Thursday, October 30, 2008

Midnight in the garden of Broad and Walnut

Motor racing has some inherent advantages over its stick-and-ball counterparts. Fans of this interweb site surely don't need those advantages outlined. We all know what makes racing great and why we choose to spend our time watching autos circulate about. (For the un-indoctrinated, racing is exciting. We're drawn to speed, action, personalities and danger.) Motor racing is a historically rich sport that has pockets of fans that are more passionate and knowledgeable than the biggest sports bar know-it-all this side of the Schwab. Reread the last sentence, as it outlines one of the shortcomings of our fair sport. Pockets. Fucking pockets, dude.

Motor racing fans are outpost dwellers. Recluses. We’re sprinkled around the nation. Outside of Indianapolis and Charlotte fandom becomes hit or miss. (Largely miss.)

The happenings in Philadelphia last night could never be replicated in the aftermath of a motor race, no matter the city.

Baseball is the peoples’ sport. Its range and scope are far reaching. Territoriality reigns supreme. A city is associated with team, and that gives you the right to wish fucking death upon everyone from any other city. Baseball is why I hate Chicago. Baseball is why I refuse to travel to Massachusetts. Motor racing cannot replicate the blind hatred that baseball has provided the masses.

Of course, the opposite of blind hatred is blind love/passion/joy and that happened in Phila last night. I got hugged by a stranger because I was wearing a $12 Pat Burrell t-shirt. Said stranger was bombed and probably thought I was Burrell, but that’s not important. The passion was there. (Side note: I have been wearing the aforementioned t-shirt for the last week. It smells like ass, feet and rank beer. My co-workers tried to stage a Burrell shirt intervention with me. I told them to eat a dick. Then Burrell hit the most important double in recent history and I felt like a goddamned king. I want to be buried in this fucking shirt.) The entire city came out and relished in the achievement of the city’s team. The Phillies won for the town. Sports are all Philadelphia has. The Phillies made millions of eastern-PA’ers not depressed to be living in eastern PA. Only a stick-and ball-sport could do that. Sorry motor racing. I love you, but...

Maybe I’ll try to change things. Beware, at the season opening IndyCar event, I’m going to hug everyone in sight if Graham Rahal wins. I’ll take it to the streets of New Albany. The party that will take place in Central Ohio will be epic. We will own the night. All spearheaded by this guy. Sound like a good plan?

Damn the man, burn the city, Fightins' triumph

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Junior Johnson wants you to vote for Barack Obama. No, seriously.

Holy Crap!! NASCAR'S Junior Johnson comes out for Obama (Daily Kos)

Monday, October 27, 2008

Monday morning dispatch from "Angryville"

If you haven't noticed (judging by Sitemeter, you haven't) things have been awfully slow around here for the past few weeks. The motor racing season is winding down, and quite honestly, I can't seem to get motivated to write solely about NASCAR for a month plus. I can't even make myself watch the damn "Chase" races anymore. Everything about NASCAR has made my skin crawl of late. I can't watch the ABC/ESPN pre-race show, the driver introductions are extraneous and painful, the invocation makes me want to vomit on my penis, and the races are too damn long. This should to be the most exciting time of the season, but, alas, it has become the most tedious.

I could be getting fired-up for the conclusion of the F1 season, but, alas, I can't watch the races because Comcast doesn't carry Speed where I live. I could have watched the IndyCar finale (?) in Australia, but, alas, Comcast removed ESPN Classic from my basic digital package when the college football season started.

A major racing distraction has been the Phillies, and their improbable post season run. Much of my time has been spent following the team, pounding beers and my fist to the tune of a possible World Series 'w.' Goddamnit, I love baseball. This town will burn to the bloody ground should the Fightins' pull this thing out. I will be there to see the carnage and bask in the glory. Sorry NASCAR, you've been bumped from my mind.

Things will be back to normal soon enough. I still like the NHRA. I promise.

Let us all have a great race week. Go Phillies. Fuck Tampa. Here's Joe Fucking Blanton going yard:


Monday, October 20, 2008

Weekend recap

What you missed while not reading the world famous Ridebuyer NASCAR preview.

- Lewis Hamilton won the Chinese Grand Prix on Sunday and has pretty much wrapped the 2008 drivers' title. LH has a seven point cushion over Felipe Massa (Robert Kubica is p3, eliminated) with only the Brazilian Grand Prix remaining in two weeks. Take it away. man with accent.

Hamilton rules Chinese GP, nearly seals Formula One title

The ALMS put a period on their season at Laguna Seca. Marco Werner and Lucas Luhr scored the overall victory. (The title was wrapped at Road Atlanta.) Franck Montagny and Tony Kanaan scored the second AGR LMP2 win in three races, narrowly besting the de Ferran Motorsports squad. Olivier Beretta and Oliver Gavin took GT1 honors for Corvette Racing and Dirk Mueller and Dominik Farnbacher won GT2 in a Ferrari F430. More accent man? Hell and yes:


Jimmie Johnson led 339-laps at Martinsville on Sunday. He now has a 149-point lead with The Chase at its mid point. Game over. ESPN's coverage was slated for, like, 6.5 hours Sunday afternoon. Holy. Shit.

Johnson's mastery of Martinsville puts 48 team within striking distance of title

Johnny Benson won the Martinsville Truck race. That's his fifth win of the year and gives him the points lead. Next stop, Hotlanta.

