By Lindsay Toler
By Chad Garrison
By Allison Babka
By Lindsay Toler
By Jake Rossen
By Lindsay Toler
By Kelsey McClure
By Lindsay Toler
On lap 13, the race leader is just pulling even with Reeves when another car spins out of control and ends up in the infield. Out comes the yellow caution flag, signaling the drivers to slow down. Yellow flags are a chance for the field to regroup and make pit stops. Everyone holds his race position when the yellow is out, so Reeves escapes being lapped by a matter of seconds. "We know we aren't going to set the world on fire, but at least we're staying on the planet," says Scisney as the first car to drop out is removed from the infield.
On lap 31, the Logan team gets an upfront reminder on the dangers of racing when a neighboring car comes in for a pit stop. Its crew seems to be having trouble with the fueling line when one of their members starts flailing. He's on fire, but most folks don't know it because methanol flames aren't visible in the daylight. All you can see are shimmering heat waves rising from the lower half of the man's body as Collins and a few others reach for nearby buckets of water. The man jumps into a trackside 55-gallon barrel of water before they can reach him. He strips down to his underwear and is promptly hauled away in an ambulance. The drama merits few details in the trackside media report, which contains notes on every lead change and pit stop. Race officials initially record the event in six words: "Harrington to pits. Lengthy pit stop." A few laps later, officials report that the crew member suffered minor burns and was taken to the hospital as a precaution.
The yellow caution flag comes out again on lap 41 when a car suffers electrical problems and stops on the track. Reeves, now in 20th place, is one of three drivers who doesn't take advantage of the break to make a pit stop. He comes in on the next lap. This first pit stop goes well. The tires are on just as the fuel tank fills up. The only snag comes when Reeves stalls the car as he drives off, but the crew responds immediately and gets it started within a few seconds. A few feet away, Alexander is outraged because Reeves didn't pit on the previous lap, resulting in lost time to cars that came in under the yellow flag. "While all those guys were in here, he was still out there running around the fucking track," Alexander fumes.
What Alexander doesn't know is the Logan Racing Team's radios are broken. The team can hear Reeves, but he can't hear them. As a result, Reeves must rely on a reader board to signal a pit stop, which can be difficult to decipher at racing speed. He's also driving somewhat blind. Racing drivers rely on spotters to tell them when it's safe to pass and when other cars are approaching, but the broken radio makes Reeves's spotter useless.
Other than that, things appear to be going just fine until lap 97, almost halfway through the race. Reeves, now in 19th place, comes in for a pit stop. Again, the crew's performance is flawless -- the tires are changed and the tank is filled in about 10 seconds. But Reeves has shut down the engine. The crew races to restart the car but is stopped cold by Bradford, who leans over the wall and yells "No! No! No!" The man who built this motor has no trouble making himself heard above roaring race cars. The team pulls off the engine cowling and sees smoke.
The race is over for the Logan Racing Team.
Back in the garage, Bradford and Reeves explain that the car started losing power about 10 laps before the final pit stop. A few laps before the end, vibrations grew so intense that Reeves couldn't see other cars in his rearview mirrors. The problem is the water fitting: It cracked again. By the time they shut down, the radiator was bone-dry, a big problem when each of eight pistons travels nearly a mile a minute within its cylinder.
Bradford is especially worried about the vibrations, which could signal severe engine damage. "We're really lucky we didn't have a major engine explosion," he says. He'll know more in about a week, when he has a chance to completely disassemble the motor and check for melted pistons and other internal disasters. The problem could have been prevented with equipment that electronically relays such information as water temperature and pressure while the car is on the track, but that's out of reach for a shoestring team like Logan's. Bradford doesn't know how much monitoring equipment costs, but he knows one thing: "I know it isn't as costly as an engine."
While the Logan Racing Team gathers its tools and wheels No. 19 away, Scisney strips off his fireproof suit and sprints to the parking lot -- he's due in Pennsylvania tomorrow for a stock-car race. Reeves has earned a $17,300 purse for his 22nd-place finish. He wears a smile more philosophical than celebratory. "I'm not going to Disney World, that's for sure," he says. It's not clear whether the IRL, which has scheduled its first-ever race in St. Louis next year, will be back in Atlanta. Track officials don't release attendance figures, saying only that there were more fans this year than last.