Special Dictionary Needed For Race-Y Language

Dan HoehneContributor ISeptember 1, 2008

I'm posting my first "award-winning" article that was published in the Sebring News-Sun, just to get you all a little more familiar with my work.

It won third place for best sports column in the state of Florida for '07 among papers our size.

Here in Sebring, the big annual event is the 12 Hours of Sebring, a grand prix race that actually predates the 24 Hours of LeMans, started by the guy who also started the LeMans race.

Having not been a race fan, or ever at all knowledgeable about racing, I got a feet to the fire test.

But I took great curiosity in the "Pit Notes" that would be distributed in the press box every twenty minutes or so. This was my take on reading them...

I mentioned in my previous column about my day at the Sebring Races and the "pit notes" that were passed around to the members of the press corps every 20 minutes or so.

Looking closer at them in the time since, I see two things—that racing has a language all its own and that sometimes notes aren't the best way to fully inform someone of what is happening.

Just like a baseball fan knows that a "can of corn" is an easy fly ball, I'm sure a racing fan knows what "new rear splitter" means.

If a football fan hears that their team sucessfully ran a "hook 'n ladder," they know just what pass play likely went for big yardage. Similarly, I would think that a racing fan would know what problems would arise if they suffered a "tie rod end bolt failure."

But for me, phrases like this, and many others I came across in the notes, didn't exactly clue me in as to what was going on.

When Bill Auberlen came into the pits, his crew was apparently "chasing an oil leak." Why would you chase an oil leak? If an oil leak wants to run away, shouldn't you let it?

Then there was the time Guy Smith came into the pits in an "unannounced stop." The note also says there were "problems with communication." Was it mechanical problems with their communication devices so that neither party could get in touch with each other?
Or was it more a squabble where the driver wanted to come in but the team didn't want him to, or vice-versa?

Five words, leading to so many questions.

Tom Enge made a stop where there was no driver change, but they "swapped the noses." Were the teams' drivers part of the Mr. Potato Head family?

Darren Law came into the pits and didn't get any fuel, didn't switch with another driver—it just says he was "behind the wall—rubbing his right rear." Those car seats must not be very comfortable.

Plenty of drivers, and cars for that matter, seemed to go "behind the wall" at various times during the Race, with no explanation as to what was behind the wall or why they were going back there.

There were other notes that just didn't give enough follow-up or detailed information.
At 12:13, Dominik Fambacher "stopped on course at Turn Three, but continues."
Um, OK. Maybe he saw a deer or wanted to change the radio station.

A message that came across after the eighth hour of the race stated, "Car 32 is on fire."
Whether they were being literal (which turned out to be the case) or just complimenting how well that racer was doing, is unclear—but I'd think they should have at least put an exclamation point on that remark.

Then there were times when they got needlessly descriptive, such as in this update as to the current conditions:

"The air temperature is 63 degrees with a track temperature of 69 degrees, under dark skies."

Considering it was 9:17 p.m., the dark skies seemed likely.

And finally, there was the one note that, to me, was just too much information. Apparently, the team of Bryan Herta was "standing near the pit wall with parts in their hands."

Maybe they should have stayed behind the wall if they were going to do that.