Thursday, February 28, 2008

UAW-Dodge 400 preview

Each week Ridebuyer delves deep into the misunderstood, oft terrifying, world of American saloon-car racing known as NASCAR. This week: Las Vegas.

Fear and loathing on an intermediate track

TV: Fox 3:30pm EST
Location: Las Vegas Motor Speedway (Las Vegas, NV)
Distance: 400 miles/267 laps
2007 Vegas winner: J. Johnson

*What to know:

People who screw up on the Strip find themselves baking in grandstands overlooking a race track in the middle of a barren desert wasteland. You are one of these people. Your eventful Sin City Saturday has ended, and you haven’t the faintest clue as to how you arrived at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. You are rather confidant it is no longer Saturday, yet pinning yourself to a specific date to indicate otherwise is impossible. Here is how things transpired:

Your last cognizant thought took place 30-hours previous. You were outside of O’Sheas Casino (across from the Bellagio) on the Strip. It was you, one of the Baldwin brothers (Billy, you think), and two strippers from the Crazy Horse. You were drinking those cocktails that Puerto Ricans sell on the city side streets (you know the ones… they are sold by the foot). You are also thoroughly twasted on a homemade methamphetamine-barbiturate combo that Baldwin brewed in his suite at the Luxor. This was some potent shit, you recall. More memories begin to saunter back into your conscience as you fade in- and -out whilst perched in the stands overlooking turn one. Lost money, at least five-grand you think, and the frightening realization that the probability of a contracted variety of venereal-related diseases is astronomical (Certainly from the Crazy Horse girls… But, Baldwin? Well, only perhaps).

It is the sun that makes you come to your senses, although you wonder why the oppressive noise didn’t wake you hours earlier. You know you are alone (this you can see), it is loud and unbearably hot. The strippers are nowhere to be found, and at this point you’d be a fool to believe Baldwin is still alive. It hits you like a dump truck: you are at a NASCAR race. Fuck this.

The stands at Sunday’s UAW-Dodge 400 will be packed full of people dealing with the same (or at the very least similar) situations. Fans who find themselves in this quandary should by all means not attempt to fight the situation. No, just relax. Let the booze and drugs work their natural courses and try to enjoy the race.

*Who to watch:

Jimmie Johnson: The defending points champ (2X) has won this race for three consecutive years. The Hendrick team knows what to expect at 1.5 mile tracks. There is no reason to think Johnson can’t make it four in a row.

Kyle Busch: the Toyota cars will show much speed. Busch is a local guy as well. Don’t discount the home field advantage, he is the best bet to debunk Johnson’s streak. He is also the series point’s leader (two top five finishes in both of this season’s races).

Carl Edwards: Coming off of a victory last weekend, Edwards doesn’t need an excuse to finish at the top. He also is pretty sorted at 1.5 mile tracks. Roush has won at Vegas in the past (Kenseth, twice). Don’t put stock in the fact the average finish for Edwards at Vegas is 15.3. It’s called an outlier, fucker.

Matt Kenseth: The last man to win a Cup race at Las Vegas whose name wasn’t Jimmie Johnson? Matt Kenseth. He went back- to- back in 03 and 04. His average finish is 7.6. That is not an outlier, fucker.

For the fans going to the track on purpose:

Here is all your tailgating information. Just to let you know, by tailgating in a parking lot at a NASCAR event, you are perpetuating all sorts of stereotypes. That’s just a heads-up. Also note, you cannot bring booze into the track (in a town where you can drink on the sidewalks and have two midgets blow a donkey for a $100 Monte Carlo chip, do you find it odd that you can’t BYO into a bloody NASCAR race? Me too). Oh, and the answer is yes… you can get married at the track.

Series Points to date:

Kyle Busch
Ryan Newman
Tony Stewart
Kurt Busch
Carl Edwards
Kasey Kahne
Kevin Harvick
Jimmie Johnson
Greg Biffle
Jeff Burton
Brian Vickers
Martin Truex Jr.

Next Race, Hotlanta.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Looking beyond the merge... from stupid to awesome

The 2008 IRL season will be weird. From a competition standpoint, it may very well suck. Think of it as a means to an end. Champ Car ex-patriots will struggle mightily to get up to speed with the IRL’s engine and chassis package. Only two former Champ Car teams (still just rumored to be making the switch) have the funding, resources and personnel to be competitive against the likes of Penske, Ganassi and Andretti-Green this season. Newman/Hass/Lanigan and Forsythe are capable of top-five finishes on both road courses and ovals, and will prove such as the season kicks-off next month. I doubt either team will win a race on sheer speed alone, instead may be backdooring a victory with fuel strategy or the like. But, still a huge longshot. Aside from those two outfits, don’t expect the Champ Car refugees to set the world on fire. PKV will show flashes of speed with Oriol Servia , but that will about do it. The rest of the Champ Car ex-pats will have to claw with Marty Roth Racing for also ran status.

