Sweat. Shakes. You ask yourself "What am I gonna do?"
Those are just some of the sensations a sports venue public address announcer goes through when told an hour before showtime that his or her partner has called in and canceled out.
When Texas Thunder Speedway promoter David Goode mentioned at 6 p.m. Saturday that co-announcer Sarge Masom wouldn't be mic side, I knew it was time to start improvising.
The first thing I thought was "Let's get a woman's perspective," so I approached Robin Batt of IMCA Stock Car fame, who turned me down, but said, "Why don't you ask Jason? You know how he loves to talk."
That suggestion was worth its weight in gold. It took the Batt less than a second to say "Yeah!"
Having Jason Batt in the tower doing expert commentary was great for the fans and for me, especially when a car broke. In most cases, he could quickly tell us what happened and how, if at all, the problem could be fixed.
Of course, he had to leave when it was time to go race his I-Stock, but during intermission, while the light company labored to get part of the track's electric back up and running thanks to a sparking transformer,
Jason even got to conduct his first-ever interview, grilling best friend and arch-rival Eric Jones.
Thanks, Batt. Great job. Even your modified-driving friend Doug Lorenz said you were "awesome."
Getting back to Eric Jones, he was shooting for a milestone on Goode Towing night. Since his rookie year in 2001, Jones had amassed 49 sanctioned IMCA wins and it didn't take long to assert himself in the feature race.
Jones chased down race leader "Big" Mike McCarthy's Hutto-based car, making an inside pass for the lead on lap four. As is often the case, Batt applied a lot of pressure, but Jones held off the challenge and notched career win no. 50, earning a kiss on the cheek from his Mom and a standing ovation from the fans.
Another driver hit a milestone in the Street Stock main event. It's not all that unusual for a racer to be in the top 10 in points without a win, but to lead the standings and not have a victory is something you don't often see. That was about to change.
Killeen driver Bobby Norton led from the get-go, with points leader Tristan Carman in hot pursuit. Like a long-distance runner, the 15-year old rookie from Killeen saved his kick for the final
straightaway, edging past the leader with a half-lap to go and streaking under the checkered flag to claim his first-ever feature victory, which came in a caution-free run and ignited a bleacher-wide celebration and a charge to the Winner's Circle by family, crew members and friends.
IMCA Modified action cranked up when Joe Spillman broke out of the pack early, settling into the lead. Things rocked along through a few cautions, until lap 17 when Belton driver Kenny Stone took his car to the inside and held on to the top spot for the final three circuits and a trip to Victory Lane.
Killeen driver Mike McDougal slammed his car into high gear when the green flag waved to start the IMCA Southern SportMod main, jumping out to a quick lead.
Gatesville racer Sid Kiphen hard-charged his way from eighth spot to second and got his car alongside McDougal on a restart, but had to watch as the 224 pulled away and parked on the Winner's Circle.
During an early heat race, where the IMCA Hobby Stocks were jockeying for feature event starting position, disaster struck points leader Charles "The Breeze" Cosper.
The Belton driver spun around in turn one and spit out a plume of gray smoke, enveloping the entire car. It was quickly determined that an oil line had broken and made his return for the main event iffy.
That's when the racing brotherhood philosophy came into play. Cosper's car would not return, but he would, thanks to Temple driver Damian Snyder, who's chasing national and regional rookie honors himself.
Snyder loaned his car to Cosper, who put up a valiant effort, but had to settle for the runner-up spot behind race winner Zach Riley in his Killeen-based car.
Riley had overtaken race leader Bill Siegman, Jr. of Killeen on lap four and led the rest of the way.
Austin Smith of Lampasas was back in Victory Lane after another Outlaw Twister feature win. Copperas Cove's Rick Smith was leading after four laps, when Smith pulled a gutsy crossover move out of the fourth turn and ran off to a full straightaway advantage at the checkers.
During his post-race interview, Smith put the other drivers on notice, saying he was "going to tear the engine apart this week and put in a lot of cool stuff."
That from a driver, whose equipment is already dominating, but since this class is pretty much "run what you brung," there's no telling what we'll see Saturday night from the 313 car.
There was an interesting finish to the Texas Twister main event. It came up when John Fimrite's car was passed late by Stephanie Henderson, racing out of Taylor.
Henderson was bumped in a three-wide coming out of the final turn, but recovered to go side-by-side with Fimrite to the finish line.
It looked as if Fimrite crossed the line first by a nose, but the electronic scoring transponder had Henderson winning by 0.100 of a second. Promoter Dave radioed in, saying we go by the computer, so Henderson
gets her first win.
A side note to the Twisters involved the claim rule being suspended for two weeks. It'll be reinstated on July 7, once the rules are rethought after a recent rash of claims.
This weekend is a two-nighter and I'm excited! We'll have our regular race program Saturday, then Sunday the IMCA Lone Star Series is expected to draw cars from all over, with $1,000 to win the modifieds.
I've heard that International Motor Contest Association brass has said this will be the final try at Sunday racing in Texas.
Hopefully, track promoters around the state can talk the headshed into giving it another shot.
See ya at the track!