Friday
May292009

Dale Junior's Latest Fresh Start

The news that everyone knew was way past due came this week when Tony Eury Jr. was replaced as crew chief of the 88 team.  If you've spent more than ten minutes watching Nascar, you know the history there.  And if you didn't FOX and SPEED are sure to run at least thirty minutes of packages and vignettes over the Dover weekend events to dramatize them.

To say Junior is loyal to a fault to his family is a massive understatement.  Eight times out ten that's a good quality to have, but like now when it interferes with your performance, well, sometimes the best thing you can do for yourself and your friends and family is find a soft landing spot for them, and that certainly happened with Eury Jr. as he is moving over to JR Motorsports full time now.

By the way when did Dale Junior become a Brazilian soccer star where he's just known by one name, Kaka, Ronaldinho, Pele, Dida, etc., then again Brazil's affinity for nicknames might stem from the country's historically high illiteracy rate. As such, shortened spoken names are typically used more often than longer birth names, not that I'm drawing any correlation to the Nascar fan base, :rolleyes:

I don't think anyone who reads this, nor I who write it, can understand the level of pressure to perform and live up to the legend that was his father.  For that alone it's understandable that Junior would place himself in a protective bubble surrounded by friends and family where he feels safe.   There in may lie the problem.  The Junior entourage, and no I don't know who's Turtle and Johnny Drama etc., enjoy the good life and may not want to upset that gravy train.  The only person we know for sure that maybe giving Junior an unfiltered opinion is Rick Hendrick.

Hendrick has been more than patient with Junior, letting him pretty much have his way in how the team was set up, staffed and run.  At the end of the day though Hendrick had to put his foot down and say enough.  In a crappy economy he has sponsors who are paying him at 2005 levels and not even getting an acceptable return for that time frame, let alone 2009!

With someone new on top of the pit box and in his ear, Dale Junior will be forced to come out of his comfort zone, and that maybe just what he needs.  Will it have the desired effect, no one knows for sure, but as the old saying goes, if you always do what you've always done, you'll always get what you always got."

The move to Hendrick was a "Fresh Start" and "Clean Break" from DEI and was suposed to kick off the era of Junior domination.  We know how well that worked out.  Lets see if this "Fresh Start" works out better.

Finally we want you to check out this interview with Junior from Thursday while he was in Detroit promoting the upcoming race at MIS.  Out friend Larry Henry (twitter.com/DetroitVoice)condcucted most of the Q&A, it's pretty reveling about how hard this move hit him.

Thursday
May212009

RumblestripRadio #95

Time for a little cross promotion.  It's been a while but a new episode of RumblestripRadio is now posted.  It features and extend conversation with Chris Jonnum, the Editor of Road Racer X.

Check it out at www.rumblestripradio.com remember to subscribe to the show via iTunes or your favorite RSS reader.

Wednesday
May202009

The Bathurst 1000

If you were to make a list of all the important car and motorcycle races in a year, all over the world, and make a list of all the great tracks in the world, would the Bathurst 1000 on Mount Panorama make it?  Well it should!  In the land of Oz this is their Indy 500, their Monaco GP, their Assen and Mugello.

You can spend hours on YouTube watching videos of V8 Supercars turning laps at this place.  The track looks like a mix of Spa, Road America and Laguna Seca.  This TV package gives you an idea about the history of the race, the track and it's importance to the motorsports culture of Australia.

Monday
May182009

Two Wheel Tuesday The Triumph Thruxton

Over the last five years or so the retro cafe movement has really picked up momentum.  Both Ducati and Triumph have brought out lines of bikes to echo that golden era of motorcycling from the mid 60's to the very early 70's.  It has gone so far that people are dragging old Honda CB550 and 750's, Kawasaki H1 and H2 etc out of the basement, fixed them up and added touches so that that they wouldn't look out of place down at The Ace Cafe getting ready to do a ton up run.

Triumph had their demo fleet in town over the weekend and we got a chance to take a ride on the Thruxton.  This is a bike that we have liked for a while from a looks standpoint but have been reserving judgement on till we could take it for a spin.  

We liked it, and we think you will too, have a look!

 

Thursday
May142009

Vehicle Review The Lincoln MKX

Over the last few years Lincoln has made a concerted effort to move away from the choice of the blue hair, early bird special crowd, and to a younger demographic and one with probably more money, and that is the Lexus crowd.

Lincoln’s were for many years cars to aspire to.  US Presidents were driven in them, and executives wanted to drive and be seen in them.  Somewhere in the late 60’s to early 70’s they lost their way and it’s only in the last couple years that the ship began to be righted.  

