Maybe in any other setting, the attorney would have turned down the dare to sample some of the 48 pounds of bacon that had been cooked on the exhaust manifold of a race car.
But this was the carnival-like atmosphere found in the paddock areas at ChumpCar and LeMons races, where family members having a good time and overly aggressive drivers walking around in a dress and high heels with a sign that says, “I am an idiot,” are not uncommon sights.
So when the plate of crispy pork was passed to Curt DeVoe, partner at Plews Shadley Racher & Braun LLP, he took the dare.
“It tasted good,” he said. “It’s bacon.”
The Indianapolis attorney was at the race not as a spectator, legal adviser or food critic, but as a driver. He is a member of the Wisconsin-based Stinky Rat Trap Racing team which competes in the ChumpCar and LeMons series.
DeVoe is among the lawyers who followed their love of auto racing into the seat behind the wheel. They are busy attorneys with active practices, but on weekends they haul their speed machines to the tracks for a few days of driving fast and jockeying for a better position.
In addition to competing in the two amateur racing series, DeVoe also exercises his driving abilities as the chief driving instructor with the Central Indiana Region of the Porsche Club of America.
William Baten, of Van Winkle Baten in Indianapolis, and John LaRue, in private practice in Muncie, both are professional-level drivers competing in different circuits of the Sports Car Club of America series.
Racing photos and memorabilia decorate their offices and occasionally they do legal work involving racing teams or series. Yet, whatever case they are working on, whatever brief or deposition is due, they always have time to stop and talk about racing.
"We all know attorneys have trouble relaxing,” DeVoe said, explaining the attraction to racing. “Ultimately, what I love most about racing is it is the most relaxing thing I can do. When I’m on the track, I can’t think about anything but what I’m doing right then and there. It’s totally absorbing.”
Fifteen years ago, Baten made a New Year’s resolution and decided to quit dreaming and start driving. Growing up in New Jersey, he had always tuned his television to the Indianapolis 500, but it wasn’t until he was 38 years old that he decided to become a race car driver.
These days, he competes in the touring class of the SCCA series, driving his 2002 Camaro SS. Although the vehicles’ brands are well-known – BMW, Porsche, Subaru – they are by no means street cars.
Their interiors have been modified with the seats ripped out and roll cages installed, along with other safety equipment. Some drivers push the SCCA rules and tweak their engines to get a little more horsepower.
LaRue competes in open wheel racing in Formula 2000 cars in the SCCA Pro Series. These are sleek machines that have a complicated mix of aerodynamic devices to propel the car to a top speed of 160 miles per hour.
“It’s not the speed,” he deadpanned. “It’s the rate of deceleration that causes the problem.”
Racing a Formula 2000 car is as much about science as driving ability. The team of engineers analyzes the data collected in a series of black box-like recorders that measure things like speed, G-loading, suspension, temperature and pressure. Then they predict the environmental conditions, like heat and air density, that will be present during the race.
All this is done so the aerodynamics of the car can be adjusted before the car speeds across the starting line. The races LaRue participates in – 50-mile sprints which take roughly 30 minutes – leave no time for pit stops and readjustments.
Cars that race in the ChumpCar and LeMons series are true jalopies. Not allowed to be worth more than $500, the vehicles are sometimes held together with Duct tape and always creatively attired.
The Stinky Rat car is painted to look like a block of cheese and has a long, stuffed rat hanging out the back end. In the vermin’s mouth is the brake light so the critter smiles at the cars behind every time the car slows down.