Heart beat steady as he screams down the track. The air feels thick like water buffeting his helmet. His body thrums with strength and spirit but no panic. Panic can’t help here. His instincts must be free to act. His eyes focus on a single point at the outside of turn three, a smudge on the white concrete wall rocketing towards him. The Indiana sky is blue and indifferent to the scene below it. Corner entry.


A howling crescendo of angry gods rages just inches behind his head as the engine blasts out seven hundred horsepower. He keeps his foot hard on the accelerator – 205 miles per hour. There can be no hesitation.


Strapped to his seat – fastened tight by belts at his shoulders, his waist, between his legs – car and body move as one creature, controlled by some instinct of mind and metal. A slight pressure on the wheel, more willing the car to turn than forcing it. The car swoops to the left. Turn in.

It happens in an instant.


The car pitches slightly, a fraction more than the previous lap. He feels it in his seat, along the backs of his legs, up his spine, before his conscious mind can register it. Instinct pounces, reactions quickening beneath his mind – honed by sweat and fear. A flick of the wheel to catch the slide and a sudden lurch as the car spears right, full throttle into the concrete.

In slow motion the car melts into the wall then is vomited back onto the track in an orange-black ball of exploding fuel and flesh and metal. A ragdoll, still strapped to its seat, ricochets off the catch fence and tumbles and slides down the track.
The howling gods are silenced. The sound of brittle glass scraping slate rings in the air as hundreds of fragments slide to a smoldering stop.

He sees his ragdoll self one-hundred yards down the track lolling over one last time, the top of its head sheared open. His eyes follow the trail of broken body and machine to the black scar on the concrete wall. Wreckage burns below him like an offering. Flesh, blood, and brain poured out like wine.

He hangs on the breeze, struggling to keep his eyes on the scene below him. Spectators cry out and point, their horror piercing him as the breeze shifts and time dissolves. He sees a driver hoisting the trophy, a silver curiosity. He wonders who won. The question expands and dissolves like a soap bubble around him. The horizon folds in on itself. He sees a sloping field, a small bronze marker, faded by many Nebraska winters bearing a name that no longer has meaning to him – Gordon.

He turns again and the blue of sky rolls back revealing the perfect black of nothingness. He smiles as it absorbs him.

© 2008 James H. Noonan. First published in Static Movement, June 2008

This story was inspired by actual events.

*warning the following video is graphic*

Gordon Smiley, Indy 500 Qualifying 1982



Indy 500

Today is the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500, one of America’s premier auto racing events. The race will be held around the two and a half-mile “oval” of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The track is called an oval but, geometrically, it’s actually a rectangle. It’s just had its corners rounded off, is all. And the corners, while similar, are each unique and must be taken by the drivers slightly differently.



Cars proceed counterclockwise around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway track. From the main straight and start/finish line on the left of the picture, this year in qualifying drivers reached speeds approaching 240 mph as they approached turn 1. Here they will slow slightly, trying to execute the corner as fast as possible and also begin accelerating as soon as possible at a rate they can continue down the short straight between turns 1 and 2 (known as the “Turn 1 Short Chute”) and through turn 2.

The maximum speed out of turn 2 and down the back straight is achieved when the driver has managed to get back on the throttle as early as possible exiting turn 1 and been able to maintain that acceleration through turn 2.

Often, in an attempt to make a pass, a driver will enter turn 1 faster than that ideal speed necessitating a lift off the throttle (or worse, a tap at the brakes) before turn 2 and find that the driver they passed, returns the favor down the back straight.

Turn 3 is approached at speeds similar to turn 1 but the line is slightly different, as the banking of the track and the condition of the asphalt are unique in each corner. Turn 3 was the scene of Gordon Smiley’s horrific crash during qualifying in 1982 which inspired my flash piece, Gordon.

Turn 4 is taken like turn 2 with the driver trying to maintain maximum acceleration down the main straight, past the “yard of bricks” at the start/finish line and into turn 1.

Some History

The race was first run in 1911 and with the exception of six years (two during WWI and 4 during WWII), has been run every year since. The track is called the “Brickyard” due to the paving material used shortly after the track opened. The original gravel and asphalt paving proved too dangerous to drive on so the track owner had the entire 2.5 mile circuit paved with 3.2 million bricks. Today only a yard of bricks at the Start/Finish line remain, but the name stuck.

Mmmmm… Milk!

