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thanks to the legal types at NBC,
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We're trying to figure out what?

Well, it all came together at the last effing minute (what else?) what with the USB Flash Drives of the new audiobook arriving the day before we had to leave for Road America and the CD sets and the new, 10th printing of the hard-copy book shipped direct and meeting us at the racetrack. But by gum everything arrived in the proverbial nick of time and we spent four days flogging the living crap out of my books and the new audiobook (and associated posters and merchandise, of course) in the most excellent and expansive (not to mention air-conditioned!) Road America Paddock Shop in company with ex-pat Brit motorsports icons/audiobook mystery celebrity guest voices David Hobbs and Brian Redman (who had books of their own to hustle and sign). And that was just the custard filling of the weekend, since Carol and I had an incredibly full dance card that had us changing locations, unpacking, setting up, tearing down, repacking and moving about like bedouin gypsies. Here's a brief synopsis of our schedule:

Wednesday: Pick up our rental van (our beloved Honda Odyssey is still in the body shop after being sideswiped by a blessed school bus while sitting stock still...details upon request), pack all of our book shit & associated merchandise, personal effects and equipment inside, drive up to Road America, register, put up our "PREMIERE WEEKEND" audiobook launch posters anywhere our tape would stick both at the track and in town and then enjoy a delightful and delicious dinner at The Paddock Club (our very favorite restaurant in Elkhart Lake) in company with now publisher emeritus of Vintage Motorsport magazine (you SHOULD have a subsctiption!) Mike Silverman and his track-booth staff (and our good friends) Nick Lish and Gary Hunter. A good time. Followed by ice cream at excellent old-time Ice Cream Shoppe Gesserts just down the street. Yum.

Thursday: Set up our traveling pushcart in The Paddock Shop, sign books, audiobooks, posters etc. with visits by weekend Guest Stars Brian Redman and David Hobbs, put up more posters, plus a test-day track session in Mike Silverman's lovely and well-prepared (well, mostly well-prepared, as you will learn shortly) Huffaker MGA. See pic below:

REALLY nice car and lovely to drive. It was no match for Kent Prather's six-time National Champ MGA (which wasn't even in the same class) or David Nicholas's perennial head-of-the-pack/state-of-the-proverbial-art  yellow MGA, but I was pretty damn close to the next three MGAs (it was the MG focus event and the place was lousy with 'em) and hoping Mike would let me run it in the all-MG feature race on Sunday...
Be careful what you wish for.
Good competitors' welcome party at the track Thursday evening. Saw so many friends, scarfed down some off-diet food, poured a libation or two, etc.

Friday was H-O-T! Humid, too. Really glad we were in the Paddock Shop. Went out in MIke's Echidna for a brief run in the morning (see pic below) and, except for unbelievably crap brakes, it was lots of fun. Plenty of fuel-injected Corvette power and lots of steer-with-the-throttle "slideways" motoring. See pic below:

I wrote a story about the Echidnas for the weekend race program (only three were built, and they were all on hand for an "Echidna Reunion") and I'll put a link to the story in the next e-blast. There was also a very nice piece about me, my books and the new audiobook, since The Last Open Road debuted at the exact same race weekend precisely 25 years ago.
Feel old?
Sold LOTS of stuff in The Paddock Shop (as did Mr. Redman and Mr. Hobbs) with help from audiobook sound engineer/do-everything media guy Ben Mathews. Went out again in the MG and went well enough that Mike said I could run it in the all-MG race on Sunday. Oh, boy! Or so I thought.
Did I mention it was H-O-T? Got out of the car just in time to grab a quick & mostly useless shower and head down to where the concours judging was commencing at 4pm. Meanwhile Carol and Ben packed up our entire kit & kaboodle and headed into town to set up with locally well-connected Elkhart Lake resident Mr. Hobbs on the patio in front of Siebkens' infamous bar. The always-fabulous racecar-councours parade into town was spectacular in spite of lingering heat, and I joined our book-hawking crew at Siebkens as soon as our judging crew finished with our assigned cars. Brian Redman also dropped by and we did a land-office businees until well after the cars left for their return to the racetrack. But then we had to pack up all of our shit into the van again. I was able to scarf a brat or two & some potato salad at the motorsports-insider (Peter Egan was there, among other worthy notables) lawn party in front of Bill Hall's house just down the street, but poor Carol never got anything to eat except for some excellent gelato from Siebkens' ice cream shop. Delicious, but hardly a meal...

Saturday dawned with more heat, we set up in The Paddock Shop again and did lots more biz with Brian and David, and then a HELLACIOUS storm blew through. See pic below (NOT photoshopped):

