Race Day Reports

The gaming group, which used to center around Pirates with an occasional foray into outer space, has unaccountably gone Race Day-happy. To keep the racing reports from overwhelming my Pirates site, I'm keeping the racing stuff in one file, easy to find, and separate from the other reports that are about actual battles. I'm using actual NASCAR scoring to track the results.

Oct 12, 2009 — Warm-Up Laps
Oct 21, 2009 — The Contest Begins
Nov 10, 2009 — Five for Five
Nov 24, 2009 — A Date With Daytona
Jan 12, 2010 — Tri the Oval
May 15, 2012 — Triangle, Interrupted

Oct 12, 2009 — Warm-Up Laps

As though sinking the enemy with Pirates, blasting him with Rocketmen, and outfighting him in Star Wars weren't enough to sate my competitive spirit, now I'm trying to outrun him in WizKids' other constructable game, Race Day. To get a feel for the game, I ran a solitaire race of six drivers on the Pocono Raceway track. Out of my collection of ten drivers, I picked six whose cars didn't resemble each other too much, to help me keep the solo action straight. I deliberately omitted Rusty Wallace and Dale Earnhardt Sr., whose stats are so much better than the other cars that I didn't think it would be fair.

The six drivers, in order of pole position, were:

  1. #20, Tony Stewart
  2. #41, Reed Sorenson
  3. #29, Kevin Harvick
  4. #01, Joe Nemechek
  5. #24, Jeff Gordon
  6. #42, Casey Mears
The first thing I noticed about the Pocono raceway is that the northwest corner has one space that occupies the full width of the track. This could be a really nasty place to get boxed in... or a great place to block the competition. The dice and resource cards were ready, the green flag waved, and away they went!

Stewart shot off to a huge lead; Nemechek stood on his accelerator and got into drafting position on him. Sorenson and Harvick formed another drafting pair further back, and Mears rode Gordon's tail in the rear. Gordon took a bump in his left quarter panel, but stayed in control through the first turn.

Harvick took the corner low and shot into second place, narrowly avoiding engine damage as he pulled up behind Stewart (and almost tail-ended him). Nemechek floored it and pulled into the lead as they rounded the #3 turn. Gordon closed the gap and got into that blocking space on the #2 turn, with Mears drafting him all the way. But Casey cut it too close and bumped his left front fender.

Reed Sorenson's luck ran out on that #2 turn. His path was completely blocked by two cars, and even though he decelerated as best he could, he had to take wild action to avoid hitting Casey Mears. He took major damage to his body and tires in the process and was forced to slow way down. Harvick went high into the #3 turn, navigating the marbles without difficulty (but giving Nemechek a bump on the way by). Nemechek cut inside Stewart, who was unable to maintain his initial advantage, and surged into the lead as he finished his first lap. Gordon got onto Stewart's tail, with Mears still right behind him.

As the pack crossed the line for the first lap, Harvick took a bump as he tried to slip inside Nemechek. The 01 car stayed in the lead, with Gordon accelerating up the straightaway into second place and Mears right behind him. Stewart was in a bad position, but he found a hole in the crowd and shot ahead, followed by Harvick at some distance. Nemechek rode too hard and took some engine damage as he began drafting Stewart. Mears finally pulled out and tried to pass Gordon on the #1 turn, but got tangled up with Harvick and both took body damage.

Stewart got a good jump off the #2 turn, but overtook the limping Sorenson a little too quickly and banged his front fender. Nemechek stayed close behind him, content to draft for the moment. Sorenson made it to the pits, but he could content himself with knowing he wouldn't be alone there for long. Harvick was streaking out of the #1 turn at full speed, only to find the 24 and 42 cars blocking him out. Instantly, #29 was a smoking, battered wreck with maximum damage in all areas; the other two cars were lucky to not get hit. Gordon put on a huge burst of speed and caught up to the two leaders, again with Mears right behind him.

As the third lap began, it was Stewart, Nemechek, Gordon, and Mears in a tight row, with Sorenson in the pits and Harvick headed that way. Nemechek got into the lead again, with Gordon beside him and the ever-present Mears, who was having a field day drafting, close behind. This threesome almost had Stewart boxed in, but he turned the tables by slipping underneath Gordon and blocking the #2 turn. Nemechek sustained major body damage avoiding a collision with Stewart, which forced Gordon into the infield, where his car got so banged up that he was forced out of the race. Mears paid the price for following Gordon so closely; he suffered the same fate as #24, and the race was down to four cars, two of them (Harvick and Nemechek) badly banged up. Sorenson's pit crew did three turns' worth of repairs in only two turns, and the 41 car finally exited the pits as Harvick, who was moving fast for such a wreck, pulled in.

Sorenson, trying hard to get back into the race, pushed too hard and bounced off the battered 01 car; fortunately for Nemecheck, this didn't hurt him any worse than he already was. Stewart had a commanding lead over the remaining cars, so he kept on at cruising speed. Sorenson was standing on it all the way and was closing the gap, but was still a lap out. Harvick, still battered and smoking a bit, pulled out of pit road and narrowly missed tail-ending Sorenson, which would have undone the body repairs his pit crew had just sweated bullets over. His place in the pit road was taken by Nemechek, who had to make major body repairs if he hoped to stay in the running. His crew wasn't quite as quick as Sorenson's or Harvick's, and he had to spend the full three turns getting patched up.