Fifth win of season vaults Benson past Hornaday for points lead

A great race week to all. Wednesday. Zero-hour. Thank about it.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Surfers Paradise outlaws boobs

Tales of the balcony scenes around the Gold Coast Indy are pretty legendary (what with the breasts and such). Those times appear to be over. It's Girls Gone Wild no-more, as local authorities are trying to curb the lewd behavior for the October 26th race.


INDY organisers have released a code of conduct for race fans staying in apartments within the track precinct.

The document was drawn up following raunchy scenes on balconies, including nudity, at last year’s race.

The day the music died.

Indy fans must sign up for clean conduct (

Monday, October 13, 2008

Better know your Runoffs

The SCCA National Championship Runoffs wrapped up over the weekend. 25 National Champions were crowned at Heartland Park Topeka. (Tow-Peak-Ah...)

Here's all you could every want to know about the "Olympics of motorsport."

RUNOFFS: Sunday Races Recap (

Club racing, event results (

Practice, qualifying and race results (

Photo gallery (

Weekend recap

What you missed while considering how easy a 26-yard field goal is to make.

Jeff Burton won his second Cup race of the season at the BoA 500 in Charlotte. Nobody got choked-out and Burton's wife was excited her man won. Kasey Kahne was charging near the end, finishing p2. Kurt Busch was third. Jimmie Johnson dropped to sixth in the final run, yet retains the points lead.

CUP: Burton Claims BofA Win


Lewis Hamilton and Felipe Massa played bumper-cars in the opening laps of the Japanese GP. Neither could really regain the positions lost during the insuing drive-through penalties. Hamilton finished outside of the points, with Massa tallying a p7 following a scoring decision after the race. Some man named Fernando Alonso won the race. Hamilton holds a five point lead over Massa with two rounds remaining. Ferrari leads the Constructors' Standings by seven points.

Massa, Hamilton tangle but Alonso wins Japanese GP

Japanese Grand Prix results, current points

Sunday's Virginia NHRA Nationals saw Tony Schumacher notch his 14th win of the season. (Yeah, he's going to win the championship.) Other pro winners were Cruz Pedregon (FC) and Dave Connolly (PSC). Paul Page, that's your que (or is that cue? or queue? Christ.)

Schumacher takes Top Fuel; Pedregon, Connolly in title hunt with wins

Cheers to the race week before us. Fuck the Dodgers.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Stolen from the blogosphere

The good folks at jalopnik have provided us with scantily-clad lady pics! The lady? Bernie Ecclestone's daughter! Horray Friday! And exclamation points!

In the interest of equal time, here's something for the females. It's the Machine.

.333 in the post season, game-winning bomb last against the Dodgers, dreamy eyes....

Thank you for continued readership. Go Phils. Fuck the Dodgers. NASCAR preview will be up before the race starts. Hopefully. Maybe. Hungover.

The Chaser #5: Bank of America 500

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

This week: Bank of America 500 (Chase round #5)
TV: ABC 7:00pm EST (Saturday)
Location: Lowe's Motor Speedway (Charlotte, NC)
Distance: 334 laps/500 miles
Past winners: J. Gordon (10/07); K. Kahne (5/08).

*Headlocks, DDTs and why John McCain should shut up*

Everybody likes a good fight. The highlight of an evening highlighted with much drink is always the inevitable fight. The scene usually plays out in a similar way. Guy 'A,' we'll call him Derek, inadvertently bumps into Guy 'B's' girlfriend. (For the sake of story continuity, we'll call Guy 'B' Todd and his GF is certainly named either Katie or Sara. You pick.) Well, Todd took offense to way in which Derek came in contact with Katie or Sara. Derek did not say 'excuse me,' because he needed to meet up with his 'boys,' who were already 'posted up' at the bar, and in the middle of a heated game of Photo Hunt Penthouse on the MegaTouch. Todd asked Derek what his problem was. Derek tells Todd to "relax, bro." A drink gets tossed from someone. Much like the first shot at Lexington and Concord, nobody truly knows were the errant beverage originated. Regardless, the melee was on at that point. Derek and Todd grappled on the floor. Derek's 'boys' were unsuccessful in trying to break things up. Katie or Sara was in tears, the heel had broken on her cute new shoes, and her favorite Forever 21 dress was soaked with Coors Light.

Yes, fights rule.

Sports fights really rule.

Nothing brings excitement into the sports world like a good donnybrook or possibility of donnybrook. Look at the Red Sox-Rays series. The teams hate each other, the pitchers throw at everybody, and it's great.

NASCAR has attempted to clean up its image during the sport's renaissance since the collapse of Indy car racing. You can't have moonshiners and roughnecks represent your sport in this century. That just wouldn't be right. Or so was the thought. Remember when Las Vegas wanted people to think it was a family-friendly destination? That shit didn't work. Nobody wants their family to go to Vegas with them. Vegas is about gambling, hookers, drugs and booze. That is what makes Vegas cool. Same thing with NASCAR. NASCAR is about rednecks, wrecking and fistfights. That's the history of the sport. Well, NASCAR wants to be mid-90's Las Vegas. A family destination for all. Yet, in the end, fun for none.

