Fifth In A Series
I see the bad moon arising.
I see trouble on the way.
I see earthquakes and lightnin'.
I see bad times today.
-Creedence Clearwater Revival
Bad Moon Rising

A full moon from a cloudless Texas sky shown down on Jeff Jefferson as he walked to his Monte Carlo, parked in front of the grandstands at Thunder Hill Speedway in Kyle, Texas.

The veteran driver was fighting the effects of fatigue, a hit on the head a few days earlier, and a virus that seemed to be passing through the Oregon-based team.

Jefferson and rookie Jim Warn drive for MJ2 Racing, which has agreed to allow Stock Car Racing to tag along during its first season in NASCAR's Camping World West Series.

For Jefferson, it had been a grueling three weeks, beginning with a disappointing race at Roseville, California, followed by a Third Place finish at Phoenix.

In between the races Jefferson had to help rebuild cars damaged in both runs, plus prepare to compete on the third-mile, D-shaped oval at Kyle. It is a track he saw for the first time that morning.

"I'm just hoping I can hang on," he said as he got ready to climb into his car. "I've got no energy, no stamina."

Thunder Hill has baked in the Texas sun for a decade and any grip it once had has long since been worn away. Turns 1 and 4 are gentle curves where drivers can get hard on the power. Turn 3 leads to the sweeper. Turn 2 leads to disaster.

"It's really tight," Warn said after he and Jefferson walked the track. "Everything else is a pretty wide radius, but two is like a 90-degree that leads to the back straight."

Promoters laced the pavement with a ribbon of Coke syrup the day before, hoping to give the pavement a bit of stickum.

But this time, things didn't go better with Coke.

If cars were going to spin and end up off in the weeds, it was going to be at that banked right angle. Almost everyone had trouble with the corner at least once, a few more than once.

Both drivers knew qualifying was going to be critical. Thunder Hill is a single groove track, making it almost impossible to pass.

Qualifying was dominated by Eric Holmes and Austin Cameron, teammates from the Bill McAnally Racing stables. The BMR operation is the benchmark for every other team in the West Coast series.

Jefferson qualified 11th; Warn was five spots back.

"It's going to be a long night," Jefferson sighed.

For a short track race held under a full moon, everything went pretty well for the first 100 laps.

"It's how we planned to race," said Chuck Carruthers, who oversees both teams and is Warn's crew chief. "The idea is to stay on the lead lap and out of trouble 'til the last 50."

Both drivers worked traffic, picking up spots on the inside line and then losing them on the outside. With double-file restarts, an even number car is placed on the outside row and is almost guaranteed to fall back a few positions until his spotter can find a hole for him.

Jefferson pleaded all night for Derrick Shannon, his rookie spotter, to get him inside. In was close to "mission impossible."

But as the laps wore down, the pressure to move up a few more positions built. By Lap 115 Jefferson was fourth and looking for his second podium finish in a row when the caution came out once again.

"I'm getting what I can," he pleaded to Shannon, "but you've got to get me inside as soon as you can. It's critical."

"I understand," said the spotter, "I'll do what I can."


I hear hurricanes are blowing.
I know the end is coming soon.
I fear rivers over flowing.
I hear the voice of rage and ruin.

Jefferson's car was on the outside row again as the green flew. The driver saw his hard-earned positions fade. With laps winding down toward the checker, he was stuck in the slow lane and moving toward the rear of the field.

"Inside. Inside. Inside," Shannon repeated over and over again as he searched for an opening.