Sunday, October 29, 2006

Nextel Cup Race - Atlanta Motor Speedway 10/29/06 - December Radio

Yay! Jimmie Johnson didn't win!

THE INVOCATION: Bill Brannon, Atlanta Motor Speedway Chaplain, who looked and sounded like a politician right down to mentioning the fine folks at Bass Pro Shops who help to pay his salary. That's NASCAR for ya. Even the preachers have sponsors they have to thank.

THE NATIONAL ANTHEM: December Radio, Slanted Records Recording Artists. Never hoid of 'em, but they did a pretty nice job. When we saw four scruffy guys in their late 20's(ish) approach the two microphones, we cringed as is the natural human response. Much to our surprise they had a lovely, subtle arrangement that they all followed for the most part, and although a couple of them got a little notey at times, they didn't hit any clinkers. So they had that goin' for them. (This is the part where you say: "Which is nice.") You could detect hints of Southern accents at times, but they weren't twangy at all. Their voices had just enough character to be a hair left of homogenous. One fella was kinda the designated lead singer, but most of the time it was a unified effort with one of the "back up tenors" trying to show off a bit too much with his jazzy meanderings, but they were quiet & infrequent. The lead singer took a few brief stabs at soulful mellisma, and those would have been forgivable had he not gone for the old "La-hand of the Freeeeeee-heeee-yay-ee-ya-ya-ya-yaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!! " chestnut at the end. Dang him anyway. We both would have given them a weak 4 stars if not for that, but as it stands:

THREE flickering STARS from Willard's Garage

THE FLYOVER: One magnificent B-52 StratoFortress out of Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana.
Most impressive. Even the name is totaly bad ass.

THE COMMAND: Until today, we had no idea that the most important words in motorsports were, "On behalf of ever buddy at Bass Pro Shops and Tracker Boats, we dedicate this race to the 60 million anglers across America and dedicate it to the over 30 million hunters- America's FIRST conservationists! The Conservation Heroes who've answered the call!", followed by a lengthy and over-enthusiastic duck call. Duck Call Dude actually had to have one of his Nimrod buddies take the call away from him so they could shout "Gentlemen, start your engines!" in unison.

Which they did, and they did it very well, but for Pete's Sake! Please. Please. Please. Johnny Morris, Bill Dance, Buddy Lovell and Rob Keck, we totally appreciate what you fellas are about, but you need to get a grip, ya knuckleheads!

ONE STAR from Willard's because they shouted very well and for being so goddam goofy. And mebbe an additional UNDER THE TABLE STAR for being Nimrods.

Busch Race 10/28/06 - Memphis - Bo Duke vs. John Scneider

Because of the wacky race schedules all day Saturday - the Busch & IROC races overlapping followed by the truck race, I got all confused, so I missed most of

THE INVOCATION: Dunno who gave it, but he sounded a lot like Bill Clinton only without the charisma.

THE NATIONAL ANTHEM: Oh gosh. What a shame. Ol' Bo Duke was there (as well as The General Lee) and he was doing just a bang-up job singing "The Star Spangled Banner". He has a beautiful, strong voice that could almost be described as an Irish Tenor, and he was singing the song straight as an arrow -Cecil and I were in awe. Fireworks went off right on time for "The rockets red glare", and we were all set to dole out four stars each when John Schneider reared his ugly head. Sigh. Man. What was he thinkin'?? Bo Duke had just sung "Oh say does that star spangled banner yet wave..." so beautifully, he went to draw a breath, and Schneider jumped to say "Yes it does!" all Vegas like - I dunno- he was in Memphis, maybe he thought Elvis would do that. Elvis mighta, but Elvis was fuckin' high 24-7. Oh well, better luck next time.

THREE STARS and a smack upside the head from Willard's Garage.

THE FLYOVER: Didn't get any credit, but it looked kinda like 2 helicopters way off in the distance.

THE COMMAND: Elvira, Mistress of the Dark, shouted "Gentlemen!! Start your engines!!! Wooooooh!!!" in a high pitched, reedy voice, but she put as much spunk (not that kind, stupid!) as she could muster on it. Cecil was disappointed as the situation had so much potential. He was hoping for her head to turn into a sort of Ed "Bid Daddy" Roth/Tim Burton sort of affair where her eyes would bug out right before her head exploded, but that just wasn't meant to be. He said, "For a 70 year old chick with her tits strapped up, a 20 pound wig and a very invasive girdle, she was doin' good to draw a breath at all.

