Thursday, September 11, 2008

The Chaser #1: Sylvania 300

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

This week: Sylvania 300 (Chase round #1)
TV: ABC 1:00pm EST (Sunday)
Location: New Hampshire Motor Speedway (Loudon, NH)
Distance: 300 laps/317 miles
Past winners: D. Hamlin (7/07); C. Bowyer (9/07); Ku. Busch (6/08).

*How to handle the make-believe playoffs, why Tom Brady made the Loudon crowd tolerable and why we're not watching Sunday's race*

-The next ten weeks will decide who becomes the NASCAR Sprint Cup Champion for the Lord's calender year 2008. Christened the "playoffs" by decision makers inside of the shadowy fortress know as NASCAR headquarters, the new(ish) system was clearly implemented to compete against stick and ball sports in terms of relevancy. A ten week "playoff" during the autumn months generates buzz (whatever the hell that means) for the sport and keeps it on the media radar during a time when professional and collegiate football gets rolling and baseball becomes entertaining. Or so the theory goes.

Whichever one of the France's came up with this idea is really off base.

Save the die hard base of the sport, there is too much competition for viewers and spectators to jump aboard the racing "playoff" train.

The casual sports fan, hell, even the casual racing fan, is far more likely to watch a Sunday afternoon NFL game than a "Chase" race. Right? We say yes.

A valid argument could be made that stock car racing fans and stick and ball types are two completely exclusive sects of folks who will never, under any circumstance, follow a sport that is not what they currently follow. A guy who watches baseball, takes his scorebook to games and understands what the hell OPS is, is not going to split his time in October to watch a saloon car race from Martinsville.

It's all a matter of competition. NASCAR should not compete with the NFL or (to a lesser extent) MLB. That's a fight that cannot be won. NFL games are the big dicks of TV ratings, and MLB
games, with their mostly tepid ratings, are still a cash cow for game attendance. It is a crowded marketplace and America's racing series is, if not careful, going to fall through the cracks.

Knocking ten races off of the Sprint Cup calender solves this issue. The season is far too long to begin with, straining teams and making people lose track of the sport. Who remembers this season's Daytona 500? It was in fucking February. The is season is still going. That's ridiculous. It has become a full time job to follow the damn series. In case you didn't know: jobs suck.

If the NASCAR brass want to keep the "playoffs," fine. Just have The Chase end this weekend, instead of start. That way we can crown a champ, and be done with it by the time NFL week three rolls around.

But for now, we'll just have to wait and pretend to care until the end of goddamn November. Don't fear, will be with you each race of the way. If this is your first Chase, our only advice is to have a healthy supple of booze on hand for the races and don't, under any circumstances, change the channel. If you stumble across a football game, you may not be able to flip back. The horror.

Note: 40-oz cozy = race necessity.

-Hopefully the Tom Brady injury will shut the droves of smug New Englanders who travel to NASCAR's northernmost race the fuck up. NHMS is the only foray for the Sprint Cup into the great north wilderness and that's almost certainly because of the general douchebagery of the population. Everybody not from New England hates New England and anything to knock those 'r' dropping bastards down a few pegs is awesome. Take that Tom. Any Bostonians thinking of driving up to see the race, you may want to b.y.o. as they don't sell Sam Adams track side.

-We hope Sunday's race sucks, because we're not going to see it. That's because RB is going on a roadtrip. Destination? The brand new New Jersey Motorsports Park. We'll be slumming the Jersey turnpike to catch the Atlantic and Star Mazda events on Sunday. Hopefully these broads will swing by after their weekend in Seaside Heights. Bada. Bing.

About this race:

*What to know:

Line 'em up on points: Rain has washed away the qualifying session for Sunday's race. That means the field is set by owner points. The top-12 is all Chase drivers, so the people who actually matter will start up front. Not, that starting position is all to critical at NHMS, as Kurt Busch won the last event starting in 26th. Starting Grid.

Christ in a stock car makes first start: Joey Logano is making his first career Cup start on Sunday and will roll off the grid in 40th. If you haven't heard of Logano you clearly don't give a shit about stock car racing and the future of the sport. He is touted as the most talented driver to come thorough the ranks in years, if not ever. Mark Martin said he could be a competitive Cup driver when Logano was in karts. In 12 Nationwide Series starts this season, he has nine top-10s and one win. Sunday, he will be driving the Hall of Fame Racing No. 96 Toyota as one of six Cup races this season planned for the teenager. Logano will be a 2009 rookie next season when he takes over Tony Stewart's No. 20 Toyota at JGR. Does the youngster fold under the pressure and return to the life of a normal 18-year old wrought with smoking cigarettes, reading The Catcher in the Rye and constantly masturbating? Probably not.

"Hot" Carl v. Busch, (Chase) round one: The biggest storyline of late has been the arrival of "Hot" Carl Edwards as a legit contender for the championship. Kyle Busch looked to have a lock on the title just six weeks ago, but Edwards and crew have opened things up right in time for the "playoffs." It also helps the interest factor because both guys appear to hate each other. Nothing says NASCAR like a good old fashion rivalry. Yee Haw.

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Who to watch:

The Chasers: Starting The Chase off in a hole is not the way to find success come November. Being behind the eightball after race #1 is an easy way to quell championship aspirations. So, watch the top-12 and see how many (if any) fuck this race up. Refresher. Here's the playoff guys: 1 Kyle Busch 2 Carl Edwards 3 Jimmie Johnson 4 Dale Earnhardt Jr. 5 Clint Bowyer 6 Denny Hamlin 7 Jeff Burton 8 Tony Stewart 9 Greg Biffle 10 Jeff Gordon 11 Kevin Harvick 12 Matt Kenseth.

The Field: See if anyone can play spoiler come Sunday. Yes, look for the Washington Nationals of NASCAR. Ryan Newman, Brian Vickers and Kasey Kahne could all toss a wrench into the well placed plans of Chase teams. Also, watch the aforementioned Logano, plus Kurt Busch has had success at NHMS in the past.

*For those heading to the track: Pertinent tailgating information is here. The 14 inch or less cooler restrictions will enforced with an iron fist.

The Ridebuyer cocktail of the race the queer craft beer of your choice. You must drink it while looking down on others who are enjoying lesser brews.


1 Kyle Busch
2 Carl Edwards
3 Jimmie Johnson
4 Dale Earnhardt Jr.
5 Clint Bowyer
6 Denny Hamlin
7 Jeff Burton
8 Tony Stewart
9 Greg Biffle
10 Jeff Gordon
11 Kevin Harvick
12 Matt Kenseth

Next race: Camping World RV 400 presented by AAA (Dover International Speedway). A NASCAR race with an on site casino? God Bless you.

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