Bucking the trend of sterility, "Hot" Carl Edwards and Kevin Harvick got into a pushing match this week at Lowe's Motor Speedway. Headlocks were involved. Sweet. It also appears that NASCAR is not planning to fine the drivers. Thank the lord. Note to NASCAR: Let the racers do their things. Fights are good. Embrace your roots.

Oh, there will be some McCains in Charlotte for the race. Great. Way to bring politics into a goddamned motor race. Not only will every other commercial be a political ad, now this? Shouldn't you be the fixing the economy or something.

View Larger Map

With that, we'll conclude our abbreviated preview. Your humble scribe wants to watch the rest of the Red River Shootout and needs to recovery couch-side from last night's triumphant Phillies victory. Brett Myers is a beast.

Here is everything you need to know.

Starting lineup

Next race: TUMS QuikPak 500 ( Martinsville Speedway). Short track? I know not what you speak.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

RB interview: Robin Miller, the finale

The final installment of our interview with motor racing reporter Robin Miller. (Need a refresher? Here's part I.) Enjoy:

Q: We remember you on Wind Tunnel a while back and talking about Brock Yates' book on the original Cannonball Run. Why does that sound like about the coolest thing, ever?

RM: Well, that's because it was. There were only two years what they really had the real Cannonball, '71 and '72. In '71 Gurney won it in a Ferrari driving with Brock. And the next year, a guy won it answering an ad in the New York Times for a guy who wanted his Cadillac driven to California, so they did it at 110mph. You can't make this stuff up. I ran it the second year. I was gonna have Art Pollard go with me, but he found out there was no money and he said, "there's no chance, I'm not going." I had the USAC pace car from the Champ Car division lined-up, they didn't know what I was going to use it for, Jim Campbell Datsun, here in town was going to let me use it, then they found out I was going to be in this race. They had it towed out from in front of the start the night before I left. So I went there with no car. Hooked up with a guy who was a stock car driver from California and we drove a Vega station wagon. I think we finished sixth or seventh, made it in like 38-hours. And it was just this great group of people that met in this parking garage in Manhattan and stamped your ticket and you took off as fast as you could go. You could take the northern route or the southern route or the Midwestern route, there were three ways to go from New York to LA.

It was so sad that the movies they made about it-The Cannonball Run. Lemondrop Express, or whatever it was called- They completely had to go overboard with Hollywood. If they'd just stuck with facts, it was such a cool story. Three guys dressed as priests, that whenever they got stopped the Sheriff would ask, "Father, do you have any idea how fast you were going?" and he'd say, "no my son." Sheriff would say, "You're going 117mph, Father. What's going on?" They'd say they were going to a religious summit and never got a ticket. Their car broke, or they'd probably won the thing. There were just all these wonderful stories within the stories. The three big-chested blondes… Their plan was, every time they got stopped, they'd just undo their top button. Then they wouldn't get tickets. The guy I went with, Wes Dawn, I think we got six tickets, we didn't go to jail, we didn't go to the justice of peace, we didn't have to pay any money. But, when we were done, we used his address every time we got stopped, and he lived in Laguna Beach, they came to his house and arrested him and he had to spend four weekends in jail to take care of those tickets. So, he wasn't real happy about that. Those are the kind of things…

A couple of years ago Brock Yates' asked me, he called me up and said, "Hey Robin, we're thinking about having one more Cannonball. It is going to be everyone that was in the first two original years. We're gonna try to keep it below the radar. What do you think?"I said, "I'm in."So the first thing I did, I went to Eddie Wirth, who was a great motorcycle racer and sprint car racer. His wife is Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward's publicist, and has been their personal assistant for years, and Eddie was Paul's right hand for the past decade, he drove him everywhere, they hung out together. I said to him, "Eddie, what about getting Newman, you and me, and we'll go on the Cannonball?" He said, "God, that'd be great." He said he thought Newman would go for something like that too. So I approached Newman at Long Beach that year and said, "Hey, have you heard of the Cannonball Baker race?" He said he had. So I brought him the book that Brock wrote and told him to read up on it, because I had an idea. So he read a few chapters and the one I wrote. At the next race I saw him, I asked him what he thought. He said it sounded like a crazy thing to do. I told him I thought that you and me and Eddie aught to do it. He said, "No I couldn't do that. No, there's no way I can do that, Joanne would kill me." I said, "hey, you've been testing sprint cars on the dirt, 900 horsepower sprint cars, you're wife is not going to say anything about this. This is tame compared to that." He goes, "Well, she doesn't know about the sprint cars." It was just funny that Paul Newman was like I can't really do that, I've got to get permission from my wife. You're Paul Newman, you can do whatever you want to do. So as the summer went on, he started to weaken a little bit. He started asking about what kind of car we were going to drive… I asked him what kind of car he could promote. So he said that's why I wanted him, so he could promote us a free car. I told him that was one of the reasons. The other reason is, if we get stopped, the cops are going to recognize you and let us go. He said, "I wouldn't bet on that, I'm not very big anymore." He was just so funny because he was always making fun of himself. Then I think Brock's attorneys' told him you can't have another race, because if someone gets hurt, it all comes back to you and it'll be the end of you. So it didn't happen, but I really think Newman was going to do it. If push came to shove.

Q: Your racing career... Did you have three or four PR people and handlers and all that stuff?

