They had pushed Chase Randall’s quarter midget car back to the trailer, the one with the Texas flag on it swaying from the Tuesday morning wind and feint sounds of video games from inside.
"It was pushing," Randall said. "It was pushing to the wall. I had to turn the wheel really hard."
So John Randall pulled out his electric drill and got to work.
"When he tells me the car is pushing into the wall, I can kind of tell, by the tire tips and things like that, some of the things the car needs," John said. "I’ll adjust according to that."
The staccato of John’s drill almost drowned out the hum in the background of quarter midget cars practicing for the 2013 Eastern Grands at the Cumming Fairgrounds. He went from tire to tire, from shock to shock, tinkering and tweaking with Chase’s car. Chase, 8, unsnapped the collar of his racing suit and grabbed a sweet tea.
"He tells dad what the car does," Chase’s mom, Jessica Randall, said. "He comes off the track, and [dad] asks him, ‘Hey, what’d you like? What’d you not like?’ He doesn’t know what changes to tell dad to make, but he can describe it."
"We’re working on that, too," John said.
They work together, because to make it in racing, let alone in quarter midget racing, it takes a whole family. The Randalls drove 920 miles from Waco, Texas, to give sons Chase and Cade, 6, the chance to race against quarter midget drivers from across the country.
John is crew chief and mechanic. When they hear the announcement over the loudspeaker that the next practice session for Junior Hondas, Chase and Cade’s division, has started, Jessica doesn’t hesitate to grab a handle and pull Cade’s car to the set-up area.
The Randall family does this 35 weekends out of the year. Last weekend, they were in Indianapolis where Chase got to kiss the bricks at Indianapolis Speedway and meet Sprint Cup driver Bryan Clauson. This year they’ve raced in Arizona, California, Indiana, New Mexico, North Carolina and Phoenix. When the Eastern Grands is over, they’ll head back to Indianapolis after John puts in three days of work at the Bush’s Chicken franchise he owns.
"This is vacation," Jessica said.
Not the kind Jessica had in mind when she and John married. Racing was new to her. John had raced quarter midgets when he five. He just gave up racing and sold his Sprint wind cars to let the family focus full-time on Cade and Chase racing.
"I was thinking beaches and mountains," Jessica said. "All my friends at work say, ‘Oh, you’re going to this great place. You’re going to Georgia. What are you going to see?’ And I’m like, ‘The race track.’ I see the race track. That’s what I see."
"She didn’t even watch racing," Chase said.
"But now, I really love it," Jessica said. "I love it because it’s like family."
For families in town for the Eastern Grands, the commitment of time and money is significant. To buy a used quarter midget in driving shape costs $1,500. A new one can cost $4,000. There’s tires and fuel for the quarter midgets. Then more fuel for the travel to cross the country from track to track, not to mention staying in hotels and eating out.
"We spend a little money," John said.
The Randalls have tried to get Chase and Cade to branch out. Jessica wanted the boys to break away from the individualized nature of racing and try a team sport, so both played baseball. Chase loved it. Cade didn’t. Eventually, the constant travel from racing created too many scheduling conflicts.
But it’s been enough for the Randalls to see Cade and Chase run "in little rat-packs," Jessica said, at the track; to watch in horror when Chase’s car flipped for the first time and he walked away unfazed; to see families share mechanical or driving tips; to see Cade and Chase inherit John’s love of racing and his admiration of Jeff Gordon.
"When you see your kids love something as much as they do," Jessica said, "then it makes it worth it."