, just take it easy and bring it home, 'kay?"

And I'm all like, "No, Bill, you don't get it. This guy is trying to DRIVE ME OFF THE TRACK!"

"Oookay, Greg, understand. Just bring it home."

I'm inconsolable. "Bill, you're a fucking idiot. We are STOPPED ON THE TRACK AT TURN TWO AND HE'S BEHIND ME STOPPED TOO."

"Ooookaaayyy, Greg..."


I don't know how long we sat there, seemed like forever but was probably only 30 seconds, but that game of chicken didn't last long before he pulled away from behind me and took off. And as hard as I tried I could not catch that fucking Miata to give him some Pablo Justice - I'd already mentally bought the car - so I stewed for the 15 or whatever minutes it was left in the race. I was ripped.

Race ends and I bring it into the pit lane and stop behind all the other cars lined up and I'm out of control. I start heading for the stewards much like Shuey did after Coulthard wrecked him in the rain. I had no idea who this fucking asshole idiot psycho was, but I was going to TAKE. HIM. DOWN as best I knew how, short of physical violence (it was probably best I didn't visually identify the car). I headed straight for the tower and looked for anyone that looked semi-important and made it abundantly clear we were going to settle this tonight. So while the team was drinking beer and enjoying the victory, I was being all Johnny Letter in the tower...

Stewards did the best they could to calm me down and handed me the forms. I'm still fuming but slowly winding down - but not wound down - as I'm writing up the protest and I hear some stewards the hallway outside the room discussing it. They're trying to figure out which car it was, and which driver it was, and at some point I hear them mutter "car #xx, Charles Espenlaub".

What? Are you fucking kidding me?? At that point I realized it wasn't some idiot psycho, it was a talented psycho, and I began to wonder what in the hell this was all about.

Wasn't too long after that we both got called to the Chief Steward and she was none too pleased with us. The Chief sits us both down side-by-side in folding chairs in the middle of a room and she's got a big frown on her face looking sternly at each of us and wants to know what all the metal-to-metal calls were from all over the track and then she informs me that Espenlaub's team has filed a protest against me. I'm pretty incredulous; what in the hell are they protesting me for? "For knocking their team car off the track", she says.

The Solstice.

I turn to Espenlaub and say, "is that what this is all about??" and he has a sheepish look on his face. I catch the eye of his team manager/owner Randy Hale and then it all makes sense. And it was at that point I realized I'd better keep my god-dammed mouth shut. Chief lets us both know that she's well aware of who we are and that we both have been around long enough to know better, and that if either of us opens our mouth to say anything at that moment it won't be good for either of us. And both of us have enough sense to know that we better just sit there, shut up, nod vigorously up-and down to everything she says, and agree that we both did bad. And then she tells us to shake hands, get over it, and that's exactly what we did.

And as we're walking out of the stewards room, Espenlaub gives me a big smile and says something like "good driving" and I mention I thought he was was some Spec Miata psycho but it was an interesting exchange and Randy Hale mentions something about I would have done good in World Challenge and then we all left to go to our paddock and drink a lot of beer that night.

And in the end, I kinda wish I'd known it was him because that shit could have gone on for several more interesting laps.

And I did apologize to Bill after for the radio comments, but he won't talk to me any more...

Racing. Yay.

Friday, June 8, 2018

On Anthony Bourdain

I will (shamefully) admit that the news three days ago of the suicide of Kate Spade had no affect on me. While I will lament any suicide, I had never heard of Kate Spade, so it simply became part of the regular churning news cycle.

Generally, I don't wax eloquent about celebrity anything, even their deaths. But today is different. I don't fully understand why this one is different, but it is.

Anthony Bourdain was not one of those faceless celebrity names, one we can put aside. Anthony Bourdain was a regular houseguest in my home, a vicarious friend, maybe even a mentor. He was more than a travel show, more than mindless entertainment. In point of fact, while certainly entertaining, Anthony leveraged our short entertainment attention span to actually teach us something about the rest of the world.

Rather than just being bland shows about interesting (or at times shocking) foods, Bourdain's adventures leveraged our entertainment and pseudo-food interests to broaden our horizons to the ecosystems, the geography, and the cultures that spawned those foods. He taught us to take chances to expand our culinary horizons, challenging our little food/culture/geography enclosures, but more importantly he taught us about the rest of the world outside our little boxes.

Unconsciously to us, we actually learned something important from him while we just figured we were being entertained.

Anthony introduced us to new people, new countries, and especially new cultures, consistently challenging our core beliefs and understandings of those cultures, all while we witnessed challenges to his very own beliefs more often than not. We didn’t necessarily agree with his beliefs - and never felt the requirement to - but we sincerely respected them, because we recognized that he sincerely respected our beliefs. We were proud to have him be our statesman, our ambassador, our antithesis of the “Ugly American”.

Thanks to Anthony, I occasionally look for restaurants and items on menus for something new that I’ve never tried before. Contrary to today’s obsession with them, I can directly attribute my initial “bravery” of trying something from a food truck - some old square truck with food! - directly to Anthony Bourdain. He had me try pho - and I liked it. And he had almost – almost! – gotten me to try blood sausage…maybe it’s time.

Anthony also taught us more about the unsavory side of the food preparation industry, far more than we wanted to know. He taught us to be tolerant of an industry seems to be such as easy thing to do, maybe something fun to do, yet we now realize it is neither.

He also, ironically and sadly, ultimately taught us of the demons that can haunt the human condition. “There but by the grace of God…” And his internal conflicts between an obvious love of animals versus a strong appetite for “meat on the stick” was something we can all relate to.

In the end, Anthony Bourdain allowed us to vicariously – and enviously – tag along and see new places, eat new foods, meet new people, sharing a meal in the restaurants and even private homes of the seemingly-mundane but truly spectacular, things and people and places and stuff that we all know deep down we’ll never get to do ourselves. We’ll miss that.

I mourn the untimely death of Anthony Bourdain, but more so I mourn the fate of those of us that have been left behind, those of us that will continue on without him. Because we are all a little bit lesser now. I certainly am.

Words have no truer meaning: Rest In Peace, Anthony Bourdain. I’m glad we knew you; I truly hope your demons have now been exorcised.

And I promise I’ll always remember to “respect the pig”.