RM: Haha, no. Art Pollard was one of my best friends, and he got killed at Indy in '73, but before he got killed he helped me get a Formula Ford from Andy Granatelli. And, if anyone should've not been allowed to own a racecar, it would have been me; because I was the biggest moron mechanically that's probably walked the face of the earth. So, I tried to run this Formula Ford for a year or so. But, I'm hanging out with Bill Vukovich and Johnny Parsons and Gary Bettenhausen, eating lunch and dinner with them, and I'm going to races, covering USAC, I've been going to midget and sprint races my whole life. They're like if you're serious about learning to drive a race car get rid of that Formula Ford and go get a midget or a sprint car and learn how to be a race driver. And they were right. So I bought one of Gary's midgets- it was the car Merle made his comeback in after he lost his arm in his first and only Indy car race at Michigan- so I became an unofficial Bettenhausen brother. 'Cause if you buy into the family like that, you're expected to, you know, you got to answer to Gary. The first couple of races we went to we had pretty good runs. The first time I went to Kokomo I had a good race, made the main event.

It's interesting; I look back at some of those lineups. A couple races there the first year I raced USAC midgets… There were a couple races where 13 of 20 guys in the A-main were in that year's Indy 500. So, it was a hell of field of race drivers, because they still had to run midgets and sprint cars to make a living. I had my moments, I think I had some talent, but I was too stupid to ever figure out that I should have been paying someone just to run their car instead of trying to run my own. Everybody from Ron Shuman, to Mark Alderson to Larry Rice, they all became my unofficial mechanics 'cause they were worried I was going to leave the wheel loose or something. I was so stupid mechanically, I couldn't be trusted. So, I learned a lot of hard lessons in the 10 seasons I ran USAC. Because I did everything about half-assed backwards. If you could do it wrong, I usually did it. But, I would never trade the experience. But, I just wish I had stated, well, I didn't start until I was 23. I didn't buy the Formula Ford until I was 22 or 23. So, I was way behind. I never ran a quarter midget or anything. I guess my best day was probably in 1980 at the Hut Hundred. It used to follow the Hoosier Hundred in the USAC schedule. It was 33 midgets, 11 rows of three at Terra Heute. Back in the day, back in the 70's when I was racing, the Hut Hundred used to get 100 entries. So there was 100 guys for 33 spots. There was no hooligan or suitcase race, if you didn't qualify in the top 33 you went home. Well, I was the first alternate one year. I was 34th out of, like, 104. That was like the worst day of my life. You don't get to run, you have to watch. You were 34th. So in 1980, I had a new car that Gary Stanton, who was a great sprint car racer, I had his first midget. I struggled with it all year. Finally, at Terra Heute, we got things going and I qualified fifth. I was in the middle of Parsons and Vogler and Chassey and Sleepy Tripp. I ran third for a long time and had a good race with Parsons and Sleppy. Then the thing blew up. We used to make fun of Kenny Schrader and Poncho Carter and Gary Bettenhausen 'cause they all started way behind me that day. They would kid me and say, "What side do you want us to pass you on?" And I'd say, "If you can keep up with me, you can pass me wherever you want." It was of those days where, like everyone says, the car was so fast it was so much fun to do. And dirt racing, there's nothing like it anyway. And Terra Heute is legendary, there's so many stories about Terra Heute that are fun. To race competitively is all you really wanted to do. I had a Chevy II, I didn't have a Volkswagen. I probably should have been smart and got a Volkswagen and not stuck with the Chevy II. I think I was $140,000 in debt when I finally quit. Because, you know, like I said, I did everything wrong.

You can't appreciate what you can learn racing 30-40 times a year across the country with all the good guys that were in USAC back then. It was a fabulous experience. I think I understand racing from a whole different perspective just because of it. I always got along with guys like Foyt, people like that, pretty easy because, I think, they at least respected the fact that I tried to do it. I worked on Indy 500 pit crews and stuff. I was pretty much immersed in it. I wrote 52 columns a year about USAC and I raced in the midget division. It always cracks me up 'cause I always hear people say that I don't like the Indy 500 or USAC or I don't like open wheel racing anymore. I'm thinking, you know, there's nobody in this country who has written more positive stories about open wheel racing than I have. One of the reasons is 'cause I'm almost 60 years old. The other is because that was my passion. I loved it. I wanted to see USAC always on top, which it should have been. They had all the best drivers. But, they had the best drivers and the worst management. Then CART came along and they had terrible management. The IRL came along and they got terrible management. My whole life has been full of nobody that really knew how to run open wheel racing. And we still don't have anybody.

Q: The people at Versus still haven't given you a ring yet?

RM: I don't think the people at Versus, I'm not sure they'll be doing the hiring. I think there are some people at the Speedway who are trying to assemble a team of who they'd have in the booth. But, that thing obviously needs an overhaul. I would like to see Gary Gerould do the play-by-play; I think he'd do a really good job. Or maybe Derek Daly, he's done it for a long time. Somebody said, "Would you do it?" Yeah I think I'd do it. I'd love to try to do it, if it was with the right circumstances. You couldn't be censored, you couldn't be told to be a PR man or a cheerleader. People don't want to be lied to. They don't want to watch that. I mean, you watch Brad Daugherty and Rusty Wallace and you gotta have a barf bag. It is the worst television ever. They don't tell you anything, it's all this suck-ass, kiss-ass dialogue, it just makes me cringe. That ESPN Now show everyday is one of the worst things that's ever been on television, it's just hysterical to watch. I think it's an insult to a race fans mentality that they have to put up with this shit. I'd love to see myself and Eddie Cheever in the booth, 'cause we don't really like each other. I think it'd be pretty combative and I think that'd make good television because you're not acting. It's just this kind of adversarial relationship. But, you have to keep focus, you'd talk about the race, but people want to hear the dirt. They want to hear the rumors, who doesn't like who, who's leaving, who's making this kind of money. I mean bless their hearts, Scott Goodyear and Marty Reid are nice guys but they have no chemistry and it's just painful to watch. I'm certainly not a big proponent of NASCAR, but Larry McReynolds and Darrell Waltrip make you feel like they're letting you in our their personal little conversation about what's going on during the race. Just like Benny Parsons and Ned Jarrett did back in the 80's. That's why it caught on.

