American motorsport

For a month or more I’ve had absolutely nothing to do and so I have done almost absolutely nothing. I’m almost tempted to feel guilty about it but I shan’t. Besides it’s all over now. Not because I have to go back to work but because I am told some fairly major revisions need to be made to the dissertation. I guess I should’ve known that would happen.

I’ve been taking a look at the main forms of car racing in the US/canada: NASCAR and Indycar. I used to watch what was known as the CART or champcar series back in 2000. That merged with the IRL (Indy racing league) and is now Indycar. Amazingly, a lot of the same drivers are still around. It’s an open-wheel car design like Formula 1. I think their yearly calendar is split into about 50/50 oval tracks and not-ovals. The rest of the world looks down upon american motorsport because it’s said that all they do is turn left (ie. drive anti-clockwise around ovals). This is partly true. If you look at the top 10 drivers in Indycar only a couple of them are born n’ bread USians. It’s easy for drivers from countries like Australia, UK, NZ, Brazil, Spain, even Canada who’ve grown up learning the standard race-crafts (like how to turn into a right-hand corner) and who swoop in and win all the road/street course races. But it’s a good thing really, that they have such an international driver line-up.

I watched three races from this season. In some ways it really is like amateur hour — lots of crashes: impatience and bonehead moves. One positive is that it doesn’t seem as exclusive as formula one. It’s probably a bit easier for people from not so wealthy backgrounds to get into it, compared to F1 at least. And there’s three female drivers on the grid, a Brazilian, a Swiss and an American. It wouldn’t exist without media coverage but this also appears to be the weakest link, at least the way I watched it. I think it’s espn or abc. I don’t know. Every 10mins they cut to an ad break but the version I see stays with the racing footage but without commentary. It gets pretty abstract when the cars are zipping around an oval with no one explaining what’s happening or why they’re there.

<a href=”” title=”zombie jeff gordon by esquimauxpie, on Flickr”><img src=”” width=”177″ height=”240″ alt=”zombie jeff gordon”></a>

I was a little surprised to find that NASCAR is on the whole a more professional package. More interesting too because it goes right into the inner sanctum of the American heartland, where this person ‘Joe Sixpack’ lives. The places where Hollywood doesn’t show the rest of the world and eventhough it’s still the major TV networks (espn &abc) presenting it, there is a bit more of of conservative America showing itself as _it_ sees itself, rather than Hollywood showing us how it sees these people. From what I can tell, the fat southern sheriff is still a fat southern sheriff but he’s not quite as bumbling, and he’s probably doing quite well for himself if he’s involved in some area of NASCAR management.

There’s no pretense in nascar of ‘going green’ in the way F1 has drifted. They go through huge amounts of tyres each race, big engines, heavy cars and the drivers throw plastic water bottles out the window when they’re done with them. A preacher says a prayer over the mic. before the start of each race and the holy trinity is very much God, our Armed Forces (both at home and overseas) and NASCAR. Some of the oval-races are really long, like 4.5 hours and yet who wins is still close to completely random. In some ways it reminds me of test cricket because there’s not a lot happening and it goes for a long time. While Indycar is very international, the people in nascar are mostly white, American and based in the south or did-west but apparently it’s changing slowly. Juan Montoya drives in nascar, as does the Aussie, Marcos Ambrose, who used to race V8s in the Australian series.

One race I watched (in Indycar, but nascar goes there too) was at the Iowa speedway and it was called the Iowa Corn 300 or something like that. A lot of thanks were given to corn and corn was mentioned a lot in general. Indycars run on ethanol, which is made from corn, and nascars use a blend of ethanol and something else. Apparently, they say ethanol is green, but I’ve read otherwise. Anyway, this race was all about corn. It started in the late afternoon and went into the dark of night. Before the race the MC had a touch of fever in his voice when he mentioned corn. It made me think of the Aztecs and the ancient ties to the land and one might fancy that they’d have liked to sacrifice a few virgins there that night too.

<a href=”” title=”fat southern sheriff by esquimauxpie, on Flickr”><img src=”” width=”500″ height=”375″ alt=”fat southern sheriff”></a>

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