The lights are yellow.
The crowd leans forward, with sweetly-pungent methanol fumes filling its nostrils. Some fans have ear protection. Some, nearer the safety fence, also have transparent face masks that will soon be smeared by thousands of clay pellets hurtling all over them. It’s no place to eat, for you will definitely find extra roughage in your pie or your hamburger!
The lights are yellow.
Spectators go quiet, knowing that their vocal chords cannot compete with the eruption to be triggered by the starter’s green flag. Twenty-four gaudily-painted, tightly-clustered beasts are circling, building the suspense under the watchful eyes of stewards who ensure that no-one breaks ranks during these rolling laps before the start.
Each beast is powered by a throbbing, 410 cubic-inch V8 motor, mounted ahead of a rigid safety-cage for the driver, who is anchored onto a metal seat by a four-point safety harness. No luxury here, for a neck collar and a helmet strap impose further restriction - and protection against whiplash. Rooftop air spoilers are angled for maximum downdraft for rear tyres that are two-feet wide; while smaller spoilers glue the front wheels onto the trackd.
A cacophonous roar reverberates around the stadium, greeting the green flag as cars catapult forward – accelerating faster than their Formula One counterparts – into the first bend.
The reinforced-concrete wall surrounding the track makes no allowances for skill levels; so now it’s time for the tactics to take over.
Trackside, it’s a blur of sponsors’ decals … numbers flashing past … into the bends with brake discs glowing … slipstreaming monsters darting through spilt-second gaps within the pack … constantly showering the fans in flurries of dirt.
Car-mounted electronic transponders transmit lap times, lap counts and drivers’ positions onto huge LED display screens, which keep the fans’ attention switching to and from the action.
Suddenly the noise dies down.
The lights are yellow again.
A car has spun off – or hit the wall; or broken down high on the track where it can't be safely cleared; or one’s flipped over; or two (or more) have collided.
Paramedics, fire and rescue crews swing into action. Track repair teams scour the clay, allowing no remaining metal debris to cause injury afterwards by being flicked up into the crowd or into other cars.
Other competitors maintain their relative positions, avoiding the scene by running half-laps with detours across the infield – keeping their engines warm to ensure a quick restart, and rechecking their race strategies.
The big beasts of sprintcars are heady stuff, but I love watching junior racers - aged eleven to sixteen - gaining confidence as they learn about balance, control, teamwork, respect and discipline. For most of them it will only be recreation, but others will develop their talent and move into professional racing careers.
Drivers are constantly readjusting their acceleration and braking moves during each race, for a dirt-track surface changes with every lap. And as juniors learn to time their tactics and hold the smoothest line around the track, they get excess adrenalin out of their systems and recognise the value of stewards who ensure everything is fair.
Most importantly, juniors learn to recognise that other drivers need space. This helps them to respect the privileges that accompany having their names on learners’ permits or on driver’s licences.
Have you ever considered how God might be involved with all these ‘rev heads?’
Pastors usually need solitude for meditation, allowing the quietness to speak, but speedway chaplaincy offers me extra reflection and insights on God’s presence; so you might call me the ‘head rev’ of all these ‘rev heads.’
I’m privileged to be a Christian presence behind the scenes among drivers, crews and officials; high-profile, highly-competitive people who have everything but privacy if things cave in personally. I’m also given a microphone to publicly open each night’s racing in prayer, as an agent of God’s grace for thousands who may not know which church they most-consciously avoid...
Since tracks combine grip (for control) with slip (for faster cornering and overtaking,) they also reveal tips for relating with God and with people around us.
For as we grip values like love, respect, loyalty, trust and commitment, we develop inner strength and character; and the peace to let temporary or superficial issues slip by. And as God expands our inner peace, life’s “yellow light” moments can become our opportunities for refocusing, so we may release his nourishing, positive influence into our world.
The opinions expressed by authors may not necessarily reflect the opinion of FaithWriters.com.
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