I'm not saying people are going to watch a race or not watch a race because of the announcing team; I don't think that's true. But, you got to do something to upgrade your product in the booth. Remember that Todd Harris guy from ABC a few years ago? You just think where do they come up with these ideas? I thought Tom Sneva did a good job because he was honest and funny, but they sent him packing. The last time IndyCar had any kind of chemistry was Bobby Unser correcting Sam Posey and Paul Page every five minutes. That was hysterical. That was entertainment.

Q: Last question, if you had to watch a movie this weekend, would you pick Days of Thunder or Driven?

RM: Driven because it was so bad it's a comedy. I mean Days of Thunder was pretty lame, but Driven… We renamed Driven, Drivel. I just remember Stallone and all those people when they were making that movie… I mean, bless their heart, CART thought this was going to put them on the map. They thought this is going to bring people in from miles around. Well, it put them on the map alright; they were laughed off the map. I remember when it opened, it was the highest grossing movie of the weekend and everybody thought this is great. Well, it made like $2 million because it was the middle of the summer. And nobody had released a movie for about a month. It was awful; in every possible respect, it was awful. I didn't do anything for CART or open wheel racing. You know what's kinda sad? Paul Newman got Tom Cruise interested in racing. Cruise did some SCCA racing himself, because of Newman. And the Days of Thunder movie was actually supposed to be about the Indy 500, but I don't know, there was a breakdown somewhere and it never happened, which is too bad. It certainly had more potential then what they ended up with.

Robin, certainly appreciate the time.

RM: Hey, you bet...

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Slouching inside your cube. Gazing upon the navy blue cube-wall carpeting. Intense beams of harsh light cascading from above. Will the work day never end?

Speed up your afternoon by sloth. Ignore your boss, don't answer the phone and watch live timing and scoring from the 45th SCCA Runoffs. Waste a few hours here and before you know it, drunk time.

Monday, October 6, 2008

RB interview: Robin Miller

Members of the sporting media have important information to offer the masses. (Aside from how to score a free media center lunch and Rolodexs full of gentleman's club location information.) Seasoned reporters have the ability to add historical perspective to their subject matter of expertise. Some smart guy once said something like, "to know where you're going, you must know where you've came from." Or something like that. Speed's Robin Miller knows where motor racing has come from and he certainly knows the challenges facing the sport's future.

After an email and a few phone calls (we once caught RM while attempting to fix his faulty garage door opener... That was not a good time for Q&A) we spoke with the motoring pundit on a number of subjects. Much ground was covered. We laughed, cried and were left feeling cautiously pessimistic about the future of motor racing. (Kidding. Sort of.)

The prospects of a 5000-word transcript post seem rather daunting, so we're going to split this up.

Here's part #1 of Ridebuyer's interview with Robin Miller. It's not a straight forward Q&A, but we boldfaced what could best be described as our questions. Enjoy.

-Oh, in case you're not quite with it, here's Miller's bio. It's copy-and-pasted directly from, so it better be right.

Became an Indy-car junkie in late 1950s and stooged for my hero, Jim Hurtubise, at the 1968 Indy 500. Worked as a vent man and board man on Indy pit crews from 1971-77. Bought a Formula Ford from Andy Granatelli in 1972 and raced it in SCCA until 1974 when I purchased a midget from Gary Bettenhausen. Competed in USAC midget series from 1975-82. Flunked out of Ball State College in 1968 and began working at The Indianapolis Star sports department in 1969. Covered motorsports at The Star from 1969-2000, named assistant sports editor in 1984 and associate sports editor in 1989. Worked for ESPN from 2001-2003 on RPM2Night and Also covered Indy car racing for Autoweek, Autosport, Car & Driver and On Track magazines during the past 35 years.

Now enjoy:

Q: Robin, thanks for taking the time. What we're trying to do here is get a feeling for what you reporter guys, well, do. Since it's the off-season, what takes up your days?

RM: Well I think different people have different… I’m an old school newspaper-guy, there’s not a lot of us left. Most people are internet people I think.

But, there’s such a lull, there’s a six-month lull and so I do some work for Motor Sport, occasionally I write something for Racer, I got this Concourse de’ Elegance, is having a big thing- an annual thing- I write for their magazine, they usually like a 3000-word story on some old- timer, which is what I am. It’s always fun to do something like that. I have a “mailbag” a do once a week for Speed. I usually get 100 to 150 questions during the season and lately I’ve been getting 60-70 since the season is over. So, I go through all of those. There are still a lot of people who want to know what’s going on; what’s going to happen with Paul Tracy? Is Allmendinger coming back? What about Jonathan Bomarito? What about Raphael Matos? I mean, there’s a lot of people that care about it and want to know what’s going 12-months out of the year.

