Driving Me Insane

Rae Monet

 

Prologue

E-mail: March 27, 2004

From: RickMonroe@rickmemail.com

To: Angela@warnmanufacturing.com

Angela, thanks for taking a few minutes to talk to me today about the new Warren Pro Speed gasket. We’re going to give it a try, your explanation of the schematics was perfect. And on a personal note, thanks for helping me with that problem on my brother’s Cuda 400 big block and the leaking valve cover.

I’ll be in town soon. Please let me know if you’ll be available on April 15th. Seems like we’ve been talking via e-mail or on the phone forever and never met. I’d like to put a face with the voice.

Warmly,

Rick

* * * *

E-mail: March 28, 2004

From: Angela@warnmanufacturing.com

To: RickMonroe@rickmemail.com

Rick, make sure you tell him to lightly snug the bolts down with a speed handle, using the torque pattern from the inside out (i.e. like head bolts). Tell him not to over torque. The valve cover will bend or break before anything gets too tight, so no more than 15 ft/lbs. You might also tell him to use a Mopar aluminum cover, instead of the stock. Much more durable, it’s worth the extra money.

I’m at a trade conference on the 15th. I’ll try to catch you the next time you’re in town. I would also enjoy meeting you. Yes, it would be nice to put a face with the voice.

Until we next speak, have a great day.

Sincerely,

Angela

* * * *

E-mail: August 10, 2005

From: RickMonroe@rickmemail.com

To: Angela@warnmanufacturing.com

Angela, thanks for your time to discuss the S9507 ignition component. Sounds like that puppy is really going to help us with our problem. Very kewl about your brother. I wish him good luck on his first Grand National race. I remember well the same feelings your brother is currently having, the nervousness before your first race. Of course, that stress never really goes away, but you eventually learn to push it aside to perform. Tell him to keep a cool head and everything will go smooth.

I have a sponsor event on August 20th at the Detroit Mall. I wondered if you would be interested in stopping by and perhaps going to dinner with me after the event. I’ll understand if you’re busy and I know this is short notice. I just thought I’d ask.

Take care,

Rick

* * * *

E-mail: August 11, 2005

From: Angela@warnmanufacturing.com

To: RickMonroe@rickmemail.com

Rick, I’m glad that part is going to work for the team. My brother idolizes you, so he will be thrilled with your well wishes and advice.

The week of August 20th, I have the annual Warren teambuilding event in Fontana, at the Abby Resort complete with the All Star Olympics and sand volleyball. I’m so sorry I’ll miss your event, but I’m sure you’ll be a huge hit, you’re very charismatic and the kids are going to love you.

Sincerely,

Angela.

* * * *

E-mail: August 12, 2005

From: RickMonroe@rickmemail.com

To: Angela@warnmanufacturing.com

Angela, how frustrating we can’t seem to be in the same place at the same time. I was really looking forward to meeting you. All Star Olympics and sand volleyball, huh? Sounds like more play than work, LOL. You’ll have to give me an update when you return. Charismatic, huh, I bet you say that to all the boys ;). I’ll let you know the next time I’m in town. Maybe we can get together then.

Warmly,

Rick

* * * *

E-mail: September 5, 2005

From: RickMonroe@rickmemail.com

To: Angela@warnmanufacturing.com

Angela, thanks for the recommendation of the L23 Series parallel switch. I think it’s what we need to control that starter motor glitch.

From what you told me, sounds like you had a great time at your teambuilding event and congrats to your brother for winning his first race. Sometimes I yearn for the simple track life again, when I could race for fun, not a living. Of course, then I climb into the seat of my stockcar and all the wishing for normal life melts away with the flip of the ignition switch and the roar of the engine.

Yes, the mall was crazy, but I loved to see the kids. They’re great. Our Detroit sponsors have planned another event, this one a little more formal and I’m thinking you’d look really great in Black Velvet. It’s the third week in February, a kick-off event for the start of the new race season. I was wondering if you could join me? You can’t tell me you have something planned. I’m asking with plenty of notice this time ;).

* * * *

E-mail: September 6, 2005

From: Angela@warnmanufacturing.com

To: RickMonroe@rickmemail.com

Rick, great, I thought that switch was just what you needed. I saw the news coverage of the mall event. You were really in your element with the children and handsome as ever. I could see how happy you were making those kids. And yes, despite the fact I now have sand in everything I own from the volleyball competition, I do have to say I enjoyed the teambuilding. I love my co-workers, they’re a great group.

My brother was thrilled about the win. That’s so funny you talk about wishing you had the simple track life back whereas, my brother can’t think of anything but finally being able to race cars for a living.

I know you’re going to find this hard to believe, but every year, the third week of February, my family holds our annual reunion in Kentucky. Yes, I know, that doesn’t sound as exciting as your event, but I’m committed to going. My family would kill me if I weren’t there. I’m so sorry. Besides, I don’t own any Black Velvet. I know, I know, that in itself should be a crime.

