Friday, May 23, 2008

Coca-Cola 600 preview

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

This week:
The Coca-Cola 600
TV: Fox 5:00pm EST (Sunday)
Location: Lowe's Motor Speedway (Concord, NC)
Distance: 600 miles/400 laps
2007 winner: C. Mears (spring race); J. Gordon (fall race)

*A note about race length*

The biggest racing weekend of the year is upon us. NASCAR makes its contribution to holiday-motoring entertainment by providing fans with the longest stock car event of the season. 600 miles at the Lowe's Motor Speedway is what awaits contestants and fans on Sunday evening. This is the third event in a racing tri-fecta on Sunday (other events are Monaco GP and Indy 500) that will test the endurance and strength of everyone remotely involved in its execution. Sure, the drivers and crews will have have to push through the muck and struggle to finish, but their strain will be nothing compared to that of the hot dog, beer and television/radio-guys who will have to work though the day to make the race tolerable for you and I. Fox has earmarked five-hours for the broadcast of this event. Five-hours!? An average bloke could watch the entirety of the Godfather Saga in this amount of time. That same guy could drive across the state of Pennsylvania and bang his wife three times in the amount of time it takes to wage this motor race. By christ, who in name of Vince Young's chest would sit through this fucking thing? Well, if you happen to be visiting this site, chances are, you're considering it. You are contemplating posting-up in your living room, with a war-sized ration of chips and Coors (the Banquet Beer, not 'light'), and getting lost in the rhythm of the race and buzz of the booze. My god, you are truly a sick fuck.

Here is a last ditch effort to get you to forgo the race and find something better to do on your Sunday. Unlike the poor hot dog/beer/media-types who have to endure this pain, RB'er wants to remind you, the fan, that you have a choice. Here is a sampling of the best of Sunday's television:

Erin Brockovich-A&E 4pm-7pm

Deadliest Catch-Discovery (it's a marathon!)

Kathy Griffin: Straight to Hell -Bravo 5pm-6pm

Super Troopers-Comedy Central 8pm-10pm

The alternatives are truly endless. Find a movie to watch. Save yourself the distress of listening to Mike Joy talk about fuel strategy 12-laps into a 600-mile race.

*What to know:

Last year's race became a fuel mileage affair with prolonged green flag runs culminating in Casey Mears' first victory. Obviously, predicting the chances of prolonged green flag runs in stock car racing is about as smart as trying to determine the exact number of hillbillies who will forget which Lowe's parking lot they parked their F-150 in. If the race plays out like it did one year ago, any one of about 30-cars could conceivably win. That said, should fuel not become a major factor (i.e. there are cautions) that list of possible winners get cut in half.

The race is one of those day-into-night affairs that will see the track conditions shift as the night drags on. Any team with a chance at victory will be able to adapt as the track changes.

This race is, aside from Daytona, the biggest in terms of importance for drivers and teams. Lowe's Motor Speedway is minutes away from downtown Charlotte, which is the home of the bulk of teams and sponsors. The race has added pressure for the folks who make a living down-North Carolina way.

*Who to watch:

Kyle Busch: The hottest driver on the circuit of late, Busch will start from the pole position on Sunday night. 13 times the pole driver has gone on to win the 600-mile event. Busch could give Toyota their maiden-Charlotte win. If you hate young-Busch... buy a shirt. No matter, he will still probably win.

Dale Earnhardt Jr.: Ok, here's the thing... Junior has made our "Who to watch" section for every race since February. Fans seem to like the guy and he is generally quick at most tracks. But, he doesn't win anymore. Ever. He rolls off from the sixth position and is sitting third in the points. He has never never won at Charlotte, but does have four top-fives. Will he win? No. But watch him anyway (he has a new bar in Charlotte, for god sakes).

Mark Martin: The old man will start from the seventh position and has amassed quite a career at Lowe's Motor Speedway. Two wins and 14 top-10 finishes, plus an average finish of 10.8 From 1996 through 2005 he never had a DNF at Lowe's. Can you say contender? Me too.

*Dark Horse:

David Ragan: Ragan happens to be driving the old Martin Martin Ford-mount, and has been on quite a tear of late. He has three top-10 finishes this season, and starts Sunday's event inside the top-five (OK, fifth). He has squeaked his way into the top-12 in points and has secured his spot on top of the "horse" this week. Enjoy David.

*For those heading to the track:

Here is your tailgating info. Notice your cooler restrictions... (14 inches on all sides, bastards!). As noted above, Dale Earnhardt Jr. has a new bar in downtown Charlotte. Maybe you should check it out... We imagine it is like the place in Urban Cowboy.

*Series points:


Next race: Best Buy 400 Benefiting Student Clubs for Autism Speaks (Dover, DE). A new leader in our quest to find the most absurd sponsor-laden race name? Yes.

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