Q: You talked about the "mailbag," kind of imagine you get the same kind of questions each week. What do you hear the most about and what are you tired of getting asked?

RM: The thing that comes out more and more is the people who hate the IRL cars, they hate the sound of the engine, and the fact that they don’t have any horsepower. That’s the number one thing. And the number two thing is that Paul Tracy doesn’t have a ride and people want to know why, and who’s going to give him a ride and how come he can’t get a ride. It’s hard to answer because I don’t know. I don’t know why someone in Canada doesn’t step up and I would hope somebody at Andretti-Green Racing would be smart enough to give him a good ride, because without Paul Tracy at Toronto, you’re not going to have a crowd. I mean he is the Toronto race.

Q: You talk about being an "old school" kind of guy. I take it you're not frequenting any blogs?

RM: No, I don’t. I worked at The Indianapolis Star for 32 years. You know, the internet is great in some respects, but it was kind of neat when it would take awhile to hear about a driver that was maybe running Ascot Park and you wouldn’t know anything about it until you got to see him around Terre Haute or Winchester or Eldora or whatever, I realize I’m going back, but information travels quickly. When Parnelli (Jones) tested the turbine at Phoenix nobody knew about it and that was kind of cool. Now, not only are there no secrets, everybody is an expert and anybody can write anything they want to write. And, you know, I don’t think it’s that healthy as far as what’s factual and what’s not. I think you see more people trying to go out on a limb trying to predict things. I was reading Speed and Kenny Wallace said that his brother Rusty is coming out of retirement and Rusty said “no, I’m not going to do it, that’s not true.” Whether it’s true or not, it’s kind of funny that his own brother reported it, and if it’s not true, that makes it even better. There’s this pressure for everybody to go out and scoop, and you got to get this out first and scoop this and that.

There’s been a lot of talk here in the last few weeks about who the guys are in Indy for that big engine manufactures summit. I’ll give the Speedway credit, they told people to keep their mouths shut and they have. It’s the tightest thing I’ve seen in a long time as far as nothing leaking out. Now some guy at Porsche told some guy in Europe a couple of days ago that Porsche was one of the people at the meeting which is kind of cool. We heard it was Porsche, Audi, possibly Volkswagen. And it’s going to take somebody like that to really get this thing going again. That is really going to go out and spend some money and back some teams and spend some money on marketing and promotion. Hopefully it is Porsche because their first couple attempts at Indycar racing, I think, left them with a bad taste in their mouth.

Q: Do you have any kind of an everyday must-read? Do you pick up The Star every morning, or anything like that?

RM: That (The Star) would be the last thing I would pick up. Sometimes I’ll pick up a paper just out of habit, but you’re not going to learn anything about racing reading The Indianapolis Star. That’s not going to happen. There are always about a week behind. That’s too bad because that should be the paper of record for what’s going on, but times change. I used to buy Autosport every week because I wanted to read Nigel Roebuck’s column. I always enjoyed that. I still like to read Gordon Kirby, he’s got a website. But, if you’re into open wheel racing, there’s hardly anything, aside from Racer. Motor Sport is the best magazine going, but it comes out once a month and it’s published in England and is not the easiest thing to get over here. It’s great because 65% of the magazine deals with the old days and that’s what most of us want to remember because that was the most fun and that’s where we have our best memories.

But, no, there’s nothing that I have to read every day. There are very few people who are compelling and can hold my attention, to be honest. I used to really love reading Ben Blake’s stuff; I don’t know what’s happened to him. He had a nice edge to him about NASCAR. He messed with everyone down there; it was great. Instead of just being a little sheep and a PR man. That’s probably the toughest thing, because it’s hard to get people to write what’s going on because they are worried about their jobs or friendships. It permeates the whole motorsports media. It goes from television and radio to magazines and newspapers.

I think there is always room for a fresh voice and maybe someone will come out of left field and say ‘I think this and that.’ There is a guy named Bill Zahren that I enjoy reading. He calls himself It’s funny, has a really good wit about him. He puts things in pretty good perspective he doesn’t take himself or the thing too serious, and it’s a really good read. He’s made up some pretty funny stories of the past couple of years. He takes real life situations and makes them pretty funny. He interviews himself sometimes and I think that’s pretty clever.

Q: Your role as a reporter and a person who provides commentary- I guess a columnist is what you would call them- is it easy to differentiate those two roles?

Yes, absolutely. That’s good question because it’s what Tony George-when we were really battling in the mid-90’s, our 10-year war, whatever it was- he could never understand when I was at The Star, how I could cover a race and also write a commentary about it. And I explained to him, when you write a straight news story, you talk to the people who participated, you state the facts and get quotes if they have something worth saying, and it’s a real easy thing to do. Then, when that’s done, you go write a commentary about whether it was good, bad, ugly, indifferent, whatever it was. That’s very simple to do. I think it’s funny, when I worked at ESPN doing RPM2Nite, John Kernan, who was the host, would read all these websites everyday, these chat rooms. To see what people were saying about the RPM2Nite shows. He would get so upset if someone didn’t like what we did one night, or somebody didn’t like what he said or what I said. Or if somebody didn’t think we gave enough time for something. I would just laugh. I used to tell him, I’d say, “John, that’s the same 40-people. Why would you waste your time?”

