With apologies to Willie Nelson... (All sing) "Turn out the lights, the races were over." Or, they could have been, if it wasn't for one local racer.
To make a long story short, the east side track lights went out at 8:50 p.m. Saturday during IMCA Modified heat No. 2, plunging the grandstands into darkness and shutting down the tower, which left announcers Sarge Masom and yours truly no way to communicate with the crowd.
Horrors! If we can't talk, we're lost.
Then, to the rescue came Tony McPherson Sr., a mild-mannered electrician by day, but on weekends, he is a take-no-prisoners driver.
Mr. Electricity, in top superhero fashion, quickly diagnosed the problem, replaced the evil 200-amp breaker that caused children, starting with me, to cry over the chance we might be done early. With that drama taken care of, it was back to business.
A full field of IMCA Modifieds came out later and let me tell you, no sight can get a race fan's heart pumping faster than to see 24 of those beasts rolling down the back straightaway, double file, waiting for the green flag to wave.
Starting off, it was Doyle Massa out of Coupland holding point for three laps, but you could tell that points leader G.W. Egbert IV wanted to be out front. He pushed past Massa on the inside without disturbing a single paint flake and charged ahead.
By no means was it an easy win, since spins, schnozzles and fender benders brought out at least four caution flags. On each restart, Belton's Kenny Stone was getting closer in his 5K, pulling even at one point, but it was Egbert, the former IMCA Modified Rookie of the Year, who parked in Victory Lane.
It didn't long for the Automax IMCA Southern SportMod main event to draw a yellow flag. Almost immediately after the green, fans saw a tire off Brian Walker's car go careening high into the air and bounce all the way into turn two's tire barrier. Whether he got hit by somebody or not, we couldn't see, but he was done.
On the restart, Belton driver Sarah Goode roared away, then a few circuits later, big brother David Goode Jr. got the lead on a high-side pass, leaving everybody else in his wake. Goode Jr. went from worst to first, starting dead last in 17th and wound up taking the checkered flag.
Another song came to mind during the IMCA Stock Car feature race. Lampasas driver Tony Hamil had the catbird seat for the first 13 laps, despite a challenge from former track promoter Pat Wilson and a bobble on lap 10, but, in a song made famous by The Coasters, Along Came Jones.
With the white flag about to wave for one to go, Eric Jones, going for broke, did what he does so well, coming from mid-pack to pass Hamil on the right and leaving no doubt as to who would win. It was Jones' 11th trip to the Winner's Circle this year.
There was no question who would win the Crawford-Bowers IMCA Hobby Stock main event, either, since Belton's Charles Cosper took the lead on lap two in his 33c and cruised away to paydirt.
Twenty Street Stocks rolled out for their feature event and another driver proved to be uncatchable once the green flag waved.
Killeen driver Zach Riley jumped out to a big lead quickly, but was stopped short three laps in when four cars gathered each other up in turn one. On the restart, Riley again got a big jump. Nolanville's Gary Norman was working hard in second, trying to reel in the leader, but Riley had too much going for anyone to chase him down.
Copperas Cove driver Rick Smith scored his first-ever win with a runaway victory in the Outlaw Twister main event, while Kempner's Chris Bruner led flag-to-flag and won the Texas Twister feature.
Claim court went into session after the Twisters were done and Thomas Vigrass of Killeen agreed to sell his 22 car to a new owner. The drama level picked up again when Demo Derby II cranked up. At the end, it came down to a family feud between Copperas Cove couple Jessica and Kevin Barwell. Jessica came in as the defending champion after winning a few months back. Again, she pounded the competition into twisted metal hulks and once the other drivers, including hubby, had pulled their flags, jumped atop her car, enthusiastically pumping her fists skyward.
Quickly, a shout-out to all the drivers who took part in a salute to a fan.
Retired First Sgt. Billie Fruchey, who had been coming to Texas Thunder since the early 1970's, passed away last week at the age of 79. His family was there Saturday and watched as a track full of race cars did the backward memorial laps with Sgt. Fruchey's favorite driver G.W. Egbert IV leading the parade with a checkered flag, symbolizing that a member of the racing brotherhood finished his final lap.
Rest in peace, Top. Enjoy the races from the best seat in the house.
This week, it's free general admission to all active duty and retired service members who show an ID card at the gate.
See ya at the track!