Friday, April 4, 2008

Samsung 500 preview

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

This week: Texas. Where everything is bigger. (And this guy lives.)

TV: Fox 1:30pm EST
Location: Texas Motor Speedway (Fort Worth, TX)
Distance: 500 miles/334 laps
2007 Texas winners: J. Burton (spring race); J. Johnson (fall race).

*What to know:
Fast things happen in Texas. Why? you ask. Because Texas is fucking huge. Have you ever driven anywhere Texas? If you need to get somewhere in that God-forsaken state and happen to find yourself not already in the place you need to be, you're in for a trek. Even the simplest of travel activities can become a death march in Texas. Driving from town to town at anything less than triple-digit speeds is likely to suck the life from your day and spoil any time sensitive plans you were stupid enough to make. A quick drive to the grocery store? Four hours. Need to rent a movie? Two hours to your neighborhood Blockbuster. Looking to score some Rx pills or knockoff purses'? Well, Mexico is surprisingly close (Juarez is less than 30-minutes away from every major city in Texas, if I'm reading this map correctly).

Driving fast is a way of life in Texas. Vast expanses of highway (and no laws to speak of) leads to pickup trucks that barrel down the middle of the road, hell bent on bump drafting your family's AreoStar back to Abilene. If the old adage the speed kills is true, than Texas is full of murderers. Maybe that's the cause of the Texans' infatuation with the death penalty. It could also be the reason why 100,000 fans will pack the Texas Motor Speedway on Sunday for a stockcar race.

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The satellite view of the track fails to give a perspective that shows the corner banking. (Because it's a satellite, dumbass) This track features 24-degrees of slope in the corners, making the course the 1.5 mile circuit equivalent of Bristol. To put is in perspective, the now-defunct Champ Car series attempted to race at this track in 2001 but the event had to be canceled after drivers became dizzy and disorientated after weekend practice sessions. Granted, the Champ Cars were lapping the circuit about 40mph faster than a stockcar could ever dream of going, but the track certainly means business. Case in point: See the remains of Michael McDowell's car after Friday's qualifying wreck. Gross.

*Who to watch:

Tony Stewart: Old Smoke has yet to wheel his Camry (the still sounds incredibly gay) into victory lane. His teammates at Joe Gibbs Racing have all managed a tally a win this season, and Stewart is a is likely feeling the itch to join his mates. Stewart his seven career top-10 finishes at Texas Motor Speedway and one victory (fall race, 2006). It's no secret that fast tracks light Stewart's fire. He has to work his way to the front from mid pack (starting 24th) Sunday, but remains a guy to keep an eye on.

Dale Earnhardt Jr.: Junior joins Stewart in the sick group of drivers that seem most adept at racing on fast, high-banked ovals. Atlanta is Earnhardt's favorite track, and that course's similarity to Texas is staggering. He is forth in points going into Sunday's race (the highest of Hendrick Motorsport's four entries), and has a three top five finishes at Texas with one win. Add that to his starting position Sunday-the pole- and we have a clear favorite.

Jeff Burton: The current series' points leader has two career wins at Texas including a 'W' from the last time the Cup guys were in Fort Worth. Burton's lowest finish of the year has been 13th, and he has two straight top five finishes (including a win at Bristol). He starts 35th on Sunday (wait, that's not that too good), but expect him to hook up with Stewart and move from back to front.

*Dark Horse*

Juan Montoya: The foreign-guy starts 11th on Sunday, and has shown speed at Texas in his limited Lone-Star experience. (He has a top-10 in his two career starts and an average finish of 16.5. He qualified third for the fall race last season.) He is, well, a dark horse.

*For those heading to the track:

The Texas Motor Speedway wants you to have fun while at the track. Here is your tailgating information. Pack your cooler and have a gas in the grandstands. For those with hemorrhoid issues, the track does allow ass cushions. George Brett is thankful.

Traffic seems to be an issue around the track, so be prepared to wait whilst waiting to get to the parking lots. Also, some Ridebuyer editors (okay, it was me) had their (my) Dodge Neon rental car hit in the TMS parking lot in 2000 during the IRL race. The bastard drove off. Be advised, Texas race fans are criminals.

*Series points:

1. Jeff Burton
2. Kevin Harvick
3. Greg Biffle
4. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
5. Kyle Busch
6. Tony Stewart
7. Kasey Kahne
8. Denny Hamlin
9. Jeff Gordon
10. Jimmie Johnson
11. Ryan Newman
12. Clint Bowyer

*Next Week, Phoenix. More Mexican jokes? I think so.

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