Friday, November 07, 2008

Insurance wars……..

The guy driving the Blazer had a Michigan plates on the vehicle and a permanent address in Florida. He was a construction worker in route to a project in Texas ( he had told Hugh Houston and me Galveston ) Since Galveston had just been hit hard by Hurricane Ike that sort of made sense to me.

On Monday Hugh started the usual round of calls to the various insurance agencies. Yes, we did get the information. Yes there is a police report on file. Yes, yes, yes…..

What was discovered by making a call to the other guys insurance carrier was that his policy had been dropped three months ago for lack of payment.

A call to his home address turned up his mother who had not heard from him since he left for Texas, and no she would not know how to get in touch with him until she heard from him. She promised to have him call as soon as she heard from him. Yeah, sure.

Over the next few days we would learn that the truck was covered by the uninsured motorist clause in Hugh’s policy but the trailer and it contents would not be.

Hugh’s insurance carrier, however, has a policy of going after uninsured motorist with a vengeance. They chase them down and file suit. When they do they file on behalf of the insured and they go after everything. Damage to the main vehicle, damage to the trailer, damage to the trailer contents, pain and suffering on behalf of both the insured driver and passenger, loss of wages for missed work, the whole shooting match. At the end of the litigation Hugh would expect to receive payment of the extra stuff. If the guy had the ability to pay.

That would be WHEN and IF.

Hugh’s back was bothering him by this time so he went to the Doctor who set up an appointment for an MRI session. That would reveal two bulging disc.

He also took the racer over to a local race car shop and got estimates as to what it would cost to make the required repairs on the racer. It turned out to be about the purchase value of the car. The majority of that cost being skilled labor to fabricate and replace the damaged parts and the re-welding of the cracks in the chassis connections caused by the impact.

The truck could not go into the shop for a couple of weeks because of the their current workload, but at least it would be covered. Except for the deductible…

Hugh was not a happy camper.….it got very quiet around the house.

The Wounded Warrior…..

We had everyone home and in one piece and it was still not even noon. Mel was lying down feeling the results of the pain killers the Doctors had given her. Hugh was dancing around like a drop of water on a hot skillet.

We went out side to take a good look at the damage to the racer. It was not a pretty sight.

The front end had been rammed under the front rails on the trailer. The only thing that saved it was that it hit the winch. The winch had cut into the nose piece and I think got as far as the frame rail that protects the master cylinders before it stopped. Scratch one nose piece. Well, maybe it could be repaired.

It was difficult to tell if the front axle beam was bent or not. We would have to wait until we got the mess untangled to get a better look. Same with the steering arms.

The car was cocked sideways on the trailer. We were not sure whether the trailing arm was bent or not because the impact had sheared off the trailing arm support mounts. We would not know until we stripped the body work off and made a closer examination.

There was some body damage but that was all fiberglass and fairly easy to repair. It just takes time and patience. And money of course.

All in all, the most frightening thing was the trailing arm supports. That was going to take some fabrication and welding. That always cost money. A lot more than just replacing broken parts. We would have to strip the body off to see in there was any damage to the frame, but that must wait until the insurance guys had a look at it. It was going to take some doing to get that car and the trailer untangled.

In the mean time it looked like the Warrior had taken a beating but was determined to struggle on.

And just when everything is going so good…..

The weekend before the season opening race the Captain of the Korner Krewe scheduled an advanced corner workers school. Hugh and Gary Attended.

Several of the drivers, when they are not competing, will go out and work corners for other events. The Porsche Club, the BMW club, Ferrari Boys and several others hold schooling sessions which require corner workers. We go watch them go around and sometimes learn things not to do.

When the session was over, Gary stopped by our place and showed Hugh how to adjust his valves properly. They were not far off, but every little bit helps.

The following weekends schedule called for a Tech and Practice day on Saturday and racing on Sunday.

Mel came over from Baton Rouge and she and Hugh left early Saturday morning to haul the car to the track. The plan was for them to get the car through its tech inspection and then to work corners for the practice session. Then Hugh would race on Sunday while Mel worked corners.

They had been gone about a half hour when I got a call from Hugh. They had been rear ended while traveling west on I-10. Rusty and I put on our shoes and headed out the door.

It did not take long to find them. By the time we got there the accident vehicles had been moved off the highway and were on the shoulder.

It seemed that Hugh and slowed down with traffic and the guy behind them in a Chevy Blazer didn’t and rammed into the back end of the trailer.

Since the trailer is low, his tires rode up onto the trailer which caused the front end of the trailer to lift, seesaw fashion, and lift the back end of Hugh’s truck enough to force it sideways.

This did several things all at once. He lowered part of the Blazer’s bumper hit the push par ( also known as a transaxle protection device ) and rammed the racer about four feet forward. That is not a good thing as the end of the trailer and its end rails were only about two feet in front of the car.

