2020 Donruss Panini Nascar Cards Unboxing PACK 16

Continuing a tradition of limited esteem, Spade Racing bought, unboxed, and unpacked a sealed box of 2020 Donruss (Panini) Nascar trading cards.  Join us as we go through each eight-card pack to find the good, the bad, and the downright weird.

PACK 16—Three Ryans, Two Newmans, and a Young Man
Another pack with no legends, and—frankly, not much success barring Ryan Blaney’s “Contenders” card.  We also get the same exact photo of Ryan Newman rendered two different ways and the very young Sam Mayer looking unusually smug.
FIRST THING’S FIRST: There it is, folks—the classiest the Oscar Mayer logo will ever look.

SECOND LOOK: Bubba Wallace’s awesome Victory Junction scheme gets a closer look here.  So glad that World Wide Technology stepped up with their donation, lest the Petty charter go the way of RWR.

TO THE BACK: Well, of course Ryan Blaney has the brightest future of anyone at Team Penske—he’s the youngest one there who isn’t spinning cars around on a regular basis in the Xfinity Series.

FINAL SCORE: 1 DNQ out of 10

2020 Donruss Panini Nascar Cards Unboxing PACK 15

Continuing a tradition of limited esteem, Spade Racing bought, unboxed, and unpacked a sealed box of 2020 Donruss (Panini) Nascar trading cards.  Join us as we go through each eight-card pack to find the good, the bad, and the downright weird.

PACK 15—The Dream, The Rheem, and a Painful Scream
Its all modern (and mostly young) drivers in this pack.  Ryan Preece gets the “New Age” treatment here—remember when he fulfilled his dream by getting a Cup ride, then everyone moved on almost instantly to Matt DiBennedetto?  Shoulda held onto an Official Underdog of Nascar tag like Ryan Sieg.

FIRST THING’S FIRST: A great pic of one of my favorite annual paint schemes—the all-Pennzoil look that usually runs at Las Vegas.  Much better than the Pennzoil-Shell “Haha We Got You Sunoco” scheme.

SECOND LOOK: Christopher Bell’s Optic card could be worth holding onto since this is essentially his Rookie card.  Then again cards these days are barely worth the cardboard their printed on, so yeah.

TO THE BACK: This is being written right after it was revealed that Brett Moffitt broke both his legs in a motocross crash.  Thankfully the man from Grimes has a better fate than Frank Grimes.

FINAL SCORE: 6 stage points out of 10

Nascar for Newbies Part 6--The Business of Nascar

Hello, and welcome to the wonderful world of Nascar!  If you’re a new fan of stock car racing, this is the place for you!  In this ten-part series we’ll take a look at what you should and could know about America’s #1 auto racing organization.  Let’s get started! 

6. THE BUSINESS OF NASCAR—Money makes the cars go ‘round

The economics of Nascar is almost as fascinating as the cars themselves, with numerous business aspects combining to fuel race teams with cashflow.  Here’s how teams make their money—and where that money goes.  While there are plenty of other ways to earn and spend money in Nascar, these are by far the biggest:

Making Money

Winnings.  Teams make money by virtue of how well they finish in each race, and the season-ending points standings.  While the bulk of this money comes from finishing as high as possible (ideally winning), additional money comes from contingency bonuses.  These see teams agree to promote a company in exchange for a small base fee, with the opportunity to earn more money through certain incentives.  An example of this is the Busch Pole Award—if a team has an agreement with Busch Beer, they are able to earn a bonus for qualifying on the pole.  In exchange, these companies are usually allowed to claim that they are “The Official BLANK of Nascar”.

Sponsorship.  The most-important source of income for most teams, sponsorship what makes Nascar possible.  In its simplest form, companies pay the teams money to put their logos on the cars.  However, what was once a pretty simple transaction has become much more complex.

Teams will often run their own promotions for their sponsors—for instance, social media promotions where fans can share a sponsor’s hashtag in exchange for a chance to win the sponsor’s product.  Teams will also do all they can to keep the sponsor happy, from wining and dining sponsors at race tracks to making changes to the car’s paint scheme to even selecting drivers based on the sponsor’s wishes.  Drivers will sometimes bring sponsors with them, meaning that a team can get much-needed funding in exchange for hiring a certain driver—although this does not guarantee any level of driving skill.  In order to fund their sponsorships, companies will frequently have “vendor partners” share space with them—for example, an insulation company could pay a home improvement chain money for prime space in each store, getting a spot on the hood of the home improvement chain’s sponsored car as well. 

