By Danny Wicentowski
By Lindsay Toler
By RFT Staff
By Lindsay Toler
By Allison Babka
By Lindsay Toler
By Lindsay Toler
By Ray Downs
Foyt allows that Logan may have a chance of besting him tomorrow. "Doc's all right," he smiles. "The way I've been going lately, anyone can beat my ass."
Walking away, Logan admits he'd lost track of time, forgetting that the last practice session before tomorrow's race will begin in less than 10 minutes. He makes his way to the pits and leans against the wall, gazing at the start-finish line a football field away. The moon, huge and yellow, is rising above the final turn. "I'm happy now," he declares. "Two-oh-two. We're going to get faster, though." The car will speed up if Reeves finds room in the slipstream of other cars, Logan says. The temperature and humidity have dropped since sunset, and that should also help. "The air is good," Logan says. "It has a bite to it."
Logan's predictions of higher speeds don't come true. Reeves gets it up to 199.9 mph, but no one is disappointed. The outing lasts more than a dozen laps, and the car runs consistently. Rutherford, a three-time Indy 500 winner, praises Logan for his determination and the progress the team has made. "That's one of the greatest challenges, coming into the pro ranks like this and starting from scratch," he says. "I think it's commendable for them to come in here and do that." Given the team's lack of money and experience, Rutherford says he would be surprised if they finish in the top 10. "That's the beautiful part about racing, though," he says. "If he runs all day and stays out of trouble and has good pit stops, he could finish in the top 10."
Race day begins with tragedy narrowly averted.
The team is installing a lower top gear in the transmission when they find a broken spacer between gear cogs. The broken part, called a dog ring, hasn't fallen off its spindle, which is extraordinarily fortunate. Normally, a broken dog ring, which keeps gears aligned, will fall off and get caught up in the gears, causing the driver to lose control and go into a wall, Collins explains. If the team hadn't changed gears in an effort to coax a little more speed out of the car, they never would have found the broken part. "I'm just writing it off that our luck has changed a little bit," Collins says.
The team has spent an hour practicing pit stops. Collins is cautiously optimistic there'll be no problems at trackside. The standard for excellence is getting the tires changed before the fuel tank is topped off. The team has time to repair a minor crack in the composite fiber body and install a decal on the side of the car that says "Thanks Everyone for Your Help." The decal faces the infield so the teams that have loaned equipment and given advice.
Suddenly there's another problem. As other cars are starting to leave the garage for the starting grid, the Logan crew finds a crack in a water-line fitting as they fill the radiator with coolant. Collins looks worried as he removes the broken fitting. "We've got to find a welder," he says. "We need someone who knows how to weld aluminum. Where's Doc? Doc! I need someone who knows how to weld aluminum." Logan is chatting with fans a few feet away -- having one of the last cars left in the garage, his team has drawn a crowd of about 50 race fans. He tells someone to fetch Reeves' father, who's flown in from Indianapolis and donned a team shirt. A former high-school shop teacher and longtime race mechanic, the elder Reeves is a skilled welder. Trouble is, he doesn't have his glasses with him. He and another team member take the broken fitting from Collins and sprint off in search of help. "I've seen you happier," an IRL official tells Collins. "You've seen me a lot madder, too," Collins replies. He's sweating heavily as he kneels beside the car, waiting for the part to come back. "I'm getting too old for this shit," he sighs.
Exactly one hour before the race is set to start, the fitting comes back, repaired courtesy of another team. A crew member warns Collins to be careful as he hands over the welded part, wrapped in a rag. "This is hotter than shit," he says. Holding the fitting in a gloved hand, Collins wipes it down with wet rags, bolts it to the car and smears it with a sealing epoxy that's supposed to set in 15 minutes. He's done in less than five minutes. He orders his pit crew to fill the radiator and get into their fireproof suits. The Logan Racing Special is the last car out of the garage. They make it to the starting line 40 minutes late but 20 minutes before the green flag drops, marking the start of the 320-mile race.
Bunched together when the pace car gets out of the way, the cars soon string out as drivers vie to get into slipstreams and seek out the best lines through the 24-degree banked turns, where dust and other tiny debris blown high by traffic accumulate on the outside of the track and make for slippery riding. As expected, Logan's car stays to the back of the pack, losing a few seconds on the leaders with each passing lap.