Stewart made a quick pit stop for tires only; he then shot back into the race, damaging Nemechek's fender as he passed. Harvick tried to block Stewart in the #2 turn, and got only a banged-up fender for his trouble. Nemechek got a huge boost out of the back straightaway, putting him in second place by nearly half a lap. Stewart then made a controversial move, aiming to block the #2 turn against Sorenson and Harvick even though both were a lap back. Both cars were able to sneak under him without incident, though.

Sorenson and Harvick then fell afoul of each other as they finished their fourth laps. The 29 car tried to draft the 41, but misjudged Sorenson's speed and the cars collided. Sorenson received his maximum body damage, while Harvick's engine took its second hit from running too hard, effectively putting both cars out of the running. Stewart took the checkered flag at this time, with Nemechek in second place about 3/4 of a lap behind him.

As the last two cars limped around the track toward the pits, Harvick inadvertently bumped Sorenson again and shredded one of Sorenson's tires. He then blocked the #2 turn, causing Reed to lose control and wreck his already badly damaged car. This meant the 29 car was the only machine that could still finish the race. Harvick didn't bother with the pits after that, but limped two more laps across the line for third place.

The accident caused some bad blood between him and Sorenson. Neither of them said or did anything after the race that would draw penalties from NASCAR, but Sorenson got close. The #41 driver was also upset at Stewart for the earlier near-collision in the #2 turn, and the only reason Stewart didn't catch a blast was that Sorenson was madder at Harvick. Gordon and Mears both shrugged off the collision that put them out of the race; "That stuff happens sometimes," was Gordon's final answer.

The final results were:

  1. #20, Tony Stewart, 1st place
  2. #01, Joe Nemechek, 2nd place
  3. #29, Kevin Harvick, 3rd place
  4. #41, Reed Sorenson, out in the 4th lap
  5. #24, Jeff Gordon, out in the 3rd lap
  6. #42, Casey Mears, out in the 3rd lap
Stewart won by taking advantage of his speed bonus when cruising, and by staying out of trouble. All five of the others had to take extended pit stops to repair their damage, and half the field never finished. Nemechek got second place through sheer tenacity, while Harvick got third by virtue of being the best survivor at playing bumper-cars.

The entire race, including set-up, teardown, and multiple pit stops for the solo gamer (including the time spent writing this report), took about two hours. I think my gaming group would enjoy this game.

This report filed on October 12, 2009,
by Motorhead Mike.

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Oct 21, 2009 — The Contest Begins

Our group of erstwhile pirates and space captains were ready for a new challenge, and Cadet-Captain Mike, aka Captain Redshirt, aka Darth Sillious, turned in his cannons and lasers for the paperwork of a racing promoter named Motorhead Mike. It was Race Day! Our first course was the Oval Super Speedway, five laps around the track. No one had cars except the Motorhead, but he was happy to share. In fact, he was so happy to share that he wound up choosing his cars last of all. This put him at the #1 pole position, so it wasn't all bad.

Each player represented a racing team with two cars. One car would run the race; if that car were to become wrecked, the second car could start, but all accumulated laps would be lost. This was mostly to keep all the racers in the game until the end. Our record-keeping was not up to modern standards: we tracked laps with tick marks on paper, and we used Pirates of the Cursed Seas treasure coins (that's all I could find) to keep track of tire damage.

The field for today, in starting order, consisted of:

TeamStarting DriverBackup Driver
Motorhead Mike Racing Team#24, Jeff Gordon#77, Travis Kvapil
Zach Pack Racing#12, Ryan Newman#41, Reed Sorenson
Rocket Richard Racing#29, Kevin Harvick#42, Casey Mears
Jake Brake Motor Sports#2, Rusty Wallace#97, Kurt Busch
Fast Paul Enterprises#20, Tony Stewart#5, Kyle Busch
Aimee Automotive#9, Kasey Kahne#9, Kasey Kahne
Team Anthony#01, Joe Nemechek#3, Dale Earnhardt

When the starting flag waved, Kevin Harvick (Richard's driver) shot out to a big lead, drafted by three others right behind him. This caused some bumping damage very early on in the race. This made the drivers nervous; as a direct result, many of the drivers went out of their way to avoid any chance of bumping for most of the race, even if it took them high into the turns and reduced their overall speed around the course. This meant there wasn't much bumping, but there wasn't much drafting, either.

Another trend that quickly became apparent was that Team Anthony had terrible luck with movement rolls. It didn't help that he'd picked the best car and driver in the game, Dale Earnhardt, and then used him as his backup while Joe Nemechek carried the flag for his team. Maybe he expected his first car to wreck quickly; no one knows. Nemechek was soon far behind the others, and the winner would actually lap him before the race was over.

Harvick easily led the pack at the end of the first lap. Paul's driver, Tony Stewart, took an early pit stop to fix one bad tire, a questionable decision that ultimately didn't cost him much time. Rusty Wallace, Jake's driver, soon accumulated engine damage that stuck him in the pits for three whole turns. This was the main factor in his disappointing finish. The lead changed hands several times during the second lap, and Jeff Gordon (lead driver for the Motorhead) wound up winning that lap by a small margin.