Sponsors tend to come from three sources—either the team itself, a third-party broker, or the driver will bring them.  The amount of sponsorship a driver brings tends to influence how much the driver is paid (typically reflected in the percentage of race winnings they receive, although this information is closely guarded).  In the past, sponsors were neatly divided into three groups—primary sponsors (the biggest sponsors with the most space, typically on the hood, sides, and back of the car), secondary sponsors (smaller sponsors with smaller logos, usually on the lower sides or the “posts” of the car), and contingency sponsors (small decals on the front sides of the car).  As the sport has evolved, however—and due to the development of vinyl “car wraps” that make changing a car’s appearance much easier—teams now will typically run a number of different paint schemes, with sponsors who pay more getting more races as the primary sponsor.

Merchandising.  Much like other sports, Nascar has a robust merchandising industry to provide fans with souvenirs of all kinds.  The most-popular of these are clothing (t-shirts and hats) and small scale-model reproductions of the cars themselves (colloquially known as “diecast”).  The breakdown of how the money is shared varies from team to team but typically the biggest shares are divided between the merchandise manufacturer/marketer and team itself.  In the past few decades a once-fractured marketing landscape has become consolidated under Nascar itself.

Spending Money

Cars and Equipment.  Nascar is not a cheap sport to participate in.  The biggest and most-successful Nascar teams will use over a dozen different types of cars throughout the year, each fine-tuned in construction for the specific track it runs at—for instance, a car running at a flat short track will handle quite differently than a car running at a steeply-banked super speedway.  The largest teams will have staffs numbering in the hundreds, ranging from the at-track personnel to others such as engineers, business managers, marketing executives, and support staff.  All of this is quite expensive, and means that the teams with the most money tend to have the most resources, leading to the best finishes.  Teams can range from the hundreds of employees at a behemoth like Hendrick Motorsports or Joe Gibbs Racing to under a hundred at mid-level teams like Richard Petty Motorsports or Front Row Motorsports.  In the lower series, independent Xfinity or Truck Series teams could have full-time employees numbering in the single-digits, with positions such as pit crew members outsourced to other organizations.

**There’s also the issue of equipment needed to run a race.  Besides the cars themselves the most-expensive item is the engine.  These purpose-tuned engines are either built by the biggest teams for their own use (Hendrick Motorsports) or bought by teams for upwards of $100,000.  Smaller teams may get a discount by leasing an engine, but this limits the amount of customized adjustments that can be done.  The next most-expensive item race teams use are tires.  Teams will use up to a dozen sets of tires throughout a standard race weekend, costing around $2,000 per set.  There’s many other expenses to consider—motor oil, fuel, food to feed the team members come to mind—that all make running a race team far from a profitable enterprise.**

Charters.  In 2016 Nascar introduced a charter system to allow teams guaranteed starting positions for each race and a greater say in the direction of the sport.  These charters (comparable to a franchise in other American sports) have been sold for millions and is arguably the highest barrier to entry for any new team.  Note that while a team can enter a race to compete in one of the four “open” starting spots, they receive a smaller cut of the race purse, regardless of finishing position.

Drivers.  What drivers are paid by their team owners is as inscrutable of a fact as any in Nascar.  Typically it is thought (and found through legal filings) that drivers will usually receive a percentage of race winnings, thus acting as a financial incentive to finish better.  If a driver brings sponsorship this percentage might be lower—the driver will instead take a cut of the sponsorship funds, allowing any extra money won through good finishes to be funneled back into the team.

**—most of the numbers in this section are from the Florida Times-Union article “Pit road to money pit: Costs to field a Nascar team are staggering” by Don Coble.

All pictures courtesy www.Jayski.com

Uncle Max vs. Last Year’s Winners: Kansas

Well, it looked like I had a chance to win last weekend.  Heck, it looked like Last Year’s Winners and I were going to duke it out for a win.  But then the late caution came and ruined everything.  Good on ya, RCR, you finally got a win—at the expense of my pick!

I tell ya, you can’t rely on anything lately.  Like my “staycation” that I announced last time—postponed indefinitely.  One of the other assistant managers decided that Friday evening was a great time to up and quit on us, so I decided to cancel taking the week off (thankfully with the help of some bonus pay).  Sure, I wouldn’t have been able to go anywhere, but I really was looking forward to dozens of hours of staring at the wall in my townhouse.

Thursday Night CUP SERIES Super Start 400.  LAST YEAR’S WINNER (4 wins) Brad Keselowski.  FAVORITE: (2 win) Kevin Harvick—sticking with what works (when there aren’t unbeatable old tires)  NEXT FAVORITE: (1 win) Kyle Busch—he’s gotta get on a run SOMEtime.  DARK HORSE: (0 wins) Kurt Busch—if not Kyle, maybe Kurt.

Friday Evening TRUCK SERIES Kansas 200 (2 wins) Austin Hill—finally out of “win” and into “wins”!

Correction: Truck Race is today, Xfinity Race is this evening. 

Saturday Afternoon XFINITY SERIES Kansas Lottery 250 (2 wins) Noah Gragson—punting someone out for the win, of course.

