A friend in need

By Jeffrey Fazio
Special Sections Writer

It's always inspiring to see a group of people volunteer to help someone who is in need. It is truly wonderful and a bit overwhelming when you are the recipient of such a gesture.

Two weeks ago I was that person in need.

In the middle of competing in the K&N Filters NHRA Sport Compact Fallnationals drag racing event at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park in Englishtown, N.J., I happened to get a huge puncture in one of my racing tires.

After successfully completing the first round of eliminations I returned to my pit space where it was pointed out that I had a flat tire. This was no surprise as people often think my rear tires are flat because they do not realize that while drag racing the drive wheels are intentionally under inflated to improve traction. That being said, people frequently mistake my 14 PSI of tire pressure for a flat tire. However, this time I really did have a flat tire. In fact, I had a 4-inch long metal tap from a drill stuck in the tire.

This was quite a dilemma. Not only was I supposed to be back at the starting line within the hour for round two of the race, but I was also two hours from home with a car that had been rendered immobile. Since I am far from being a big race team, these we re the only tires I had with me. I didn't even have a jack with me, much less a spare tire.

I quickly sought out the BF Goodrich Tire tent in the hopes they could help me out since I use their tires. Unfortunately they had drag radials there in every size but mine. That little errand wasted a good 15 minutes of the time I had before the next rou nd and I was starting to feel the pressure of the clock.

So I headed back to my car to figure out my options and there I found a group of my friends from the tri-state are a. My friend Gerry Roberts offered me the use of his rims and tires for the next round. Roberts happens to race the same car as I do, so using his wheels was an ideal solution for me to make it to the next round. Of course every solution poses new questio ns, like: Who has a jack? Better yet, who has two jacks so we can swap both wheels from both cars? And how I am getting home on the flat tire?

To my utter amazement, as soon as I agreed to borrow Roberts' tires, all of the friends around me started to buzz like a bunch of bees fixing a broken nest. Henri Szeto went back to his friends at the Barber Shop racing camp to borrow their huge jack. Roberts and his friend Mike Airall started taking off the wheels from his car while I borrowed a second jack from ano ther team that was pitted near me. Raul O' Brien took off to borrow a tire plug kit from the nice folks over at the Garrett trailer.

As I jacked my car up and began frantically taking off my rear wheels, I couldn't stop being astounded about how fast everyone was moving to help me . It was really a great feeling to know everyone was hustling to make sure I could get back up to the line for the next round which was rapidly approaching.

In the grand scheme of things this was just a bunch of people changing a flat tire, but for me it was really much more than that. Big race teams can tear whole engines apart and rebuild them between rounds, but I do not have access to those kinds of resources. For the "little guys" like me that go weekend racing, a punctured tire could easily end the day.

We managed to get both tires swapped onto my car and I made my way up to the staging lanes as fast as possible. As I was buckling in for round two of the race, another friend, Jim Ong was plugging my gouged tire with the plug kit that O' Brien brought back. O' Brien then drove my tire to the other end of the track and filled it with air for me so I would be able to drive home.

When I returned to the pits after the second race, I found my newly inflated drag radial waiting to be reinstalled on my car. Although I ended up losing the second round, I drove safely home feeling like a winner, having so many friends that pulled together to make it happen.