Unboxing and Unwrapping: Parts 21 & 22

21. DiBenedetto, a kingly duo, and Derrike overflow

OVERVIEW:  Derrike Cope would you please leave now!  Other than Spanaway’s finest continuing to clog up this box, there’s a nice mixture here, including Official Cup Series Underdog Matt DiBenedetto.  Also, oddly enough we get the two most-recent drivers of the 43 car, along with the man who made it famous (no, not Dinger).
BACK OF THE CARD BONUS:  Matty D gets accused of using “…an old Willie Nelson tour bus”.  Ignoring the fact that this would be incredibly easy to prove or debunk, its fitting that Willie’s bus would be taken over by a guy from Grass Valley.
PICK OF THE PACK:  Bubba Wallace gets the “Rated Rookie” treatment in this pack, mentioning his strange streak of five-straight sixth-place finishes in the 2017 Xfinity Series season.  Thankfully they leave out how he lost his ride shortly after—Jack Roush apparently likes his Xfinity drivers to win at Daytona and lose everywhere else.
FINAL RATING:  7 charity events out of 10

22. C.Bell, backmarker hell, and Brendan’s swell

OVERVIEW:  This pack is REALLY across the board—everything from a pair of Kevin Harvick cards to proven race winners like Joey Logano and Mark Martin to Corey Lajoie and (limited edition) David Ragan.  We also get a contented look on Brendan Gaughan, which is how I’d probably look if I was the scion of a rich, powerful family with unlimited buffet comps.
BACK OF THE CARD BONUS:  “Rated Rookie” Christopher Bell gets his Truck Series exploits touted—well, through the start of the 2017 playoffs.  A pretty cool card to hold onto when you look at his career prospects, although it would’ve been nice of them to add in a quick “oh yeah he done good”.
PICK OF THE PACK:  “Happy”.  Funny, “Happy” is how I’d describe my general satisfaction with my life.

FINAL RATING:  5 rain delays out of 10

Timmy Hill Exploring Nickname Possibilities

Journeyman Nascar driver Timmy Hill has recently confirmed that he is considering adopting one of a number of potential nicknames, apparently in an attempt to increase his marketability and raise his public profile.
“All the Nascar greats have nicknames—‘The King’ Richard Petty, ‘The Silver Fox’ David Pearson, ‘Rainbow Warrior’ Jeff Gordon.  Well, maybe a cool nickname is all that’s missing from adding MY name to that illustrious list.  ‘Illustrious’—did I use that word right?”
Hill explained that he’s been hard at work exploring possibilities for a nickname, many of them focusing on his given name.
“I love my family, but let’s be honest—‘Timmy Hill’ doesn’t exactly strike fear in the hearts of other drivers, does it?”, Hill said.  “So if more racers knew me as, say, Timmy ‘The Thrill’ Hill, they might think twice about blocking me when we’re battling for 32nd place.”
Hill released the following list of names he’s said are ‘On the shortlist’ to be adopted:
Timmy ‘The Thrill’ Hill
Timmy ‘King of The’ Hill
“Hill Power”
“The Hilleon”
“The Timm Reaper”
Timmy ‘Gimme a’ Hill ‘Yeah’
Hill stated that while those names are his finalists, he’s also considering a few others “…a bit more out of left field”.
“I kinda like Timmy ‘Wood Chopper’ Hill ‘Topper’, but I think that might be a bit too long.  Also, I’d love to go with ‘The InTIMMYdator’ but I think there could be some copyright issues with that one.”
Hill said that he plans to announce his new nickname the morning of the season finale race at Homestead.  He also said that he plans to announce his plans for racing in 2019 the morning of the first points race of the year at Daytona.

Nascar Pick Challenge: Uncle Max vs. Mystery Picker—Martinsville

As we close in on the end of the season, I’ll ask it again—WHO THE HECK IS MYSTERY PICKER?
My nephew won’t tell me a single thing about him (or her), only to say that Mystery has some sort of “system” that (s)he swears by.  Well what kind of system is it?  And what kind of system picks Erik freaking Jones to win at Martinsville?!?  I mean, some of the picks Mystery’s made are solid, but some seem to really be as random as can be.
And with all that being said—how can Mystery have as many correct picks as me?  I mean, I do my research.  I look at the trends.  I apply my gambling expertise.  And the only advantage Mystery has over me is that they get to pick first.
WHO ARE YOU?!?!?!?

Truck Series Texas Roadhouse 200 (3 wins)—Todd Gilliland: Really, Texas Roadhouse?  You couldn’t wait just one more week to sponsor a race at, y’know, TEXAS?