Sincerely,

Angela

* * * *

E-mail: November 4, 2005

From: RickMonroe@rickmemail.com

To: Angela@warnmanufacturing.com

Angela, ughh, this sucks. Seems like the fates are conspiring against us. Perhaps one day, we’ll get the best of them. I always believed if something is meant to be, it will happen. Meanwhile, I’m still going to continue to throw out options for us to meet. That is, if it’s okay with you, or maybe you’d like me to stop asking? If that’s the case, let me know, tell me if I’m coming at you too fast and I’ll tap on the brakes. P.S. Black Velvet is so easy to get, about as easy as I am, if you’d say the word.

Warmly,

Rick

* * * *

E-mail: November 6, 2005

From: Angela@warnmanufacturing.com

To: RickMonroe@rickmemail.com

Rick, keeping our options open is always a good thing. Yes, I think you’re right about fate. You’re a great person and no you’re not coming on too fast. Of course, first and foremost, I’m here to assist your team with any technical question you have. But the job aside, of course, I would really enjoy meeting you some day. Let’s continue trying for it and keep our fingers crossed for a win. (Hope that didn’t sound too corny, I was trying to be witty.) As far as having you, well … I know I’d have to fight through hordes of beautiful women to get to you and I’ve never really been very good at that. P.S. Black Velvet … well I have always wanted to own a dress with that kind of material ;).

Sincerely,

Angela

Chapter One

“What’s happening out there, Rick? You got smoke blowing from your rear,” his crew chief screamed into his headset.

“I don’t know. She shut down. There’s no power, nothing,” Rick Monroe yelled. He was losing places quick, almost as if the engine had fallen out of his Chevrolet Monte Carlo. His RPMs were dropping faster than he could count.

He gritted his teeth. Bristol Motor Speedway wasn’t the place to stop dead in the middle of the track. If he didn’t get her fired up, he would get taken out from behind. They were packed on the track tighter than whiskey bottles in a bootlegger’s trunk. When one car went out, they all followed.

“You’re leaving a liquid trail, something’s leaking,” his spotter said.

“Damn.” Smelling the smoke, Rick checked his mirrors, then headed down toward the infield, what little of it there was.

“You’ve got a wreck behind you.”

Not surprised by his spotter’s news, he frowned. If he was leaking fluid, everyone behind him was feeling the pain.

“Please tell me Ryan and Jimmy are clear.” He prayed out loud his racing buddies weren’t in the thick of this mess.

“Yeah, this time they were ahead of you.”

“Thank God for that.”

Feeling his back end break free, he jerked the wheel. The fluid was leaking onto his tires, and at one hundred miles per hour, oily tires could mean the end of him.

“Man, I’m loose. Christ.” The rear end shifted, he held onto the steering wheel, his only connection to life or death. The car spun, and he worked to keep some control over the direction he traveled and who he hit.

Another car crashed into him from behind. He hissed in a breath. Smoke billowing around his car blinded him. He didn’t know which end of the white tunnel was the best to come out on. He fought to keep calm even though every nerve in his body quaked.

“If you keep your line of travel, you should be okay, buddy. Hang on.”

Rick followed his spotter’s instruction. His spotter was Rick’s eyes right now. Way up in the grandstands of the race, he was keeping Rick out of trouble.

“Thanks dude.” Rick breathed a sigh of relief when his stock car stopped spinning and the smoke settled. As far as he could tell he only damaged one side panel. His heart hammered as the smell of oil and fuel overwhelmed him. Fire could be fast to follow, so he pulled off his five-point safety harness and worked on getting himself out of the car. Losing it wouldn’t help him now. He needed a clear head. He unsnapped his wheel, threw it aside, and climbed out of the metal prison he had voluntarily placed himself in.

The safety crew rushed to his car and helped drag him out. He hit the ground, and with their assistance, he walked from his car into the concrete infield on his own two legs. Always a good day when you walked away from a wreck, he thought, trying to calm his rapid breathing. His heart was pounding a painful rhythm in his chest and he felt like his head was going to burst after being tossed around like a salad.

He glanced down the raceway and grimaced at the five cars skewed unmoving on the track. This little problem with his car had wiped out five other drivers. He hated to know he was the cause of knocking them out of the race. Tow trucks zipped down the track, in a hurry to clean up and get the race going again.

Rick ripped off his helmet and sucked in rancid air tinged with the stench of smoke and rubber. He ran an unsteady hand through his hair. That was a close one. Looking back at his car, he saw how near the wall was to his smoking car. Another twenty feet and he might have finished his ride and maybe himself.

He made his way to his pit and his crew. His crew chief, Sam Cross, was climbing down from his metal perch on pit row. Sam pulled off his headset.

“Sam, I want to know what caused this, no expense spared.” He wasn’t messing around on this one. He didn’t care what his sponsors said about his behavior. He needed to find out what had gone wrong.

“You got it, Rick, don’t worry.” Sam clapped him on the shoulder. “You okay?”

Rick nodded as he mopped sweat from his forehead. He handed his helmet to one of his pit crewmembers.

“Yeah, I’m okay, just pissed. I took out near a half dozen guys out there and now I have a DNF, did not finish. I need every one of these races to keep my point standings up. I’m not happy.”

