(Last) Weekly Roundup: The Midwestern Kids Are Alright Edition

“I can’t do it.” Earlier in the morning I’d seen this boy clear a ten-foot double jump, arrogantly hanging the back wheel out motorcross style, without breaking a sweat. He would go on to win his race that day by more than ten yards, bunnyhopping the finish line in a display of exuberance mixed with outstanding fitness even in the ninety-degree heat. But now he was trembling as he clutched the flagpole. “I’ll drop it. I can’t do it one-handed. The flag,” he whispered, “could touch the ground.

His mother, standing by the ground next to the tabletop jump on which her son was vibrating with fear and concern, pointed her finger up towards his face. Her tank top fell away from her shoulder and I could see the faded Technicolor of a half-dozen different philosophies in tattooing. One of them was a man’s name in cigarette-ink blue, followed by “USMC”.

“You,” she snapped, “can absolutely do it and I don’t wanna hear no excuses neither.”

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(Last) Weekly Roundup: It’s Just Another Manic Mustang Edition

Sometimes you make your own problems. I didn’t make the right call for rear tire pressure before the start of this race, so for the first three or four laps the back end of the car was on rollerskates until I got enough heat for them to stick. As a consequence, it took me a few laps and a couple of close calls, shown above, to make it to the front of my starting group. If you like V-shaped Honda engines, you’ll want to crank up the sound.

In the end, it didn’t matter. I was the overall Honda Challenge winner, setting a new lap record of 1:39.137 for Mid-Ohio’s Club Course in the process. I caught all but four of the cars in the start groups ahead of me, moving up 23 spots to finish fifth overall. Of the thirteen laps I drove in the race, seven were good enough for fast lap of the race and my last lap was record-setter. I now lead the Honda Challenge standings with 5 wins in 5 starts.

None of this could have happened without help. I had a four-person crew this weekend: Josh and Reese took time out from their own driving and classroom schedules to do everything from loading the trailer to fixing an electrical problem that was causing Spike The Accord to cut out on right-hand turns. The infamous Danger Girl set a 1:50.26 in her stock 2014 MX5 Club around the Pro layout on Saturday and a 1:51.84 around Club on Sunday but she also handled all the logistics, meals, and grown-up decisions along the way. Last but not least, my son pitched in on Sunday to do things like return transponders, carry tools, and encourage his dad to set yet another track record in America’s last muscle car. He wouldn’t want me to tell you, but he set a track record of his own last week, running a 41.602 at GPK in Columbus and beating the next-fastest junior driver by a scarcely credible 2.9 seconds. This weekend he met our regional director, who explained to him that with a sufficient karting resume he could be replacing me in the Accord in April of 2022, when he turns 13.

We will have to ballast the car.

If you’ve enjoyed my Harkonnen-fist domination of Honda Challenge racing this year, why not help me pay for it by reading the stories I wrote last week?

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Weekly Roundup: Confessions Of A Yakuza Edition

It is widely acknowledged that creativity and inventiveness wane greatly in the face of youth. Einstein made his breakthroughs before thirty then famously stated that a scientist who had not made a great contribution before thirty would never do so. Writers tend to lose steam as they leave middle age, if not before. Then, of course, you have musicians, who often do their best work before they turn twenty-one and whose later efforts are often shambolic at best.

No surprise, however, that Bob Dylan is the exception to that rule. Love And Theft, recorded after his fifty-ninth birthday and slightly overlooked on its release date of September 11, 2001, stands easily among his most famous work. Most of the songs are musically simple, but that’s always been the case for the man who was born as Robert Zimmerman but whose reinvention as “Bob Dylan” was but the first of many such transformations. With Love And Theft it’s the odd rhythms of the storytelling, the wild swings between sentimentality and hard-nosed realism, the sly way in which the lyrics work their way into your ear.

Not all of the lyrics are his.

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(Last) Weekly Roundup: Putting The Hog In Hogwarts Edition

After more than a decade of driving other people’s race cars, I’ve learned that it’s important to have The Talk as early as possible in the negotiation process. I’m not referring to “the talk” that black parents are supposed to have with their children about the police, or Derbyshire’s “the talk” that white parents are supposed to have with their children; I think both of those “talks” verge on the ridiculous. Rather, I’m referring to “the talk” about whether or not I’m going to fit in their race car.