FOUR STARS from Cecil, who added TWO from Vampirilla.
THREE STARS from Dixie.

I missed all the pre-race festivities for the IROC race - hopefully the folks over at Caws'n'Jaws got a recap. Watched racin' all day, then went to bed for a few hours & got up to tak Cecil to an intimate costume party at Kitty & Beakers. Henry the VIII was there - he talks just like Michael Caine. Weird. Napolean was there, with his own soundtrack - very nice touch. I sat next to Julius Ceasar the whole time. He's a lively conversationalist, and until last night I wasn't aware he was Jewish. Who knew?

Truck Race, Atlanta Motor Speedway - Mark Wills

THE INVOCATION: Was given by Rev. John Dewberry of the Community Bible Fellowship Church. We liked him, he's an older black gentleman with a lovely speaking voice that doesn't sound preachy at all, just sincerely thankful and humble in his need for Blessings to bestow upon himself and everyone else within earshot. He seemed just a tad nervous, and skipped over a line that had to do with "a vast" something or other. Or maybe he's a Pirate and was saying "Avast!". Whatever that means.

THE NATIONAL ANTHEM: Mark Wills, Equity Group Recording Artists. He had a distinct country flavor to his voice, but he sang the song pretty straight, with only a small amount of hillbilly warbling, but he trilled so quickly that it wasn't annoying. Cecil said, "I doubt Mr. Wills is kin to either Bob or Chill , but that's neither here nor there. He did a right smart job, he done his best and didn't get selfish so I give him 3.75, and if he is kin to B. or C., then you know that didn't influence this score of his performance."
THREE STARS from Dixie

THE FLYOVER: 4 F-18s , VFMA 142, "The Flying Gators" - Atlanta, Georgia. Very cool.

THE COMMAND: was given by some gal named Jan Baldwin "and family". No mention of who the hell she was or why they were there, but they were WEAK. She, her husband, her teenage son and a younger boy bleated the command in a pathetic fashion. I'd love to know why the hell they were there, and they probably would too. They seemed lost. Cecil said, "The family that starts trucks together, sucks together."

NO STARS. you sucked.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Nextel Cup Subway 500 - Jared RAWKS

Dang. That was a pretty good race. Except for Jimmy Johnson winning. Ward Burton finished on the lead lap, ahead of that Busch Thing One, in spot 26. Not too shabby considering he ain't been in a car in two years, and he was driving less that stellar equipment. I'm tired, though, so I'll cut the crap and get to the festivities.

THE INVOCATION: Eldred Davis, Raceway Ministries.

Mr. Davis seemed a might nervous, but gave a nice speech.

THE NATIONAL ANTHEM: performed by The Martinsville High School Marching Band, directed by Kevin Lewis.

I first need to say that Cecil's first of three wives, Katrina, was a twirler for that band back in her day. I love that girl.

The marching band was good, but I liked the jazz band better. However, Cecil & I both kinda dug the ostentatious arrangement they chose. It was very dramatic and heavy on the piccolos. Like sumpin' you'd hear The Boston Pops do on the 4th of July. And to make it cool, they had a girl playing vibes. Vibes! Cool, man. Kooky.

Cecil hemmed and hawed about a rating for them, (you know how he does sometimes....), he said, "Normally a marching band is a sure thing for 4 stars, but they were a little loosey goosey.... I'll give 'em a 3.5 plus another half for having vibes. No. Wait. They're The Bulldogs. Bulldogs get 4 stars. Plus they weren't marching." However you want to slice it:

FOUR STARS from Willard's Garage.

NO FLYOVER: not sure why. It was rainin' - could that be it? Or was it sort of out of respect because of the Hendricks crash?

THE COMMAND: Jared Fogle. You know Jared. Subway Jared. Let me tell you something, I now officially LOVE Subway and Jared. I'll be eatin' some damn Subway sandwiches, mark my words. (No more Jesse Jones hot dogs, though. Blech. Nasty. I like Heeb Franks.)

Old Jared, who looks like the biggest, doofiest cream-puff in the world bared his teeth like a mad dog and just screamed, "GENTLEMEN!!!!!!!" (slight pause) START! YOUR! ENGIIIIIIINESSSSSSSSSSSSS!!!!!!!!!!!!!" - his fists were clenched, and he looked like he wanted to punch somebody out. It was awesome. Cecil said "He's just mad cuz he's starving to death." But naw, he was kiddin'. Jared totally rocked.