On the third lap, Gordon tried to pass Kasey Kahne (Aimee's driver) on the #1 turn, and they got tangled up. Gordon's car began to spin, as Fast Paul cheered and hoped it would get worse. But Gordon controlled it and stayed in the race, although he pitted as soon as he could, in order to repair massive tire damage. Other drivers were also making pit stops to repair damage of various kinds. At one point, four out of the seven drivers were in the pits at once. Paul's driver, Tony Stewart, held off pitting as long as possible, and won the third lap.

From that point on, it was Harvick's race; Richard's driver actually lapped Joe Nemechek, whose move-roll luck remained horrible until near the end. Anthony's driver was having such a hard time of it that he seriously considered skipping the pits and building up damage until he crashed, just so he could try his other driver. Ryan Newman, Zach's driver, stood on it a little too long and blew his engine in his third lap. He hobbled and wobbled halfway around the track to the pit-road entrance, where his crew did a fast repair job and got him moving again. He quickly went back to standing on the gas, which he did almost the entire race.

By this time, most drivers' early timidity had become a more realistic strategy of playing safe, but taking chances when it was worth doing. Jake's driver was even trying his hand at drafting again. There were also several comments of "I like this game." Some likely reasons for this were:

  1. Since each player had only one unit to move, the game went faster and people spent less time waiting for their next turn.
  2. After moving slow S'es and L's across a battle map, it was a welcome change to zoom halfway around the course in one move. (Richard's driver did this a lot).
  3. There was no careful measuring to get into firing range or shoot around someone. The spaces on the track were clearly marked; either you went into a particular space or you didn't.
  4. We're all competitive, but we aren't all into blowing each other up every chance we get. Sometimes it's fun to win without making the other guy (or girl) lose.

In the duel for second place, Gordon and Stewart were both cruising fast (several team owners commented on how much Mike liked Gordon's reroll for cruise ability), but Stewart was faster and took second by nearly a lap. There was a moment of excitement just before Paul's driver took the checkered flag; Gordon pulled up outside him, the two cars bumped, and Stewart began to spin out. It looked like Gordon did this on purpose; it's certain that Mike hoped to take Paul's car out. (Hey, Paul thought it was great fun when Mike's car went into a spin, so why not? Fair is fair.) Would Stewart make it across the line? He recovered quickly and took a solid second place, followed by a battered and disappointed Gordon some time later. Gordon had cruised the entire race

The top three places were accounted for; now it was just a race for the points. Joe Nemechek finally found the gas pedal and began making time; he worked his way up from dead last, through a crowded pack (there were multiple calls of "Nemechek, engine check!"), to take fourth place, with Zach's driver very close behind him. Jake's driver, Rusty Wallace, drafted on several good moves by other drivers, but it was too late to get him into the winner's circle. Kahne, Aimee's driver, blew out his engine on the back stretch of the last lap while trying to make up for several slow moves. He then recovered from a brief spin-out brought on by Newman passing too close in the #3 corner, and limped across the line last. All four of the final finishers had smoke streaming from their engines as they finished their races.

The final results were:

1#29, Kevin HarvickRocket Richard Racing190
2#20, Tony StewartFast Paul Enterprises175
3#24, Jeff GordonMotorhead Mike Racing Team170
4#01, Joe NemechekTeam Anthony160
5#12, Ryan NewmanZach Pack Racing155
6#2, Rusty WallaceJake Brake Motor Sports150
7#9, Kasey KahneAimee Automotive146

The point totals use NASCAR standard scoring, and reflect the fact that Richard's driver led three of the five laps (Mike and Paul took the other two). None of the backup drivers were needed at all. The secret of victory seemed to consist of avoiding engine damage and being lucky with the move dice. Managing tire and body damage didn't play much of a role, since most of the cars had to pit anyway to fix their smoking engines.

We made a house rule that, if you rolled the dice before declaring your speed, you automatically moved at Cruise speed; this kept the game moving. The promoter is thinking about another house rule that would take the bumping rolls out of drafting. There will also be some simple rules about racing-team owners changing their drivers for the next race, and there will be a few new cars and drivers as well.

Overheard during the race:

Mike: They say you're a redneck if you think the last words of the Star-Spangled Banner are "Drivers, start your engines!"

Mike: Aimee, could you please stop talking for a few minutes? I know it's hard, because you're a girl, but...
Aimee: (gives him The Look)
Mike: Hey, it worked! She's quiet.
Anthony: It's my move. I'm cruisin'.
Mike: (still watching Aimee) I'm cruisin' for a bruisin', I think.

This report filed on October 21, 2009,
by Motorhead Mike.

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Nov 10, 2009 — Five for Five

To the racing promoter's great surprise and delight, the usual gang of cutthroat pirates and laser-happy space cadets had decided they wanted to "go fast, turn left, don't crash" again this evening. But that didn't mean they wanted no mayhem. No, they wanted to drive on "the course with the bad corner, where all the accidents happen." They wanted Pocono Raceway.