Saturday Evening TRUCK SERIES Gander RV 200 (2 wins) Christian Eckes—KBM train keeps rollin’.

2020 Donruss Panini Nascar Cards Unboxing PACK 14

Continuing a tradition of limited esteem, Spade Racing bought, unboxed, and unpacked a sealed box of 2020 Donruss (Panini) Nascar trading cards.  Join us as we go through each eight-card pack to find the good, the bad, and the downright weird.

PACK 14—Petty, Ricky, and #2 on #3
In my opinion this is a near-perfect mix—a retired legend, an active champion, some well-known drivers, and two oddities.  No, Ryan Truex isn’t an oddity, but that mustache is—he looks like the kind of guy who pumps your gas at 2am.

FIRST THING’S FIRST: This is one of the few times where the Optic outline works out—as I always say, “you never go right with yellow on white”.  In fact my constant uttering of that is probably why my last girlfriend left me.

SECOND LOOK: Number 2 of 99 of this green Austin Dillon variant.  From what I’ve seen teams/drivers usually hold onto special numbers—#1, their car number, any anything else with any meaning (like the number of times Austin’s had to deal with weirdos leering at his wife).

TO THE BACK: We get a Cliff Notes version of Richard Petty’s accomplishments here.  Since card collecting is now really the provenance of hardcore fans, I don’t really know WHAT they could’ve put here that would’ve educated fans—maybe his favorite pizza topping?

FINAL SCORE: 7 in-car cameras out of 10

Spade Racing: THE ROOKIES—Mid-July Rakings

New for 2020, Spade Racing will take a monthly look at the heralded Cup Series rookie class to determine who’s hot and who’s not.  The PRETTY grade: Performance Relative to Equating Team’s Typical Year (its pretty much how well each driver is doing considering their equipment).  Here’s how things look going into Homestead:

GREEN--has moved up since last rankings.  RED--has moved down since last rankings.  BLACK--steady.

1. Cole Custer (Stewart Haas Racing). Best race finish: 1st (Kentucky).  PRETTY grade: A+.  Cole Custer had a breakthrough top-five at Indy, followed by a break-breakthrough win at Kentucky.  A pair of top-tens prior to his first win and a slew of top-20s means Cole’s win was far from a fluke, and earns his spot amongst the powerful foursome at SHR (Custer, Harvick, Almirola, and Briscoe).

2. Tyler Reddick (Richard Childress Racing).  Best race finish: 4th (Homestead).  PRETTY grade: A-.  Were it not for Cole Custer’s Kentucky win, Reddick would’ve held onto his grip on the #1 ranking here.  Five top tens (including a top-five) has him showing that RCR is more than just a racing museum with an odd focus on duck hunting.

3. Christopher Bell (Leavine Family Racing).  Best race finish: 4th (Pocono).  PRETTY grade: B-.  The rebound continues for C.Bell, with fourth, seventh, and twelfth-place finishes in three of his last four starts.  Of course the other one of those four was a 39th at Pocono, so it remains to be seen if he’s the next Denny Hamlin or the next JJ Yeley.  Please don’t be the next JJ Yeley, Christopher—I don’t want you sponsored by the Delaware Safety Commission.

4. John Hunter Nemechek (Front Row Motorsports).  Best race finish: 8th (Talladega).  PRETTY grade: B-.  The PRETTY grade for JHN is pretty hard to figure.  On the one hand, Front Row is typically a back-of-the-pack team with limited resources.  On the other hand, teammate Michael McDowell is having a career year.  On the third hand, he’s a rookie who is still outperforming his predecessor—and why do I have three hands?

5. Brennan Poole (Premium Motorsports).  Best race finish: 16th (Daytona).  PRETTY grade: C-.  Poole continues to be locked out of the top-twenty since the season opener.  But his sponsor’s charity got some tv time recently, so there’s that.

6. Quin Houff (StarCom Racing).  Best race finish: 23rd (Indianapolis).  PRETTY grade: D+.  Yeah, its arguably the most-underfunded team on the circuit.  Yeah, their main rivals are Rick Ware’s teams and MBM.  But when a 23rd is your best finish, you gotta question if the driver deserves the ride—no matter how cool the Mane n’ Tail paint scheme looks.

Uncle Max vs. Last Year’s Winners: Texas

Four races last weekend and zero wins.  And I had a shot at a win in the Cup race until a freaking ROOKIE wins?  Ugh, its been one of those weeks.  Or years.  Or decades.

Things have not been all that fun for ol’ Uncle Max (not that things have been a barrel of laughs for anyone lately) but I *do* have some good news—well for me that is.  I get to take my vacation next week!  Now, it won’t be anything like a normal vacation—heck, I’d have sold it back to my employer if they’d have offered it.  But thankfully I have a plan in place.  I won’t have much contact with the outside world next week, but I think it’ll be fun to disconnect from the planet all by myself for awhile.

