Madera Winston West personal report

>From: Claude E. Watson Tuesday night, August 6. Bill McAnally had Jessie (his Mom) ask if I would work in his pits Saturday in Madera. Some milliseconds later I said , "Sure!" Talked with him on the phone and got the lowdown on...

>From: Claude E. Watson

Tuesday night, August 6.

Bill McAnally had Jessie (his Mom) ask if I would work in his pits Saturday in Madera. Some milliseconds later I said , "Sure!" Talked with him on the phone and got the lowdown on how to get signed in, so I am pumped for the weekend.

Saturday, August 10.

Got up and headed for Sacramento, where we were to have lunch with Bill McAnally's wife and daughter. They are expecting Alex any time now, so she did not go to the races with Bill. Enjoyed meeting them, and had a nice lunch near their house. It was about 12:40 when we rolled out of there, andI'm sweating because Bill wants me in Madera by 4:00. We roll down I-99 at the speed limit + (mumble) and blow right by the racetrack on the first pass, but I see it and make a flip at the next exit. Get to the pit gate about 4:10 pm, so everything is still OK. I passed through the pit gate at 4:15 pm, and Gail went up and found a seat in the stands. Jessie and JoAnne are finding a hotel and will join her later. I wander on through the pits and find the trailer, where I introduced myself to the rest of the crew and almost immediately got sucked into a pool on where Bill would qualify. One person had the pole, another had third, and the next best placing was 7th. I took sixth, since they said he had practiced very fast. I figure it's only a buck, but I hope that Suzi(picked the pole) would take my money. ;-) Bill comes back from the drivers' meeting and we meet in person for the first time. The crew goes over the car again some and it's time to go through tech to qualify. I help shove it to tech, and NASCAR has finally drug out the height jig for the rear end of the car. We are 3/4 inch low,so we commence to raise it up, wondering whether this is going to screw upthe handling. Passed tech and put the car in line, where I acted as "car guard" while the others put together some tools to go into the infield. Madera had a full program that night, with T-Cups (like Mini-Cup cars), Legends, and 360 modifieds as supporting divisions to the Winston West race. WW was the last to qualify, so I got to see most of the other divisions qualify. While I stood there I got to talk with several WW regulars like Butch Gilliland and some of the Pete Graham crew, then Bill came along and we talked for a while. he tells me that if he can hold the bottom around 1 and 2 we will be quick, so I know what to watch for. Bill is about 7th to go, so he gets strapped in and I walk back up the bank to watch. It's two lap qualifying, and the first six were in the 15.10's and above, so I have the stopwatch on Bill when he rolls out and takes the green. On the first lap he comes of turn two way sideways and still manages a 15.00, so lap two will be great of he can hold the car. He ends up with a 14.97 and sits on the pole for a while, but finally gets bumped off. A letdown, but he ends up qualifying fifth (and gets his tires free from Goodyear) so it is a great day so far. (Plus I got the pool money for being closest. ) As a note, a rep from his sponsor was at the track and we talked quite a bit about various forms of stock-car racing like ARCA and ASA, as compared to WW and WC. He was a great guy, although he later captured my less flattering side on videotape. ;-) The guys hit the checklists and go over the car while I help put the new brake ducts on the front. There were a couple of things that will be on the checklists for next time, but that will show up later. Line them up, fire them up, and go racing. Bill is running fifth and working on the fourth place guy pretty good for the first 50-55 laps. Then big smoke out the back. A valve cover had started leaking so he dives in the infield to get that worked on. While there, the car overheats and blows the water out, so he comes back again and they get some water in it. He is laps down now, but still running very fast until halftime (lap 126) when they all come to the pits outside the track. We fuel it (I held the catch can) and get him out of the car because he is hot as heck. He tells me to check his helmet cool air system and the hose has fallen off at the cooler end. I'm hanging in the passenger window putting it back and tightening it all up while the sponsor is videotaping the rest of the action. My butt will be famous there, I guess. ;-) Back out after halftime he is still running well, but the car overheats again and finally he pulls it into the infield. Big letdown for me and the crew, but better than blowing the motor all to pieces. I start l;ooking for Pete Graham to see how he is doing, and things are looking OK when a loud "Pop" and sudden shutdown end his night. At about 20 laps to go we head back to the truck to put stuff away and get out his autograph cards and T-shirts. He sets up a table after every race to deal with the fans, and his sponsors love that. Lance Hooper wins the race and we finally get the car back to the pits. A fifteenth place finish isn't bad, but we had a top three car. All told the day was mixed, with the car running good but some obvious things that were missed. I did my part of helping load up and walked down to Pete Graham's pit to meet him and Evelyn. Talked with Pete for a few minutes but Evelyn was very sick, so we didn't bother her. It was way hot there and I hope that is all it was. Bill and the guys head back to Sacramento while we all hit a motel there in Madera.

Saturday, August 10 (post race)

After the race and loading out we head for the motel at Madera. We decide to get something to eat first,, and stop at a 24 hour restaurant down the street from the track. The sign on the door says "Closed", as does the sign on the door of the other 24-hour restaurant next door. This is peculiar, until we figure out from the flares in the road that Madera had participated in the 7-state power outage that we had heard about on the radio. Luckily Wendy's Drive-Thru was still open so we didn't starve.

Claude Watson   -   Cincinnati, OH  --

They wouldn't say, "Stuff happens!", if it didn't.

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About this article
Series General , NASCAR Cup
Drivers Lance Hooper