Thursday, June 5, 2008

Pocono 500 preview

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

This week: The Pocono 500
TV: TNT 12:30pm EST (Sunday)
Location: Pocono Raceway (Long Pond, PA)
Distance: 500 miles/200 laps
2007 winners: G. Gordon (spring race); Ku. Busch (fall race)

*Title sponsors, honeymoons and triangle tracks*

The proliferation of sponsors in NASCAR racing has been the largest change the sport has seen over the past 20-years. It's hard to fathom that stock car racing has now infiltrated the boardrooms of suit-and-tie America, to become parts of "marketing strategies" and "target demographics" and untold numbers of other business buzzwords. NASCAR has largely embraced this evolution as a product of changing times, making some people involved in the sport ungodly rich while pushing others out. There is no room for the little guy anymore, as he has been savagely beaten and anally raped by the sport he helped build. Times change, it happens. Tough shit.

One of the many outcomes that big business forced upon NASCAR was this thing with individual race naming rights. It is tough to pinpoint when this practice really took a turn for the absurd. The 1975 schedule featured the L.A. Times 500, and the Champion 400, neither of which sound overtly retarded. 1981 was the first year for the Wrangler SanforSet 400 at Richmond (whatever the hell SanforSet is), now, that does sound pretty gay. So, for the sake of making this point, we will say between 1981 and 2008 dumbass sponsor-laden race names became the norm. (This season has set the bar to a new level with such gems as Crown Royal Presents the Dan Lowry 400, The Goody's Cool Orange 500, and the current trump, The Best Buy 400 Benefiting Student Clubs for Autism Speaks.)

Pocono Raceway is different. The track has two NASCAR events per season, The Pocono 500 and The Pennsylvania 500. Simple, to the point, not gay. The term "old school" is now a cliche, but we'll use 'er anyway. Pocono is old school. It is owned and operated by the Mattioli family (probabily in the mob), and is one of the last tracks not to owned by a mega conglomerate. It may not have all of the features of newer facilities, but when did race tracks need to start looking like hotels? They are supposed to be dirty. Check out the track's history in this open letter from the Mattioli family to fans.

*What to know:

The Poconos happen to be quite the honeymoon destination. If anyone can answer "why?" they should contact us immediately. The Poconos seem more like a stronghold of sleaze-balls than any place you would want to take a significant other. Maybe this why NASCAR has found a home in Northern PA. Regardless, there could be a good number of lovers in attendance of Sunday's race, so be warned. The stands at Pocono could begin to resemble a failed screen test for Caligula. If you happen to find yourself on the flip side of that coin, and you are in search of a lover, you might want to try Meet Me at the Races, the dating site exclusively for NASCAR fans. If you are like us and are cruel bastards, you might want to go to MMatR, create a bogus profile, and plan a Pocono meet-up with some 50 year-old broad from Gatlinburg, then never show up. If love does find you while in Long Pond, PA, there is only one place to seal the deal (no, not under the 'G' grandstands). The Champagne Towers by Cleopatra room at the Caesars Pocono Resort. You can make sweet love to your new track-bunny while atop a 7-foot champagne glass whirlpool. This is not a joke. Let us hope that lass you're trying to birddog is not one of the larger variety, as she could displace much of the water and ruin the rose-laced carpet below. (Note: if you find a girl at a NASCAR race, chances are, she is huge and would flood the shit out of your room. But you know this.)

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*Who to watch:

Denny Hamlin: Young-Denny has amassed a damn impressive record at the giant triangle in the heart of sleaze country. His lowest finish in four attempts has been sixth. He has two wins, two poles and third to round things out. For those attempting to calculate averages in your head, stop. The number you're looking for is 2.8. Hamlin has an average finish of 2.8!? Jesus. He is ninth in points right now, and is looking to rebound from finishing 43rd in Dover last week. Rebound he will.

Tony Stewart: Teammate to the guy above, Stewart has had a real blowjob of a season to date. He has no wins, finished 41st last weekend, and should have won both the Daytona 500 and Coca-Cola 600. One would think his luck should take an upswing, and Pocono is a good place for that to happen. He has one win, and posts an average finish of about 12th at PR. He is also coming off of a win this past week at his annual "Prelude to the Dream" event at his dirt track. He beat the likes of Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Busch, Robby Gordan, and pretty much every other Cup driver.

Carl Edwards: "Hot" Carl is sitting forth in points and has found victory lane in the past at PR (what more do you really need to win one of these?). He has three wins this year, and has been the fastest Ford pretty much every week. His Roush-Fenway team has established itself as the only real contender to battle with Gibbs and Childress.

*Dark Horse:

Elliot Sadler: Sometimes you just get a feeling about a guy. The last time we had this feeling, we successfully predicted Keith Byars would win the Heisman in 1984... Wait. Um, just watch for him. He has something to prove after wrecking half of the field in Dover.

*For those heading to the track:

Pertinent tailgating information is here. Most tracks that allow coolers have the size restriction of 16x16x16, Pocono knocks two inches off that and says nothing over 14x14x14. Our advice, buy a few beers from the vendors when you get there to make up for the inequity (come on, it's a family-owned track, don't be a tight ass). The forecast for this weekend does not look great, so maybe bring a poncho and prepare to sweat your balls off as temps will be in the high 80's.

*Series points:


Next race: LifeLock 400. If you watch this race, there is a 50/50 chance you'll get your identity stolen.

1 comment:

Chris said...

I live in the area, and to be honest, I've never heard anything about the Mattioli's being dirty. They might be off-shoot connected, but their not mob folk, just want to clear that up.

The LCN keywords in this area are "Buffolino" and "DeNaples"

The former of which, owns the giant champaign glass.

My dioceses just recently had a priest indicted in some shady BI lately, gotta love the Italians, a full 1/8th of my soul....