And better yet, there were no mentions of Subway or it's employees. No bullshit. You know what Subway did? They did what every other fuckin' idiot-bucket race sponsor should do, they made a special commercial that aired one time, and one time only, with Jared saying how cool Martinsville was, and Subway thanked everyone employed there, and all the nice people watching. This unprecedented display of sheer class, coupled with Jared's enthusiastic command earns them the impossible:

FIVE STARS from Willard's Garage.

That's all I got. Stay tuned for Krispy Kreme news.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Must Have Krispy Kremes...

Okay people, don't ask any questions, just do as I say.

Go to your nearest Krispy Kreme franchise, or the nearest store that sells delicious, delicious SOUTHERN Krispy Kreme doughnuts...

...and buy a dozen or so. Pick up a gallon of milk and some Fuck Starbucks coffee, too. DO NOT!!!!!!!!!. I repeat, DO NOT !!!!!! purchase any type of doughnut other than Krispy Kreme!!!!!!! DO YOU UNDERSTAND, PYLE??!!!???!!!

You have received your orders. Check back frequently for further orders. We are on the verge of war. Be prepared.

Craftsman Truck Kroger 200-Martinsville

PS- it just dawned on me that if Jr. wins the Championship they might just play Drive-by Truckers's song "Daddy's Cup" afterwards. FOX used the song briefly while showing a few shots of Jr. last year on thier "sign off" show.

Ho me. I am so uninspired. What with our boy Ward making the Big Race, you think I'd be all wound up, but you know what a whiney baby I am. I been sick & tired lately & can't get my shit together. Tomorrow's gonna rock, though. If it don't get rained out.

And I hate to say it out loud even, but please - anyone flying tomorrow? Please fly safe.

On to the Truck Race.

THE INVOCATION: John Fox, Raceway Ministries. He's gotta be Protestant. Very nice, somewhat somber, not overly wordy, but wordy enough to ask God to make sure everyone played nice & safely too, and had a good time. 'T's about it. Okay.

THE NATIONAL ANTHEM: The Martinsville High School Jazz Combo.

I have to admit, I got a tad nervous when I heard "jazz" mentioned. Made me think of the Andy Griffith Show when Anj coerced Bobby Fleet and His Band With a Beat to sit in with the Mayberry Band so they'd sound good enough to go to The State Fair. Or sumpin'. In that episode Anj had to tell one of Bobby Fleet's musicians to play "Stars and Stripes Forever" more "straight", and the goateed, beatnick cornet player replied, "Man, I thought I was playin' it straight. In fact, I thought it was kinda quaint...."

But no worries, these five boys ( three bones and two cornets or trumpets, I'm not sure which - looked more like cornets, though...) played it plenty straight and hit all the notes just fine. So we're good.

FOUR STARS from Willard's Garage, kids!! See ya at VCU. Or Berkely. Or in Bobby Fleet's band....

NO FLYOVER: More's the pity.

THE COMMAND: Karen Wheeler, administrative something or other for Kroger.

Karen broke my big rule, she got thanky & talky. She said, "On behalf of Kroger and all our great people, ...."

sigh. Why, Karen? Why?

But she smiled and hollered in a beatifically rednecky drawl, "Drivers!!! Start yer engines!!!!!!!!!!!!" and damn if she didn't seem like a genuine race fan. So we won't dock her too much. She still beat the fuck outta most all the corporate men.

THREE STARS from Willard's Garage.


Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Ward Burton Resurfaces in Martinsville

NASCAR has it's own version of the children's interactive book series "Where's Waldo". At any given track on any given weekend, you'll see at least one person holding up a poster board sign asking "WHERE'S WARD?!!?!!?" in lushly scrawled marker. You'll also hear at least one (probably slightly inebriated) voice shout "Where's Ward?!!?" while standing behind the talking heads of one of the many live trackside shows that air 36 weekends a year.

They're talking about South Boston, Virginia's own Ward Burton. You may have heard of his brother Jeff Burton. Even a few non-NASCAR fans have heard of him, since he's currently leading in championship points in a sport whose popularity is gaining enough to almost be considered "mainstream". We love Jeff Burton, and wish him well, of course, but it's his brother Ward we really want to see racing.

