Cash settled in the cockpit and worked his fingers inside his gloves. He checked to make sure the fuel and kill switch were both off and pulled the lever to put the car in gear. It slid in easily. Cash lowered his visor, took a breath and nodded to the pit steward that he was ready to go. A push truck was already in position. He felt the bump, heard the engine rev and the tires squeal and he was moving. He slid along, shaking and bouncing for the first few feet. Supers are light weight but their high horsepower, high compression engines require a lot of force to get them going. the rear eels finally started to turn. Cash watched the oil pressure gauge carefully. When it read 60 psi., he turned the fuel on, gave a slow two count and pulled the kill switch. The engine sputtered to life. He gave a wave to let the push truck driver know he was under his own power. He made the hard left through the pits, working the brake more than the throttle since supers idle at around sixty miles per hour. The things definitely weren’t built to go slow. Once Cash was on the track, he tugged on the steering wheel and pulled his belts tight. He was in his element, but still felt out of sorts, going through the motions but not feeling like he was really in the moment.
That’s a brief excerpt from A Shot at Redemption, the working title of my book. Cash Douglas is my main character and he’s a supermodified driver. For most readers, one question will immediately come to mind. What the heck is a supermodified? If, like so many others, you’re unfamiliar with that form of racing, the above sequence probably sounds pretty strange. Kill switch? Oil pressure gauge? Push truck? What is al that about? Even among racing enthusiasts, supers have a pretty small fan base. In fact, Oswego Speedway is the only track in the country where the class still competes on a weekly basis. Without question, there are plenty of more popular types of auto racing. You can catch a NASCAR event on television almost every Sunday from February through November. If my goal is to attract new readers, wouldn’t it have made a lot more sense to hitch my star to a more popular wagon? The simple answer is yes. But, there’s something to be said for writing what you know and I really thought my story could be told much better with more of a small town setting. There’s a little more to it as well. Supermodifieds have been called the best kept secret in motor sports. I say it’s time for that to change. That was one of the inspirations for my book. The inspiration for this blog post came from a multi-part interview with supermodified driver Otto Sitterly. Among other things, he discusses what makes the sport so special. I’ve posted the links below. When you’re done reading, I strongly suggest you take a look. It’s good stuff. There’s also a page on my website called Why Supers? where I discuss in more detail exactly why I chose to write about them.
My own motivations aside, creating a supermodified driving main character presented a number of unique challenges. For starters, I had to describe and explain things most readers would know little or nothing about. There’s a fine line between providing the necessary details and dumping a whole lot of unwanted information. In addition, I knew I’d have to put my characters and subsequently my readers into situations with which I have no personal experience. Because of an eyesight condition, I can’t even get a regular driver’s license. What would I know from eight hundred horsepower supermodifieds? I talked to a lot of people, asked a bunch of questions; I even went for a ride in a super. And, I relied heavily on my imagination. The truth is every author worth his or her salt has to be able to venture beyond the familiar. It’s all about being in the moment. I believe the proper literary term is verisimilitude. Suspension of disbelief is another way to put it. Sure, I can go ahead and tell you supers are loud, fast and powerful. Or, I can put you behind the wheel as the field prepares to take the green flag. Spoiler alert: things can go wrong in the blink of an eye. Click here to see what I mean.
Cash tugged on his straps one final time as the field exited turn two and headed down the back straightaway. He could see the pace truck’s taillights flickering far ahead. The front row looked like a long way off. Like a dog tugging at the leash, the field began picking up speed even before the green came out. And then, the green lights were on. Cash always loved this part of the race. It thrilled him. It excited him. It even terrified him. When you start up front, you’re riding the wave. You can feel the push but it’s all behind you. As long as you don’t make a mistake you have nothing to fear. But now Cash was inside the wave. It was all around him, gaining power by the second. He was engulfed in the sound and the fury, like being inside a whirlwind. He felt like he was on the edge of total chaos. Cash was in complete control of his own car, but there was another car immediately in front of him, one just inches to his right and two more pressing in from behind. They were all fragile links in an extremely unstable chain. If one of the links so much as faltered, the reaction would send cars spinning and crashing in every direction.
Shop Talk: Otto Sitterly Part 1
Shop Talk: Otto Sitterly Part 2
Shop Talk: Otto Sitterly Part 3