With the Blazer on the back end of the trailer pushing down and forward, the front end with the trailer hitch was popped loose from the truck and became a battering ram which it then proceeded to pummel the truck which was turned sideways in front of it. It put dents in the front bumper, the hood, the right front fender, the right side door, the right rear quarter panel, the rear bumper and the left rear quarter panel. It didn’t miss much. We’ll get to the race car later.

Mel got her neck twisted in the shake up and the EMT’s put her in an ambulance to go to the closest hospital for examination.

Since the truck was drivable, and there was nothing else we could do to help, Rusty and I followed Mel to the hospital and left Hugh to sort out the accident reports and the insurance paperwork.

After the usual waits and a good check over, Mel was released and we drove her back to the house. She would be stiff all weekend and so would Hugh. Sometimes when the adrenalin is flowing you don’t notice where it hurts. He would know it by Monday.

With Hugh sidelined by the wreck, Gary went on the following day to post the first win the in the class by someone other that Hugh. At least it was done by part of the Blind Mule Crew.

Now that we knew every one was OK, we could take a look at the racer.

The true meaning of Grass Roots Anything….

The Golf club that Hugh and I belonged to before we started racing was a grass roots organization that succeeded.

Years ago a bunch of guys in LaPlace wanted to play golf and there was no place closer than the other side of New Orleans (50 miles away) to do so. That was a pain in the neck and being of good Cajun stock they decided to do something about it.

They scouted around and found some farmland, close in, that could be had for a good price since the old folks wanted out of the hard work and the kids had no desire to farm.

The group got together raised enough money to make a down payment and bought the farm. From there they began recruiting members and before long were able to assure that the mortgage payments would be met. Then they went to work.

Understand this about Cajuns. They are not lazy people. Relaxed, casual, fun loving… yes, but not lazy.

They laid out and built a golf course on that farm. Within a couple of years they were able to play on a regular basis. They hired a pro who was able to guide them even further and the course began to improve, The pro hired a grounds keeper and the course improved again. They made subtle changes in the course layout and the play was improved again.

They built a Clubhouse and a pro shop and expanded the operations to add more social functions so the rest of the family could enjoy what they were building. The built a swimming pool and added tennis courts an a driving range.

All of this within the framework of the basic membership. Every member of the club owns stock in it. It is still a requirement of becoming a member. And it is the members who support the club. Because they want to play golf and be able to partake in the functions of the club. It succeeds and supports it self and it’s members are happy.

Now of course, the city has grown up and has surrounded the once remote farmland. It is now nestled securely in the center of the community and has subdivisions all around it. It was not planned as an accessory to a land development scheme and perhaps that may be part of its charm and success. It is independent of the housing. That’s grass roots Golf.

Grass roots racing is similar.

When the guy who started No Problem Raceway wanted to play with his Drag Race Cars he need a place to do it. And he found or had the land.

Some friends who were also into racing convinced him that if he were to add a road racing track to the facility it could be made to pay for itself as well.

We make no bones about it. It is drag racing that is the backbone of No Problem Raceway. It brings in crowds of spectators in almost every weekend. The drag cars are fast and exciting to watch if you are into fifteen second races.

For those of us who are road racers, where dedicated racers go wheel to wheel against each other over a twisty difficult course, it is the grass roots thing again. We want to race. We want to race against each other and have a ball doing it. If it means we have to show up on “work days” to help make improvements to the track we do so.

After Gustav and Ike we got the call. The storm had blown away the flagging stands.

Since the flag stands are the only way the corner workers have of communicating with drivers during a race it was necessary that they be replaced.

The drivers attention is centered, as it should be, on what is going on around him on the track. He learns quickly however, that he must keep the corner of his eye on what is happening at the flag stand. It needs to be in the same location each lap so we know where to check. It is his first line of warning that something is amiss ahead of him. It is where he gets told that there are problems down stream or that some one faster is coming up behind him. It is also where he will find out that someone has seen that he is leaking fluid which might endanger others on the track or that he has a mechanical problem he might not be aware of. All of these signals come from the flag stand.

And ours were gone.

Grass roots means that you don’t wait for someone to do it for you. You jump in and get it done so you can continue to do what you love doing. It is for this passion that the guys show up when there is a call.

It helps that there are contractors in the group who have the portable tools available to make the job easier. It also helps that they are accustomed to planning projects like this and are willing to put in the effort to design the new stands, estimated the amount of material required to build them, have it on hand and then organize the workforce to get the job done. It helps that they are also among drivers who want to compete. That’s grass roots. The helpers are from jobs and professions as varied as you might imagine. From electricians to lawyers. That’s grass roots

The plan was to build all the stands in one place and the move them out to the needed locations with a fork lift. The roof would be installed once they were in place. In one good work day and it all got done.

That’s grass roots racing.