Saturday Afternoon XFINITY SERIES My Bariatric Solutions 300 (2 wins) Chase Briscoe—I do NOT want to see what that trophy looks like.

Saturday Evening TRUCK SERIES Vankor 250 (1 win) Kyle Busch—back to basics.

Sunday CUP SERIES O’Reilly 500.  LAST YEAR’S WINNER (4 wins) Denny Hamlin.  FAVORITE: (2 win) Kevin Harvick—sticking with what works (when there isn’t an upset)  NEXT FAVORITE: (1 win) Martin Truex Jr.—about time for a strong Truex run.  DARK HORSE: (0 wins) Alex Bowman—just because.

Nascar for Newbies Part 5--Compare and Contrast with Other Racing Series

Hello, and welcome to the wonderful world of Nascar!  If you’re a new fan of stock car racing, this is the place for you!  In this ten-part series we’ll take a look at what you should and could know about America’s #1 auto racing organization.  Let’s get started!  

5. COMPARE AND CONTRAST—What’s the difference between Nascar and other series?  Let’s find out!

Nascar Cup vs. Xfinity Series & Truck Series

Nascar Cup is the highest level of stock car racing both in Nascar itself and in the world.  Its two developmental series share some characteristics, most notably that their race car bodies are based on stock types at least in appearance.  While Cup and Xfinity cars look very similar, Xfinity Series cars are somewhat detuned for less overall engine power.  Truck Series engines are detuned as well, and another obvious difference is that truck-style bodies are raced instead of car-style bodies.  These stock car/truck series differ from most others in that they nominally have space for a passenger (although this never happens), thus why most other forms of racing listed below are sometimes called “single-seaters”.

Nascar vs. Sprint Cars

Sprint cars are small, purpose-built race cars with a very high power-to-weight ratio.  Their races are typically held on dirt tracks which puts car control at a high premium.  For this reason sprint car drivers can use sprint car racing as a springboard to the more-lucrative stock car style of racing that Nascar offers.

Nascar vs. IndyCar

IndyCar racing (also known as “Championship Auto Racing”) is done in specialty-made race cars with the driver much more exposed in an open cockpit.  Races are held on a variety of tracks around North America, from road courses to city street courses to ovals.  While IndyCar and Nascar have seen crossover drivers (Tony Stewart in particular) and compete for fans, there is very little in common between the two types of racing.

Nascar vs. Formula 1

Formula 1 is widely considered to be the highest-level of racing in the world.  Competing around the globe on both purpose-built road courses and temporary street courses, the budgets are bigger, the spotlight is brighter—and the competitive balance is almost nonexistent.  As opposed to Nascar and IndyCar, technology is at a premium with millions of dollars being spent yearly to gain the thinnest of margins over the competition.  With a few exceptions there has been very little crossover between Formula 1 and Nascar.

Nascar vs. Rally Racing

Rally racing—most popular outside North America—sees stock cars whip around trails on a variety of surfaces and terrains.  While the cars may look somewhat similar to those of Nascar, rally racing could be most-comparable in the US to the Pikes Peak hillclimb.

Nascar vs. Endurance Racing

Endurance racing is popular both in the United States—think the 24 Hours of Daytona—and Europe—most-famously the 24 Hours of Le Mans.  With a variety of classes of cars racing at the same time, only the most stock-like of the cars in endurance racing resemble those of Nascar.  However, there has been crossover between the two.  The 24 Hours of Daytona (held at Daytona International Speedway, which is owned by Nascar) frequently sees Nascar drivers compete, both for fun and to hone their road course racing skills.  Meanwhile, endurance racers will sometimes enter one of Nascar’s road course races as a “road course ringer”.

Note: all images from Pixabay or Wikipedia

Nascar for Newbies Part 4--The Race Weekend

Hello, and welcome to the wonderful world of Nascar!  If you’re a new fan of stock car racing, this is the place for you!  In this ten-part series we’ll take a look at what you should and could know about America’s #1 auto racing organization.  Let’s get started! 

For the purposes of this example we’ll be using a Sunday afternoon Cup Series race as an example.  Also, this is the way things usually go normally, not during global pandemics.

Fun fact: Most race shops are open to the public.
Visit our sister site www.raceshopreviews.com
for more information!

Before getting to the track—Virtually all race teams are based in and around the Charlotte/Mooresville North Carolina region.  Here in these shops, race cars are built (typically from the ground up) and engines are fine-tuned and installed.  Highly-specialized engineers work hard to get the most out of every car part while trying to make the car as fast and stable as possible while staying within the Nascar rule book.  Pit crew members spend most of their week training on-site, practicing pit stops over and over until their actions become muscle memory.

