CHARLOTTE, N.C. (August 4, 2003) -- Though it is an overused cliche, a funny thing did happen to Charles Carpenter on the way home. Despite trekking from Charlotte, N.C., to Cayuga, Ontario for the IHRA ACDelco Canadian Nationals, a distance of...
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (August 4, 2003) -- Though it is an overused cliche, a funny thing did happen to Charles Carpenter on the way home.
Despite trekking from Charlotte, N.C., to Cayuga, Ontario for the IHRA ACDelco Canadian Nationals, a distance of nearly 800 miles, Carpenter failed to make the 16-car Pro Modified elimination field. Worse, it was the second consecutive race where he missed making the field, even though he ran a personal best speed of 222.84-mph during his qualifying runs.
Carpenter recently formed a two-car Pro Modified team with Pat Doherty and had been transporting Doherty's '57 Chevrolet back to North Carolina for some work when their plans changed. Paul Albino, the crew chief on that vehicle, met Carpenter in Scranton, Pa., where he retrieved Doherty's car to take it back to the New Hampshire race shop. If not for this unscheduled meeting, Carpenter would not have traveled through Eastern Pennsylvania.
"After I left Paul, I was heading home down (Interstate) 81, just north of Harrisburg (Pa.), when we entered a construction zone," Carpenter explained. "The cars started to slow, and I did too, but then traffic suddenly came to a complete stop. I knew right then that this was not going to be good. There was no place to go and I had no options. I knew right away that I was going to hit the car in front of me.
"I tried my best to slow down any way possible. I had the front tire scraping the edge of the guardrail just trying to scrub off some speed. Obviously, the brake pedal was mashed to the floor. There was a heck of a racket going on -- a lot of screeching and grating metal noise. It sounded like the whole side of the trailer was getting peeled back. The next thing I knew I rammed into a Chrysler minivan. This car was pushed out of the way and then I slammed into a small Ford Focus."
Remarkably, nobody was injured, though there was significant damage to all vehicles. Carpenter's tractor lost the right front fender, sustained heavy damage to the bumper, wheel and rim, as well as dents and scratches along the right side of the trailer as it rubbed the guardrail. Fortunately, Carpenter's 1955 Chevrolet Bel Air race car, known as "The World's Fastest '55 Chevrolet," was properly secured inside the trailer and was unharmed.
It was during the exchange of information that Carpenter found himself in a rather coincidental position.
"The driver of the minivan asked me what I was hauling," Carpenter said. "Naturally, I was a bit evasive and just said it was a race car. He seemed interested and asked me what type. When I answered a drag car, he really got interested and asked which series I raced. I told him I raced in the IHRA Pro Modified class, and that is when things really got strange.
"This gentleman -- his name is Earl Wooster -- told me he had a nephew who worked as a crew chief on a Pro Mod car. My jaw just about hit the floor when he said his nephew was Paul Albino.
"Immediately, I called Paul on my cell phone and said 'you'll never guess who I just ran into.' Turns out it was Paul's Uncle Earl. And the funny thing is that I had just seen Paul less than an hour earlier."
Wooster also came from out of state, hailing from Naples, Maine. He was visiting relatives in Pennsylvania when he was snared in the middle of these coincidental circumstances.
Carpenter is working furiously to prepare both his car and hauler for the next IHRA race, the Northern Nationals. This event will be held August 8-10 at Milan, Mich., and he plans to leave on Tuesday to make the trip. When asked if he will get it all done, Carpenter shrugged and said "there are going to be a lot of late nights coming up."