Engine pieces were scattered around the spartan pit area at Pacific Raceways, and Mark Wolfe had that determined look in his tired eyes.
The NHRA Competition Eliminator racer, his girlfriend Dana, and buddy Curt thrashed away on the '96 Thunderbird all weekend long, barely sleeping.
"We had the motor down to a bare block three times that weekend for various issues," Wolfe said, looking back on his O'Reilly Northwest Nationals experience earlier this month as a first-time No. 1 qualifier. "And people would walk by and shake their heads and say, 'Why are you working so hard? It's just one race.' We stayed at the track, and we were the first ones up every morning and the last ones to go to bed, working on the car.
"Guys come by and they'd see the motor on the ground in the dirt, all just tore apart. And they said, 'So -- you're done?' We said, 'No, we'll be there the first round.' We made it," he said. "We don't mind working as hard as we can until there's no chance of making it."
That is the motto of Wolfe, 43, who calls Marysville, Wash., home but really has no home. He isn't exactly homeless, but he once lived in a campground and today claims a small, loft-like storage room in the back of his dad's trucking-company shop as his residence.