Start your engines

NASCAR

What a weekend; annoyingly much of the racing at California Speedway for the NASCAR races was disrupted by the rain but this turned out to be much more entertaining than I could have imagined. Of course, the words ‘rain’ and ‘California’ are rarely mentioned in the same sentence but we were plagued by Scottish drizzle throughout the weekend. The cars have absolutely no equipment to race in the wet and even when they are being pushed around the paddock they are all adorned with ponchos like their American owners.

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Once the so-called “storm” had passed five pick-ups took to the track with jet engines strapped to the back – these then went round and round throwing money and carbon dioxide at the situation to try and dry the thing. This turned out to be just too green so they sent out all the ambulances and support vehicles as well. These then did nigh on 100 laps to dry the lower part of the oval.

Something that really sets NASCAR apart from many other types of racing is the enthusiasm of the crowd. The atmosphere (even in the wet) was electrifying and I couldn’t help but cheer when they announced over the loud speaker “Laaaddddies and Gentleeemmmmen, staaaaaaart your engines…” This of course was after the prayer and the national anthem.

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There is something epically gladiatorial about a NASCAR race – the oval reverberates with the sound of the cheering crowd and the amazingly noisy V8s. One colleague likened the noise they make to “Godzilla chewing concrete,” he wasn’t far off.

Because of the delays we actually watched the Nationwide series race, the Stater Bros 300, in the departure lounge at LAX. Even after being there the day before and having seen the drivers and cars close-up the racing was, I’m sad to say, a little dull. It is remarkable how something that looks so mundane on TV can be quite so exhilarating when you are actually there, even if it was rainy and cold for much of the weekend…

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Los Angeles is a bizarre mix of glamour and grot. Universal Studios was certainly eye opening and seeing sets, like that off War of the Worlds (below), was amazing. Even if the LA that everyone talks about only constitutes a small area – it is a truly fascinating place. Especially over a NASCAR and Oscars weekend.

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If you want to know what the fans think of Toyota’s entry into the top echelons of American racing – read all about it in the May issue of Motor Sport. For now I need to type up all the interviews and shift through the mountain of photos. I can’t wait.

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