Sometimes, as with the vast majority of GT4 racers and other customer cars, it’s not an issue. Other times, as with the majority of vintage open-wheel racers, it’s a complete impossibility. For the ones in the middle, such as the McLaren MP4-GT3 or a Caterham 300.R, it’s a matter of making it work. My fitment issues usually center around my exceptionally long torso and wider-than-normal shoulders — but there are also times that I’m just too fucking fat to fit into the seat.

Being too fat to fit into a race car does not make me a victim. It’s a reflection of my choices. Being too tall to fit into a race car does not make me a victim. It’s a natural consequence of being six-foot-two with short legs. There are writers out there, such as Chris Harris or Sam Smith or my own brother, who are literally a better fit for those opportunities. I don’t feel victimized by that. In fact, I can’t remember the last time I felt victimized by anything.

Apparently, I’m really missing out.

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(Last) Weekly Roundup: The First Loser Edition

At some point in every race weekend with my son, whether it’s BMX or karting, I always have this horrible, cut-crystal moment of clarity that says: you don’t have to do this. You can go home and sign up for something reasonable, like basketball.. This past Sunday, that moment came to me when I realized that I’d taken a simple complaint — my son had not been paying attention on the gate in his first moto, causing him to start with the wrong pedal forward and take a last-place finish — then extended it all the way into the kind of business/career/life metaphor with which my father used to browbeat me. “You know,” I snapped at John, “if you’re just going to screw around and be lazy out there… at what point does it stop? Why bother to race? What do you think is going to happen when you turn Expert? Do you even think you’re going to get to Expert with this attitude? WHAT WERE YOU THINKING ABOUT UP THERE THAT WAS MORE IMPORTANT THAN SETTING THE CORRECT PEDAL FORWARD? This is how losers behave! DO YOU WANT TO PACK THE TRUCK AND GO HOME?”

“Maybe I am a loser,” he replied, giving me a flat-eyed murderous look that made me momentarily glad I was still two hundred pounds heavier than him, “but I want to race.” Which, of course, made me feel like garbage. Because of course he was going to have his head in the clouds. It was his first-ever outdoor race, a 76-moto, 400-rider carnival of an event featuring a sea of pop-up tents and a constant crowd-noise level of approximately 100 decibels. On the way up to practice, we’d seen an authentic four-way fist-fight between BMX dads, which was eventually broken up via the interaction of three more BMX dads. Six of the seven were bald, goateed 300-pounders; one still had a half-circle of roid-head hair. When Dad 6 took Dad 3 to the ground with a running forearm slam, the resulting impact caused the adjoining pop-up tent to half-collapse. Most of these guys looked like they could shake off being shot in the head with a .44 Magnum, the same way the Cape Buffalo can be remarkably resistant to even major-caliber skull hits.

It’s a great sport, if you fancy the intersection of white trash, random violence, forty-five-second interval training, off-the-charts stress, and the occasional bout of paralysis. My son cannot get enough of it. Earlier in the day, he had told me, “I feel like we don’t race as often as we could,” which is as close as he will come to demanding any change in my self-centered, SCCA-and-NASA-and-sprint-car-and-God-knows-what-else scheduling. I’d taken the hint and mentally scrubbed one of my SCCA races off the calendar in favor of the Toledo BMX Nationals. He wants to race.

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Weekly Roundup: Understeer At The Limit Edition

When is a $117,000 Lotus three seconds a lap slower around Mid-Ohio than a Honda Accord? When the Accord is a caged race car on Toyo Proxes RR slicks and the Lotus is in street trim on Michelin Pilot Sports, naturally.

The above video is from the twilight session that ended my cross-country, two-track Evora torture test. It was a “torture test” for me, not the Lotus, which had no trouble whatsoever. I’m getting a little old to run two trackdays in a row with eleven hours of freeway driving and four hours of sleep in-between.

As you can see, the Evora UNDERSTEERS AT THE LIMIT a tiny bit. But a more attentive and rested driver would have done a better job of mitigating that. For a comparison video, you can check Ralph Gilles in a Viper ACR on Pirelli World Challenge slicks; he runs 7.8 seconds faster around the same track layout, reaching about 20mph more on the back straight and 10-15mph more between each of the turns. I’m sure Ralph had a good time in his video — I know I had a good time in mine.