Dan Wheldon

Ever since Dan Gurney did it in 1967 to celebrate his victory in the 24 Hours of Le Mans endurance race, motor sport victories are often accompanied by a celebratory spray of champagne by the winner. But long before that, three-time winner Louis Meyer started the tradition of drinking milk to celebrate winning the 500. Taught by his mother that buttermilk was the best thing to drink after exercise, he requested a glass after winning his second 500 in 1933. When he won his third in 1936, he requested his usual glass of milk and was given a bottle instead. A newspaper photographer snapped a shot of him drinking from the bottle and an Indy 500 tradition was born! The tradition continues nearly uninterrupted today with the American Dairy Association of Indiana providing the milk and a check for $5000 to the winner!

Pippa Mann

While auto racing remains a male-dominated sport, eleven women have qualified for the 500 throughout its history. Janet Guthrie was the first to break in 1977 and today’s field includes British driver Pippa Mann who is qualified 25th for today’s race.

Pippa Mann

Pippa Mann Team

Helio Castroneves

Helio drives for Team Penske, one of the powerhouse teams at Indy this year fielding four cars, all with a good shot to take the win. Helio is in an interesting position historically being the only driver in the field who might win his fourth Indy 500, a feat only three other drivers have ever accomplished. Helio starts today’s race in ninth position.


Helio 2

Blackout Writing, 2


Dear Trinity,

I know you weren’t cross about my secret keeping and I was glad, because this secret is one I wanted to tell you in person. But the closer the day came, the more and more nervous I became. Looking in your eyes… I’m blushing even writing this to you, now.

That time I kissed you on the Ferris Wheel, I saw in your eyes – warm brown eyes that seem so deep I can fall into them forever – flashes of passion and pain all stirred together and roiling like a storm. The passion made my heart swell but the pain made it burst.

You’ve told me about the cruel things boys have said to you in the past, how they’ve hurt you, and how some boys have taken advantage of you and made you do things you didn’t feel good about.

I wanted you to know that I love you and want to protect you and do all I can to take the pain of those other things away. If someone has touched you or made you touch them and hurt you, I want to touch you and let you touch me to blot out the memory.

That’s what I’ve wanted to do since I looked in your eyes at the Fair. That’s my secret. I hope I haven’t embarrassed you.


Blackout Writing, 1

found art unearthed in the archives. it appeared on my monitor one winter’s evening long ago, seemingly of its own accord. it’s just a fragment but i was clever enough to click save. i hope you enjoy.


Dear Trinity,

I heard from some friends that you weren’t feeling well. I don’t know who was picking on you, you know I don’t listen to those rumors, but I heard you were hurt so that makes me hurt.

I don’t know if this will help, but when I lost momma I kind of came part for a while. I didn’t want to see my friends or even go to school even though everyone told me I should, that I should just go on acting like things were normal because “life goes on.” I didn’t understood that. how could life just go on without her? how could anything ever be normal again as long as there was this giant hole in the middle of me where she used to be? thinking about that hole made me feel useless and powerless. there was nothing I could do to fix it. there was nothing I could do to hide it and I was convinced that everybody could see it, see through me, see that I was broken.

but then I met you. and I remembered what momma used to say when she was working in her garden, that sometimes life throws you a curve and you have to stand in the batter’s box and swing at it. Otherwise you might strike out. I guess I never told you how much momma loved . . .

Memories of Ligea, (excerpt 3a)

I just spent an hour knocking 200-some words out of this.



It is the summer of 1969 and Janelle is a pink blur on her bicycle, trailing a blonde ponytail, cresting the hill on Temple Avenue. Over the rise, she picks up speed, pedaling faster and faster. She tucks her chin to the handlebar as a bolt of electric thrill shoots through her. She makes herself as small as possible to the wind whipping tears from her eyes. She can’t keep up and stops pedaling as gravity takes over. It feels like falling. And in that small bubble of weightlessness, the wind in her ears has her father’s voice, the lilt of it fills her head, it’s sing-song jibe kind and familiar to her, “You’ve done it now, Missy-pants! Missy, Missy, Missy pants! Leaving far too much to chance.”

She smiles as she remembers him leaning in the doorway of her bedroom like he often did, right hand on hip, a thin smile on his face, a smile for his only and favorite daughter.

Out loud she finishes the taunt, “I’d turn around, on the double. Before you get in too much trouble! Missy, Missy, Missy pants!”

She continues, “They won’t catch me papa! They won’t!”

Janelle bites her tongue and the image of her father melts from her mind in the flash of the copper taste of blood. She arcs her bike to the left and streaks onto Forrest Circle, fully aware of the danger as a pedal strikes sparks against the curbing.


Here’s the original for comparison purposes: