Sylvia Wilkinson has written three novels -- Moss on the North Side, A Killing Frost, and Cale -- but since 1970 when the last appeared she's been varooming around the car racing circuit, quite literally trailing a young driver, John Morton, for eighteen months. Strange, you say -- a successful Southern lady novelist doing a book on a sport so wholly male that NASCAR forbids women in the pits (indeed Wilkinson was bodily removed in Daytona). But we've all come a long way, baby, and there's nothing dainty about traveling that hot track with Morton, in and out of the little Datsun which he drove so well, then the Formula A car -- ""the stainless steel carrot"" -- which ended in a heap one horrendous day in Atlanta, effectively ending his 1972 season. And in and out of the race-car driver's mind, facing those upfront questions of competition, fear, danger, death, the increasingly tough race for prize money, the ego glorification, the mechanical breakdowns, the psychological and physical conditions -- ""Every race,"" Morton observes, ""is made up of lots of little tiny commitments, when you should pass a guy, how hard you should press him, how many chances you have to take to win."" You'll like John Morton, a candid, thoughtful, professional man thoroughly imbued with the grandeur and vicissitudes of speed. Wilkinson wisely lets him talk and auto racing fans -- a growing group from Watkins Glen to the Baja -- will listen.