The boys and girls here at Willard's Garage have loved Ward Burton for a long time now - maybe partly because of the way he talks. He talks like us. Not like his brother, who, the joke for many years has been, came from the North Side of the Burton household. Not exactly true. Although we have no physical evidence, rumor has it that Jeff wanted to be on the fast track to NASCAR success, and attended "speechin' school" to learn how to make nice with the media whenever a camera or microphone was shoved in his face. These days I think most drivers are required to do that, but back then I guess they had a choice, and as he often did in his youth, Ward played hookey on that deal, most likely opting to go hang out in the woods and commune with his first love, The Great Virginia Wilderness. Which is decreasing rapidly, and in his recent two years away from racing, Ward has spent his time championing that cause, on the board of Virginia Inland Game and Fisheries, and his own Ward Burton Wildlife Foundation.

Kind of ironic that brother Jeff has said many times that he wants to go into politics when his racing career is over, but there's his "hayseed" older brother, no speechin' school, no nuthin' , right in there mixing it up with the politicians while his racing career was put on temporary hold. Saving his state from the Yankee Carpetbaggers. That ain't the way Ward would put it, but that's exactly what he's doing. God bless him.

Why has Ward Burton been without a ride for two years? I don't have the energy to type that much. It actually boils down to NASCAR politics. Ward is an honest man, and a man who would rather die (or at least forsake a perfectly good & VERY lucrative career), than not be true to himself. In a nutshell, the reason Ward doesn't have a decent ride right now is because he chose to deal with people honestly and trust them. Unfortunately he trusted some of the wrong folks. That's my opinion. Ask any NASCAR fan and you're liable to get your ear gnawed off for an hour or more about why Ward ain't out there with his brother, mixin' it up to win a Championship. He has the talent, he just never had the right opportunity.

The last two years have been sorry and sad ones at Willard's Garage. When people ask us, "Who's your driver?", we all hang our heads, shift our eyes away, sigh, and say "We don't have one." Or, "He ain't racin' right now." It's a sorry feeling not having a driver you truly love to root for in any given race. Even is he's driving a complete piece of shit, and you know he's gonna get wrecked by some smooth-talking, nineteen year old rookie at the back of the pack, because his car isn't capable of running up front where he belongs.

So we'll celebrate this coming weekend when our Ward Burton makes a brief return in the Morgan-McClure #4 Car at Martinsville. Morgan-McClure is a Virginia team - the LAST Virginia team since the Wood Brothers flew South to stay competitive with the rest of the Charlotte-based teams. To say that Ward Burton driving a Morgan-McClure car would be the underdog to root for would be an understatement worthy of the highest farce.

If you were to put Ward in his brother Jeff's Richard Childress car - he could win the race. Handily. No doubt. But he's driving junk and he knows he's driving junk -no offense to Morgan McClure- they've actually made some incredibly good finishes with that car in spite of their one car-team/Virginia status. But as Ward said in an interview with Times-Dispatch Jill Erwin, "I can't fix the car by the seat of my britches." He stated that today it's more about the machine than the driver.

We'll be pulling for both this Sunday in Martinsville.

Godspeed, Ward. We love ya like all git out.

Now everybody go buy sumpin' at the Ward Burton Wildlife Foundation. They got some cool gear there.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Bank of America 500-Lowe's Motor Speedway

A-10 Thunderbolts

...or "The House That Humpy Built".

No Robosaurus this go 'round, instead it looked like Humpy took all the dough he woulda spent on one big, cool truck-eatin' monster and rented several small trucks that had dorky fire-breathin' T-Rex-ISH heads on them. Whatever. Lotta trouble and strife for some of our favorites early on - Hamlin got took out before Lap 2. Pee Paw got knocked off by Beaver's little brother Todd.... but mostly it was ho-hum despite all of the wrecks.

THE INVOCATION: Thank goodness was less about Humpy and more about God this evening, graciously given by
Dr. Bill Theirfelder of Belmont Abby College.
Dr. T. mentioned our Lord a great deal, and ask for Grace to be bestowed upon everyone attending as well as those at home, and for them to return the favor and be good Christians. But he wasn't pushy about it or anything, you'd hardly know you were being preached at, which was nice. He did ask that the drivers be "models of excellence and virtue." Not sure what he was getting at there, but .... whatever. It was a very nice sermon and the anti-thesis of the previous night's pagan (well, Catholic anyhow - it's kinda the same.) celebration of All Things Humpy.

