Nitro Maintenance: Creepers, Darts, and Acceleration
By Gary Peters
Jim was one of the crew of our Top Fuel car and the type of person you could never rush no matter what. Steady and methodical are the two words best used to describe his character. Dale our driver, along with me, always looked for an opportunity to at least try to get Jim to move faster, even during a thrash between rounds. It couldn't be done, no matter what the occasion.
One night at the garage, we were getting the Hemi Hunter ready for the next race that weekend. In the garage, we had a dartboard we used for minor contests, such as who would run up to the local bar for the night's steak sandwiches and beer. We would all take a turn shooting darts, the loser making the run to the bar.
That night, Jim's laying on the creeper torquing up the rod bolts as I shoved the pistons down the bore. I hand the next piston to Dale, go over to the dartboard, grab a dart and sneak over to Jim on the creeper. He has his legs spread apart to help steady him as he pulled on the torque wrench. I carefully stick the dart between his spread legs, as close as I could to what Jim called the favorite part of his anatomy. Dale's watching intently for my next move.
I take a nut, which I had also gathered on my way to the dartboard, and bounce it off the creeper. I say to Dale, "Pay me the five bucks. I told you I wouldn't hit him; he moves too slow." Well Jim wonders what the heck we are talking about, and we both point to the dart ½ an inch from you know what. Jim stretches his neck to look where we are pointing. He sees the dart he thinks he heard stick in the wood of the creeper when the nut hit it, and thinks I threw the dart on a dare.
This is the fastest we ever saw Jim move, as he quickly accelerated out from under the engine in an effort to grab me and even the score. Needless to say I was quick of foot and ran that night up to the local bar to get the sandwiches and beer. By the time I got back, Dale had explained to Jim our little joke. He had cooled down. He ate his steak and drank a couple of beers. He never, ever, torqued the rod bolts again in eight years of racing. But we did find out he could move with the best of them, when aroused correctly.