We started with the same cars on each racing team, but each team leader had the chance to trade one driver for another car in the unclaimed pool, which was larger than last time and populated by some grade-A talent. Everyone took advantage of that opportunity. A couple of them also asked for changes to their team names (which had initially been chosen for them by Mike). The field for tonight, in starting order, consisted of:

TeamStarting DriverBackup Driver
Anthony Auto Repair#3, Dale Earnhardt#19, Jeremy Mayfield
Aimee Automotive#6, Mark Martin#9, Kasey Kahne
Motorhead Mike Racing Team#24, Jeff Gordon#48, Jimmie Johnson
Zach Attack Racing#43, Richard Petty#12, Ryan Newman
Jake Brake Motor Sports#2, Rusty Wallace#97, Kurt Busch

The second car on each team was on standby in the pits, waiting for a crash to take out his teammate so he could take his place. Oddly, Mike made the same decision Anthony had made in the first race, to let his second-best driver start. Admit it, Mike, you've gone over to the Dark Side, you've become a Jeff Gordon fan.

All the cars started clean; Earnhardt stood on the gas and got off to a fine start, but his engine began smoking almost from the get-go. Gordon stayed in his "super-cruise" mode and slowly overtook him. Mike's driver somehow passed Anthony's man to win the first lap, with the rest of the field spread out behind them. Jake was having dice problems that took the better part of three laps to sort out.

On the second lap, things began coming unglued. Mark Martin and Rusty Wallace both had trouble finding the accelerator coming out of the #1 corner (that means Aimee and Jake both rolled snake-eyes on the same turn). Then Wallace got into that bad #2 corner, just as Earnhardt came tearing down the straightaway. The Intimidator took evasive action, swerving wildly from lane to lane, and somehow slowed enough to avoid a collision in the turn. Not many drivers could have pulled off that feat!

As the back of the pack made it out of the first turn, Petty was nearly blocked out by Martin, but cut down low and shot past him. He suffered a dented fender on the way by, though. Wallace also picked up some body damage as he made his way through the pack. Earnhardt made up for his evasive maneuvers with some hot driving, and won the second lap.

He was so far in the lead by now that when he entered Turn #2 for the third time, he paid Jake's driver back for the near-disaster on the previous lap. But Wallace wasn't so lucky. In trying to avoid Earnhardt, he shredded all four tires and banged up all four body panels, and was reduced to puttering along at minimum speed. Fortunately, the pit entrance wasn't far off, and he and his crew were skillful enough to fix what needed fixing in just one turn.

From the third lap onward, all the drivers were having ongoing trouble keeping tabs on their random-number generators. (This means that Aimee kept palming other people's dice and then hiding them in their own pockets. When she got bored with that, she started doing it the other way around. This caused some hilarity when she told Mike her dice were in his pocket; he protested, "They are n—" as he felt for them.)

By the start of Lap 4, Mike and Anthony had each won two laps, and it looked like it might be a close race. Gordon had made a fast pit stop for tires only; everyone else had some body damage to repair, and most of them were pretty quick about it. Petty, a very cautious driver like all the drivers under Zach's authority, avoided a collision with Martin in Turn 3 by sliding up into the marbles, but he made it through them without a mishap. Martin kept running hard, and his engine was showing it by the fourth lap.

Finally, it came down to the last stretch. Jeff Gordon was slightly in the lead, but Dale Earnhardt would get the first move. He got a poor jump out of the turn, and deliberately zigzagged to slow himself down. (Why? Only Anthony knows. Maybe he was trying to be sporting.) Gordon got his chance... and ended his move just inches (two spaces) from the finish line. Earnhardt got a better move, and he wound up even closer (one space away from the line).

"You need to roll a two to lose," grinned Anthony, knowing there wasn't much chance of that. Gordon could have prevented even that from happening by standing on the gas. But he didn't. He stayed in Cruise, like he'd done all through the race. And he rolled a two! Anthony's pit crew went berserk. And then Gordon took his reroll for a Cruise move, like he'd been doing all through the race, and took the checkered flag. Earnhardt was a very, very close second.

As the two of them did burnouts in the infield and took their places in Victory Lane, Mark Martin floored it and came in third. Richard Petty got fourth place, and Rusty Wallace achieved fifth. Rusty did his best; his last two laps were far better than his first three, and he even took a shot at spinning out Martin near the end, but the #6 car didn't skid.

The league standings are:

1#24, Jeff GordonMotorhead Mike Racing Team355Leader
2#03, Dale EarnhardtAnthony Auto Repair340-15
6[did not enter]Rocket Richard Racing340-15
6[did not enter]Fast Paul Enterprises325-30
4#43, Richard PettyZach Attack Racing315-40
3#6, Mark MartinAimee Automotive311-44
5#2, Rusty WallaceJake Brake Motor Sports305-50
Note: although Rocket Richard Racing and Fast Paul Enterprises did not enter this race, it was not their fault. I've assigned them points for a tie in sixth place, to keep them in the competition. This is not how NASCAR would handle this, I know. Deal with it.

Gordon and Earnhardt had battled back and forth all through the race; either of them could have won, and race experts are still discussing why Earnhardt gave up a sure win by dogging it at the very end. Petty ran a solid race, as did Martin, but it only goes to show that the best car doesn't always win. Jake was very disappointed in his driver's showing. Again, none of the backup drivers were needed, although Jake's team came close to needing the help. The race promoter is still looking for an appropriate trophy for the winner (sort of a Captain's Coin for race car drivers).