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(Last) Weekly Roundup: Blowing By The Bimmers Edition

Sorry for the lack of updates around here. I spent two days last week on a backroads trip with a former R&T colleague and then headed immediately to Mid-Ohio where I had two wins in Honda Challenge and set a new track record. Honestly compels me to admit that I had no proper Honda-powered competition in class; the five cars that challenged me last month at NCM were apparently discouraged by my 27-second margin of victory. Which led to the situation you see here, where I was placed at the back of several different BMW race groups and had to work my way up to some clear air. It was really fun. I have no complaints.

Last week was pretty light in terms of contributions. Here they are…

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Weekly Roundup: Here Are The Snowflakes Of Yesteryear Edition

All the guys
Who really have the money
Are too old
To have a good time with it

My local shop has two ZX-10RR Winter Livery Editions in stock. I’m now of an age where I could easily finance it — three hundred bucks a month would take it home. Another 125 a month to insure it on the months where it actually leaves the house. You could barely buy a Camry SE for that kind of money.

Alas, it’s painful for me to just sit on the bike in the dealership. The idea of a hundred-mile ride, or even a ten-mile commute? It doesn’t bear thinking about. The ZX-10RR is more uncomfortable than my BMX bikes, and by a long shot. Plus I have my ZX-14R which is faster, at least in a straight line.

Still. These things are cool. Or maybe they’re not cool to anybody who can actually ride one. Maybe those kids would rather take an Uber to a Tinder date than ride a ZX-10RR up a canyon road. Best not to think too much about it.

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(Last) Weekly Roundup: The Art Of Reigning In The Race Edition

Eleven days before this past weekend’s NASA double regional race and driver-training weekend at NCM, Danger Girl decided she wanted to drive her street Miata, “Ava”, (as opposed to her racing Miata, “Marilyn”) at the event. What I probably should have done: agreed to just go down there with her, hang out, and support her effort. What I actually did was to register Spike in the race the following day.

What followed was a frenetic week of getting the car and myself NASA-legal. Have you ever tried to get a racing physical, complete with EKG, on a few hours’ notice? I didn’t get my tires delivered until 5:45PM on Friday night. While I was waiting for the tires, I had to install new belts because the old ones had “expired” a month ago. The only safety belts available in town? The Racequip children’s set. There was so little slack left over from the install, I had to beg the tech inspector not to fail me an hour before the race. Plus. I knew that if I hit anything I would probably, uh, regret it.

I shouldn’t have worried.

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Weekly Roundup: Own Goals Edition

Diversity is, truly, our strength. When I look at the Opinion page of the Huffington Post, I see a veritable Benetton advertisement’s worth of diverse people writing diverse articles with the following diverse titles:

  • Blessed Are The Religious Right, For Theirs Is The Presidency Of Trump
  • Why The Politics Of Hate Will NEVER Win (with photo of Trump)
  • Trump – ‘The Grand Experiment’ (Video) (Poetry & Politics)
  • I Persuaded My Parents To Dump Trump… I Think
  • Hillary Clinton — Why I Trust Her
  • The Moment This Republican Decided To Vote For Hillary

That accounts for half the front page; there are also three pieces that mention “luxury travel”. I can’t say that any of these articles were particularly engaging or well-written, but they were very much on-message, which is more important. Is this really the future of journalism? Diversity quotas for how somebody looks or “identifies”, while all of the content hews the same strident line?

Here at Riverside Green, we’ve published black people, white people, Jewish people, Asian people (what an odd catch-all for what is essentially two-thirds of the world population!), men, women, trans people, and teenagers. Never have we published anyone to meet a quota. We try to maintain a broad acquaintance of potential writers, both ideologically and DIVERSITY-wise. There are going to be months where you read this site and it’s all pretty much “white” men — meaning people who trace their ancestry to cultures as diverse as Eastern Europe, South Africa, and South America. Sorry about that. I suppose I should do more to embrace the bright future. I have a dream that my son will one day live in a nation where he will be judged not by the quality of his writing, but by his ability to fit into an approved victim-status group.

Alright, let’s see what your local chapter of the Literary KKK got up to this week.

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