Authors: Shey Stahl
There I sat with a red rope licorice in hand, when a black sprint car caught my attention. With their thunderous rumbling and slide jobs, sprint cars were always my favorite cars to watch. Sprint cars were small open-wheel high power to weight ratio beasts that would reach 140mph on some quarter mile tracks.
I chose a seat close to the fence to feel the dirt and wind of the cars hit me when they would broad-slide into turn one. Some call me crazy but I loved to get right in the middle of the action, despite the lack of visibility. I also enjoyed the burn in my eyes from the methanol and that growling pop they made when they lifted in the turns.
The black speed demon went from sixth to first in two laps straight. I’d never seen the car race here before let alone seen someone race the way he did. His agile movements on the track were so smooth and so precise balancing right on the edge of control. Once he chose a line, he was set and determined—he’d easily slid past two and three cars in each corner.
I continued to watch him the remainder of the night. He not only won the heat race I watched first but the trophy dash, the B-Feature,
the A-Feature—he was the talk of the night.
Listening closely, I tried to pay attention to the announcer to catch his name but you couldn’t hear anything over the roar of the cars and cheering fans.
When it came time for the trophy’s at the end I made my way to the pits to find my dad. It was usually the only time I saw him throughout the night.
I glanced towards the flag stand when I got past the entry gate. From the distance, I could see a
emerge from the car appearing to be the same age as me.
I thought for sure he would be a full-grown adult with those racing chops. Not to mention the legal age to be in a sprint car was sixteen. Charlie frequently bent the rules back then on age limits so that was no surprise.
There the boy stood with the biggest grin on his face having just smoked men three times his own age in an 800 horsepower sprint car weighing 1400 pounds.
The fact that he could even drive that machine in a straight line was impressive enough for me. I doubt I could even push-start the damn thing let alone make it through turn one.
I managed to make it down to the pits to find my dad eventually, not exactly the easiest task when you’re a little over four feet tall. I spotted Charlie standing outside the CST Engines car hauler talking to Jimi Riley so I walked over to them.
Jimi was racing in the World of Outlaw Series—it was rare to see him here on a Saturday night unless the series was in town. The Riley family lived here in Elma but we rarely saw them around since they traveled so often. With an 85-race schedule each year, it was grueling and allowed little time spent on the West coast.
“Hey kiddo. How you been?” Jimi asked me as I stood beside my dad.
“Good Sir, how are you?”
“It’s Jimi honey, not sir. I’m good.” He smiled; his stance shifted gesturing towards the hauler behind him. “Have you met my kids before?”
Jimi.” Even though I supposedly went to school with them, I never recalled
“Let’s introduce you then,” He glanced around for a moment. “If I can find the little shits,”
There were so many people standing around waiting to get a glimpse of Jimi you couldn’t decipher who was who let alone find anyone shorter than five feet tall.
get over here!” Jimi hollered over his shoulder reaching out to sign a few autographs for a couple kids that made their ways past the adults.
“Coming,” the boys yelled barreling out of the back of the car hauler.
Jimi smiled reaching for the younger one by his race suit.
It was the speed demon.
“Sway, this is my son Jameson. I think you two are the same age.” Jimi shook Jameson’s shoulders. “And this is my other son, Spencer.” He ruffled Spencer’s hair. “I’ve got a daughter, Emma, but who knows where she disappeared to.”
“She’s selling t-shirts.” Spencer said.
Spencer Riley looked very different from Jameson with black hair. The same intensity marked the eyes but with bright blue instead of green. I saw the similarities in the crooked grin too, the one that had me blushing.
“It’s nice to meet you both.” I shook both their hands.
They both smirked when I did that, which made me want to punch them in the face, especially when Jameson winked at me.
He was the most beautiful boy I’d ever seen with bright grass green eyes counteracted the rust color in his wavy hair that curled out into loops at the ends.
I wasn’t much into boys at eleven-years old but he was one pretty boy. I’d met Nancy, Jimi’s wife, once before so I recognized that Jameson resembled his mother rather than the Riley side with black hair and blue eyes.
“You did good out there tonight.” I said to the pretty boy knowing at that point my face was a pretty cherry red color, much like my red rope.
“Looks like you follow in Jimi’s footsteps.” My dad added putting his arm around my shoulder. I looked down embarrassed but quickly look up when I heard Jameson chuckled.
He smiled widely at us. “Yes, but I’m better.” He nodded his head arrogantly while my dad and Jimi both start laughing at the suave confidence of the cocky little eleven-year-old.
By the end of the night, I was running around Grays Harbor Raceway with the Riley family.
I think the bigger picture here was what happened that night where the clay met the rubber, as Jimi would say. A racer was born in the sense that his dream came alive that night while racing on the edge.