“I know. I’ll find out what happened, let you know right away. We’re hauling the car back to the shop in Florida as we speak.”

“Good, thanks. I’m heading to my rig.” Rick nodded and took a deep breath. Adrenaline still pulsed through him. He needed to make his way to his trailer and try to unwind before he killed someone. Adrenaline buildup could make him sick if he didn’t release it somehow. Usually he played poker with his fellow drivers and friends, Ryan and Jimmy, but they had to finish the race as soon as the crews mopped up his mess.

Rick scowled, more worried than angry. He was on thin ice with his sponsors this year, already further behind in the standings than they wanted him to be, and the blown engine just cost them a lot of money. How he did in the weekend races was critical to his sponsors. He was going to have to work it out. Might be good to go on a run.

Known for his calm demeanor, his engine wasn’t the only thing that had blown—his temper was well on its way.

* * * *

“It was the oil pump, blew your engine within a minute. There was no way you could have known unless you were looking directly at the pressure gage when the pump failed.” Sam grabbed the towel off the counter in Rick’s trailer and threw it.

Rick caught the towel and ran it over his neck and face. He had just gotten back from a three-mile run in the blistering heat.

“That’s a surprise, considering all the oil and smoke left behind me.” His sarcasm wasn’t lost on Sam, who frowned as Rick continued. “What happened to it?” He grabbed a bottle of water from the fridge and downed half of it before Sam answered. His run in the Bristol heat had sucked the sweat out of his body.

“We’re not sure. Warren manufactures it. We notified them. We’re running a spectral analysis back at the shop, checking the pan, the pin, and all the possibilities. After we’re finished, we’ll send the old one back to Warren. They’ll also analyze it. We’ve got another engine for tomorrow. You’ll be set. It’s been dyno tested, good to go. We’ll make sure you’re ready to race.”

Rick pictured the huge compact computerized treadmill called a dynamometer, designed to gauge an engine's horsepower output and the amount of horsepower a car transmitted to the track surface, or ‘put on the ground’. If something were going to go wrong with that engine, it likely would have happened during dyno testing.

“The last engine was dyno tested too, and look what happened.”

Sam’s facial expression dropped to one of worry.

Rick’s anger bubbled to the surface. He prided himself on his reputation, as an even-keeled person, structured and organized, not ruled by his emotions. But the faulty fuel pump could have cost a life today, and he felt as emotional as a soap opera star.

“This better not happen again.”

“We’re working overtime to determine the cause of what occurred today and the role the oil pump played in the wreck. Warren’s on it too.”

“Okay.” Rick downed the remaining water. “Threaten to pull the contract with Warren if they don’t take this seriously.”

Sam opened his mouth to protest. Rick knew what he was thinking. Warren had been a trusted supplier to his team for as long as Rick had been driving.

“Do it, Sam. This is important. You know where my sponsors stand. We might all be without a job tomorrow if I can’t maintain my position in this series after today’s mishap.”

Rick threw the water bottle into the sink with more force than needed. It bounced back out and hit the floor. He left it.

“I understand. I’ll call them. I’ll be clear on our position. Calm down, Buddy. This isn’t like you.”

“I know.” Rick sat down before he passed out. Probably wasn’t the best idea to take that run. Driving was his life. He didn’t want to do anything to jeopardize his team or his car. It was hard enough to acquire a sponsor, let alone keep them. His career was a delicate balance and situations like this made him itchy.

“Race over?”

“Yeah.”

“How did Ryan and Jimmy do?”

“Top ten, both of them. Decent finishes.”

Rick was jealous, but happy for his buddies. The three of them had a love-hate relationship. The gloves came off when it came to racing. After the race, the friendship kicked back in.

“Who are they sending from Warren?” Through the last six years, Rick had spoken to several people at the company. When he had a yen for discussions on a new part they were testing, he always ended up talking to Angela. She had the sexiest voice…

Thinking of her, he sighed. He’d flirted with her at least a dozen times, striking out. Although she focused on the mechanics of their discussion, he always heard the smile in her voice.

“Not sure. I spoke to the owner, Joseph Warren. He’s a character.”

“Yeah.” Rick laughed and shook his head. The man was Italian through and through. Joe flew key team members up on the off-season, wining and dining them at the best Italian restaurant Detroit had to offer. “I’m sure he’s upset by this.”

“No kidding, I wouldn’t want to be in the quality department right now. I kind of gave him a dressing down.”

Rick rubbed the back of his neck. He hoped Angela wasn’t going to get her ass chewed.

“They better send the best.”

“He assured me they would.” Sam must sense Rick’s impatience and uneasiness. “I’ll see you in the morning.”

“I’ll be there.” Rick gave his wolf smile.

Thinking about it, Rick breathed easier. The Saturday races helped keep him fresh, plus racing at any level was good practice, good money and gave him valuable track time. Now Sunday was serious business, running in the stock car race. His expensive bread, butter, and high-grade steak rested with that category.

The door closed behind Sam, and Rick strode toward the shower. Warren damn well better fly over their number one mechanic or they were going to hear from one pissed off driver.

 

 

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