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By RFT Staff
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Alexander has kept a close eye on Logan's team since their debut. He pooh-poohed their original explanation for the breakdown that forced them out of the Texas race. The car was smoking when it hit the pits. "They tried to tell me it was a fuel problem," Alexander sniffs. "Fuel don't smoke." Alexander guessed burned rings, and he was at least partially right. A cracked engine part allowed water into a cylinder, which resulted in a burned ring and much, much more. All told, Logan paid for a new piston, valve and cylinder, in addition to rings, after the race in Fort Worth. And the work never stops. For most of the team's three days in Atlanta, Matt Bradford, whose Chicago company built this engine, has a laptop computer hooked up to sensors within the motor, trying to figure out how to make the car run faster. Meanwhile, the rest of the crew fidgets with suspension springs and tire alignments.
"Look at all these people around this car," Alexander marvels as Logan's team prepares the car for the afternoon practice session. "There's enough here to eat it." When they do pause to eat, it's make-your-own sandwiches from cold cuts, bread and individually wrapped cheese slices laid out on the workbench. Meanwhile, the top teams enjoy hot meals laid out buffet-style on portable tables.
This is the first Indy race for some of Logan's crew. Stephen Scisney, a friend of Reeves' who lives in Atlanta, shows up on Thursday in polished loafers, slacks, vest and black dress shirt buttoned to the neck. Before long, he is helping with tire changes. Within a few hours, he will be wearing jeans and an official Logan Racing Team polo shirt. Weekdays, Scisney works for AT&T; weekends, he works as a timekeeper at stock-car races. "Anything I can do to help," he says as the crew gets ready to start the car. "I've loved racing since I was knee-high to a Hot Wheel."
The team leaves Logan with little to do except pick up cigarette butts outside the garage. Racing etiquette decrees that the crew is responsible for a car's mechanical condition and owners aren't supposed to meddle. When the car is on the track, Logan studies lap times and eavesdrops on radio transmissions between Reeves and the crew. When he isn't trackside, he's in the garage, unlike many of his fellow car owners. "A lot of them sit on their ass in their air-conditioned trailers," says Alexander. "A lot of them aren't here."
By midday, Logan has plenty to do. The media has discovered the first African-American owner of an Indy car. Logan loses count after the third interview. Reporters from CNN, local news stations, auto-racing television shows and racing magazines line up outside his garage. Logan is getting as much attention as the top team owners. By cell phone, he declines an interview request from a radio station that wants him to stop by the studio. Apparently they don't understand that he can't get away from the track.
Reeves gets the car up to 198 mph during the first practice session, 16 mph slower than the fastest driver's car. The situation is improving -- the crew has adjusted the pedals and Reeves's head is stable, thanks to foam filler added to the car's headrest and secured with duct tape. The crew has also softened the suspension to improve the car's feel. But something still isn't right: The car continues to lose power, especially on the turns. The crew heads back to the garage. They have less than two hours to solve the problem before qualifying starts.
Despite the difficulties, Logan is smiling. "You go around the garage this weekend, there's nobody happier than Doc," Reeves says. "He's walking on cloud nine. Every dime he gets is going back into this car. I know how he is. He'll be here for a while."
About an hour before they're scheduled to qualify, Logan and crew chief Collins decide to check the fuel filter. Voilà. Tiny paint chips and hairlike tufts of fiber are clogging the filter's stainless-steel mesh. Logan had the car painted before he bought it, and the paint flakes match the old paint scheme -- someone apparently left the fuel tank open when the car was painted and buffed. The filter is quickly cleaned and installed. Then it's off to the races.
This time, the car performs well. Reeves gets it up to 201.98 mph in qualifying, with no loss of power. It's the second-slowest time -- the pole-winner sets the pace at 216 mph. But Logan is satisfied. "You got any thoughts?" asks Collins as Logan climbs off his stand and looks over the car. The owner shakes his head: "You're doing fine."
The team now has a shot. It's not unusual for a third of the entrants in Indy races to drop out because of crashes or mechanical failures. If the team can keep the car going and Reeves can maintain enough speed to hold off the dreaded black flag, they might just put on a show. The crew wheels the car back to the garage to prepare for the evening practice session, scheduled to begin in two hours. Logan grants a few more interviews. When the practice session nears, he wanders toward the track as if in a trance, oblivious to all the work going on around him as teams scurry to get their cars ready. Smiling, he's like a kid on Christmas morning who discovers Santa has granted his every wish. "Let me introduce you to A.J. Foyt," he says. He taps Foyt on the shoulder as the Indy legend supervises his crew, rolling out one of his two cars. Clearly this isn't the time for interviews or autographs, but Foyt couldn't be more gracious as he shakes hands. "I'm a little busy now, but if you could come back tomorrow, I'll have plenty of time," he says. "We're getting ready for practice."