This report filed on November 11, 2009,
by Motorhead Mike.

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Nov 24, 2009 — A Date With Daytona

Tonight's race would be our first try at the Daytona track. We had a full field of seven drivers, all eager to win (and all secretly hoping the others would spin out and wreck themselves). As is our custom, the "race" began with the ceremonial Changing of the Drivers. Each racing team started with the same cars, but each team leader could trade one driver for another car in the unclaimed pool. Anthony and Mike were happy with the cars they had, but the others took full advantage of some newly available drivers. The field for tonight, in starting order, consisted of:

TeamStarting DriverBackup Driver
Fast Paul Enterprises#8, Dale Earnhardt Jr.#20, Tony Stewart
Zach Attack Racing#43, Strip Weathers ("The King")#43, Richard Petty
Rocket Richard Racing#38, Elliott Sadler#29, Kevin Harvick
Anthony Auto Repair#3, Dale Earnhardt#19, Jeremy Mayfield
Motorhead Mike Racing Team#24, Jeff Gordon#48, Jimmie Johnson
Aimee Automotive#98, Erin Crocker#6, Mark Martin
Jake Brake Motor Sports#2, Rusty Wallace#95, Lightning McQueen

Mike still put Jeff Gordon on the track first, even though Jimmie Johnson has the same ability and better numbers (and four championships). This was partly because one of the other drivers had bought him a die-cast #24 car; he was quite touched by this unexpected gift, and used it in the race. Aimee was happy to get a girl driver (whose numbers Mike had adjusted before printing the car's dashboard, to make her more competitive). Zach and Jake each signed up one of the stars of the movie "Cars," Richard acquired the colorful M&M's car driven by Sadler, and Paul was asked not to tell his Baptist-preacher father that his newest driver is sponsored by Budweiser. Sadler, who can use any other car's ability as his own, chose to emulate The King, who ignores the effects of walls and marbles in the turns.

With restrictor plates in place, the drivers contended for pole positions and took their places on the big Daytona track. (Contending for pole positions took some doing; Zach and Richard rolled the same numbers three times in a row.) It was a clean start, but that lasted for about half a second. Dale Jr. took off quickly, and when Sadler and Gordon took an easy draft behind him, they set off a chain of bumps that damaged both their cars and the #3 car as well. This meant Mike had to take his die-cast car out and replace it with the plastic one, since the body-damage marker wouldn't fit on the die-cast. And he'd barely gotten started!

The King tried to keep the pace, but it cost him a damaged engine before he got out of the first turn. He blew another gasket on the back straightaway, and had to pit before he finished his first lap. His pit crew was efficient, though, and got him back into the race in two turns.

Dale Earnhardt, The Intimidator, wasn't being very intimidating, but he was racing well, standing on it nearly every turn and winning the first lap. Erin Crocker was following closely, and they were side by side as they entered the first turn. This was very bad news for Dale Jr., who was running third, hearing nasty noises from under his hood, and suddenly finding himself blocked by the other two cars with nowhere to go. Swerving and braking desperately, he took quite a bit of damage, but he managed to spread it out across his car so it didn't take him out of the running.

Jeff Gordon's move rolls usually sound like, "Rattle rattle, reroll! Rattle rattle, that's much better!" But for more than half of this race, they sounded more like, "Rattle rattle, reroll! Rattle rattle, humph!" In an attempt to gain some time, he stood on the gas for the first time, and was immediately rewarded with a smoking engine. Crocker and Dale Sr. also cooked their motors, and The King blew out his engine for the second time in two laps. Zach noted that he and Paul were a couple of juvenile delinquents — Paul's car had beer all over the hood, and Zach's car was smoking.

The pits were quickly full of cars seeking major repairs. Dale Sr., Dale Jr., Gordon, and Wallace (who'd taken some body damage) were all out in two turns, while The King had to wait the whole three. Wallace almost didn't make it; he overshot pit row and had to complete another lap, hoping nothing else would break before he made it into the pits. Dale Sr. won the second lap and was soon making good time again. Paul and Mike were sharing Mike's lucky dice, and Gordon was going so slowly, Mike actually accused Paul of jinxing his dice. This made Paul smile; for a while, he was chanting, "Jinx!" when the #24 car made a move roll.

But as soon as Gordon left the pits with no damage left, he got his die-cast car back, and things began looking up. By staying in cruise, he avoided the smoking engines that kept sending the others for repeated repairs, and he started to gain on the leaders. Wallace made another mistake as he pulled onto the track; he chose to check up instead of cruise, and it cost him some time. When Dale Jr. left the pits, he had to make another wild maneuver in the same place where he'd wrecked on the previous lap; Gordon and Wallace had the way almost blocked, but Junior went high in the corner and got past them. The King finished his second lap in a row by clearing the pit road.

The third lap was marked by Jeff Gordon starting to make up lost time, and by Erin Crocker winning the lap and then taking a fast 2-turn pit stop to repair all her damage. One reason Gordon was gaining was because almost everyone else was in the pits. About the only exception was Sadler in the M&M's car, who was driving conservatively, avoiding engine damage but not making very good time.

