Thursday, March 27, 2008

Goody's Cool Orange 500

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

This week: Martinsville... AKA the new leader in our quest for NASCAR's most-ridiculous sponsor-laden race name.

TV: Fox 1:30pm EST
Location: Martinsville Speedway (Martinsville, VA)
Distance: 263 miles/500 laps
2007 Martinsville winners: J. Johnson (spring race); See previous (fall race).

*What to know:
We certainly hope you enjoyed last weekend. A Saturday/Sunday combo sans Cup race is something of a rarity this time of year. Sure, there was a Nationwide race last Saturday, but who would waste their time couch-bound when beautiful weather and family orientated fun was to be had? And for what? A Nationwide race... Wait, you watched too? Good. We are not alone. Of course, some people dread the off-week. Not having a six hour block of Cup racing might force some to change their Sunday rituals. Some will be tempted to engage in the following off-week sacrileges: Socialize, attend family functions, get conned into going to a church service (god forbid), talk to the people who live around you, etc... Holy shit, thank Allah NASCAR is back. It takes the pain away from dull and monotonous world which we live. Ah, the joys of the Easter weekend break...

Well, we have appeared to get a bit sidetracked. On to racing. The event at hand is somewhat similar to the previous race, in that Martinsville is a short track, and is located in the real (capital 'S') South. Much of what it takes to be successful at Bristol is needed to run good (NASCAR term meaning to have a well performing racing vechical. I think it is of Slavic origin) at Martinsville. Certainly avoiding contact will be difficult and the driver that keeps his nose clean the longest should be in contention to win. For those not familiar with Martinsville's layout, here is Google Map to shed some light:

As you can see, the track has a rather unique shape, providing long straightaways and short, tight corners. As with many short tracks, aerodynamics don't play as huge of a role as mechanical grip and a car that handles properly through the corners will have an advantage over the most hot-rodded of mounts. Martinsville races usually play pretty high in the caution flag department, and the possibility of seeing yellow inside the ten-to-go mark is high. Should this situation happen Sunday, the lead driver will be like a duck waiting for his beating from the hen hound.

It is incredibly important to note where this race is being held. Southwest Virgina is not quite the Virgina is for Lovers we all know and respect. Martinsville is closer to Tennessee and North Carolina than the white sand beaches and dog fights of the eastern portions of the state. This is the home to moonshine, white lightening, hooch and that stuff that comes in a mason jar and tastes like peach and WD-40. (You know the stuff, it helped you bag that Blacksburg Towny who later become your second wife.) The point is, be prepared. Even if you are just watching the race at home on Sunday, you could find yourself in the greater-Martinsville area one day. Knowledge is power and this could save your families life. Just feed them booze and keep driving.

*Who to watch:

Jeff Gordon: He may be relegated to the 14th spot in points, but Jeff Gordon is the Don of Martinsville. He has 24 career top ten finishes at the track. 24. Jesus. He has more top tens than Ridebuyer has hits in a week. Of those 24, he was won seven times. Gordon is even money to get his first win of the season on Sunday.

Kyle Busch: The points leader has posted some decent finishes at Martinsville (three top fives and an average placing of 13.2), but only has one career win at a short track. But, Busch will be fired up to perform on Sunday, because he will have been wrecked out of the truck race (for what seems like the 15th time this year) and pissed off at the world. Hell hath no fury like a Busch scorn.

Jimmie Johnson: I too find it foolish to put Johnson on the Who to watch list every weekend. It gets repetitive and dull, plus the guy has won as many Cup races this season as Jose Conseco (null). The fact of the matter is, Johnson is a stud who can win anywhere. Why that hasn't happened this season could be attributed to any number of reasons including the mild winter, lackluster new season of Lost, or Ridebuyer's theory about Johnson's involvement with a Western Kentucky-led plot to screw fantasy and bracket picks to high heaven. For the record, Johnson swept both Martinsville dates last season.

*Dark Horse*

Tony Stewart: Consistent finishes this season, plus Stewart was the last non-Hendrick driver to win at Martinsville (2004). He sits seventh in the series' points and is ready to pounce, which will be easier now that he has cut his mullet. It's a wind resistance thing.

*For those heading to the track:

Martinsville has the most absurd restrictions for what can and cannot be brought into the track. To illustrate the absurdity and all its absurdness, here is what their website says:

The speedway allows each fan to bring:

• One soft-sided bag/cooler, no larger than 6x6x12 inches. Examples include: a soft-sided cooler, a scanner bag, a fanny pack, a purse, a diaper bag or a binocular bag, etc. The soft-sided insulated cooler may contain ice.

• One clear plastic bag, no larger than 18x18x4 inches to accommodate samples received and purchases made after fans have parked their cars. Clear plastic bags may not contain ice.

• Binoculars, scanners, headsets and cameras -- not in a bag -- worn separately over the neck or on the belt, and seat cushions carried separately are also allowed. Seat cushions with compartments will be reviewed on an individual basis.

Get to the track early, hang out and tailgate. Bring the grill, chairs, horseshoes and food.

Who plays horseshoes anyway? And why can't I put ice in my plastic bag? Fascists.

*Series points:

1 Kyle Busch
2 Greg Biffle
3 Kevin Harvick
4 Jeff Burton
5 Dale Earnhardt Jr.
6 Kasey Kahne
7 Tony Stewart
8 Ryan Newman
9 Clint Bowyer
10 Kurt Busch
11 Matt Kenseth
12 Martin Truex Jr.

*Next Week, Texas.

We have a whole week to polish up on cowboy jokes and stereotypes. Ridebuyer will be ready, will you?

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