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Saturday, May 18, 2013

A Racing Legend

I have always been into sports, but, this being more a Sci/Fi blog, I usually don't post on the subject. But, a few years back I was lucky enough to meet my soul mate and by luck of fate her Father happens to be an amazing character. At 75 years of age he is a continued successful drag car racer in the ProMod division in the South Eastern United States. Below is an article I wrote two years back.

The powerful engine roars to life rattling bones within the staging area. The chug chug of raw power pounds at the eardrums as the car slowly makes it toward the head of the track. The back wheels settle into the water box as onlookers hold their collective breath. The white haired driver lets the 2,000 plus horse power engine free and in a cloud of smoke the car shoots down the track a couple hundred feet before the driver reins it back in.

An acrid smell of burnt rubber stings the nostrils as the purple and yellow car slowly backs up being guided to the starting line. The PA system suddenly cracks to life.

“Now coming to the line,” the announcer’s excited voice echoes throughout the stands, “the legendary Sonny Tindal!”

It is not a real race, just a test run day, so only a small number are huddled in the metal bleachers. The onlookers cheer excitedly for this is the man they are here to see. The infamous pro-modified drag car, the same that adorns the huge billboard outside the main entrance of the track, settles onto the starting line.

The 2,000 plus horses rev ready to lunge down the glue covered asphalt. The lights on the tree before the shaking chasse flash down to green and in a burst of thunderous sound and puffy white smoke the drag car streaks down the strip fishtailing slightly a quarter of the way down the track. Years of experience allow the seasoned racer to settle the powerful vehicle avoiding a brush with the concrete wall.

Twenty minutes later Sonny Tindal is back at his rig with walls decorated with over fifty years of racing memorabilia. Most 74 year olds are miffed by technology, but Sonny stares intently at a computer screen displaying multi-colored lines on a graph.

“We lost vacuum pressure here,” he points to a pale blue line. “Also, we need to adjust the clutch.”

He swivels in his chair and does a few calculations on his pad then points to a number. Josh Hartley, one of Sonny’s crew members nods and is out the door with tools in hand. Robin, Sonny’s daughter, has already unbuttoned and removed the front end of the car and is filling it with fuel. In an hour the skilled crew will have the famous purple and yellow car back on the starting line.

Within the trailer the pictures on the wall tell a poignant story of a career spanning over fifty years, the entire time supported by his wife Debra at his side. She was there at the very beginning.

“In 1955 Daddy got a new F-8 red Ford truck,” The Pro-modified driver explains. “He let me drive it to haul brick. I painted the front bumper silver, wrote on one side DEB and the other SONNY. Everyone knew what I liked, fast Ford truck and my girl Debbie.”

“One night I was taking Deb home after a date,” Sonny relays a story in his mother’s 53 Chevrolet . “We were going up hwy 178 toward Fairview when I looked in the mirror and saw someone right on my back bumper. It was the 1952 Ford of a friend, Joe King. I thought he was picking at us, so I put the pedal to the floor and left him. I got up the road a piece and turned onto a dirt road, looked over and saw the area highway patrolman we called Little John. I really took off then and went around a curve, hit a mud puddle and went straight over the bank. Little John pulled the car from the muddy bank and followed us to Deb's house. Deb's mom did not like that."

“Little John then followed me home to Pelion,” Sonny continues, “where we left my car. He then carried me to jail in Swansea (Pelion did not have a jail back then). Daddy came to Swansea and got me out and told me not to let Little John catch me again, but don’t get hurt trying to keep him from catching me.”

The purple and yellow pro-modified car is towed to the staging area for its second run of the day. Sonny stands outside of the car and is assisted by his daughter.

“We have a routine,” Robin explains, “before I buckle him in and snap the window shut. It has become quite personal between Daddy and I. One time, when my own Daughter Brittnee had a horse show, I was running late to the track. Daddy was already within the staging lane when I arrived, but he refused to approach the line until I buckled him in. I was on the starting line still in my dress and sandals.”

Once again the powerful Pro-mod car is ready to pounce off the line. The tree flashes down and within the blink of an eye Sonny launches down the track. His uncanny ability to beat competitors off the line has earned him a respect amongst his peers. His name has become feared by other ProMod drivers. This talent has won him countless races earning him legendary status among his class. This day would be no exception.

The crew climbs onto the golf car to head to the end of the track to tow the car back to the rig. At the end of the strip they collect a ticket displaying speed, time of the trial and reaction time off the line. Sonny had mentioned at the Lizard Thicket this very morning he would not race another year the day his reaction time off the line could not be competitive.

“Well,” the crew jokes with Debra, Sonny’s wife, upon arriving back at the truck, “it looks like we will be racing another year!”

Debra Tindal playfully rolls her eyes in response to Sonny’s .007 reaction time off of the line. The car may have not been perfect this day, but the legendary 74 year old drag racer has not lost one bit of his edge.