It will not be an easy thing to watch for those that thought the Champ Car of the last three or so years was home to the greatest teams and drivers in American open-wheel racing. Some truly poor souls will be so distraught with this new development they will refuse to watch the newly restored series. These folks will focus on F1 or sports car racing and never look back. One should feel no pity for these exclusionists; they are the same people who voted for Ross Perot because he “made the most sense.” Blind faith and tunnel vision are two alarming qualities that should be coveted by none.

Only the ignorant will argue that this reunion was not completely necessary for single-seat racing in this country to have any hope of becoming relevant or even sustainable in the years to come. With that said, (and true of any project retarded by procrastination) the devouring of Champ Car by the IRL will have short term outcomes that span from “good,” to “damn,” to “what the hell is this?”

If the published reports are true, Motegi and Long Beach will happen as scheduled. Two races, two different specs of car competing, both races awarding IRL points. This will fall under the “what the hell is this?” category. This will surely not be the only time this season the strange becomes commonplace in the new-IRL.

Next week's press conference will shed light on further such scenarios. But, all can be forgiven in May at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. If nothing else this merge should be seen as a last-ditch effort to save the 500. The highs and lows will be forgotten and a great event will make up for any flubs between now and then.

Make no mistake, this year will be one for Ripley's, making many scratch their heads. The sooner this season comes to an end, the quicker the next will start and the improvements made to the schedule, spec and overall future of the sport will be in place. Give it time, the best is yet to come.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Auto Club 500 preview

Each week Ridebuyer delves deep into the misunderstood, oft terrifying, world of American saloon-car racing known as NASCAR. This week: California.

Boogity, boogity, boogity, lets go drinking

TV: Fox 3:30pm EST

Location: California Speedway (Fontana, CA)

Distance: 500 miles/250 laps

2007 CA winners: M. Kenseth (early race); J. Johnson (late race).

*What to know:

Historically NASCAR’s trip to SoCal usually transpires in one of two ways. The race is either wrought with three-wide, fender-banging, hockey on pavement action (real Days of Thunder shit), or is a single file, follow-the-leader, sleepy hollow, snooze fest (real 4th of July parade in Paducah, Kentucky shit). Watching 500 miles of the latter will test the will of the most hardcore, leather-assed, Dixie-whistling Gomer this side of Concord. Watching 500 miles of the former will cause the super speedway to resemble a screenshot from Death Race 2000. Destruction and mayhem will flow from the coast, the blood only tapering as it reaches the foothills of Chino. In short, neither option is terribly appealing for those looking for to kill their Sunday afternoon/evening couch-side.

No, the sporting fan should hope for a race that draws from a happy medium… Bursts of three-wide with sensible motoring betwixt. The Fontana track has the width to let the pack fan into three and four-wide, but the relatively flat banking in the corners should keep the bedlam in check.

*Who to watch:

Kyle Busch: Kurt’s brother has won at Fontana before and is looking to avenge a Daytona race where he had the fastest car all day yet still avoided victory lane.

Matt Kenseth: Won this event last year, and Roush-Fenway also has speed at Fontana (and the nearly identical Michigan track).

Jimmie Johnson: The two-time defending champ will rebound from the brutal-bastard showing that was his Daytona 500.

*Wild Cards:

Robby Gordon: Hometown guy, coming off a great finish at Daytona. Also, don’t discount his desire to shit on the dinner plate of NASCAR for their (most) recent penalty against the owner/driver.

Casey Mears: Another Homer. Watch him for no particular reason (other than the fact he has the same equipment as Jimmie Johnson and co.)

*What to do instead of watching a 4+-hour stockcar race:

-Shovel your driveway:
There is no reason to pay the Sullivan kid down the street to do it. He uses the cash to buy pot, you know?

-Empty the grease catch on your Foreman Grill:
That thing took a beating from Saturday’s pork chop special. Christ.

-Watch CNBC for episodes of “Mad Money with Jim Cramer”:
One word, “plastics.” Oh, and another, “ diversify.”

-Edit profile:
No explanation needed.

*For those going to the race:
Here are the guidelines for your pre-race celebrations. What will you fill your clear-plastic bags with?

*For those thinking about going to the race:
You live in LA for christsakes. There is plenty of bump drafting to be seen on the 405. And who needs Tony Stewart v. Kurt Busch? You have the Crips v. Bloods. Stay at home, listen to Sublime, and re-truck your skateboard or do whatever fucking Californians do. Wouldn’t you rather go on star tour anyway?

Next race: Vegas, baby.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Fun with Ebay

Scouring the Ebay-world for the finest in racecar related awesomeness.
4-wheeling anyone?

First step to relevancy… Imminent? Really?

