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Urban Explorer's Handbook 2006 

Under the hood

Billy is a lot like his dad. They're both named Bill. They both became professional race car drivers. And both shattered the C-2 vertebrae in their necks during races.

Last year in Daytona, with only a lap and a half to go in the race, Billy was running in sixth place when the third and fourth-place cars collided in front of him. A rookie on Billy's right overreacted to the crash and jerked his car left, catching Billy's right rear enough to spin him like a top into the wall. Billy came to a rest, thinking it was over. Then another car smashed into him. He heard a noise inside his head that sounded like grinding teeth, but it came from his neck. Then his car caught fire, and Billy found himself unable to move.

"That was the 'oh shit' moment." Like his dad, Billy achieved a full recovery and returned to the track.

Life is much safer at his garage, Venturini Motorsports, run by his race team -- himself, his dad and his mom. To a NASCAR novice, one look at the garage and you'd think it was Dale Earnhardt's car shop. Eight race cars are scattered about the shop, all for Billy. Stock-car series incorporate three types of courses (short track, intermediate and super), and each type of course requires a specific car. The cars range from $60,000 to $80,000, not including the engines. Dad Bill also has six engines that cost $55,000 a piece.

As a kid, Billy helped work on his dad's car, and he says knowing the mechanics of a car is essential for a racer. "You've got to know what you're feeling. You've got to know what does what on the race car," he says. "You're a way better race car driver and you're much easier for the crew to work with if you can understand a race car. If not, you're just a pilot."

Tweaks can be made to account for a driver's individual style. On turns, Billy runs a high, sweeping line into the corners. On the right front side of the car between the shell and tire, he puts a stiffer rate coil spring than he does for the other wheels. The stiffer coil prevents the car from spinning out.

The Venturinis make further customizations based on each track's individual features. "There are so many adjustments to be made on these race cars," Billy says. "It's like chemistry. It's getting the right mix."

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