On Wednesday or Thursday (depending on how far away the track is), tractor-trailers known as “haulers” are loaded up with everything the team will need at the track—parts, pieces, food, pit crew equipment, and most importantly of all, two race cars.  One car is typically designated the primary race car—the one they intend to use—while the backup is there in case the primary car is damaged before the race.

Arrival—The haulers have typically been parked inside the track the night before, and the crew and driver have arrived by plane.  Drivers usually stay in the infield in their luxury motor coaches, while the rest of the crew stays at a nearby hotel.  The car is taken out of the hauler and parked in the team’s defined garage stall inside the track.  While the crew puts the finishing touches on the car, the driver may be in the nearest city doing a sponsorship appearance.  Once things are ready, there’s typically a first practice session that allows the team to see how good their car is while making adjustments—this is called “shaking down” the car.

Practice—While preliminary races (like the Xfinity Series) are the main attraction the day before the race, there’s plenty of action going on for the Cup teams as well.  Regardless of the number of practice sessions, the final one is always referred to as “Happy Hour”—while its not necessarily exactly sixty minutes long, its the last chance to make adjustments to the car.  Practice is run by the team’s Crew Chief, who makes most of the race day strategy calls and is akin to a head coach.  Meanwhile, adjustments to the car pre-race are usually under the supervision of the Car Chief, similar to that of a team’s assistant head coach.

Inspection—Race cars are inspected numerous times throughout the race weekend, as the slightly adjustment could knock a car from legal to illegal in the eyes of Nascar.  Originally done by hand using metal templates, inspection is now done in “the room of doom” using lasers.  Drivers and teams are summarily penalized for not passing inspection, with penalties increasing (such as starting from the back of the field or the suspension of the car chief) with each time failed.

Qualifying—Cars typically have two laps to make their fastest speed, with multiple rounds sorting out the slower cars from the fastest.  Starting fields for Cup Series races are currently at 40 cars.  36 of these cars are “chartered race teams”, meaning that as long as they have a car that passes inspection, they start regardless of how slow their times are.  The remaining four starting spots are “open”, meaning they are available to ANYONE with a fast enough race car to make the field.  The fastest driver in the final round starts first in the pole position.  Afterwards the car is impounded by Nascar and no changes can be made before the start of the race.

Race Day Pre-Race—The morning of the race itself teams start final preparations—rolling out the high-tech “war wagon” pit box they operate from on pit road, pit crew members limbering up, preparing extra tires to be put on the car.  The driver typically has a number of media and sponsor commitments—Nascar has always prided itself on its accessibility, and sponsorship dollars allow teams to operate.  A few hours before the race drivers, crew chiefs, and assorted dignitaries are brought in for the drivers’ meeting.  This meeting, usually run by a Nascar official, goes over rules and regulations (sometimes specific to that weekend’s race track) and and late-breaking changes.  Drivers soon leave, typically signing autographs on their way, return to their motor coaches and change into their sponsor-emblazoned fire suits.  Soon afterwards drivers—sometimes with their families—congregate behind a large stage and are introduced, one-by-one, in reverse order of their starting position.  After introductions drivers go to their cars—parked in starting order on pit lane—and go through the final aspects of pre-race ceremonies, the invocation and national anthem.  Upon entering their cars and being buckled in they get the final words of pre-race—“DRIVERS, START YOUR ENGINES!”.

Check back here for Nascar
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The Race—Drivers leave pit road lined up two-wide by qualifying order.  On these pace laps (which do not count towards the race total) drivers follow the pace car at comparatively low speed.  This speed is important to register as it is also the speed cars must travel pit road at, lest they incur a speeding penalty.  Once the pace car turns onto pit road, the green flag waves and the race begins!

Many factors go into running a successful race—obviously the biggest one is to avoid crashing/wrecking or damaging one’s car—but other important aspects include car setup, driver skill, making proper adjustments, and strategy.  Modern races are split into three stages, which adds built-in “stage breaks” under caution while giving drivers the opportunity to earn additional championship points in the two earlier stages.  Regardless of stages, cars can    

only go so far on gasoline (almost always referred to as fuel), and on some rougher tracks, tire wear is an even bigger issue.  Drivers can make pit stops either under caution laps (when cars are going slower due to danger on the track) or green flag laps, but either way speed is of the essence.  Pit stops can be done as fast as twelve seconds, changing four tires and filling up on fuel in a flash.  In the event that a car is damaged on-track a longer pit stop might be needed for repairs, but if a pit stop goes longer than five minutes, the car is automatically retired from the race.  Cars can also be retired—referred to as a “DNF (Did Not Finish)” for serious crashes that cannot be fixed, parts failures such as engine trouble (aka “a blown engine”), or any number of broken moving parts on the car.