Making my way from the plane, I managed to make it through baggage claim without bitch slapping anyone. Balancing my purse on top of my suitcase, I made my way down the escalator into the Charlotte Airport.
I heard Alley and Spencer before I saw them, bickering as usual. Those two fought more than Ali and Holyfield back in the day.
Only a few seconds before I made my way off the escalator Spencer, Jameson’s older brother, had his arms locked around me in a steel trap as he hugged me.
“Whew, I’ve missed you, Sway!”
“Hands off shit head.” I muttered trying to pull away from him.
Spencer was the type of guy you always had to keep your guard up around. With his unpredictable primate behavior—you never knew when he’d strike and you’d be the brunt of one of his sadistic pranks. For a reason unbeknownst to me, I was one of his favorite targets and always had been. After spending more than a few minutes around Spencer, you’ll understand why zookeepers give most animals toys.
If you keep them distracted, they’re less likely to attack. I honestly believe this theory works on children as well. Why do you think their toys are shinny? Distractions, it’s all about distractions.
Always keep Spencer occupied was my number one rule. If he was allowed time to think of any predatory attack, you would un-doubtingly regret it. I loved Spencer like a brother but the fact that he had to repeat the third grade
should give you an inclination as to the type of behavior he possess.
If you didn’t know any better, you’d think he was raised by a pack of wild animals in the jungle.
I stopped trusting Spencer years ago—around the time when he allowed me, while camping in the woods, to wipe my ass with poison ivy knowing damn well it was poison ivy.
“Spencer, for Christ sakes you’re going to squish her.” Alley grumbled beside us. “Put her down.”
“Jameson is so excited to see you.” Spencer finally let go to set me securely on the ground. “He actually cracked a smile this morning.”
I stumbled for a second, finding my footing while tugging my underwear out of my ass. “How is he?” I was trying to hide my excitement that he implied Jameson was excited but my voice had a certain beseechingly dismay to it.
Before Spencer could answer, Alley grabbed my suitcase and began lugging it with her. “We have to be back at the track in an hour. Get your ass moving.” she turned to wink at me once.
Alley, Spencer’s wife now, was the team manager for Riley Simplex Racing and Jameson’s publicist for good reason. She didn’t put up with bullshit from anyone, including Jimi. She loved her job, even though it met babysitting Jameson and his team most of the time.
I finally caught up with Alley and her long ass legs when we made our way into the parking garage.
“It’s good to see you again.” Alley teased throwing one scrawny arm around me. “You ready for this?”
“What does that mean?” My eyes shifted anywhere they could to avoid her questioning steel blue eyes. “Is there something I should know?”
Suddenly I was worried.
What if he had a girlfriend he didn’t tell me about?
I then began thinking of all the ways I could kill her off if that were the case. I couldn’t have another woman in the way, I just couldn’t. High school and Chelsea was enough for my sanity. If he had a girlfriend now, I’d probably be sent over the edge.
Alley knew how I felt about Jameson. Anyone who was intuitive enough would know by one glance how I felt about him.
She sighed throwing my bag into a black SUV, her eyes holding concern. “I just want to be sure you don’t get hurt.”
“Is he with someone now?” My voice betrayed me and cracked a little. My heart was trying to beat its way out of my breastbone waiting for the answer.
Alley shook her head. “No, not that I’m aware of,” She smiled. “I just want
to be careful.”
I knew Jameson had one nightstands—it was obvious. But since Chelsea, I hadn’t seen him in a “relationship” with anyone. And I wasn’t sure you could even call his time with Chelsea a relationship. It was more of the convenience for him.
Alley and even Emma, his younger sister, knew the way I felt but they also knew Jameson and thought he used me for his own advantage. Which I guess maybe he did from time to time but I didn’t care. I should have but didn’t.
She seemed to be waiting for an answer so I said, “I will.”
Clearly I was lying. I was never careful and hardly ever rational when it came to Jameson. Now wouldn’t be any different.
“Where’s Lane?” I looked around to see if he was hiding from me inside the SUV. Right about then I realized they wouldn’t have left a child in the car while inside the airport or at least I would hope they wouldn’t be that careless.
“He’s with Jameson at the track.” Alley frowned, her lips pursed. “The kid loves his uncle more than his own mother.”
I laughed because it was probably true. Alley and Spencer’s three-year old son Lane thought Jameson was the world.
Me, and this three-year old, we had a lot in common.
“It’s been an interesting morning so far.” Alley said conversationally merging with traffic.
the team was fined $50,000 for a fuel additive of methanol and ethanol.” I gasped mainly at the fine not the reasoning. “Gordon thinks the crew added it after qualifying.”
“They wouldn’t do that, would they?” My eyes darted to Spencer.
have some faith.” Spencer defended. “I just found out. We’d never cheat
that. You know as well as I do NASCAR is very specific on rules—especially fuel and tires.”