Cupcake, Mr. In-Law, and I headed to the side of the autocross track where we had a good view of every rumbling machine that pulled into line at the gate’s entrance. The pungent aroma of racing fuel and burnt rubber was slightly overwhelming, but it was nothing compared to the occasional cigarette held by one of those carefree individuals who happily filled his and his neighbor’s lungs with wispy white smoke. (Thankfully these individuals were few at the Goodguys show. After all, fire and gasoline don’t exactly mix.)
Our vantage point happened to be next to a black tent housing a table covered in clipboards, helmets, and wind-swept propaganda. The trim wrinkled woman working the booth simultaneously passed out waivers to let young hopefuls ride with a ‘professional’ for a lap around the autocross track, took money to raise funds for a children’s charity, and chased down matte black helmets to attach to the passengers’ heads. A grandmother stepped out from under the tent and stood next to us so she could watch the excitement on her grandson’s face when he rattled in the passenger seat of a stranger’s car around the track. She turned to us and her vivid spring-colored sweater reflected the sun back towards our eyes. She told Mr. In-Law how she and her grandson had gone to the Goodguys car show together every year for the majority of his life. It was now his 16th birthday, so she was happy to pay the $20 fee for him to ride autocross. Grandmother knew the mother wouldn’t be happy when she found out her son had been hastily strapped into a passenger seat and then flown around curves, but what she didn’t know wouldn’t hurt her. The grandson had a truck he and his daddy had been working on for years, which Grandmother was pleased to say kept him out of trouble. Mr. In-Law responded with a reference to the pieces of an ’81 Trans Am neatly dispersed around their garage. (It was intended to be Cupcake’s 16th birthday present, and they started work on it when he was 13. Four years later, the unused tires were rotted with copper wires poking out, the pristinely painted hood was wrapped in a towel and sitting on a shelf, and the interior consisted of a shiny anti-inflammatory lining and a massive roll-bar system. Car parts don’t come cheap.)
The grandson nervously smiled as his driver rolled to the starting line and revved the engine to make sure it was warm. The worker waved his arm, the timer started, and the car took off. It seemed to slowly turn around the corners and barely make progress on the straight-aways. I then looked at the average speeds for cars going around the track and realized that if I tried to make that sharp of a turn at 60 miles per hour in my truck, I would be skipping sideways through all the cones and rolling like a log so that the pretty black paint job would be completely scratched off. I had a little more respect for the low, heavy rumblers then.
By the time the grandson stepped out of the car and made it to his grandmother, his grin was much more relaxed. He did the usual 16-year-old-boy side-hug-grandma thing, but they both were obviously pleased. I don’t think the boy really cared what his mother had to say this time.