After the Race—When the checkered flag waves the race is over.  The winning driver will usually do a burnout on the track (also known as “doing donuts”) and will be interviewed by the television and radio networks.  After that the winning car goes to victory lane for a more-formal celebration with the team’s pit crew, engineers, sponsors, and select family members.

Drivers who didn’t win pull onto pit road and exit their cars.  High-finishing drivers may be asked to do interviews, while disappointed drivers may seek to “have a word” with other drivers they had issues with that day.  The best-finishing drivers will also do a post-race press conference to answer questions from the news, sports, and local media.

Nascar television broadcasts often go off the air by showing “Unofficial Results”—this is because cars must pass inspection one final time for their finishing positions to be made official.  Upon final inspection cars may be penalized (typically disqualified and moved to last place) or, if no cars are found to be in violation, an “all clear” is given.

That night pit crew members and the driver fly home to North Carolina, while the haulers are loaded up for the drive back to the shops.  While Mondays are typically an off-day, Tuesdays will see teams hold debriefings on the race and begin to take apart the race car (“tear down”), removing worn or disposable parts while keeping reusable ones.

And soon, the process begins again for the following race.

2020 Donruss Panini Nascar Cards Unboxing PACK 13

Continuing a tradition of limited esteem, Spade Racing bought, unboxed, and unpacked a sealed box of 2020 Donruss (Panini) Nascar trading cards.  Join us as we go through each eight-card pack to find the good, the bad, and the downright weird.

PACK 13—Race Kings, Throwback Things and Blurry Zings
Two—count ‘em—two Race Kings in this pack.  This is also as good a time as any to mention that the main parallel set in this series (like the Matt DiBenedetto and Denny Hamlin cards at the bottom) are 1987 Donruss baseball throwbacks.  Donruss does this every year and its a nice touch, though I don’t understand if the Bobby Labonte card above is a parallel parallel or a printing error.

FIRST THING’S FIRST: Dale Jr.’s “distressed”-style hat looks positively grungy in the portrait-style presentation here, not to mention that his firesuit looks like it has been crumpled up in a ball somewhere for months.

SECOND LOOK: Austin Cindric’s card must’ve saved them some money on ink considering how incredibly white his firesuit is.

TO THE BACK: My apologies for not getting a good picture of the back of this Rusty Wallace card.  He mentions how he likes to talk to fans, although I’m guessing he’s not considering those who constantly ask him where his water bottle is.

FINAL SCORE: 5 splitters out of 10

Uncle Max vs. Last Year’s Winners: Kentucky

Hi, Uncle Max here with some helpful hints for anyone trying to have a summer barbecue in the time of Social Distancing:

—The bigger the porch, the better the head count.

—Turn the area under the deck into a makeshift “kids area” for more room.

—Skip the appetizers—they’ll lead to communal eating!  Entrees only, buddy.

—Ask people to RSVP with how they want their burgers cooked.  Saves time and contact, AND you can weed out anyone who wants it well done.

—BYOM—Bring Your Own Mask (or macaroni salad).

—No kegs, pony or otherwise.  Get some six-packs and tell anyone who demands a cup to leave.

—Take their temperature when they arrive, and their BAL when they leave—don’t drink and drive!

Thursday Night XFINITY SERIES Shady Rays 200 (2 wins) Harrison Burton—the young young one starts it…

Friday Night XFINITY SERIES Alsco 300 (2 wins) Brandon Jones—…and the old young one finishes it for JGR.

Saturday Evening TRUCK SERIES Buckle Up 225 (1 win) Brett Moffitt—please Brett, help me FINALLY get out of single-win territory here.

Sunday CUP SERIES Quaker State 400.  LAST YEAR’S WINNER (4 wins) Kurt Busch.  FAVORITE: (2 win) Kevin Harvick—seems like its always Harvick….  NEXT FAVORITE: (1 win) Denny Hamlin—…or Hamlin this year.  DARK HORSE: (0 wins) Clint Bowyer—is it possible to have a party in victory lane six feet apart from each other?

2020 Donruss Panini Nascar Cards Unboxing PACK 12

Continuing a tradition of limited esteem, Spade Racing bought, unboxed, and unpacked a sealed box of 2020 Donruss (Panini) Nascar trading cards.  Join us as we go through each eight-card pack to find the good, the bad, and the downright weird.

PACK 12—Bobby, Kasey, Denny, and, uh, “New Age”
A great selection of drivers muddled a bit by some odd choices.  What exactly makes Ross Chastain “New Age”—isn’t his whole thing that he’s just an old-school guy?  Why choose a picture of Kasey Kahne promoting a long-gone soda flavor?  And with the outline on Chase Elliott’s Optic card, is he subsuming into the fourth dimension?