Cup Series First Data 500—MYSTERY PICKER (4 wins) PICKS Erik Jones.  Favorite (4 wins): Kyle Busch—Sticking with Rowdy this week.  Next Favorite (5 wins): Kevin Harvick—another member of the Big Three triumphs.  Dark Horse: Jimmie Johnson—why?  Because Martinsville.

Unboxing and Unwrapping: Parts 19 & 20

19. Advocare, facial hair, and a name to share

OVERVIEW:  Dueling mustaches in this pack as Kerry Earnhardt goes against Ernie Irvan (I’d give Kerry a slight edge in this competition).  Also note how Clint Bowyer and Erik Jones wound up with pretty much the exact same pose, just with different facial expressions.

BACK OF THE CARD BONUS:  I don’t know what’s worse—bragging about Trevor Bayne’s tenth-place finish in the 2017 Daytona 500, or the fact that that WAS one of his season highlights.

PICK OF THE PACK:  Chase Cabre gets some love in the “Next in Line” series.  One of these days I’ll figure out why those in the racing industry (fans, drivers, etc.) all started naming their sons “Chase” in the early-90’s.

FINAL RATING:  6 Chases out of 10

20. More Cope, Ragan’s mope, and little hope

OVERVIEW:  There’s…not much in this pack.  You know how when you were a kid opening up baseball cards, there was always one guy who seemed to pop up in every-other pack?  That’s Derrike Cope for me in this box.  There’s not much star power here, nor much future potential here beyond Alex Bowman and Erik Jones.

BACK OF THE CARD BONUS:  “You can bank on Denny Hamlin to deliver when the pressure’s on.”  No wonder he has so many championships…

PICK OF THE PACK:  David Ragan gets a backhanded compliment on the back of his card, lauded for his prowess on Daytona and Talladega, two tracks that tend to produce winners both random (Derrike Cope) and obscure (David Ragan).  Maybe THAT’S why he looks so depressed in his picture.

FINAL RATING:  1 start-and-park excuse out of 10

The Ultimate Race Shop

Programming Note: That pesky thing called "real life" is getting in the way of watching today's race, so there'll be no regular "Burnout" article this week.  Enjoy this instead!

My OTHER website www.raceshopreviews.com has relaunched with all new information, updates, and pics!  With that in mind, here’s what *I’D* like to see in a race shop:

—“Great entrance” featuring giant sign saying “If this were any other sport, you’d have been kicked out by now”.

—Wide variety of hero cards backed by a glowering image of the team owner to dissuade eBayers from taking a dozen to sell online. 

—Gift Shop staffed by receptionist who doesn’t mind if you just walk around aimlessly for an hour. 

—“Fan Walk” showing the millions of dollars and hundreds of hours that go into building each and every one of these cars...that could be destroyed in a single second. 

—Used sheet metal for sale, divided into “Normal wrecks” and “Wrecks caused by Ricky Stenhouse Jr” sections. 

—Flatscreen TV showing highlights properly voiced over by someone you can’t quite place (“I think it’s Marty Snider, but maybe it’s Steve Richards?”)

—Interactive displays simulating for a fab what it’s like to race for four hours in incredible heat only to immediately have a microphone shoved in your face. 

—Outdoor viewing area for pit stop practice, complete with free lug nuts (they’re the world’s best paperweights!)

Nascar Pick Challenge: Uncle Max vs. Mystery Picker—Kansas

Sorry for another kinda short entry here, but I’m been slammed busy both in and out of work.  In work, this is what happens when you’re short-staffed on assistant managers a few weeks before the holiday help comes on.  Outside of work, it seems like I have about a dozen errands to do every single day!  Sometimes I wish I could have a simpler life, like Mystery seems to have.

Xfinity Series Kansas Lottery 300 (5 wins)—Christopher Bell: Too tough to pick against him and Toyota on a 1.5 miler.

Cup Series Hollywood Casino 400—MYSTERY PICKER (4 wins) PICKS Joey Logano.  Favorite (4 wins): Kyle Busch—See my Xfinity comments and repeat.  Next Favorite (5 wins): Brad Keselowski—And wouldn’t you believe it, its on fuel mileage.  Dark Horse: Erik Jones—now that the pressure’s off, the build for 2019 can begin!

Unboxing and Unwrapping: Parts 17 & 18

17. Newman, New men, and blue men

OVERVIEW:  There’s an odd preponderance of the color blue in this pack—six guys have it in their fire suits, including Daniel Hemric who has it in his sponsor.  Speaking of which, this has what I think is the best possible combo of young talent—guys who are “already there” (Chase Elliott & Ryan Blaney), guys on the cusp (Erik Jones & Austin Dillon) and a possible future star in Hemric.

BACK OF THE CARD BONUS:  Ryan Newman scored his 111th career top-five finish?  Wow—if he ran for Joe Gibbs, there’d probably be merch commemorating it!

