Friday, April 11, 2008

Subway Fresh Fit 500 preview

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

This week: Phoenix. The over/under on Subway Jared commericals... 27. I'll take the over.

Fox 8:00pm EST (Saturday night)
Location:Phoenix International Raceway (Phoenix, AZ)
Distance: 312 miles/312 laps (500 kilometers)
2007 Phoenix winners: J. Gordon (spring race); J. Johnson (fall race).

*What to know:
In honor of this week's race location (the desert), and the startling revelation that NASCAR drivers do heroin before races, Ridebuyer feels compelled to show a somewhat gratuitous Simpsons clip. Enter Homer Simpson and his freaky pepper-induced trip in the desert.

Let us hope that most drivers can stay clean during Saturday night's race. Drugs, darkness, and being surrounded by a barren wasteland is a deadly combination. Imagine Kyle Busch with a head full of drugs, blasting into turn-one nearing 160mph. The ramifications could be catastrophic.

Enough about NASCAR-guys pretending to be Robert Downey Jr. There is a serious motoring event to waged.

Saturday will be first points race of the season held in the evening. The race will start as the sun is still high in the sky, setting as laps progress, ending in full darkness. Successful teams will have to adapt as track conditions change. Qualifying has shown the speed of Dodge, with Ryan Newman taking the pole (the only highlight of his season since Daytona). But, don't expect him (or Dodge, for that matter) to finish where they start. Newman has amassed a staggering record of pole positions yet has the uncanny ability to find his way to the back in those events. Congrats on the 43rd career pole though.

Apart from dealing with lunar cycles, teams faces with very real possibility of being accosted by traveling bands of Mexican bandits while in the desert. These 'conquistadors' have been known to hijack team transporters, pilfer items from memorabilia trailers, kidnap gringos, and otherwise raise hell when NASCAR goes to the desert. Any team that keeps the brown gypsies at bay will stand an even money shot at finding victory lane come nightfall. Teams with proven bandit-fighting abilities are Hendrick Motorsports, DEI and Roush-Fenway Racing. Other outfits have been not so successful. No one can forget the great heist of 2003 when the Wood Brothers' pitbox was hitched-up to a conquistador mule and carted off of pit road. Glen Wood hasn't been seen since.

*Who to watch:

Dale Earnhardt Jr.:
Two wins at PIR (03, 04) and consistent finishes this season. Junior has three top-five finishes this season and sits forth in points. He has been the best running Hendrick car this year and will break through with a win sooner rather than later. His average finish at PIR is a bit misleading (at 19th) as he pulled in a 43rd in this event last season after wrecking to screw the pooch average wise. He starts Saturday's race 13th.

Kevin Harvick:
Harvick's record at PIR mirrors that of Earnhardt Jr. Harvick also sports two wins and three top-fives. He has shown more desert-consistancy than Junior, as Harvick's average finish is about 13th. In the last four races at PIR, Harvick has not finished outside of the top-ten. That's pretty damn impressive. Harvick starts mid-pack but should find his way to the front by mid race. Also, Richard Childress Racing has incredible luck dealing with the conquistadors. Two words: gold bartering.

Carl Edwards:
Winning races cannot be discounted. Carl Edwards wins races. His consistency this season has been hit or miss, but no one will argue with three wins at this juncture in the year. Edwards has a finishing average of 14.7 this season, with four finishes in the top-10 (four top-10 finishes when three of those finishes come from wins = inconstant). Edwards is sitting tenth in the points, with two career top-fives at PIR. He starts third on Saturday night, and is the best hope for Ford in finding victory lane this weekend.

Dark Horse:

Mark Martin:
The old-guy has been quick at PIR this weekend, qualifying forth for DEI. Martin only has one Cup victory at PIR in his centuries of racing (that win came in 1993). But in 22 Cup starts at PIR, Martin has amassed an average finish of 9th. 9th, since 1988... Let that sink in. Martin was running in the top-10 at PIR when people were watching Punky Brewster. That is fucking crazy. Watch for him on Saturday.

*For those heading to the track:

PIR likes to be anal with the whole BYOB thing. They claim that state law prevents people from bringing cerveza into the stands. Nobody believes this. Here is your overtly-lame, blatantly homosexual tailgating info.

Unreserved RV parking is $40 per vehicle. Stop the damn presses and make room for my Jack Nicholson in About Schmidt-style RV. Sweet.

*Series points:


Jeff Burton


Kevin Harvick


Kyle Busch


Dale Earnhardt Jr.


Tony Stewart


Jimmie Johnson


Denny Hamlin


Greg Biffle


Carl Edwards


Ryan Newman


Clint Bowyer


Kasey Kahne

*Next Week, Talladega. High banks and 'big one' friendly. Oh, joy.

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