FIRST THING’S FIRST: Bobby Allison’s High Life look is always a classic one.  Kind of funny to see him with conflicting sponsors (Miller and Busch) though.

SECOND LOOK: Again, I don’t know what makes a watermelon farmer “New Age”…or Premium for that matter.

TO THE BACK: Let the world know that I, and only I, have the 202nd variant on the red throwback edition of the Donruss 2020 Kasey Kahane card.  Oh, and that he finished fourth in one race.

FINAL SCORE: 8 trophies out of 10

A Race Without Jimmie Johnson—Now and Then

Due to his positive test for COVID-19, Jimmie Johnson will be forced to miss today’s running of the Big Machine Hand Sanitizer 400.  About the only thing more shocking than the race’s name (seriously?  Hand sanitizer?) is that this will be the first Cup race since the 2001 Kroger Supermarkets 300 that will not have Jimmie Johnson behind the wheel of the 48 Chevy.  Here’s how things have changed since the last time Jimmie Johnson missed a race:

NOW: Today’s race is one of the few to NOT be rescheduled due to the Coronavirus outbreak, being held on Fourth of July Weekend in Nascar’s latest attempt to scare away fans from non-ISC or SMI-owned tracks.

THEN: The Kroger 300 was held on “Black Friday” due to its original race weekend being cancelled due to the September 11th attacks.  Miraculously weather was pretty mild for a New England late-November afternoon, meaning that maybe Mother Nature DOES love Nascar, just not in 2020.

Jimmie's spot in the Hall of Fame is basically
guaranteed.  2001 race winner Robby Gordon's
spot in the Hall of Fame will be guaranteed when
he pays for an admission ticket.

NOW: Due to social distancing regulations, no qualifying was held and Joey Logano is on the pole today.  Joey was 11 years old in 2001 and MUCH less insufferable.

THEN: Due to a condensed schedule no qualifying was held and points leader Jeff Gordon was on the pole.  Jeff had already clinched the championship, but it would take a Roush Racing driver stinking up the show for Nascar to finally abandon its “consistency wins” points system.

NOW: Believe it or not the Playoffs are fast approaching, and Indy’s unique layout gives the opportunity for an upset win on the winding road co—WAIT, WAIT, no, that was Xfinity.  Expect three hours of follow-the-leader and either a JGR driver or Kevin Harvick to win.

THEN: The race was won by Robby Gordon after tangling with Jeff Gordon, who was penalized for retaliating against Robby under caution.  Today Robby concerns himself with his various business interests (including his Stadium Super Truck Series) while Jeff concerns himself with being dull on Nascar broadcasts.

NOW: As stated above, Kevin Harvick is a favorite to win today, while Matt Kenseth would need a win in order to have any chance to make the Playoffs.  Unless, that is, some other driver makes a complete idiot of himself online and he slides over into THAT driver’s ride.

THEN: Kevin Harvick and Matt Kenseth are the only two drivers from the 2001 Kroger 300 still active in Cup racing full-time.  My sincere apologies if that makes you feel old.

NOW: This race will be broadcast on NBC (their first race of the year) with two drivers who were active in that 2001 race, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jeff Burton, in the booth.

THEN: The 2001 New Hampshire race was the last of the first season of coverage by NBC.  Bizarrely, Wally Dallenbach Jr. is the only one still active in sports media, with a lengthy career as an outdoorsman.  Seriously.

NOW: Jimmie Johnson is currently on a lengthy winless streak, stretching all the way back to the middle of the 2017 season.

THEN: Jimmie Johnson was on an even LONGER winless streak after just three Cup Series starts, stretching all the way back to infinity.

NOW: Justin Allgaier will be running the 48 Ally Chevy for Hendrick Motorsports in place of Jimmie Johnson.

THEN: Justin Allgaier was fifteen in 2001, and the biggest substitute drivers at New Hampshire were brothers Kenny Wallace (in the DEI #1) and Mike Wallace (in the Penske Racing #12).  Ironically Mike Wallace made a comeback just yesterday in the Xfinity Series race, proving that everything comes full-circle, even if those funny Geico ads still haven’t been re-run.

Uncle Max vs. Last Year’s Winners: Indianapolis

I’ve enjoyed my nephew’s “Nascar for Newbies” series—I’m still relatively new to the sport and I’ve learned a bit about the history.  Here’s hoping he discusses why they just can’t race in the rain.

Seriously—there’s no other sports going on right now (never got into soccer for reasons too losing-my-high-school-girlfriend to get into) so I’ve really thrown myself into Nascar with gusto these past few months.  But it seems like every time I tune in, there’s rain, lightning, or a threat of one of them.  Oh well—at least with Darrell Waltrip no longer announcing we don’t have to hear about the “Vortex Theory” much anymore.