PICK OF THE PACK:  Erik Jones gets the limited-edition “Studio” treatment here, including a mention of the time Ken Squire called him “That Jones Boy”.  I wonder if Dale Jarrett’s cards back in the late-90’s referenced when Ken called him “the legend, Dale Earnhardt”?

FINAL RATING:  7 racing lines out of 10

18. Old school style, “Phenom” on file, and some rubber from Kyle

OVERVIEW:  Another memorabilia insert!  This time its a piece of Kyle Larson’s race-used tire to go along with his autograph.  Kyle dominates this pack with three different cards, but we also get an appearance by Penske protege Austin Cindric as a “Phenom”—I’ll keep that in mind next time I see him wreck in Xfinity (which should be next week).

BACK OF THE CARD BONUS:  Junior Johnson gets a shout-out from Bruce Springsteen!  Better to have it be in a lyric than in one of his interminable pre-song rap sessions, “Y’know mah ol man used to tell me about racing…”.

PICK OF THE PACK:  Gray Gaulding!!!  Nice to see him consider running in the mid-30’s and not getting paid as “…a dream come true”—that’s the spirit!

BONUS:  The memorabilia cards don’t have much in the way of back-of-the-card information, which is understandable considering that they’re likely to wind up on someone’s wall.  Also, no, I haven’t tried to “scratch n sniff” the tire rubber.

FINAL RATING:  9 pre-show interview segments out of 10

Chad Knaus to Reunite with Stacy Compton for 2019

Just days after the blockbuster announcement that Hendrick Motorsports was breaking up the vaunted pairing of driver Jimmie Johnson and crew chief Chad Knaus, new details have emerged.  As of 2019, Knaus will be reunited with his first driver, journeyman Stacy Compton.
“I feel like my whole career with Jimmie has led me to this moment”, Knaus said earlier today in a press conference.  “Back in 2000 I was nowhere near ready to work with such a singular talent as Stacy.  Now, with seven championships under my belt, I feel I finally have the talent to crew chief for ‘The Man from Grit’.”
Knaus crew chiefed for Compton in 2000 with Melling Racing.  While the results weren’t there, Knaus has readily shouldered the blame for that.  
“It was all on me”, Knaus said.  “I was just a young kid out there, I didn’t know how to harness such pure driving ability.  Those two pole positions that year weren’t just plate racing flukes—they were glimmers of brilliance.
“I mean, you’d think that those dozen or so races working with Darrell Waltrip would’ve prepared me for working with a two-time Truck Series race winner, but I guess it wasn’t enough.”
Knaus also cleared up confusion over his supposed reassignment to crew chief for current Rookie of the Year leader William Byron.
“Look—William is the future, there’s no denying that”, Knaus explained.  “But a young kid like that can learn SO much from watching a talented veteran like Stacy tear it up around the track.  Once Hurt, Virginia’s Finest is ready to hang up his helmet, I’ll be ready to impart all my knowledge to William Byron, and we’ll all be the better for it.”
Reaction around the garage was mixed, with most drivers assuming that Melling Racing shut down after they lost the Cartoon Network sponsorship.  

Nascar Pick Challenge: Uncle Max vs. Mystery Picker—Talladega

In honor of this weekend’s edition of “Restrictor Plate Roulette”, here’s how to play REAL Roulette the Uncle Max way!
—ALWAYS look for “European Style” roulette over the more-common American style—one less zero and the chance to put your bet “en prison” (incidentally, this is a great chance to show off those three years of high school French you took).
—Play it low and play it slow—put small outside bets down and try to do them roughly once every other betting series.  That’ll help you kill some time.
—Work the cocktail waitresses!  You could wind up with a handful of free drinks if you act like you know what you’re doing.
—Fiddle with your chips.  Not for any luck-causing reasons, but because it’ll help distract you from the fact that you’re putting your hard-earned money on the spin of a random wheel.
—If anyone tells you about THEIR method, feel free to tune them out.

Truck Series Fr8Auctions 250 (3 wins)—Brett Moffitt: The magic season continues.

Cup Series 1000Bulbs 500—MYSTERY PICKER (4 wins) PICKS Ricky Stenhouse Jr.  Favorite (4 wins): Chase Elliott—The Chase train keeps on rolling at the most appropriate place possible.  Next Favorite (5 wins): Kevin Harvick—Retribution for last week.  Dark Horse: Austin Dillon—Since Mystery already picked my original Dark Horse.

Unboxing and Unwrapping: Parts 15 & 16

15. Black-and-white, a down-under delight, and an insert—tight!

OVERVIEW:  One of the widest selections in a single pack so far—four former champions (two of them still active) weighed down by Trevor Bayne, Brennan Poole, and a Kasey Kahne car that isn’t being run anymore.  On the plus side My Main Man Marcos Ambrose makes an appearance.