On the fourth lap, The King smoked a head gasket for the fourth time and had to make yet another pit stop. The winner of the lap was extremely close; Gordon got to the line first, but Crocker pulled out of pit row right behind him, and Wallace and Dale Jr. were just a hair back. It was one of those ZOOMZOOMZOOMZOOM moments; four cars shot by so fast, only the cameras could catch the action. At the end of his fourth lap, Sadler decided to pit when he had almost no damage. "That one bad tire makes me nervous," his crew chief explained. This decision cost him, but it gave the fans some huge excitement.

On the fifth lap, no one was taking chances on body damage; everyone was giving everyone else plenty of room. Gordon finally found his groove with three good rolls in a row, and while Rusty Wallace gave him a run for it, it was #24 across the line first. (Mike seemed to get a little too much enjoyment out of rolling his die-cast car along the track at high speed. Something's not quite right in that guy's head.) Wallace had a near-miss against the wall in the fourth corner, but he rerolled out of it and took second place. Earnhardt Jr. and Sr. came in third and fifth, separated by Erin Crocker. "A woman has come between us!" they lamented. That left Elliott Sadler and The King.

If Sadler had not pitted when he did, he would have gotten sixth place easily. But when he pulled out of the pits, he was neck and neck with The King. And that's how it stayed. For one, two, three turns in a row, it was a drag race, with the two cars side by side, neither one able to pull ahead. Strip Weathers was still standing on it even though he still had one engine damage; he didn't dare let up. At the very end, The King managed to get over the line first by a hair. Like the fourth-lap finish, it was too close for the human eye to call.

The league standings are:

1#24, Jeff GordonMotorhead Mike Racing Team545Leader
5#03, Dale EarnhardtAnthony Auto Repair505-40
7#38, Elliott SadlerRocket Richard Racing491-54
3#8, Dale Earnhardt Jr.Fast Paul Enterprises490-55
4#98, Erin CrockerAimee Automotive476-69
2#2, Rusty WallaceJake Brake Motor Sports475-70
6#43, The KingZach Attack Racing465-80

As usual, Jeff Gordon took few chances, but ran a steady race; his good luck with the movement dice at the end overcame his bad luck at the beginning, and the fact that he made only one pit stop helped immensely. Rusty Wallace made a big comeback from the Pocono race of two weeks ago, when he finished dead last. Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Erin Crocker both had fine debut races; Junior's speed bonus when he isn't winning came in especially handy. Dale Sr. was running very well (Anthony rolled double-sixes at least twice) until the end, when his speed and his engine-check dice luck deserted him. The King had the moves, but was dogged by bad luck with his engine; he may need a new mechanic. And Elliott Sadler just didn't have it today. I guess the lesson is that the race doesn't always go to the car with the best numbers.

In the standings, Gordon increased his lead, and two pairs of owners are separated by only one point each. Richard, who came in last and didn't even run last time, is still in third place, thanks to his impressive win in the first race. Jake's #2 finish lifted him from seventh overall to sixth. Dale Sr. is in second place overall, even though he came in fifth. NASCAR scoring is a funny thing.

We're still working on remembering all the rules. Last race, we forgot to add tire damage to the other checks; this time, we forgot to check for spins after a bump. We're using computer-printed markers to keep track of laps, tire damage, and time in the pits, and these are working well. Everyone is still very enthusiastic about racing. So we'll be back in a couple of weeks!

Overheard during the race:

Mike: "Aimee, how are you moving?"
Aimee: "I'm standing in it."
Mike: (looking at the sole of his shoe in mock disgust) "You're standing in it? Ewww!"

Jake: (after asking how Mike trimmed his beard) "Most people wear beards to hide their ugly faces... — but not you, not you!"

This report filed on November 25, 2009,
by Motorhead Mike.

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Jan 12, 2010 — Tri the Oval

For tonight's race, we took a whack at the Tri-Oval track; Mr. Fischer sweated bullets trying to figure out how to print it properly, so by golly, we were gonna use it! We had a field of five drivers tonight. As is our custom, the "race" began with the ceremonial Changing of the Drivers. Each racing team started with the same cars it used last time, but each team leader could trade one driver for another car in the unclaimed pool. Everyone except Anthony swapped a car around this time. The field for tonight, in starting order, consisted of:

TeamStarting DriverBackup Driver
Jake Brake Motor Sports#2, Rusty Wallace#48, Jimmie Johnson
Zach Attack Racing#95, Lightning McQueen#43, Strip Weathers ("The King")
Anthony Auto Repair#3, Dale Earnhardt#19, Jeremy Mayfield
Aimee Automotive#6, Mark Martin#98, Erin Crocker
Motorhead Mike Racing Team#24, Jeff Gordon#97, Kurt Busch

The drivers took their pole positions and started their engines. (As often happens, figuring out the pole positions took some time; on the first die roll, four of five drivers rolled a 7, and on the next roll, two drivers rolled a 10.) Wallace roared out to a huge lead over everyone except Earnhardt, who glued himself to the #2 car's back bumper and drafted him for four turns in a row. Considering how well Jake was rolling, this was a good move (he'd thrown boxcars twice in the first two laps). Wallace took some body damage when #3 got a little too close, but he stayed in control and kept the lead.

Going into the #3 turn, Gordon got into trouble. Mark Martin and Lightning McQueen (an unlikely duo if ever there was one) had blocked his path, and he took some serious body and engine damage avoiding a major collision. He chose to pit after only one lap to get his car back in shape, and even though it was a quick stop, he was still running dead last when he got back on the track.