TRUCK SERIES  (1 win)—off

Saturday XFINITY SERIES Pennzoil 150 (2 wins) Austin Cindric—Penske driver wins at a Penske track sponsored by a Penske sponsor.

Sunday CUP SERIES Big Machine Hand Sanitizer 400.  LAST YEAR’S WINNER (3 wins) Kevin Harvick  FAVORITE: (2 win) Denny Hamlin—hard to jump off this bandwagon.  NEXT FAVORITE: (1 win) Kyle Busch—the Candy Man can…get back on track at Indy.  DARK HORSE: (0 wins) Bubba Wallace—had a strong run last year, even though this year people would whine about a fix.

Nascar for Newbies Part 3--The Cup Series and Beyond (The Nascar Pyramid)

Hello, and welcome to the wonderful world of Nascar!  If you’re a new fan of stock car racing, this is the place for you!  In this ten-part series we’ll take a look at what you should and could know about America’s #1 auto racing organization.  Let’s get started! 

3. THE CUP SERIES AND BEYOND—Nascar from top to bottom

Similar to baseball, Nascar has a pyramid or “ladder system” of series and divisions.  Here’s a quick rundown:

a.) Nascar Cup Series—this is the highest level of Nascar—and, by extension, stock car—racing in the world.  Here cars are the fastest, money is the biggest, and the spotlight is the brightest.  There’s a good chance that if you’re hearing about Nascar, what you’re hearing about is the Cup Series.

Red--Standard "Ladder" Series  Gray--Independent of the Ladder

b.) Nascar Xfinity Series—Nascar Cup’s support series.  Cars here are very similar to their Cup counterparts, albeit with slightly less-powerful engines.  Comparable to Triple-A baseball or AHL hockey, this series has a combination of future Cup stars, former Cup drivers rebuilding their careers, and journeyman drivers.  Most of the most-successful teams in the Xfinity Series are either owned by Cup teams or are directly affiliated with them.  However, several smaller teams compete in this series attracted by its lower operating costs.  Races are typically held the day before Cup races.

c.) Nascar Camping World Truck Series—frequently referred to simply as “The Truck Series”.  This series—slotted below the Xfinity Series—uses race car engines in pickup truck bodies.  While similar to the Xfinity Series in terms of driver makeup, most of the Truck Series teams are either loosely affiliated or completely independent of Cup Series teams.  Drivers will often start their national touring series careers in the Truck Series, or will finish out their careers there lured by its shorter schedule and lower costs.  While some races are held in conjunction with Cup and/or Xfinity races, several are held as stand-alone events.

d.) ARCA Division—three interlocking series make up this division, first introduced in 2020.  The formerly independent ARCA Series races on a wide variety of tracks, from short tracks to dirt tracks to super speedways.  To use a baseball analogy the ARCA Menards Series would be like “A-Advanced”, while the regional East and West Series would be like “Single A”.  The slightly-higher-ranked ARCA Series has historically been a home for so-called “hobby racers”—drivers who race more as a pastime than a profession.  Meanwhile, the East and West Series are typically the first true series (as opposed to single tracks) young drivers run at.  All three feature drivers graduating to the Truck Series as a goal.

x.i.) Nascar Whelen Modified Tour—more or less off on its own is the Modified Series, a regional touring series with its roots in the Northeast United States.  Driving heavily-modified stock cars (hence the name), the series is actually the oldest one sanctioned by Nascar, beating out the Cup Series by a single year.  Although some drivers have gone from racing Modifieds to the Cup Series, the tour is relatively self-contained with many drivers spending their whole careers there.

e.) Nascar Advance Auto Parts Weekly Series—better known as “Nascar Home Tracks”, “Nascar Roots”, or simply “The Weekly Series”, this is an umbrella organization for dozens of small, locally-known race tracks across the United States which host racing throughout the year.  Less a series than a division, a points formula based on competition level and performance determines a national champion.  Drivers typically make their stock car debuts here, moving up from go-kart racing.  While peppered with young racers looking to eventually make it to Cup, plenty of drivers compete for decades at their local tracks.

x.ii.) International Series—in the past few decades Nascar has tried to expand its brand globally, not only through international TV deals but also by sanctioning series in other countries.  Currently three exist: Canada’s Nascar Pinty’s Series, the PEAK Mexico Series, and Nascar Whelen Euro Series.  While all three have produced certain drivers who have advanced through the Nascar ladder (most-notably Cup driver Daniel Suarez), most series have been insular to their own regions so far.

f.) Online Racing—Nascar has started to sanction a number of series based around simulation and video games.  The most-visible of these is the eNascar Coca-Cola iRacing Series, based on the popular iRacing simulation platform.  Several current Cup drivers have used iRacing as a way to prepare for real racing while others such as Ty Majeski have used iRacing to propel their careers into actual cars and trucks.