BACK OF THE CARD BONUS:  Tony Stewart gets the “Studio” treatment, but gets referred to as “The People’s Champion”.  Um, I’ve literally NEVER heard anyone refer to Tony by that nickname.

PICK OF THE PACK:  Clint Bowyer, looking like he’s debating between $1,000 cash back or 0.9% APR, gets big ups from Kevin Harvick.  “I’ve known him since the first time that he sat in a car”, Happy says, making him seem less like a supporter and more like a stalker.

BONUS:  Another swatch, this time of Kevin Harvick’s firesuit!  Its worth pointing out that occasional packs will have a blank thicker card (same thickness as the memorabilia cards), which has to be incredibly disappointing to the average pack buyer.

FINAL RATING:  7 boys back at the shop out of 10

16. Bad hair, a stare, and Mikey don’t care

OVERVIEW:  Five Cup champions on six cards in this set, along with a recent winner (Chase) and an up-and-comer (Bowman).  Really the only downside (besides no cool inserts) are the poor photo choices—Bobby Labonte looks like Jim Carrey in “Dumb & Dumber”, Michael Waltrip looks bored out of his mind, and Bill Elliott is trying to stare into my soul.

BACK OF THE CARD BONUS:  Ricky Stenhouse Jr. optimistically says the team “turned the corner” in 2017.  Well, going downward can still be around a corner, I guess.

PICK OF THE PACK:  Alex Bowman’s 2017 Cup Series recap fits entirely on the back of his card.

FINAL RATING:  8 pit stalls out of 10

Alternate Race Tracks: The Pros and Cons

Last weekend saw a momentous occasion in Nascar history, as for the first time ever a race was held on a Roval (part road course, part oval), bringing rave reviews and a rare uptick in TV ratings.  Naturally, talk has shifted to how other tracks could replicate Charlotte’s success.  Here’s a look at the pros and cons of some of the suggestions in the works.
The way harness racers sit is pretty much
the opposite of how Ryan Newman sits

DOVER—Horse Track
Pros: The track is already there inside the concrete oval, so its not like they’ll have to relocate all 20,000 fans who still show up to another location.  Also, something-something Brad K’s teeth something.
Cons: Nascar already has enough criticism over being “fixed”—does it really want to be associated with harness racing?

DAYTONA—Beach/Highway Course
Pros: While it might seem inconvenient and impossible to run a modern race on a beach and a highway, it makes about as much sense as running a race where cars are artificially slowed down on a tri-oval.
Cons: Far too many people will think that its just a tribute to the “Expert” course on Daytona USA.

Wow, such a beautiful place...for
Jeffrey Earnhardt to wreck
Pros: It’ll give Nascar the chance to prove they can run a temporary street course better than IndyCar, namely by making sure their grand marshall doesn’t wreck the freaking pace car (note: make sure Brett Bodine knows what the heck he’s doing).
Cons: Belle Isle is in the shadows of GM’s headquarters—it might not be wise to put all the pressure on Chevy’s road courses ringers like Chase Elliott and Justin Allgaier.

LAS VEGAS—Parking Lot Course
Pros: Caesar’s Parking Lot would join Watkins Glen and about 60% of Indy as the only Nascar courses to have once held Formula 1 racing.
Cons: When you’re looking at ways to reinvigorate your sport, “the place where they had Wrestlemania 9” probably isn’t high on the list, brother.

INDIANAPOLIS—Infield Road Course
Pros: Nascar’s road courses tend to provide the most drama and highest ratings—why exactly has this not happened yet?  OK, besides the fact that Bruton Smith’s trademarked the term “Roval”.
Cons: You could have dozens of daring passes for the lead, wild beating and banging in the pack, and a photo finish for the win, and “fans” would still complain that the race wasn’t held at IRP/ORP/LORP/BLERP/BOING.

Nascar Pick Challenge: Uncle Max vs. Mystery Picker—Dover

(Editor’s Note: Uncle Max texted me his picks a few hours ago along with the message “crazy busy at work this week, sorry!")

(Another Editor's Note: I had a GREAT time at the Roval race AND touring the various race shops for my other website.  Updates on both coming in the following weeks!)

Xfinity Series Bar Harbor 200 (5 wins)—Ryan Preece: Celebrating his new Cup ride.

Cup Series Gander Outdoors 400—MYSTERY PICKER (4 wins) PICKS Paul Menard.  Favorite (4 wins): Kyle Busch—Battling Brad K for the win.  Next Favorite (5 wins): Brad Keselowski—Battling Rowdy for the win.  Dark Horse: Jimmie Johnson—Has it been THAT bad of a year?  Yes.  Yes it has.