A Fast Woman

CHAPTER ONE

CJ

Adrenaline and love—both were God-given, naturally-occurring and highly-addictive drugs—the temptation, the euphoric rush, the path to destruction.

Love was too toxic to tangle with.

But, adrenaline—ah, adrenaline was my drug of choice. It was exclusive to the junkie. It wasn’t something you had to share or had to be reciprocated.

And nothing—absolutely nothing—pumped adrenaline through my body more than flying at 190 mph around a 24-degree banked turn, strapped in a metal cage on four wheels.

It was as close to flying as I could get without leaving the ground. It was a detonation of power as life rushed at me like a 4D IMAX movie.

Hell, yeah.

Adrenaline and a race car was all the love I needed.

I rocked out to the deafening roar of the 800 hp stock car engine under my feet, at odds

with the serene Carolina sky as I flew around Charlotte Motor Speedway during our practice runs.

My friend, Gus’ voice broke through the headset in my helmet. “Alright, darlin’ how’s the old girl feel this morning?”

“First, GQ, don’t call me darlin’. Second, don’t call my girl old. She’s feeling a bit sensitive today.” The weight of the g-forces against my chest, the odor of rubber and oil that choked the air, and the vibrations that ran through every nerve—it brought me down to Earth but the familiarity kept me smiling.

With the custom-made seat and specialized HANS head restraint, movement was practically impossible. The fire-retardant suit and shoes were meant to withstand a burning vehicle—because that was an actual possibility.

It was part of the risk.

Wild Bill’s gravelly voice permeated the noise of the engine. “CJ, the boss man is here with some VIP’s. They’re up in the box. Time to give them a good show.”

That’s me. CJ, short for Charlotte Jean—Charlotte Jean Lomax. The “Sweetheart of Stock Car” or depending on who you talked to—“Token”—as in, token-woman-driver—no one really considers me much of a sweetheart.

“I don’t have to put on a show…” I opened-up the engine, sling-shot out of the turn and, with a confidence I didn’t have outside the car, I purred, “I’m always good.”

I came down the front stretch by the press box where Mr. Everett Merrick, the owner of the team, and my boss, held court. After a private smile for my audience, I went back to my zone and the practice run.

With Trent Lawrence, the veteran driver for the team recovering from a devastating crash, rumors were flying of his possible retirement—and replacement driver for the number 42 car.

This was it.

This was what I’d been waiting for—so close I was afraid to even hope. Hope wasn’t a word that sat well with me.

Focus. Grit. Unapologetic determination.

Those were my words.

I didn’t believe in fate—I couldn’t be in this line of work.

Most drivers were insulted by me even being in a driver’s seat—usually because they were in my rearview mirror.

I was a scrapper and gave as good as I got. At 5’3” and only 118, I wasn’t what others would consider a threat against the average man.

But behind the wheel of a 3300-pound machine we were all equal and it didn’t matter if I had a cock or not.

Mess with me on the track, I’ll put you in the wall and not lose a moment sleep at night.

Racing was a male dominated industry—in every corner of the garages, every level in the offices, and definitely on the track.

I just kept an eye on the prize—The American Stock Car Association Championship Cup.

To win The ASCA Cup, I needed to be a driver for a Cup Team. I needed to be in this car full-time.

Merrick, my boss, wasn’t alone. He came with a purpose—to show off his team, probably to potential sponsors, companies who funded the industry. I’d give them a good show.

I slung the car into the bank of the corner, propelling it faster through the straight away. Staring down the track, my heart skipped a beat with joy as I swore my mantra into the universe once again.

Focus. Grit. Unapologetic determination.

Then I added, “You’ve got this.”