Relocated our wares & hardware once again (this time only downstairs) for Saturday evening's MG Vintage Racers Dinner in the Tufte Center, where David, Brian and I were more or less the entertainment. But first I had to run into town for a quick appearance at the Healey-oriented dual 70th birthday party celebration for Phil Coombs and Tom Kovacs. Got to know them really well during the series of Healey Challenge races in 1989, when a pirate crew of British Healey racers came over to race against the best of our homegrown Austin-Healey racers at venues all over the blessed country, and I traveled with them, got to drive a few of the cars and wrote about the experience for two different magazines.
Damn near killed my liver, but made great friends and it was a memorable experience. Fun, too...
Dropped Carol at the room to "freshen up" while I did the above, then had time for a quick tour through the "street car" concours on Lake Street before Carol & I had to head back to the track for the Duck Waddle memorial toast/celebration of life outside Turn 14. If you knew Duck and wife Sue, you understand. If you didn't, you missed a pair of really special people. I wrote a column on Duck and Sue after he passed, and it was a tough one to try to get right. One of a kind.
Then it was back to the Tufte Center for the MG dinner, which was great fun and went really well. Although I can't recommend following up the alternately hilarious, then horrifying Hobbs/Redman act as a speaker. So for once I kept it short. We all sold more books/audiobooks and then, once again, we had to tear down our stuff and pack it away for the night, just so's we could set up again the next morning.
We could hear the dance band rocking when we got back to our room, but all Carol and I wanted was a shower and sleep.
Alarm rang at 5:45 to get me over to the track to run the morning warmup on the supposed-to-be-faster Hoosier radial tires (I'd been out on the Goodyear bias-plys on my previous sessions, and didn't want to start the race on tires I didn't know. They felt REALLY good and I put in a very respectable lap time. So I was really looking forward to the race.
Hawked more books through lunchtime, did some kind of documentary video interview and headed up to get into the MG for the race. I felt really ready and focused as I fired it up and drove through the busy paddock towards the false grid. I remember thinking to myself that this was going to be a really great race. I had three other MGAs just ahead of me, and two of the four of us were going to make it onto the podium. I knew they maybe had a little more power, but the draft might equalize that a bit and Road America is my home track (I've won some races and held a couple lap records) and I've always done pretty well there.
We had a delay thanks to somebody blowing an engine and laying a bunch of oil down from Pit Out through Turn 2, and the safety crew was out putting down a bunch of oil-dry to mop it up. I made a mental note to look for it on the pace lap and try to go for the best pavement when the fun started after the green flag.
Eventually they gave us the 5-minute sign and I fired her up, tugged at my belts one last time, checked my mirrors, tugged at my know, all the nervous little shit you do to fill those unbelievably long, long minutes and seconds before they finally wave you out.
But the time came and they waved us out behind the pace car, and I was on the outside of the sixth row with another MGA on my inside and my other two direct competitors in their MGAs just ahead. This was gonna be GREAT! I could feel it. I weaved the car hard left and right to heat up the tires, get the feel of the Gs and maybe worry the guys around me just a little. Hey, it's a head game as well as a skill and talent game, right?
And then. about halfway between Turn 3 and the downhill into Turn 5, just going undetr the Sargento bridge with the pack of cars all around me and we're all doing maybe 60 or 70 with a tight left-turn coming up at the bottom of the hill, I push on the brake pedal to start warming up the brake-pad linings and...
First I think in a flash "did I make a mistake and somehow push on the clutch pedal instead of the brake?" But by then I'm pumping the middle pedal like crazy and nothing is happening.
So now it's time for Plan B. Or C. Or whatever. I shoot my right arm up in the air to let the kind racer folks behind me know something terribly amiss is going on. And, speaking of amiss, I'm frantically trying to figger out how I'm a-gonna a-miss those folks lined up two-by-two ahead of me when the time comes to throw out the anchors and slow down for Turn 5!
As I think it was Dale Earnhart once said "You cain't THINK about what'cher gonna do in a racecar, on account of by the time you get done with yer thinkin,' whatever it was has already done happened."
So I start weaving the car fairly violently from side to side to get rid of some speed and warn the folks around me that something potentially highly ugly & unfortunate is in the offing. But of course the folks up ahead of me (who might as well have targets painted on their decklids) have no idea.
By now I've got the speed down to where I can downshift it into second and use the engine braking  to slow the car down a little more and I've moved over to the right-hand side of the road with the idea that I can go off on the grass as a last resort and hopefully not skate into the low concrete wall that so many cars (including one that I was driving many years ago) have bounced off of in the past. And will continue to bounce off of in the future.
In any case, the pack is slowing for 5 and the dark green MGA just in front of me is starting to get very large indeed and I'm starting to head off onto the grass and...
...and Thank Fucking Goodness he turns into the corner in the nick of time and I miss hitting his right-rear with my left-front by about a half-foot and I'm safely off the racing surface and speeding merrily up the escape road. Still with no brakes. I manage to slalom my way through the tire barriers and then turn onto the paddock access road and keep going for about 50 feet before the car finally runs out of momentum and rolls to a stop.
But, in the central core of my brain, I'm already wondering what the hell happened to the brakes and thinking dark, scary thoughts about what might have, hell, WOULD HAVE happened if the same exact thing had occurred about 5 minutes later when the whole damn pack came hurtling down into the braking zone for Turn 5 with me in the middle of it. I mean, the brakes worked fine on my drive to the false grid to line up for the race...
Turns out one of the brake pads somehow escaped from the caliper (broke? a brake pad?) which allowed the piston to hyper-extend out of its bore and let all the brake fluid out. Best guess is that the pad was worn down too far and SHOULD have been replaced before the race. But Mike's crew somehow missed it.
I'll send them the laundry bill.
It shook me up a bit thinking about what might have happened. Kept me up for awhile last night, too, watching mental images of MGAs and MGBs exploding off every which way like pins in a damn bowling alley.
Professional race crew or not, you can bet your ass I'll be checking those brake pads myself next time around. Just to be on the safe side.
Hell of a weekend, eh?
More coming (including more trivia) soon, but I just had to get this one out of my head and gut. Thanks for listening.

PS: The audiobook is NOW AVAILABLE in both USB Flash Drive and CD set formats. We'll start shipping all of our pre-orders tomorrow, but we've got a LOT of them, so please be patient, as it'll take a few days to get them all shipped. And if you haven't ordered your copy yet, hey, what the hell's the matter with you?


Catch the latest poop & pictures, the Jay Leno interview, Last Open Road swag & highly inappropriate attire from Finzio's Store and the lurid & occasionally embarrassing "ride with Burt" in-car racing videos on the hopefully now fully operational website at: