Friday, May 30, 2008

Best Buy 400 benefiting Student Clubs for Autism Speaks preview

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

This week: Best Buy 400 benefiting Student Clubs for Autism Speaks
TV: Fox 1:30pm EST (Sunday)
Location: Dover International Speedway (Dover, DE)
Distance: 400 miles/400 laps
2007 winners: M. Truex Jr. (spring race); C. Edwards (fall race)

*A note about East Coast racing*

It doesn't take a cartographer to see that NASCAR has some aversion to racing in the Northeast. Sure, the circuit ventures to New Hampshire, Pocono, and Watkins Glen, but that's about it (aside from Dover, that is). This is not some phenomenon that is exclusive to NASCAR. The calenders of other American racing series are noticeably void of events in the northeast part of the country. Why? Surely people enjoy racing in that part of the country. Has the entirety of the Northeast's population become so enthralled with the Red Sox, Celtics, Patriots, that there is simply no room for sporting entertainment outside of the stick-and-ball realm? Possibly, but not likely.

You see, motor racing events can only be held at proper motoring facilities and this is where the Northeast has stumbled. Outside of the tracks listed above, add Lime Rock Park in Connecticut, and the yet to be opened New Jersey Motorsports Park, and you have the entirety of world class tracks in the region.

Let us hypothesize for a moment. Imagine a wealthy industrious fellow wished to build a motoring circuit in the Northeast. His plan would involve the best of everything: paved paddock, heated and air conditioned garages, urinals that are not race track standard-issue piss troughs. A true world class facility located in the heart of the American northeast. The track could play host to NASCAR and/or IndyCar events. Everyone seems to be on board (including local politicos, town organizations, the general public...), and all signs indicate this project will be a booming success. Expect for one rather large issue. The damn thing will never get built.

Nothing gets built in the Northeast without the general labor coming from 100% pure blooded union workers. The Local 305, 283, 985, et al. would be licking their collective chops at the opportunity to "work" on a motor racing circuit. This would be guaranteed employment for the foreseeable future, with no onus on the "workers" to ever complete the job in either a timely or under budget manner. With the costs of construction elevating to stratospheric levels, our hypothetical wealthy industrious fellow will start to sour on the entire concept of a racing facility, and will be broken, bruised and otherwise raped by the whole idea. The project dies on the birthing table like a scene from The Cider House Rules. The only good to come the project is that hundreds of union men got to further hone their smoking and lingering about skills.

What about hiring non-union workers to complete the job? The wealthy industrious fellow would inquire about such the prospect. He reckons a team of well-organized Latino workers could complete the job for half as much money and in half the time. Ah, but alas, the union higher-ups catch wind of this plan and immediately organize their henchmen into action. Within hours a group of union members are protesting the unfinished track, preventing the Latinos from entering the site. Construction grinds to a halt yet again. Within the week, the wealthy industrious fellow is receiving threats on his children's lives, and is getting ominous phone calls in the middle of the night. His own life ends within the month, under, shall we say, questionable circumstances.

All in name of building a race track... Shit, no wonder folks in the Northeast are starved of motorsports. It just doesn't seem worth it.

*What to know:

Dover, DE is approximately halfway between Philadelphia and Washington, DC. The race is always well attended because the folks in both markets are clearly racing deprived. The track is known as the "Monster Mile" (see the statue below) and is a one-mile concrete oval. Expect the track to be green on Sunday because the rain from the weekend will have washed any rubber from the surface. Parity shines through at Dover this weekend (at least in qualifying) with a Ford, Chevy, Toyota and Dodge all starting in the top-four. That said, Ford has shown more speed than any other make, as Greg Biffle's pole time was nearly 1.5 mph than his nearest competition. Biffle's teammate Jamie McMurray will also start in the top-five.

Separated at birth?

*Who to watch:

Greg Biffle: The aforementioned Biffle was so much faster in qualifying than everyone else, he has to be made note of in "Who to watch." His speed was 155.219. Kurt Busch, who rolls off second, posted a speed of 153.971. Yes, Biffle is fast. He has one win and six top-10s in Dover. He is coming off of a second place finish at Charlotte. That is called momentum.

Jimmie Johnson: The season has not gone as planned for Johnson or his Hendrick team. Of course, "as planned" for Hendrick Motorsports means winning everything (including races, company softball outings, bocce ball tournaments, BINGO, etc). Johnson has won three times at Dover and has seven top-10s. He starts Sunday's race from the second row and is looking to add to his lone victory this season.

Kyle Busch: The current points leader will start alongside Johnson on the second row Sunday. Busch and the whole Joe Gibbs Racing team have been competitive at every track that NASCAR his visited this year. While the absolute class of the Toyota-pack has never won at Dover, he has finished runner-up twice and has four top-fives.

*Dark Horse:

Brian Vickers: For some god-unknown reason the Red Bull Toyota team has shown quite a bit of speed at Dover. (Both Vickers and teammate A.J. Allmendinger will start inside the top-10.) Vickers has one career top-10 finish at Dover (spring 2005), and ran in the top-20 during both of last year's races. He is coming off of a poor showing last weekend in Charlotte, but hey, he gets the horse regardless.

*For those heading to the track:

Your all-important tailgating information is here. One seat cushion is allowed per person, what a relief. You should probably bring a poncho as rain is expected. Sorry... If the deluge does come, check out the nearby Dover Downs Casino, its slightly more trashy than its Atlantic City counterparts, but less trashy than, say, Casino Windsor. It's a true can't miss. As a side note, Chicago is playing DDC on July 12th. Of course they are.

*Series points:


Next race: Pocono 500. The winner of this race gets their likeness inscribed onto a heart shaped jacuzzi in one of the many love-bungalows in the "honeymoon capital of the world"

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