To me I love people who have passion for racing, and there are some really good questions I get in this “mailbag” I do every week. People have some pretty thoughtful questions. They pay attention and they don’t just come out of the woodwork with insanity. There are a lot of people who really understand it, and get it, and want to know more about it. Those are the fun people to deal with.

The tough thing about open wheel racing is the war between CART and the IRL was so nasty that a lot of people can’t let it go and never will. I get a lot of people saying they used to like me because I stood up for CART. Well, I stood up for CART because they belonged at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and that’s what ruined the Indy 500 because, when it was divided, CART was in their heyday. I also ripped CART’s heart out every time I got the chance because they did so many stupid things for 25-years.

People either have convenient memories or don’t understand. There was a time when Roger Penske and I didn’t talk to each other for a year; there was a time when A.J. Foyt and I didn’t talk to each other for a year, because of something that was said or the way something was written. If you do your job you’re going to piss everybody off because that’s what happens. Your job is not to be a PR man-cheerleader. I love good races and I love good stories. But, racing is full of conflict. It’s full of people who are upset, people who are bitching and pissing and moaning because they don’t have the right car or the right engine. They’re trying to steal each others drivers, their sponsors, their wives, that’s what racing is. It’s this great conflict. I think that’s what Paul Newman was so drawn to. He lived in the world of make-believe, that’s how he made his living, but he liked racing because it was the ultimate reality.

-Part #2 will feature Miller's account of the Cannonball Sea-to-Shining-Sea Memorial Trophy Dash, his days wheeling USAC midgets and why ESPN's NASCAR coverage is, well, what it is...

Weekend recap

What you missed while going through old tax docs to make sure those island accounts you opened are legit.

Tony Stewart finally got his first victory of the season Sunday at Talladega. It was also his first Cup victory at the 'Bama track. Of course, if you ask Regan Smith, he would say Stewart is still 0-fer the year. Smith has penalized for passing Stewart below the "yellow line," or "out of bounds" as NASCAR calls it. Smith crossed the line first, but no matter, Stewart was awarded victory. The big story of the race was the continued sucking of products produced by Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co. Random blowouts were the norm, and Chase drivers Denny Hamlin and Jeff Gordon both fell victim to shoddy rubber, finishing outside the top-30. A couple of "big ones" happened, so the fans who came to the track instead of watching Alabama almost lose to UK were happy. Paul Menard and David Ragan rounded out the top-3. Note the irony of shitting on Menard during our weekly preview (linked on Deadspin, thanks guys), only to have him post a career best finish. Irony, noted.

CUP: Stewart Tames Talladega

The ALMS boys and girls were at Road Atlanta for Petit LeMans. Class honors went to Allan McNish, Dindo Capello and Emanuele Pirro (Audi, P1); Helio Castroneves (out on bail) and Ryan Briscoe (Porsche, P2); Johnny O'Connell, Jan Magnussen and Ron Fellows (Corvette, GT1); Jaime Melo and Mika Salo (Ferrari; GT2). Cue the video and man-with-accent to explain:

Audi Scores Another Petit LeMans Victory; Porsche-Corvette- and Ferrari Scored Class Victories

Todd Bodine passed Kyle Busch and Ron Hornaday on the last lap of the pick-me-up event at Talladega. Cheers to the bald guy.

Bodine has last laugh, wins trucks race at Talladega

The news of Helio Castroneves' tax issues shocked most, amused some and worried others. Having the highest profile IndyCar Series driver in legal hot-water is probably not good for the league. Come to think of it, it's probably not good for anybody save the federal government. Interested in reading the more about the plight of HCN? Here's what the interweb's are saying about our dancing friend:

Penske, pals blindsided by Castroneves' troubles (Curt Cavin, The Indianapolis Star)

MILLER: Castroneves FAQ (Robin Miller,

Helio Castroneves Indicted On Tax Evasion; Charges Against More Drivers To Come? (Andrew Stoy,

Castroneves' future uncertain after federal tax-evasion charges filed (John Oreovicz,

Castroneves pleads not guilty in tax case, released on $10M bail (Associated Press)

Let us all have a great race week. Continued success to the Phils. BEAT LA.

Friday, October 3, 2008

The Chaser #4: Amp Energy 500

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

This week: Amp Energy 500 (Chase round #4)
TV: ABC 1:00pm EST (Sunday)
Location: Talladega Superspeedway (Talladega, AL)
Distance: 188 laps/500 miles
Past winners: J. Gordon (4/07); J. Gordon (10/07); Ky. Busch (4/08).

*How to blame the economy; take the sponsor and run*

The overwhelming theme of the past month has been the underwhelming performance of the economy. "The economy" seems like an abstract concept, something less than tangible, that shifts from good to poor in about the time it takes to read this sentence. One day the economy is structurally sound, the next it's shakier than a Jenga mountain on top of Heilo Castroneves' W-2s. This most recent sort-of recession (or is that depression?) seems to have more longevity than other contemporary economic woes. Banks are running out money for christsakes. That's a tell tale sign of we-all-may-be-fucked-dom. We strolled down to our neighborhood PNC to cash our weekly masonry check and stumbled upon this as we opened the doors:

Not. Good.