Speedtv’s Robin Miller says the long awaited, much needed, only chance at becoming a real sport again, about fucking time, IRL/Champ Car reconciliation deal is done.

After 12 years of warring that cost open-wheel racing much of its sponsorship,audience and momentum, common sense has finally prevailed. has learned that the Indy Racing League and Champ Car have officially, and mercifully, agreed to become one entity. A press conference could come as early as Wednesday…

So, the bloody coup -turned bloodier schism- appears to ending. Praise the lord. While this union represents the equivalent of an 11th-hour, shotgun wedding between the two series, it is also the only chance American open-wheel racing has at becoming anything more than an obscure, 2nd to 3rd tier, also ran, bastard cousin to the 800-pound gorilla of NASCAR. Castro resigns, and an open wheel merger on the same day... Coincidence? I think so too.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Wayne Knight was also in Jurassic Park

Here is to the Rushville Rocket (Ryan Newman, get it?) for taking the 50th ‘500.’

In the event that you were too busy re-caulking your bathroom to watch the race, it can be categorically generalized in the following Reader's Digest manner:

RB’s picks to win finished a respectable 9th and (ahem) 27th (D. Earnhardt Jr., and J. Johnson respectively).

There was no big wreck.

Michael McDonald highlighted the prerace pomp.

D. Earnhardt Jr. gambled, took track position over tires, and really never showed the speed he had in the Bud Shootout or Duel race.

The Ford cut-a-way car was not utilized nearly enough by Jeff Hammond.

Kyle Busch was the class of the field the entire day.

Jeff Burton got the worst restart in the history of rolling starts on lap 198.

And for the second consecutive year, the high line is where you needed to be with two corners to go.

Penske Racing takes its first win in the ‘500,’ getting a one-two finish to boot. To put that in perspective, this teaming starting running NASCAR events with an AMC Matador driven by Mark Donahue. So, it’s safe to say he’s been doing the stockcar thing for a while.

Side note:

Did you enjoy the new Michael Waltrip NAPA commercial? You know, the one with the overzealous die-cast collector guy (it only aired 43 times during the broadcast). Well, it references a wreck of Mikey’s at Bristol in 1990. It’s worth watching.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Daytona 500 preview: Sure, it devours an entire Sunday, but you’d have wasted it anyway

NASCAR kicks its season off with their version of the Super Bowl. The thing is, NASCAR’s Super Bowl is longer than the actual Super Bowl, both in time of the event itself and all of the pre- and post-race analysis, dissection and general bullshit. In short (as unbelievable as this seems) the ‘500’ is a far easier way to blow a Sunday than the Super Bowl. Here’s how it goes down:


If you are like me, rising on a Sunday happens at no time before noon. From here, you can awake, tune into Fox and get bombarded with a pre -‘500’ hootenanny that would make Fireball Roberts turn in his grave. The basic race analysis, interviews and other stuff is decent enough, but by the time the obligatory 20-min performance by Lighthouse or some other amazingly bad band rolls around, taking shots of DrainO seems like reasonable activity. Pause for the F-16 fly over. Now, bow your head for the 45-min invocation (NASCAR is kind of into Christ, if you weren’t aware). You’ve now been watching this tripe for well over three hours. Wow, that really flew by. It’s three now, time for a hearty breakfast of Schlitz and ham hock (it’s called the Tony Stewart diet).

Race time:

Understanding that many folks may not have NASCAR in their regular motor sports viewing plan (I’m talking to you lawnmower racing junkies), I’ll give you the four-sentence blitz of what to expect at Daytona:

The cars run a device called a “restrictor plate,” it makes them run slower speeds and produces tightly clumped packs of cars.

This is first year that the CoT (Car of Tomorrow) has been run in the ‘500,’ and three- wide racing will supposedly not be as prevalent.

A car owned by Rick Hendrick will win this race (Jimmie Johnson or Dale Earnhardt Jr., more specifically).

Finally, there will be a huge wreck involving 10 or more cars.

That is really all you need to know. Sit back and enjoy the actual racing. There will be plenty to watch and tons of time to devour all the intricacies of the sport. I recommend keeping a running tally on the number of times Fox’s Mike Joy tosses it down to Jeff Hammond at the cutaway car. Make a drinking game of it. Drink double if a reference is made to a “spring rubber.”


If this was your first ‘500’ pat yourself on the back, because you made it through one of the most historic events in all of sports. You saw a big wreck, a horrible music performance (12 hours earlier), a Hendrick car win a race and become a step closer to a championship (to be crowned 35 races from now. Yeah, it’s kind of a long season), you paid respect to Jesus (again, about 12 hours ago) and you are a little drunk to boot. That sure beat the hell out of productivity. And you can do it all again next week. They have 500 more miles to go next weekend in California.

