The Test The tall, sandy-haired young man sat slouched in a heap in the private plane's stuffed-leather rear passenger seat. He appeared to be fast asleep, even though he was arranged in what might have been considered to be an awkward position for a catnap. But with his mouth open and his eyes tightly closed, he snored softly anyway. The kid was clearly oblivious to the awkward tilting of the King Air as it circled for its approach to the airport, to the bumpy air it chopped through as it descended, to the casual conversation between the plane's pilot and the other occupant who sat in the copilot's seat. Rob Wilder had become a master at grabbing sleep wherever, whenever, he could manage it. The cabin of the King Air was downright luxurious compared to some of his more recent accommodations. The other passenger, the older man who occupied the right seat up front, dropped his chat with the pilot when he got busy on the radio talking and responding to his landing instructions. He turned then to see how the kid was doing and was not at all surprised to see him still dozing peacefully. Billy Winton smiled. It had been only a short time ago when the young man had been petrified at the very thought of flying, terrified most of takeoffs and landings. Now he was usually fast asleep on the taxi out to the runway and had to eventually be shaken awake when the plane had already been parked. Then, as he watched the handsome youngster sleep, Winton noticed something else telling. The kid's right foot twitched slightly. So did his right hand, as if he was performing some sort of coordinated maneuver in his sleep. Billy smiled even more broadly. He's dreaming of driving that race car, he thought. And likely of being first to the checkered flag. That was a safe guess. That was about all Rob Wilder dreamed about, all he talked about, all he seemingly lived for. Driving Billy Winton's race cars as fast as he could until he could finally win his first big-time stock car race on the Grand National circuit. Now they were on an approach to a legendary place where he might just do that very thing. It was a shrine to speed where, Billy suspected, young Rob Wilder would feel very much at home, though he had never been there before in his slightly less than twenty years on this planet. At least not while awake. And within an hour, they would not only be there but they would be testing one of the new cars they would soon use to start their first full season of serious racing together. He hated to wake the kid from his dreams. The last several days had no doubt been far more tiring for Wilder than driving a five-hundred-mile race in a day at Charlotte would have been. The young man had been pushed and shoved through a three-day series of promotional stops and special appearances on behalf of their team's major new sponsor. Billy had been his constant companion on the trip and he was admittedly sapped, bone-tired as well. But he had merely been along for the ride and had not had to shake hundreds of hands or sign all those autographs or answer all those silly questions with a good-humored smile and pretend it was the first time he had ever heard them. Even now, this far down the road, Billy sometimes wondered why he had stepped back into the middle of the swirling tornado of serious stock car competition and dragged all these other lives along with him on his obsessive quest. As the chief mechanic of one of the most successful teams in the sport's history, he had gotten more than his fair share of the glamour and glory during the seventies and eighties. And the money, too. Enough of the spoils of victory that, well invested as it was, he could have lived comfortably for the rest of his days without ever having to do any more grueling personal appearances or gritty all-night work sessions, or brutal eKeith, Don is the author of 'First to the Flag', published 2000 under ISBN 9780812545074 and ISBN 0812545079.