And here I thought attorneys chased ambulances instead of wrecking them.
John Clark, however, is definitely no tort-sucking vampire.
No sir. On this night, the otherwise sane 45-year-old Spokane trial lawyer will be lucky if he doesn’t soil his legal briefs.
For two years running at the Spokane Arena’s big monster truck show, Clark has had the questionable judgment to risk his jurisprudence in the rollover contest.
Clark, who owns a safe, lawyerly Mercedes, will drive a ‘70s-era Datsun in worse shape than the Mir space station. The insides have been gutted. Some roll bars have been welded into a rough cage that theoretically protects the driver.
This mechanized death trap is painted garishly red with a white cross and a flashing light to make it look like an ambulance. “Ouch!” some joker has written on the car’s fanny.
In a few minutes, Clark will strap himself in and speed from the parking lot into an arena filled with screaming loons. At 40 mph, this man with eight years of college experience will aim the two left wheels of his rolling wreck at a steel ramp. The goal is to send the Datsun wobbling through space like a drunken cosmonaut.
Although I’ve been accused of having more than a few screws loose, Clark and I are not related. As far as I know.
Should he survive his duel with gravity, the attorney gets the privilege of doing it all over again an hour later.
Here’s the payoff: If Clark manages to roll his car more times than any of his foolhardy competitors, he will win $250 and a trophy.
Of course, Clark already has an agreement to hand over his winnings to the car’s owner, Steve Katterfield. So other than a potential spinal injury, Clark gets - ta dah! - zipola.
Oh. There’s one more thing: Clark has a bad case of the flu. He keeps saying he’s about to throw up.
In summation, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, we must ask the following question:
“Hey,” says Clark, a small but well-built man with a boyishly handsome face. “Where else can you flip a car in front of thousands of people? How can you beat that?”
Listening to my friend, I feel the need to call his wife, Ellen, on a cell phone. Ellen is staying home, probably watching the Winter Olympics.
“I think he’s nuts,” says Ellen of her hubby.
“She’s an understanding woman,” says Clark of his 17-year marriage.
Clark long has been a motorhead. He got into racing years ago and held the track record for super stocks at State Line, Idaho, in 1988.
Racing is certainly dangerous, but with one important difference: The idea is not to crash.
This is my very first monster truck show. The event features giant flatulent vehicles with names such as Bigfoot, Snakebite and Big Dummy IV.
Monster trucks don’t do much other than rev their giant engines at ear-splitting noise levels. They race each other for about a half-second over the tops of junker cars which appear to be in better shape than Clark’s Datsun.
This is an evening of exhaust fumes and road rage. There are motorbike races and a cool demolition derby when beater cars bang into one another until radiators burst.
I’ve thought about doing the same at Sprague and Monroe during rush hour.
I’m sure glad Spokane has a fine new arena for these important sporting events.
Clark manages a roll and three quarters on his first jaw-jarring run. He applies more gas on his second and gets big air, dropping hard and rolling once.
It’s good enough for the $150 second prize. First goes to a Canadian lunatic, Jan Hansen, who bills herself as “The Wild Thing.”
“I want to thank all my fans and my sponsor and my crew,” the good-humored Clark tells me as he walks stiffly back to the parking lot. “And especially I want to thank my neighbor, Steve Renner.”
Clark pauses. “He’s a chiropractor.”