Jeff Jefferson uses some body...
Jeff Jefferson uses some body English to try to explain to Chuck Carruthers how hard it is to get his short-track car to respond. Jerry f. Boone
Jefferson again struggled with a racecar that simply didn't want to turn. Well, it turned once, with the help of rookie Jamie Dick who tucked his nose under Jefferson's rear panel and spun him going into Turn 3.
Jefferson stayed on the lead lap but the car's handling only got worse. He worked his way up to the 10th spot until - with 15 laps to go - the right-front tire gave out again and he had to pit for new rubber.
Warn worked his way up to 11th and for a while it looked like he had a Top 10 finish in sight. But late in the race a carburetor float stuck, causing the engine to stumble on acceleration. He lost ground and was credited with a 13th Place finish.
His car stalled on the cool-down lap and refused to start, so once again he had to be pushed back into the pits.
"It's discouraging," he said as he climbed from the car. "Everyone works so hard but we just aren't getting any breaks."
The only one to have a positive thing to say was Mike Warn.
"Hey, I've got two cars and eight fenders. That's a first for this team," he said. "That means we can concentrate on getting better instead of fixing broken cars."
The expression on the face...
The expression on the face of Crew Chief Chuck Carruthers reflects the pressure he feels to turn around the MJ2 racing's freshman season in the Camping World West Series. June Boone
Carruthers shouldered all the blame.
"Maybe I'm not as smart as I think I am," he said. "Maybe I've got to make a lot more calls. All I can say is I've never had a season go this badly for this long."
Jefferson figures he knows at least part of the solution.
He looked at his car and complained that he has driven it four times and no matter what they do, it simply won't respond.
"I figure that car has cost me a shot at the championship," he said. "I don't ever want to drive it again. Not ever."
Earning Their Way
MJ2 Racing isn't one of the teams participating in NASCAR's effort to get more women and minorities into auto racing.
The fact that three key members of the two-car team are women isn't the result of any managed effort to get more females involved in motorsports.
"They aren't on the team because they are women," said Chuck Carruthers, crew chief for the two-car team. "They are here because they are good at what they do."
On any given day, Annie Bailey, Julie Madden, and Brenda Mears may be shagging tires, setting up radios, or making the detailed notes Carruthers uses as a record of everything done to the two cars he oversees.
"These are jobs that are simply invaluable to the team," he said.
Getting women involved in what is still considered a male-dominated sport is a way to get spouses involved in the passion that often consumes marriages. It also helps provide additional bodies to fill roles that don't necessarily involve turning wrenches.
"When I first met Ken I just didn't care about racing," said Annie Bailey. "But I got involved because I was part of his crew. Now, I just can't imagine life without it.
"When we aren't racing, I really miss being at the track and working with the teams," she said.
Bailey - whose husband works on Jim Warn's car and is his spotter - is the tire specialist and the highest profile of the three women on the team.
"There's really not much she can't do on a car," Ken Bailey said. "She's got her area of expertise now with the tires, but she can also swap carb jets and do some of the mechanical work."
It hasn't always been easy.
"At first I got a lot of grief from the guys at the tire truck," she said, "but now that they recognize that I know what I'm doing, things have really gotten better."
Carruthers described Brenda Mears as "probably the most organized person I know."
She often works side-by-side with her husband, Gary, who is crew chief for Jeff Jefferson, helping keep the records on what's been done to the car and what Gary says needs to happen before the car hits the track once again.
"Men tend to be a bit casual about some things," Carruthers said, "while folks like Brenda don't let an awful lot get by them."