The other day I was thinking about what I could write for the blog. Do I want to write about something embarrassing? Naw. Do I want to write about something idiotic? Hell yeah! Then I remembered a story that my wife loved so much she married me (At least I think that’s why she married me because if it’s not the story, then I have no idea).
In 2004, I was working for a newspaper and needed topics to put in columns. When I found out that there was a, legal, dragstrip close to home I knew I could find something to write about there! Now, my car at the time was one of the best cars I ever owned. It was a 2000 Saturn S-Series that I sadly totaled a few years later in a minor fender bender. When I say that I loved that car, it’s because it was the best option I had available.
So my usual circle of friends – Tony, Cameron, and Joey – went with Joey’s younger brother to the Southern Dragway in Paulding County to see what times we could get on our cars. Three of the members went early so I picked up Cameron at his house and we drove down to the race track to see what would happen.
When I pulled up at the main gate, I didn’t know that I had to get a card to go racing so I just paid my entrance fee and drove to the first check-in. Saying that the man at the racing entrance was surprised to see me is an understatement. When I pulled up, he had a quizzical look on his face.
When you tell someone at a drag strip that you want to race and they immediately respond “You wanna what?” I would assume that is not a good reaction. I just repeated myself and he appeared to hold back a hearty chuckle when he asked me for my racing card.
Being my first time down there, I had no clue what he meant so he told me to go back to the main entrance and get a racing card. I thanked him, put the car into reverse and with the overpowering sound of an RC engine, turned my car around to go back to the gate.
The nice woman at the front gate was almost as shocked as he was, but I’m sure it was because none of them had ever seen the power that a stock Saturn engine can unleash. After a few seconds, she gave me the card and I returned to my car with Cameron laughing at me from the passenger seat. I went back to the first chek-in and they made me sign a waiver before he sent me to the inspection.
When I rolled up to inspection, I got out of my car expecting them to do a full inspection like I’ve heard about before but they barely looked over my car. I can only assume it’s because they know that the motor from the Cracker Jack box I have under the hood is of a different breed and will almost never fail.
After Cameron gets information from him about possibly racing his Jeep in the near future, we get back in the car and, to my surprise, they had already given me a number. I was now driving the No. 90 Saturn.
So we roll into the parking lot with all of the muscle cars and other cars with engines so improved they needed new hoods on them. After a few moments, I see the guys hanging out and I pull up next to them, ready for a challenger. I, being a newcomer, look around and see that almost everyone has their hood popped open so passerby’s can look inside and catch a glimpse at where the magic happens.
What can it hurt, I ask myself as I pull the lever to open the hood. While I’m talking with my friends, finding out that Jimmy has already left because he had to go to work, someone walked by my car. They first passed Joey’s 1995 Camaro and could understand why he brought his vehicle to the track that day. Then he passed by my 2000 Saturn and, upon inspection of the engine, got a bewildered look and shrugs his shoulders as if to ask “Why?” I can only assume that it’s because he doesn’t want to challenge that raw power.
After a couple of minutes, Tony gives me my first challenger. He gave me a quick tutorial on the starting blocks before I lined up to take on his 1989 Bonneville. We finally arrive at the blocks with Cameron and Joey in the crowd, watching the race. When the audience sees what I’m driving, they begin to question my madness, telling each other “He’s … he’s racing a Saturn.”
The cars get into position and when the green light hits, I gun the gas as I thrust myself into the back of my seat because of both horses under the hood. Tony had a slower reaction time and I had him in the first few meters, but something happened and somehow I seemed to stop as he blew by me. I crossed the finish line, a distant second in the two-car competition.
I lick my wounds as I drive to pick up my time. The ’89 Bonneville had beaten me by almost a second (11.246-12.223) in the eighth-mile track.
I roll back to the parking lot where Joey, in his ’95 Camaro, was worried about having to compete against me. We decide that my car would be able to handle another race and we line up again to face off. After several minutes, we both start rolling to the starting block with the same wonderment for my Saturn as during the first race.
When the green light hits, the man with horrible eye sight and not wonderful reflexes beat me off the line and led from start to finish. I wasn’t as far behind this time, as he beat me by a little over one-half second (11.691-12.230).
Having gone 0-2 on the day, I decided that I was going to retire my Saturn from the racing circuit and head on back home where I would cherish the memory of being arguably the slowest car at the dragway.