Daytona’s Grand Am Rolex 24. A place where the competitors pit themselves somewhere between metal, strategy, and pavement, pushing the outside of the envelope of their, and their car’s performance for twenty-four hours straight.
My two widow friends, and I, call ourselves “The Widows of Eastwick” (this came about when our 1st event together was on Halloween), and we have arrived to push the edges of our own envelope. It’s another adventure to add to our “done” list; where we will be out there in the world, active; instead of staying at home curled up in a little ball, suffering, and wilting away. It’s a concept!
And at the Rolex 24, we were not going to be mere spectators – we were going to be in the pit, supporting the car racing for Texas Heart Institute, organized by Godstone Ranch, and teamed with Muehlner Motorsport, with drivers Davy Jones, John McCutchen, Bill Lester, and Mark J Thomas at the wheel.
This weekend had been masterminded by the Lady M (whose brother is racing), and I picked up my two friends in Houston. We were already having fun on our flight to Florida, and no sooner than we landed, three F-18 Hornets pulled up on our ramp. I was thrilled. We haven’t even left the airport yet, and this weekend was already great!
Friday afternoon. After a lot of finagling, and an act of God, we got on to the Speedway grounds, and went straight to the garage to see the “Heart” car. The garage is fantastic, lined with car, after car, mechanics finishing the last touches, and everyone excitedly preparing for the big day tomorrow. I’m loving it, and want to sit in the “Heart” car. “Uh, no,” says the Lady M’s brother. Of course. Don’t touch the car before the race!
Saturday morning. We woke up early to make sure we had everything done before we attend the Driver’s Meeting. It’s my 1st race, and I’m getting to do some very special things.
After the driver’s prep, the cars started to pull out of the garages… The noise was deafening (I already had earplugs, in addition to a noise canceling headset), and there’s something about it that is thrilling, visceral. The zap of these engines revving, and kicking in, was like a violent, intimate thump into your personal space. And I felt something deep inside me suddenly gurgling up, like the warrior princess within had awakened, and was moving to high alert. Aaaaarrrrrrrr!
As I glanced around, though, I could see that I was not the only one with this reaction. People crowded as the cars passed, taking photos, moving happily and nervously. I looked in their eyes, and could see that they were just a bit mad, too.
One thing was clear to me – it was gladiator time.
And the race was off! We, widows, alternated our time between being in the pit, and brief visits to the hospitality suite where we could watch the race on TV. No place, no place, was quiet. We were “in” it.
And when we got back in the pit, a terrible thing happened –
We got kicked out.
The pit boss informed us that the rules stated that we could not be in the pit without wearing a fire suit! Puzzled, and a bit ticked-off, we left the pit, and I couldn’t help but notice that every other pit had people in them without fire suits on. Was he just trying to get rid of us? Hm?
But we are the Widows of Eastwick! Our solution?
* We get fire suits. Really cute fire suits.*
And let me tell you, these outfits were like a magnet – we were scoped out everywhere we went, people waved to us, stared, asked if we were drivers; the pit crew loved us, grinning and giving us a thumbs-up; we were even sought out to have our photos taken. I’d learned to be pretty low-key when I’m out in public, but…Outside the comfort zone, Lisa, just go with it. We were going to embrace this weekend. And, well, we had to admit, that if there was a fire in the pit from all that fuel sloshing around, the widows would be safe – no, “Burn, witch, burn!”
I was learning about what it takes to run an endurance race like this – there are no splashy heroics, but steadfast, hard, hard driving, and immense concentration from the crew. The number one rule – don’t break the car. At 11:30 that night, our “Heart” car hit a wall – hard. Luckily, no one was hurt, and everyone scrambled to get the car back in the race.
They were racing their hearts out. Funny, that car’s “heart” pumps fluids and oxygen throughout, and the heart of a person relatively does the same thing. They are both mechanical. And yet, “heart” is always used as a metaphor for emotion, love, and intention. It points out how much we feel that will and desire drives everything, and is the more over-powering of the two. Certainly, our beautiful heart transplant patient, Ally’s, desire to live had been strong, and it took an entirely different heart to be placed in her body for her to go on. A new heart for her. Our car was to blow a transmission, and, with almost supernaturally speed, the crew replaced the entire thing and sent it back into the race. It all shows effort, and desire. Broken and wounded, we can find a way to go on.
In the wee hours, Sunday morning. Little Red, the Lady M, and I, went back to the hotel to try to get some shut-eye while the team raced on through the night. But we were still buzzing from the day. The competition was great, and our egos had been massaged by the attention we got, and the witches had much to talk about until three in the morning…