OUR NATIONAL ANTHEM: performed by American Idol person Kellie Pickler.
Goodness sakes! What in the world? She sounded like Cher with a lateral lisp. And I mean a fucking HUGE lisp. Her natural range isn't quite as low as Cher's, but MAY-an! did she sound like Cher. Cher run through a "country filter" half of the time, and a "what passes for R & B these days" filter. She was just a-noodlin', and a notin', and a-mellisma-ing away.... and apprantly that wasn't enough fucking around for Miz Pickler, so she also screwed with the cadence of the words now and then, too. I guess that was supposed to reflect her "jazz" influence.

But that lisp! Holy Pete. I'm not shittin' you, the first line was, "Oh ssshhhay can you sshhhee?" No lie. Sometimes her lisp was like the quiet 'sh' as in 'hush', but sometimes it was the spitty lateral lisp like the girl with the braces on South Park. Cecil said, "She's definitely got a voice. She also had too much spit in her mouth and too many 'h's. She added the letter 'h' to the beginnings and ends of all the words. I never watched American Idol, but I agree with whatever Simon Cowell said when he kicked her off the show. "

She did hit all the notes just fine, so
TWO SHTARS from Cecil
ONE SHTAR from Dixie, onaccounta she took waaaaaaay too many liberties with everything.

THE FLYOVER: Two A-10 Thunderbolts from Pope Air Force Base, N.C. Very nice. We couldn't hear them at all, so I guess NBC figured ol' Pickles was doing a good job & didn't need to be drowned out.

THE COMMAND: Mickey and Kalob Jackson, winners of the Bank of America contest for see how could shout "Gentlemen! Start your engines!!!!" the best.

Turns out Kalob Jackson, who looked all of 4 years old, was the best hollerer. He did a fine job, too. And he looked doggone cute in the process. To his daddy Mickey befell the ugly necessity of paying homage to Bank of America and Humpy Wheeler, of course. His little speech went like this:
"On behalf of Bank of America employees and customers, welcome to Lowe's Motor Speedway, the only Race For the Chase under the lights!!!!" I fuckin' hate any talkin' before the command, and this time even moreso because not only did BofA get to pat themselves on the back, but Humpy slid his greasy, levigated old self in there.

FOUR STARS from Cecil to little Kalob, and Cec goes on to give daddy Mickey ONE STAR for suffering through being a corporate schill in order to have his son ably shout The Command.

Same from me.

That's it. I'm outta here. On to Martinsville, where we can get this yucky taste out of our mouths with some Jesse Jones hot dogs.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Dave Blaney Wins!!!!! Busch Dollar General 300 - Lowe's Motor Speedway

Our man, Dave. Hopefully I can find a photo of him in his Haas Avocado suit to put up.
I love me an avocado.

ZOW-EEEE! What a kooky race. What a kooky finish. Gotta give a big shout out to one of our favorite underdog drivers, Dave Blaney, for winning fair and square. Poor Dave. His first NASCAR win was mightily overshadowed because goddam Happy Harvick also clinched the Busch Championship with this race - so the cameras and crews went straight for Harvick. Reminded me of how Blaney & Schrader's 4th and 7th finishes were overshadowed by where the Chasers finished here in Richmond last September after the Chevy Rock and Roll 400. Since that was the race which determined who did or did not get into The Race For the Chase, nobody paid any mind to the Two Old Farts Who Done Good that evening.

That's okay, though. It took Blaney awhile to find Victory Lane anyway. And bless his heart, once he got there, he still didn't know how to act. Just stood around grinning as he was being interviewed. Totally forgot to mention any sponsors at all, he just said he was sorry his wife and kids weren't there, and then he wandered off. The camera and reporter were still standing there waiting for more words from Blaney, but he just wandered away, all by himself, looking a bit dazed. It was adorable.

Onto the pre-race shenanigans at The House That Humpy Built.

Wail. There's a reason why people call Lowe's Motor Speedway owner Humpy Wheeler the P.T. Barnum of NASCAR. Everything's always gotta be bigger than life at his races (remember the "car eating" Robo-saurus?), and apparently he's now bucking to be canonized. I like the sound of "St. Humpy", but not the idea of it. For this race he employed a Priest from Wisconsin to give

THE INVOCATION: Father Dale Grubba (no! Not dang ol', dang ol' Dale Gribble- oh wait, that's Boomhower. Nevermind.) from St. John's Parish in Princeton, Wisconsin did the pre-race mass this evening. It was obvious by the way he rolled his eyes in a "Lord, forgive me for what I'm about to do" way that Humpy had written the speech for him. Here it is, in it's entirety:

"Let us pray. Promoter Humpy Wheeler claims his job is not to cure cancer, but to put Technicolor in lives lived in a black and white world. To lift people from the drudgery of everyday life. Oh Lord, we ask you to be with us tonight as the Technicolor of Life unfolds before our eyes. Amen."

