Thursday, July 3, 2008

Coke Zero 400 Powered By Coca-Cola preview

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

This week: The Coke Zero 400 Powered By Coca-Cola
TV: TNT 6:30pm EST (Saturday)
Location: Daytona International Speedway (Daytona, FL)
Distance: 400 miles/160 laps
2007 winners: K. Harvick (Daytona 500); J. McMurray (summer race).

*Driver swapping, Groundhog Day and the monotony of a repeating schedule*

TV and other media-types affectionately refer to this time of the racing year as "silly season." The term is horrendously overused and Saturday's race broadcast has an over/under of 83 for the phrase's utterance. The smart money is on the over. Bill Weber loves talking about silly season more than J.J. from "Good Times" loved spending all the rent money before the first of the month. It's truly remarkable. This edition of silly season (and last year's, to be fair) have fortunately been mildly interesting, thus making some driver swapping discussion tolerable. (Notice we say "some discussion," as there's nothing worst than listening to media guys talk/debate the pros and cons of Joe Nemechek's potential move to CNC Racing or some other such nobody-outside-of-a dozen-people-in-Charlotte-give-a-shit tidbit. ) Last year's edition of silly season was interesting enough with Dale Earnhardt Jr. on the market, and this year has the names Mark Martin and Tony Stewart being tossed around like a bean bag at a frat house cookout, but besides those examples, SS is largely anti-climatic. Tony Stewart will stay with Joe Gibbs Racing for his final contract year, and Mark Martin is going to Hendrick Motorsports. Move on, guys.

Much can be said about the schedule set forth by NASCAR for the Sprint Cup Series: There are too many events, the races are too long, there is too much distance between events held on consecutive weekends (ie. Sonoma to Loudon in five days), etc. But, the biggest problem we see starts this weekend and repeats until November. Running on the same track twice in one season is ridiculous. Aside from making these fucking previews difficult as shit to write (you trying making the same 'the Poconos are trashy jokes' twice in five weeks, it sucks), it slights the fans in other markets a chance to see a race. Not to continually shit on the Pocono race, but the on-track product sucked three weeks ago, and is going to suck again three weeks from now when NASCAR returns. All of this and Kentucky Speedway can't get a Cup-date to save its life. We know this argument has been made by every wannabe NASCAR reporter who has ever visited a message board, but it's bloody true. Some (most) tracks do not deserve two Cup-dates. New Hampshire, Pocono, Phoenix and Dover could all be reduced to one event each, then you could either replace them with new races or just shorten the schedule. The economy is tight (so we're told), maybe just can 'em.

As it stands, this broken record schedule keeps things about as fresh as John Candy's nutsack. We're talking John Candy from Uncle Buck, not dead John Candy. That would be mean as shit. Note to NASCAR, mix things up a bit. Live a little. There are plenty of race tracks across this great country that would love to have you guys. They could put on a great show and breathe some life into rundown fans and mildly disgruntled bloggers who share their rants with under nine people per day. Viva la revolutiona! Or, however you spell that fascist shit. Currently, the season has a terrible feeling to it. It feels like we have been here before, but cannot find a way to escape and break the endless cycle of repetition.

*What to know:

Restrictor platin': When Saturday's race concludes, there will only be one more restrictor plate event of the year. Just one more time to have 40+ cars running wide-open for extended periods, without the power to get away from each other. That will be nice. Until then, just anticipate the same old restrictor plate bullshit. A large wreck should take out 10-15 cars, track position means nothing as you can move from the back to the front of the pack with ease if your car is good. If you like this kind of racing, you'll like the race. If you think restrictor plate racing takes skill and entertainment out of the race, you'll hate it.

Beware of the Cola: This race has two Coca-Cola products mentioned in its formal title. This might be an unprecedented usage of naming rights to hock a product (or two products in this case). If you think those Coke Zero taste infringement commercials were funny at one point, you suck taint. They are fucking annoying, and will be featured every time a phantom caution comes out for debris. By lap 16 (and the forth commercial break) you'll want to firebomb the bogus law office where those lawyers in the ads came from. If you want to watch this race please use TiVo, or tape it, christ Beta tape it you must, but do not sit through those ads in real time.

Last lapers: The guy who is leading with one lap to go will probably not win this event. This is just another product of the aforementioned restrictor plate and aerodynamics configurations. The past two Daytona 500's are prefect examples of where you want to be when the white flag comes out. Neither Ryan Newman (this year) nor Kevin Harvick (2007) were in the lead, or had the dominant car of the race, yet they won. Watch for the drivers who lag back in the final laps to set up for a run in front of the checker.

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*Who to watch:

Dale Earnhardt Jr: Everyone knows Junior is fast on plate tracks. He has seven wins on super speedways and sits a strong third in points. Hendrick Motorsports' are still behind the Toyota-power of Joe Gibbs Racing and the Chevy's of Childress, but their shortcomings can be masked at Daytona. His one win this season was a strange fuel mileage race, but he can notch a legitimate #2 'w' this weekend.

Tony Stewart: Smoke was the fastest at Daytona during Speedweeks and should have won The 500 this year. He knows the big tracks like no one else and it straining to get his first win of the year. He has two wins at Daytona and 10 top-10's. He gets it. Add to that his Toyota-powered Gibbs' car, which is clearly the combination to have, and Stewart is a clear favorite.

Kyle Busch: The points leader has all of the equipment that Stewart has, but one significant advantage: momentum. It now looks like Busch is a for-real contender for the points title, and has proved his competitiveness on all types of circuits. He has never won at Daytona, but there is no reason why he can't. Get used to seeing the kid with the queer sunglasses in victory lane. Thank god it's a night race.

*Dark Horse:

David Ragan:
The Roush-youngster has been steadily gaining momentium this season. He has shown that he can run in the top-15 at most tracks and has had some success at Daytona to boot (finishing fifth in the '07 500.) The Roush-Fenway team has been posting solid results, solid enough to give Ragan The Horse. Enjoy it, son.

*For those heading to the track:

Pertinent tailgating information is here. The official Ridebuyer cocktail of the race is the "Blue Grass"

1 1/2 oz bourbon
1 oz pineapple juice
1 oz lemon juice
1/4 oz cherry liqueur

We've never had one, but it seems like they'd fuck you up.

*Series points:


Next race: 400 (Joliet, IL). This is not to be confused with the "LifeLock 400" which was four races ago at Michigan. Weird.

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