The first lap went to Wallace, as did the second (and the third and the fourth). Jake had a hot hand with the movement dice tonight, even though he never went higher than cruise speed until the last lap. He also had good luck with his bumping rolls, which kept him out of the kind of trouble that was soon plaguing Earnhardt. The Intimidator's body damage kept adding up, and by the third lap, he had no choice but to pit for repairs. His crew kept it quick and he was back on the track in no time.

Wallace took a pit stop at the same time to change his tires, and he almost didn't make it. The #3 car got in his way as he headed for pit row, and it took some major skill with the steering wheel to avoid hitting him and still get off the track safely. He pulled it off, though, and was soon back at full speed. He barely beat McQueen to win the third lap; it was very close, less than a second between them.

By the fourth lap, it looked like nothing without rockets could catch Wallace. Lightning McQueen was so determined to win that, just like in the movie, he stayed out of the pits and didn't take new tires. And, just like in the movie, it came back to bite him; his tires were in such bad shape by the fifth lap that he could barely creep along. Gordon was catching up slowly, but was too far back to have a shot at the checkered flag. Earnhardt was running well, standing on it all the way, but not quite fast enough to catch the front-runner.

Then something went wrong, very wrong, for Rusty Wallace on the last lap. There was no smoke coming out of his engine, but his speed, which had been red-hot through most of the race, suddently took a dive. (Jake rolled a move roll of 3 at one point.) Earnhardt passed him in the #2 curve, increased his lead in the last corner, and blew across the line in first place.

Wallace got moving a little faster near the end, but too late — second place was all he could manage. It didn't help that he'd gotten bumped by #95 on the way; McQueen also dented the #24 car on that last lap. Gordon wasn't far behind Wallace in third, Martin got a fourth-place finish for Aimee Automotive, and McQueen limped across the line in fifth. There was much rejoicing in the Anthony Auto Repair pits at their team's first victory.

The league standings are:

3#24, Jeff GordonMotorhead Mike Racing Team710Leader
1#03, Dale EarnhardtAnthony Auto Repair690-20
2#2, Rusty WallaceJake Brake Motor Sports655-55
6[did not enter]Rocket Richard Racing641-69
6[did not enter]Fast Paul Enterprises640-70
4#6, Mark MartinAimee Automotive636-74
5#95, Lightning McQueenZach Attack Racing620-90

Earnhardt ran a steady race, usually standing on it but not going all that fast. It was his good luck that Wallace ran out of luck near the end. Rusty Wallace is wondering who sabotaged his engine, or maybe his dice. Gordon's run of success ended today, thanks to that wreck on the first lap, and he carried one dented fender for the rest of the race (which meant Mike couldn't use his die-cast #24, to his great disappointment). Martin's first race for his new team netted him a decent finish, but not much to be proud of. Hopefully, next time, Zach Attack will remember that "You need tires!"

In the standings, Gordon's lead over Earnhardt was cut in half, and Wallace fell back by exactly one point. The Cup could still go to anyone. We're getting better at remembering all the rules.

Overheard during the race:

Anthony: "Mexico is a country? I thought it was a state."

This report filed on January 16, 2010,
by Motorhead Mike.

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May 15, 2012 — Triangle, Interrupted

For the first time in over two years, we traded in our pirates of yesterday for our Cars of Tomorrow, and played a round of Race Day. Also for the first time in about two years, we were joined by Aimee, who has been pursuing other interests on game night, but wanted a change. It was a great night for racing on the tri-oval track. We quickly chose drivers, rolled for positions, and away we went! In order of pole position, our racers were:


  1. Zach Attack Racing: #95 Lightning McQueen
  2. Rocket Richard Racing: #43 Richard Petty
  3. Aimee Automotive: #6 Mark Martin
  4. Motorhead Mike Racing Team: #24 Jeff Gordon (who else?)
  5. Fast Paul Enterprises: #3 Dale Earnhardt Sr.
  6. Timothy Motor Sports: #38 Elliott Sadler

Oh, yes, one more thing. When Mike was setting up our game night, he had offered everyone the choice of a NASCAR race or a dinosaur hunt. The vote was a tie. So he gave everyone what they wanted. Spread around the track were four dinosaurs — a Deinonychus, a Triceratops, a Stegosaurus, and a T-Rex (all assembled from plastic parts in the same way as our race cars). These would move one space at the end of every turn. Any car that ended its move next to a dinosaur had to pass a driver check or suffer body damage from the dinosaur's attack; and if a car hit a dinosaur, it worked the same as a collision between cars, except it didn't hurt the dino.

The race started fast; the first three drivers all got moves of 10 or better. Earnhardt, trying to move up from the back of the pack, tried to slip between Gordon and the Deinonychus, missing the big lizard but denting his own and Gordon's fenders. Lightning McQueen rolled into the marbles in Turn 2 and began to spin, but he saved it and kept going with minimal damage. He won the first lap by a small margin, with Petty close behind him. Martin and Sadler were having trouble finding the groove and soon fell behind.