What the hell?

Humpy don't think much of his-self, does he?

OUR NATIONAL ANTHEM: performed by Nashville Recording Artist, Daryle Singletary. Who was chewing gum. Didn't seem to affect his singing though, he did a good job. He's got one of them real twangy voices, and it seemed like he'd have a limited range, but he hit all the notes effortlessly. They sounded way cuuuuuuuuuntry, though. It was nice, and he didn't get too notey. He did do that "country guy singer" thing though, were often on the last note of the last word of a phrase, they add one quick note that's just a hair flat. That doesn't bug me too much, but it wasn't necessary, so I'll give him

THREE STARS from Dixie.
THREE AND HALF STARS from Cecil, "cuzza that notey thing at the end."

No FLYOVER, I guess because it was too dark out.

THE COMMAND: Henry Forrester, Dollar General District Manager from Try-on, Georgia.
This guy was cool. He looked pretty rednecky, but like, real laid-back. His eyes were kinda droopy, and his mouth & jaw was kinda set in a way like he mighta been appreciating the latest Playboy centerfold or a cherry '67 Camaro. He belted out "Gentlemen! Start! Your! Engines!" in a nearly WWF fashion, but not too over the top, and as Cecil said, "that was cool because he wouldn't have been true to himself" if he'd gone all Adam Sandler on us. Oh yeah, he also gave a very nice wave to the crowd before he gave the command. I hate to keep saying "cool", but that's the only word that fits. He was just cool, is all.

So GOOD JOB, Henry.
THREE STARS from Dixie
THREE AND A HALF from Cecil.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Damn it! Post Talladega Additions.

Shit, I just realized I didn't mention the flyover - how could I forget that? It's the best part. That's what happens when I try to post at 1:00am or so while listening to Art Bell... dork. Ah well, check back to this very spot in a couple days, and I'll edit in all of Cecil's firsthand commentaries & observations. He called this morning from Atlanta to say "hey" and mentioned the flyover was much cooler in person.

151st Army Band - UAW 500 - Talladega

image copyright Wes Freed 08/06

What a kooky race. Cecil left message on the answering machine directly after the race ended (a/k/a "Poached Raisch") to inform me that the race had ended, he had no idea who won or what was going on, but assured me that he and Rankin' Rob had nothing to do with any debris thrown onto the track after Brian Vickers's incredibly unpopular "oops!" win. Poor kid gets his first win after how many years, and he's met with the fucking loudest boos I've ever heard at a Cup race. 140,000 drunk, crazy rednecks just screaming their lungs out.

Ya see (Jinxy), Dale Earnhardt Jr. is The Man at Talladega. Of the hundred and forty plus people in attendance, at least half were sporting red shirts representing Jr. & his sponsor Budweiser. Junior was leading on the last lap. Jimmy Johnson (who is not terribly popular with the Dega crowd) was right on his tail, but it looked like Junior could stave him off. Johnson peeked around Junior's underside to try to make one final attempt to pass him and win the race just a heartbeat before the checkered flag.

BUT! Johnson's soon to be ex-team mate, Brian Vickers - Excitable Boy that he is - tried to "help" Johnson scootch up past Junior, and well... he kinda wrecked both of them as he went on to take the checkered flag. Poor kid. What a shitty way to win. I felt sorry for him. If Earhnhardt Sr. woulda pulled that, the crowd would've cheered wildly and said "That's just racin'!!" to anyone who was a fan of whoever Ironhead would have wrecked. But it wasn't Ironhead. It was Howdy Doody. Poor kid.

That 25 car that Vickers won in is widely known as being jinxed. The late Tim Richmond, who died of AIDS complications, was the last to have a win in that car. (I think.) After that Ken Schrader drove it for awhile with no luck at all. It's a Hendricks car, and all the rest of the cars in that stable have always been mighty. But not the 25 car. Makes ya wonder. Especially since Rick Hendricks's son Ricky (who was killed in that horrible plane crash on the way to Martinsville a couple years back) had hand-picked Vickers to drive that car.

So anyhow...

THE INVOCATION: Reverend Mike Jackson, Alabama Raceway Ministries. Rev. Jackson's sermon was plain and sincere without any lighthearted racing references, merely an emphasis on keeping everyone safe. When you come screaming around a turn at 195 mph in the middle of 43 complete maniacs, you tend to worry about folks getting hurt.

