Tuesday, March 06, 2007

A Tale of Two Races

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times", actually it was pretty good time and unlike Dickens masterpiece the events take place in Southern California not France. Oh yea, there is no war either, just some good clean racing...actually the NASCAR event was quite dirty, but more on that later.

I grew up around race cars and to think there was any other racing that compared to motorsports seemed preposterous. However, as I stopped racing cars and started on my new life of fitness several years ago, the sound of 1000 horse power motors was replaced with the raw power of the human body. I still enjoy motorsports, but they do not have the same effect on me as they did years ago. Several weeks ago I took a few days off from a business trip and visited an old racing buddy who has also started to dabble in triathlons and running events. We spent Saturday at stage 6 of the Tour of California and Sunday at the AutoClub 500 NASCAR Race. I was interested to see which style of racing had more of an impact on me.

The Tour of California was amazing. I have never seen a pro cycling race before and I was impressed with the cyclist. It was beautiful, yet gritty. The stage started in Santa Barbara and made its way to Santa Clarita where they did three laps around the city. The breakaway pack and a 4 minute lead heading into the first lap, but the pelaton erased that lead and caught the pack 1 mile before the finish. The race came down to a sprint with JJ Haedo from CSC taking the stage victory. The sprint finish was spectacular. The cyclist were throwing their bikes side to side as they hammered at 30+ mph to the finish line. Levi Leipheimer from Discovery was the GC winner of the tour.

On Sunday we packed are bags and traveled to California Speedway in Fontana. The 90,000 spectators at the NASCAR race was definitely a bit more than the 8,000 or so that showed up for stage 6 of the cycling race. Getting to the race track is half the battle. The other half is getting to your seat. We missed the drop of the green flag, but we were in our seats by lap 20. I am still impressed with NASCAR and how close these cars race to each other. However, after about 120 laps I had had my need for speed and was ready to beat the crowd home. California Speedway is also not the most exciting track to watch. The small bank oval does not provide the same excitement as a high banked speedway or short track.

Besides the obvious difference between the two sports (human powered vs. machine powered) the spectators are an amazing contrast. Most of the cycling fans are cyclist them self or somewhat fitness minded. You may see an occasional team jersey or hat, but that is about it. NASCAR fans on the other hand live and breathe their favorite driver. The Christian religion could take some lessons from NASCAR as the drivers are worshipped beyond any religious figure. Yes, I truly believe the number 8 (Dale Earnhardt Jr) will become more iconic than the Star of David, The Cross, Buddha, etc.


Waiting for the lead pack to arrive...wait, who butt jumped in front of my camera.

Breakaway group hammering to stay in front of the pelaton.


Pelaton with eventual tour winner Levi Leipheimer.


Sprint finish!!!


Big George Hincappie of Discover - post stage finish.


World Champion Paolo Bettini - post stage finish


Enjoying a victory salute with my crutches.


NASCAR at California Speedway!


Can you feel the thunder!!!
180 mph on the front straightaway
There is much drinking to be done at NASCAR


Dead soldier...put up a good fight, but in the end my thirst won!

You have to love NASCAR fans...this dude stood up every time Matt Kenseth drove by...literally 250 times!!!















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