On the second lap, Earnhardt smoked his engine and had to pit early, but his ace pit crew made it a quick stop, and they fixed his body damage while he was sidelined. McQueen took Paul's advice and deliberately tail-ended Gordon, but most of the damage went to the #95, so it wasn't worth it. Petty used this distraction to rocket into the lead, winning the second lap easily, and lapping Martin soon after he crossed the line. Gordon, running steadily, moved into second place, with McQueen still behind him. Sadler had chosen Petty's ability (roll twice when Standing On It) as his own, but kept forgetting to Stand On It, which explains why he couldn't keep up with the #43 car. Gordon had another near-miss with the Deinonychus; when he steered out of trouble, Mike did his victory dance, which he hasn't been able to do in months because it always gave Jake nightmares.

The third lap went by quickly. Again, Petty crossed the line first, but this time, Sadler in the #38 car closed the distance and came in second. Gordon was running third, Martin was moving up, McQueen fell far behind, and Earnhardt's pit stop kept him at the back of the pack. McQueen's problem was that he deliberately rammed the Deinonychus, just to see what would happen. What happened was heavy tire and body damage that forced him to crawl toward the pits. All of our reptilian problems stemmed from that one Deinonychus; the other dinosaurs were easily avoided and caused no problems (except for the T-Rex, which kept falling down).

At this point, half of the cars became driverless when Mrs. Sprint Cup (also known as Paul, Richard, and Tim's mother) showed up to take them away, and NASCAR waved the red flag to end the race. The #43 car was deemed the winner, by virtue of being in front and winning two of the three laps; Petty is still The King. The other drivers kept the positions they held when the race was red-flagged. In order of final position, our racers were:

  1. Rocket Richard Racing: #43 Richard Petty
  2. Timothy Motor Sports: #38 Elliott Sadler
  3. Motorhead Mike Racing Team: #24 Jeff Gordon
  4. Aimee Automotive: #6 Mark Martin
  5. Zach Attack Racing: #95 Lightning McQueen
  6. Fast Paul Enterprises: #3 Dale Earnhardt Sr.

The timing was unfortunate, especially for Earnhardt. Because he had to take his pit stop early, it put him in last place. If he avoided accidents from then on and kept his engine running smoothly, he would have gained a lot of track position when the other drivers had to take their own pit stops. But the race ended before that could happen. If nothing else, he (and everyone else) would certainly have passed McQueen, who had a long way to go at check-up speed before he could creep into pit road. Gordon, who usually runs a steady race and waits for the other drivers to make mistakes, also would likely have moved up. Sadler was gaining, and Martin was overcoming his slow start to become a contender. There is no way to guess who might have taken the checkered flag if we had run all five laps.

The dinosaurs didn't do anyone any harm, except for Lightning McQueen, and that was his own fault. They did make all the drivers take some evasive action, though, so their presence on the track was not a total waste. No one has explained how they got there, or why NASCAR allowed the race to continue with such big animals blocking the way. Maybe they were some kind of advertizing for DinoCo.

The chatter on the drivers' radios was quite entertaining all night. Aimee was frequently annoyed by Mike's one-liners, to the point where she ordered the others to not say anything he might respond to. We all got a chuckle out of hearing how Zach, trying to point out a blimp at an air museum, had called out, "Look! A plump!"

As an aside, Mike had composed a boastful victory song for himself, which he didn't get to use tonight. To the tune of "I Am the Captain of the Pinafore" from HMS Pinafore by Gilbert & Sullivan, it goes like this:

I am the driver of the 24!
It's the only car he'll use.
I'm very, very good, and be it understood that I have a fine pit crew.
He's very, very good, and be it understood that he has a fine pit crew.
I'll close up every gap, I'll win at every lap, and never make my tires squeal.
And if I shake your hand, that's how it's going to stand, for I never, ever break a deal.
What, never?
No, never!
What, never?
Well, hardly ever!
He hardly ever breaks a deal...
So give three cheers and one cheer more, for the driver of the number 24!
So give three cheers and one cheer more, for the driver of the 24!
But #24 didn't win, #43 did. So here's a boastful victory song for Richard (both the car's real-life driver and the car's driver tonight), to the tune of "When I Was a Lad" from the same operetta:
I was so glad, it was my turn, to drive a car for Richard Petty's firm.
I pushed the gas pedal to the floor, and I clobbered Mr. Fischer in the 24.
He clobbered Mr. Fischer in the 24!
I clobbered Mr. Fischer so rapidly, because I am the driver of the 43.
He clobbered Mr. Fischer so rapidly, because he is the driver of the 43!

I chose the car that had earned such fame. I knew I'd win at the racing game,
And "Stand On It" worked well for me. I passed my buddy Zach and then I lapped Aimee.
He passed his buddy Zach and then he lapped Aimee!
I passed my brother Paul and brother Timothy, because I am the driver of the 43.
He passed his brother Paul and brother Timothy, because he is the driver of the 43!

If anybody else in the group wants a boastful victory song to use some day, Mike is willing to write one for him, as long as he gets to pick the melody.

Overheard during the race:

Aimee: (referring to Lightning McQueen in the movie Cars) "It's so unfair if you win with your tongue! I mean, what if your hair blows like this in front of you, you can't win that way!"
Mike: "I know I can't win that way!"

This report filed on May 16, 2012,
by Motorhead Mike.

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