As Ken Schrader's son said, when asked if he was going to be a race car driver like his daddy, "I dunno.... looks kinda dangerous to me."

NATIONAL ANTHEM: performed by The 151st Army Band, Alabama National Guard.

Unless you get somebody really cool to sing the anthem, somelike like, say, Billy Joe Shaver, I think a nice army band is the way to go. (Although the choir before the Craftsman Truck Race was very nice.) These ladies and gentlemen did a lovely job, nothing kooky or fancy. Unfortunately the snare drum did rimshots through the entire song, which was totally right on and effective, just waaaaaay too loud. Sounded like a June Bug in a coffee can. Kinda annoying.

Still, nothing you could do about that.

FOUR STARS from Dixie.

THE COMMAND: Director of UAW Region 8, Gary Casteel, had a little "ooomph" to him, but he got all wordy. "For all the men and women of the United Auto Workers and Ford Motor Company, Gentlemen! Start your engines!!" He mighta packed a little more punch if he hadn't run out of breath sayin' 'hey' to everyone, but it was what it was. It wasn't so bad his wife & kids would be ashamed or anything.


I think it's interesting that all of this past weekend's ceremonies were some of the most traditional and tasteful examples of any race this year when Talladega is infamous for state-of-the-art redneckery.

Talladega College Choir - John Deere 250

I haven't watched this yet, so don't go telling me who won. Or any other spoilers, for that matter. Please. I was thinking I might wait to post the critiques until after Cecil got home from Talladega so he could chime in, but what they hey? He can leave comments. (See how I do him?)

INVOCATION: Reverend Tim Farley, Alabama Raceway Ministries. Rev. Farley did a nice job. Short, no embellishing, but it is Talladega after all, so he did put an extra emphasis on asking the Lord to keep everyone safe. He had a nice accent.

THE NATIONAL ANTHEM: performed by The Talladega College Choir.

This was wonderful. Six young black people - I couldn't tell if there were two or three girls - it sounded like two. A nice strong alto and an operatic (but not annoyingly so) soprano. I wish I knew more about chorale music, as the particular arrangement they used must surely be a certain style - but I got nothin'. It sounded very "Ivy League" to me. The sort of arrangement you'd imagine coming from a group of sweater clad Harvard students, while standing on a pristine lawn in front of the Student Union.

The vocals were beautifully balanced - nobody trying to upstage anyone else, it was very moving. If any wrong notes were hit, I certainly didn't hear them. And I replayed it three times.

FOUR STARS from Dixie.

THE COMMAND: Product Promotions Manager for the John Deere Company, Dan Walls.
Dan Walls had some balls. And a nice Southern accent, too. Normally I do not approve of the Grand Marshall taking liberties with the command - you know giving shout outs to his buds, or just embellishing foolishly like President Bush did that one time - but I forgive old Dan Walls for saying, "On behalf of John Deere, our dealers and customers...." because when he said "DRIVERS!!! START! YER! ENGINES!!!!!!!!!!", by God he meant it.

Fuckin' finally - a corporate dude with some nads.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Heartland-from Huntsville, Alabama, at the Banquet 400, Kansas City, Kansas

Slowly, through a three-day, nauseating migraine things are finally starting to come together. I've collected the disparate bits of yarn from hither and yon, and am now knitting a little thinking cap that will make it all clear to me. I intend to have my thesis ready by next weekend. Ala Pee Wee Herman, I will keep "knitting and knitting and knitting..."

As you all know, Oh Best Beloveds, I tend to be a little mean. Pain makes me meaner. But through my recent pain have come some epiphanies.

Thanks to our good friend Rankin Rob and his lovely, kind, gentle, wife, Kat, I've realized that if a headache had a sound, it would be that of the soprano saxophone. As soon as I realized that, my migraine assumed that sound. One searing note blaring endlessly through my head like a cheap Chinese aluminum goose.

I realized that not everything that comes from Kansas is bad, and not everything that comes from Alabama is good. Our good friends The Drive-by Truckers, 'Bama Bred themselves, most of them, have often told us that nothing good comes from Alabama, particularly Huntsville. They may be right on the latter. Scroll to NATIONAL ANTHEM for more.

