Thursday, March 6, 2008

Kobalt Tools 500 preview

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

Peace up, A-Town down.

TV: Fox 1:30pm EST
Location: Atlanta Motor Speedway (Atlanta, GA)
Distance: 500 miles/334 laps
2007 Atlanta winners: J. Johnson (both spring and fall races)

*What to know:

NASCAR is a southern sport, make no mistake. Its roots are firmly planted below the Mason-Dixon. Now, the series is stretching outward like a plague of southern pride. No market is safe. Hollywood, been there. Vegas, you bet. Expeditions into the north and west are now commonplace in the series. Progress some would say. A shift in demographics. This is a stark contrast to the world of Confederate flags, canned beer and no blacks that represented the status quo of the series’ younger years. NASCAR was founded by guys named Junior, Fireball and Tiny. They were moonshiners at heart and rednecks to the end. The idea (held by many) that NASCAR remains a last-ditch hold out for rebels, children of the soil and river rats is laughable by those who have seen the sport change. NASCAR is just as mainstream as the MLB, NBA and NFL. People who know their acronyms know this. It’s not a good thing, yet not really bad either. To put it into locker room speak for the stick and ball guys, it is what it is. But, what is the point?

Well, impatient asshole, the NASCAR circus pulls into Atlanta this weekend, for the season’s first foray into the south. *Note for the geography majors, Daytona is south. Ah, but Florida is… well it’s Florida. Not the South. Just south.* So, it looks like after three races NASCAR is back home, right? In their fertile crescent? Back home again.... in Dixie etc. Sorry to disappoint, but Atlanta is not the capital-letter “S” South we are looking for. Nope, Atlanta is in the Dirty South, and for those out of the loop, the Dirty South is an entirely different beast. This is T.I. country. What is T.I. country? A brief video can illistrate:

When NASCAR hits the hip-hop scene, one of two things will likely happen.

A) Both sects (racers and gangsters) will largely remain separate. An unwritten rule of segregation will be strictly enforced by both parties. Make no mistake; the hip-hop crowd is much more frightened of the NASCAR hoard than vice versa. With bloody good reason. NASCAR-folks represent an unknown, the likes of which hip-hop has never seen. Who are these sick people? They will ask. Why do they invade? And for fucks sake, what do they want? Prey they stay apart, for if a few random NASCAR fans wonder off the beaten path and stumble into a hip-hop communal… Well, an instantaneous tear in the space/time continuum is both possible and likely probable.


B) Both sects make a concerted effort to make contact and to rumble. Samuel Huntington will be right, and we (as Americans) will be up shit creek sans paddle. Blood will spill and heads will roll. In this scenario, the stockcar-types are at distinct disadvantage. Aside from the rap-crowd being on their home turf, the NASCAR-boys cannot be expected to compete with the highly organized, gang-infused tactics that will be deployed upon them. Should this happen NASCAR will be unable to reverse the damage (in loss of life) done to their sport. It will be game-over, judgment day and the apocalypse all wrapped into one. Christmas morning for the rejected.

Should neither of the above scenarios come to fruition…Well, a race may take place on Sunday (not likely). Keep the following in mind:

*Who to watch:

Jimmie Johnson: Dismal finishes this year (minus the second in Hollywood), has the two-time champ hungry for a win. Hendrick is awesome on fast 1.5 mile tracks, and Johnson swept both races in Atlanta last season, and hasn’t finished outside of the top-10 at the track (in cup races) since 2005. To call him the favorite is an understatement.

Carl Edwards: Two straight wins for Edwards has his Roush-Fenway team riding high. He has only one cup finish outside of the top-10 at this track. His only momentum boff-up is the fact his crew-chief has been suspended for the next six races for Edwards’ car failing post-race tech in Vegas. Whoops.

Dale Earnhardt Jr: The guys loves fast tracks, and Atlanta is the fastest of them all. His 12.2 average finishing-position at this track is respectable and he is a past winner of the event (2004). He says his Daddy loved to race on this track, and he is hungry for his first points win with Hendrick.

For the fans braving a clash of civilizations and heading to the track:

Here is all your tailgating information. Just to let you know, by tailgating in a parking lot at a NASCAR event, you are still perpetuating all sorts of stereotypes. The Atlanta Motor Speedway is lax on the whole drinking thing, so fill up your cooler, hit the infield and enjoy.

Series Points to date:
Kyle Busch
Ryan Newman
Kasey Kahne
Kevin Harvick
Greg Biffle
Jeff Burton
Carl Edwards
Martin Truex Jr.
Elliott Sadler
Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Tony Stewart
Kurt Busch

Next Race, Bristol... Where this sort of thing happens.

Now that’s in the South.

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