Read an Excerpt
Hot LapsA Stockcar Thriller
By Steve Eubanks
HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.Copyright © 2007 Steve Eubanks
All right reserved.
"Awwight, awwight. You can turn it on, but keep it quiet."
Chester Dix fiddled with the buttons on the Sony car audio system, careful not to hit the volume by mistake. The fact that his boss and companion for the evening, Sergeant Burley Hamrick, allowed him to turn on of the car radio was nothing short of a star-in-the-east miracle. Chester knew to act quickly and carefully before the crusty old fart changed his mind. Burley did things by the book, and since there was no mention of AM, FM, or XM stereos in the North Carolina State Patrol Sergeant's Manual, Burley, twenty years in a trooper's uniform, considered the enjoyment of said devices to be a breach of protocol. Chester never pushed the issue. He'd once caught a glimpse of a Merle Haggard cassette on the front seat of Burley's F-150, leading Chester to conclude that any discussion of the radio would end in a fight. But tonight was different. They were on the job, but that shouldn't force them to miss the most important event of the weekend. Burley must have had some strong feelings on the subject as well, since nothing else could have forced him to authorize such a flagrant misuse of a government-owned Ford.
Chester squinted to make out the dimly lit digital display. "I think it's--"
"Shhh," Burley said. "Keep it down, now."
"I am. I am."
"You knowI don't normally--"
"I know, I know. I think it's . . ."
Chester's efforts were rewarded when a familiar voice shot forth from the speakers and filled the cabin.
"That's it," Burley said.
Both men leaned closer to catch the sounds emanating from the dash. They made quite a sight: two of North Carolina's finest sitting in their soot-black sedan on the side of a dark dirt road on a Saturday night, listening to the radio and waiting for their latest tip to pan out, or not.
"The white flag is out on lap three-thirty-three here in Richmond as we prepare to go back under green in the Exxon Mobil four hundred. Junior Senior Jr., in the Jack Daniel's Chevrolet, is your leader. The forty-four car of Rusty Twain is second, followed by Mudfish Dupree in the Browning fifty-five Ford. Bobby Camber moves into the fourth spot after taking two tires and fuel, and your points leader, Piston Stackheus, rounds out the top five."
The staccato tenor belonged to Dirk Manley, the radio voice of stockcar racing for the past thirty years. With a clipped Appalachian cadence, Dirk was one of those announcers who could make a bake sale sound exciting. Chester caught himself leaning closer to the radio.
"Senior has led for sixty of the last one hundred laps, but his lap times slipped before that last caution. He took four tires and fuel but no trackbar adjustment in what will likely be the last round of pit stops. We'll see if he can hold off Twain as they round turn four and prepare for the restart."
"Hold 'em off, Junior," Chester blurted.
"Twain tries to move to the inside. He can't complete the pass as Senior holds on to the lead. Now Twain's trapped on the inside. He's going to lose several spots as Dupree, Camber, and Stackheus all move up coming out of two.
"Your race now is for third. Stackheus tries for position outside Camber as they head into turn three. They're two wide through three and four as this battle heads to the front stretch. Stackheus moves to the outside. He can't make the pass as they drive into one.
"Junior Senior has extended his lead, but he's about to hit lap traffic. The battle remains for third as Bobby Camber holds the inside line and fights off Piston Stackheus as they exit turn two.
"Down the back stretch, they remain two wide into three. Lap traffic ahead. Something's gotta give as they approach the lapped car of Faduki Yamata in the sixty-nine car.
"Oh! Camber's loose in three. Stackheus slides by. It looked like Stackheus took just enough air off of the spoiler of the thirty-four car. What a great save by Camber. That car looked to be headed into the wall."
"Yankee sumbitch," Burley said.
"That Minnesota boy, Stackheus."
"He's from Wisconsin."
"Same difference. What the hell's he doing running that crazy, anyhow? He's got the points lead. All he needs to do is finish."
"Maybe he wants to win."
"Maybe he's a dumbass," Burley snapped. "Bobby should have run him into the wall."
"Can Junior catch him tonight?"
"I don't know. You need a computer to keep up with all them points. All's I know is Junior'd be a damn sight better off if somebody'd wreck that Yankee sumbitch."
Another voice crackled over a speaker, and it took both men a full second to realize it was their police radio and not the Sony. Burley fumbled with the volume before answering the call. "Yeah," he said into the mike.
"We got movement coming your way," the voice said.
"Roger," Hamrick said, all gruff and official, like he'd been waiting on pins and needles for the call.
Chester waited for him to place the mike back in its cradle before inching the volume up.
"Junior Senior is having trouble. He's telling the crew the car is tight. His laps time is off by a full second. Whatever adjustments T-Bone Bennett made during that last stop haven't worked.
"Looks like Rusty Twain's taking a run at the lead. Senior goes low and blocks him through two. I don't know how long Junior Senior can hold him off. The high line has been the fastest for the last hundred laps.
Twain takes that high line into turn one and . . . he completes the pass! We have a new leader at lap three-thirty-nine: Rusty Twain in the Viva Las Vegas forty-four Dodge. He is your sixth different leader of the night."
Excerpted from Hot Laps by Steve Eubanks Copyright © 2007 by Steve Eubanks. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.