Kansas City's race track produced some of the best racing I've seen this year, (up until the utterly insane mileage-driven finish, which was interesting, but not really racing...) and NBC's coverage was much better than anything I've seen out of TNT and/or FOX this year. They must be doing the unthinkable at NBC, that being "listening to the fans". They still leave a lot to be desired, but improvement should be noted, I think. Another plus for Kansas is the #07 driver, Clint Bowyer. He's no Dave Blaney, but he kinda makes me laugh. As Jeff Burton once said, "He's kinda goofy." He also looks like he could be "The Lost Burton Brother", and I don't mean Brian.

On to the pre-race commentaries.

THE INVOCATION: Cole Cochran made another nice sermon for us, this one a tad longer and heavier on the "Jesus in the Passenger Seat" and "Racin' the Race of Life" type analogies. I think that's cool. I like it. I liked it more because there was a young kid standing directly behind him who was wearing a very worn and tattered black t-shirt with a Confederate Flag on it.

In Kansas.

OUR NATIONAL ANTHEM: Heartland. (Lofton Creek Recording Artists from Huntsville, Alabama)
Much like the "singer" before Saturday's Busch Race, these boys just got too damned ambitious. There looked to be six or seven of them onstage, and Cec and I both thought, "Oh dear God, they're not ALL going to try to sing are they???

The answer turned out to be "No." They were all trying to do something, but I'm pretty sure it wasn't singing. In the beginning it seemed more of a Foster Brooksian drunken recitation, with incidental vocalizations by a gentleman who Cecil thinks was just trying to "warm up" and didn't realize his mic was on.

Cecil said the lead, er... , person sounded like he was, "..the kind of drunk you get after being up 2 or 3 days, 'n' yer all rubbery and you shoulda been in bed a looooooooong time ago." And Cecil would know about this state, as it's the state he's been in every time he's ever gone to the state of Kansas. Hell, maybe that *is* The State of Kansas. "Welcome to Kansas! The most hammered State in the Union!"

Ol' Foster Brooks stumbled around for awhile in a most pitiful fashion. I swear if he was a dog he'd a been Old Yeller at the end of the story, or that dog in To Kill a Mockingbird. Not deserving of their immenent fates, but obliging themselves to the firing squad for the Good of Mankind.

And then "the band kicked in". Four, five, six? part harmonies were attempted, and for a few brief notes it seemed the rest of them might have been on key and loud enough to drown out their leader. But alas, they all seemed to lose all sense of pitch simultaneously, and any recollection of whatever "arrangement" they were trying to follow, and it became something akin to a room full of five year olds on crack, screeching and squawking, entirely oblivious to all around them.

How can the great state of Alabama produce The Drive-by Truckers, The Greatest Rock and Roll Band on Earth, The Saviors of Rock and Roll, and also produce the likes of Heartland? Must be some kinda Hindu "you must destroy to create deal" or something.

ONE STAR from me, because I felt sorry for them. They're probably great guys I'd love to hang out with. Probably.
ONE STAR from Cecil, "...for the one part when they all came in and.... I'm probably being over generous, but... where they were all singing and kinda covered up that other guy?, ...and... ....yeah, I'll give 'em one."

THE FLYOVER: Three Fabulous F-16 Fighting Falcons who flew in early in a cavalier fashion to drown out a healthy portion of the abuse of our National Anthem. Extra points to NBC for turning up the audio for the jets for an extended period to further save our delicate musical sensibilities.

THE COMMAND: George Fucking Lopez and Jackie Fucking Joyner-Kersee!!! WTF?!?!, you say?

Oh yes, Best Beloveds. Oh yes. The "Minorities" That Saved The Day. God Bless Them Both, they totally flat-out fucking RAWKED! In unison, they shouted like they were genuinely glad to be there. They smiled. Their eyes twinkled with a fiery "What's up with the gimpy White People gleam". They grinned, and after an exhuberant "GENTLEMEN!!! START YOUR ENGINES!!!!", Joyner-Kersee did a lengthy Pete Townsend windmill with her free hand, as she let out a Rebel "whoop" into the microphone she held in her other hand. Oh hell yes.

Side notes: I was compelled to eat not one, but two Banquet Pot Pies during the race, and my headache went away. Afterward I tried to sleep through the remainder of the race to insure a win for Jeff Burton, however the racing was too fucking exciting - hence a respectable 5th place for our Jeff B, leaving him leading the points for Virginia, with Chesterfield's own, Denny Hamlin, running second in overall points.

Next weekend we wrap up the Gardens of Good and Evil (Alabama and Kansas) commentaries in Talledega and get on to racing that makes a little more sense. No wait - then there's Lowe's....