Motor racing is not immune to feeling the pressures of tight times. Just the opposite, in fact. It takes money to go fast, and Sprint Cup cars are pretty damn quick.

Look at the peculiar case of one Paul Menard. Never heard of him? That's understandable, as the veteran of about 70-Cup starts only has one top-10 finish. Throughout his inauspicious Cup career Menard has raced (with full sponsorship) at Dale Earnhardt Inc. That sponsor his been incredibly supportive of their driver even as returns on their investments (at least as far as solid finishes are concerned) have been small.

Thanks, Dad.

The signage adorning Menard's Chevy is that of, well, Menards, the regional chain of home improvement centers owned by John Menard, aka Paul's Pops. According to a well-scribed article on, John Menard ranks 127th on the 2008 Forbes' Billionaires List with a net worth of $7.3 billion. To gratuitously quote The Big Lebowski, he's not exactly a lightweight. People who follow motor racing know the elder-Menard quite well. He fielded Indycar entries for some time and is old buddies with Indy-Czar Tony George.

Anyway, if John Menard's kid wants to race in NASCAR, then NASCAR he shall race. Just not with DEI anymore.

Little-Menard is swapping teams and taking his regional chain of home improvement center-decals with him. Yates Racing will be Menard's new home next season, leaving DEI in an economics-of-racing quandary of epic proportions. There are exactly seven races left this season. DEI currently has four Cup entries (one each for Regan Smith, Martin Truex Jr., and Menard. Mark Martin and Aric Almirola share the #8 car). As it stands today, DEI will only have one full time sponsor heading into next season. That leaves three cars looking rather plain. DEI has some sales work to do if the team hopes to field four cars next season. The economy couldn't be shittier, and big corporations are not lining up to throw millions at a top-flight (which DEI is) NASCAR team like they were five years ago. So, good luck with that. Our advice to the sponsorship-finders at DEI? Add Alec Baldwin to your team and only hire closers.

That's enough movie clips for one post.

About this race:

*What to know:

'Big one' possible, still cliche: The simplest way to entice viewers and spectators to a NASCAR event is possibility of mass carnage. If this possibility was not present, exactly 16 spectators would show up to a restrictor plate race in Alabama during football season. Of those 16, 12 would be drivers' wives, and four would be related to Darrell Waltrip. As it stands, about 200,000 people will show up. Yes, NASCAR fans love the 'big one' and Talladega provides an excellent opportunity to play bumper cars at speed. The television talking heads will make mention to the 'big one' at every possible moment during the broadcast to keep the masses primed for destruction. Sometimes it comes, other times the race is void of 20+ car pileups. In short, the 'big one' may or may not happen. But it will get talked about, and rooted for in the broadcast booth, stands, and couches of America. Be ready.

Acquired taste: Restrictor plate racing is pack racing, or clump racing. Nobody has enough horsepower to get away from anybody, thus people have to run over each other to pass, and, well, see the point above. This type of racing is truly an acquired taste because things like track position are not important. At all. There are two schools of thought that can be used in running this race. You either want to be out front the entire time (hoping the 'big one' happens behind you), or you ride around in the back all day until about 25 to go when you make your move. It's debatable whether this makes for entertaining racing or a tedious afternoon. We've seen batter racing involving shopping carts and pissed-off Super Fresh patrons. Just our thought though.

Disregard qualifying: If you were to watch online live timing and scoring for Talladega qualifying (because you're not a loser and have sex with girls all the time), you'd notice some funny things. Like weird people you've never heard of are qualifying near the front. Travis Kvapil, really? That's because qualifying is completely meaningless. A good car can go from dead last to first in about 10-laps. We're not even going to post the qualifying results. That's how meaningless they are. It's certainly is not because qualifying is still in progress. Nope, that has nothing to do with. Meaningless!

Who to watch:

Jimmie Johnson: Constancy could win this guy his third straight title. Was he the best at the beginning of the season? Hell and no. Is he the best right now? Debatable. Is he the points leader? Hell and yes. Johnson has 17 top-10 finishes this season and an average finishing spot of 11th. He won this event in 2006 and has been pretty adept at running plate races (two career superspeedway wins, 10 top-fives.) In this iteration of The Chase Johnson has not finished lower than fifth.

Jeff Gordon: Last season, Johnson's teammate swept that Cup events at Talladega. That makes his total career victories at 'Bama track, six. Sure, the guy has not won an event this season, but he was able to gain two Chase spots last week with a p6. It seems like Gordon's momentum is building. 7/1 to win. We'd take that.

"Hot" Carl Edwards: This guy has been historically not "hot" on superspeedways. Zero wins and an average finish of 22nd. So, will he be good at 'Dega on Sunday. Maybe. He has been the hottest driver of late (Biffle disagrees) and if he can escape Alabama with any finish that's not a disaster, he'll be in good shape for the title.

*For those heading to the track:

Pertinent tailgating information is here. Although, there's no reason to post this. If you were even remotely considering tailgating at 'Dega, you've already been in the infield for a month. Tailgating Telladega is like pilgrimage to Mecca, only with more beer and slightly fewer stampedes.

The Ridebuyer cocktail of the race is, of course, the Alabama Slamma. Take it away kinda attractive bartender lady:

Okay, that was the last video.


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

Next race: Bank of America 500 (Lowe's Motor Speedway). Had the financial bailout not happened, this race would have been Generic 500. True story.