This pole award brought to you by the beer your older brother bought you in high school

This paves the way for the Colt-45 Move of the Race:

Erik Darnell captured the newly re-named Keystone Light Pole qualifying award on
Thursday evening at Daytona International Speedway…

Congrats Erik, the street value of your award is roughly 30 for $11.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Mergers, bankruptcy, unemployment, and motor racing

I have waited to pass judgment on the latest open-wheel merger rumors, not wanting to waste time conjecturing; speculating or even acknowledging the possibility of a reunion taking place (this is largely because Kevin Kalkhoven cites the people who speak about merger, as being the sole reason for a merger not happening. The first rule of possible merger is, there is no possible merger). The supposed near misses and close calls have been too frequent and ultimately too futile for the events of the week to seem buoyant. We’ve heard all this before; buzzwords like assets, liquidity and union tossed about like a wooden-legged figure skater in a canoe. This would surely under develop and fizzle out like every other attempt at fusion.

Any plan to fix a dozen-year bloody schism could not be solved two months before the respective seasons are to start… Right?

Exactly when this story shifted from pipedream to plausible is hard to pinpoint. Obviously the now infamous Robin Miller articles played a role. The news that the IndyCar Series brass (along with Honda lovechild Robert Clark) hit Japan to iron out a scheduling trip-up added fuel to the fire. Christ, who knows when this turned into the only hope for open-wheel racing in America to gain any degree of relevancy? But it did.

Some killjoys (mainly a small, yet vocal group of Champ Car zealots whose knowledge of the sport is only rivaled by their ignorance to the fact that this is not the Champ Car of 1999) believe that Kalkhoven, et al. would be getting a hose-job should the published merge terms be in the ballpark of what is actually being discussed. They would be right, but Champ Car is in no place to barter.

The ball has been forcibly removed from Champ Car’s court. Through mismanagement, scheduling disasters, dismal media coverage and a litany of other blunders Champ Car imploded. These cock-ups have been outlined to the point of cliché, and are regarded as common knowledge by those outside the inner sanctum of Champ Car.

Regardless of how they obtained it, the IndyCar Series has the upper hand (though through default more so than any tangible advance they have made to either the sport of motor racing or its marketing).

David Phillips wrote an excellent op-ed outlining the damage that a hasty union will cause. And if this merger happens, hasty it will be. This potential deal has all the makings of a four-day Vegas binge that culminates with the exchange of vows between a down of his luck slob and a syphilis-riddled hooker. Heads will roll, companies will close and people will lose jobs. There is no two ways about that.

To Phillips I respond: wars have collateral damage and this is no different.
Aside from the massive amounts of technical resources that will be immediately obsolete (Champ Car’s new Panoz chassis most notability), the pending litigation that faces a voided Champ Car season will be staggering. This will just be the start of the fallout.

And I don’t really care. Neither should you.

A merger transcends the individual company, race team or employee. At stake is the future of open wheel racing in America. An entire sport trumps the needs of companies that exist merely to support that sport. If a union of the forces doesn’t take place, those very companies will be in dire straights soon enough. A delay only postpones the inevitable.

A firehouse liquidation at Champ Car and shotgun wedding with the IndyCar Series is the only bet to salvage this sport and make it viable and relevant by sometime in the next decade.

Returning to the Vegas hooker analogy: Champ Car is coming off of his bender just as he prepares to kiss the hooker and affirm their vows. Champ Car pauses and recoils in disgust as the booze travels off. “Has it really come to this?” he thinks aloud. Champ Car’s mind races as he recalls the last decade of his existence. A hopeless drunk, no friends, drug issues, and no sex since the turn of the millennium. He quickly lays the mother of all kisses on the whore known as the IndyCar Series. A match made in hell, yet necessity.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Ed. Desk

Postseason doom and gloom yields to optimism and cars on racetracks (there is a novel concept). While winter's death grip still holds much of the nation hostage with a bastard force of wind, snow and grey, the ‘08 motoring season has largely kicked-off. Quite a difference between now and the dismal outlook that spewed from the Ed. desk here. But alas, two months of seclusion was broken first with the Rolex (turns out, Ganassi knows how to win these things), pause for Super Bowl (turns out, Eli Manning doesn't suck), and now SpeedWeeks is in full swing (turns out, Jimmie Johnson is pretty quick, as I just saw him take the pole for the 500). The NHRA has full blown points racing happening this weekend with the Winter Nat's taking place, and according to this guy the Indycar Series and Champ Car could be together sooner rather than never.*
With that, the season starts and Ride Buyer is back. Remember as the old racing adage goes, "when the green-flag drops, the bullshit... well, here the bullshit starts again...

Cheers- ed.

* Baring Honda getting into a cock-up battle over the IRL Motegi date, and wishing to not surrender that date to the LBGP and their longstanding sponsor Toyota. The Asians hate to look weak.