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Taking your car to the repair shop is the pits, which is why you should have your own crew



I say this after attending the NASCAR Slim Jim All Pro Homestead 150. This is an automobile race held at the Homestead Motorsports Complex in Homestead, Fla., which is a nice, all-American town, although it's also the only town I know of where a Citizen's Crime Watch meeting was disrupted by falling cocaine bales. Really. The bales had been shoved out of a low-flying plane being pursued by federal drug agents; one bale nearly hit the Homestead police chief. Stuff like that is always happening in South Florida.

But getting back to the race: It's sponsored by Slim Jim, manufacturer of quality snack substances that fall into the food group known to nutritionists as "Things You Eat Late at Night in Bars With Poor Lighting."

These products include my personal favorite, the basic Slim Jim, as well as the Penrose Smoked Sausage ("Ready To Eat"), which, according to the label, contains both "mechanically separated chicken" and "beef lips." (I don't know about you, but I'm picturing a pasture full of lipless cows, unable to pronounce "moo," wandering around going "oo! oo!")

Auto racing has sponsors galore. One car in the race I saw was sponsored by Lovable brand brassieres; it was painted hot pink, and on the front, printed in large letters, was a slogan that must surely strike terror in the hearts of racing competitors: "BRAS THAT FIT."

In other races there were cars sponsored by Clabber Girl baking powder, Zippo, Lysol, Kleenex, Band-Aid and Farmer's Choice Fertilizer. There was an Aqua Fresh car driven by a guy named "Buckshot Jones"; there were also drivers named "Spanks Overbeck" and -- I swear -- "Dick Trickle."

Speaking of the drivers, they are -- and I mean this in a positive way -- insane. They strap themselves into extremely powerful, cramped, hot, loud, stripped-down cars without even a rudimentary CD player; then they spend hours screaming around a racetrack bumper-to-bumper, going so fast that you expect them at any moment to hit warp speed and vanish altogether into a "Star Trek" episode.

When they crash -- which they all do, sooner or later -- they soup up their wheelchair motors and try to heal as fast as possible so they can race again.

I definitely would not want to be a racing driver. But I'd love to have a pit crew. This is a group of guys, most of them named "Darrell," who spend the race pacing around the pit area next to the track, nervously inflating and deflating spare tires.

When their driver pulls in, the crew members spring into action, ++ swarming all over the car, changing the tires, working on the engine, welding things, slapping duct tape over holes in the body of the car or driver -- in short, doing whatever it takes to get the car back into the race, usually in just a few seconds.

That's what I want.

I hate the procedure I currently have to go through when I have car problems, which involves letting the dealership keep my car for far longer than it would take to manufacture an entire new one.

My theory is that the service department personnel spend most of this time in brainstorming sessions, sipping latte and trying to dream up new reasons why I should pay them $626.53. They've already used up the standard excuses -- engine, transmission, dead squirrel in the carburetor, etc. -- so they have to come up with something creative for when the service representative calls me:

Service representative: The mechanic says you got a bad pyloric valve, and it's gonna run you, including parts, labor and latte, $626.53.

Me: OK, I guess I have to . Wait a minute, isn't the pyloric valve part of the human heart?

Service representative: Hold on a second. (He yells to somebody in the background: ) Hey Lou! Is the pyloric valve part of the human heart?

Voice in background: No! The stomach!

Service representative (speaking to me again): The mechanic says no.

Me: Oh. OK, then.

I always pay them, of course. Like most people, I have no clue how my car works, or how much it should cost to fix. I just wish it didn't take so long. I wish that, when I had a problem, I could just pull up to the dealership and honk my horn, and a whole bunch of Darrells would come sprinting out and furiously attack my car with power tools for 17 seconds, at which point I'd hurl a check for $626.53 out the window and -- vrooom -- I'd be out of there.

Wouldn't that be great, car owners? How can we get service like that? Maybe the key is to have a sponsor. I don't know about you, but if I could have a pit crew, I'd be willing to drive around in a car that said "BRAS THAT FIT." Heck, I'd be willing to wear a bra that fit. So if there are any large wealthy corporations out there looking for a truly mediocre driver to sponsor, please call me immediately. Ask for Buckshot Barry.

Pub Date: 12/22/96

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