Our tuxedo black MKX review unit left a good first opinion visually.  It has just enough bright work, with the optional chrome 20” wheels to offset and highlight the body lines nicely.  Going down the road, parked in your driveway or being valeted at the Big Rock Chop House in Birmingham, MI the MKX has a presence that it belongs.

When you move to the inside of the MKX and the theme continues.  The materials are nice, and the fit and finish are good.  There are a couple of exceptions where the bean counters got in the way, the sides of the center console and the face of the instrument cluster are a hard plastic rather than the soft touch leatherette found in the rest of the interior.  Seems an odd place to drop some noticeably cheep materials, right where the driver can notice it, and they saved maybe $20, wrong decision.

After out time with the Flex and the Fusion Hybrid we had gotten used to the big display for Ford’s Sync system, however the one in the MKX was much smaller.  While not too small, the larger display in the other vehicles was less prone to fat fingering as you were going through the menus.  That said this install of Sync seemed to be just a bit zippier in voice recognition.  Our only real complaint in the past about Sync is that the delay in between the spoken command and it’s response was just about a second too long to fall into normal speech patterns. The delay here seemed shorter.  Or maybe we are just getting trained by it, hard to say.

For what seems like a smaller vehicle, the MKX is roomy on the inside.  Back seat passengers will have no problems with leg room even with the front seats all the way back.  Also ingress and egress are good for back seat passengers.  On far to many SUV’s the rear doors are quite short and it can make it awkward to get in and out, especially for tall people, and some older folks as well.  The rear area has much more room that you would think from the outside as well.  You would think that it would have less room than an Escape, but it is quite a bit larger.  A trip to IKEA for some shelving and other large items we needed to redo a room in the house were easily swallowed up.  This is good news for the target demographic for this SUV, not so much that they will be hauling stuff from IKEA, or Lowe’s, but that it will haul three or four kids and all their gear to hockey practice.

Driving the MKX is a what you would expect.  The real test for us was coming home from an announcing gig that went very long.  We rolled out of Milan Raceway just after 1:30AM.  The 58 mile drive home may have been the easiest, most relaxing drive home from the track we’ve had.  It was a long day, we were VERY tired, and yet with the cruise set at 70 the time seemed to fly by.  For those road warriors that would purchase this and pile on the miles, that I would think would be very welcome.  General handling is good as well, for such a heavy vehicle, it takes on/off ramps quite well.

There are a couple things that we did not like at all for the MKX in the driving experience however.  Because of the rear design and the sloping rear section, vision between the C and D pillars on the drivers side is not existent creating a MASSIVE blind spot.  The passenger side isn’t much better either.  This makes it difficult merging in traffic trying to judge the distance to vehicles behind you.  What would be very welcome on the MKX is the blind spot detection in the rear view mirrors that we had in the Fusion Hybrid.

Mileage in the MKX is about what your would expect, be got 19 in pretty mixed driving.  We tried to use some of the techniques we learned from Wayne Gerdes to help out the mileage, but by no means did we drive far outside what we would call “normal” driving habits.


A big deal was made when Lincoln began to instal THX Certified sound systems in their product line.  We were very interested to see if it would live up to the hype.  We ran a variety of music through the system.  Mingus, Pink Floyd. Kevin Saunderson, Pantera, Mazzy Star and Norah Jones just to name a few.  Sadly, to my ears, the system sounded no better than the systems in the Flex or the Fusion.  While we are no uber audiophiles, we are pretty sure we would notice a difference of quality, being accustomed to listening to uncompressed music over some nice headphones on a regular basis.

At the end of the day we come out with some mixed feelings about the MKX.  As Billy Crystal’s version of Fernando might say, “It’s better to look good, that to feel good.”  That, and Maxwell Smart’s classic line, “Missed it by THAT much.” sum up the MKX nicely.  The vehicle looks good, but it doesn’t feel special.  If you are driving a premium brand, at a premium price, just shy of $45,000, it should make you feel special, and the MKX didn’t,  It’s a nice vehicle, don’t get us wrong, it just doesn’t feel special.

What could Ford change to bring it to that level?  That’s the kicker, we’re not sure, and we thought long and hard about it.  There is no one thing that it is, it’s just a take away.  Maybe it’s better materials inside, we don’t know, we couldn’t put our finger on it. When we shared that thought with a number of people who rode with us in the MKX we got that silent head nod that tells you they were thinking along the same lines and were having trouble putting their thoughts into words.

At the end of the day how do we grade this?  We may be being hard here but 7.8 out of 10 is where we end up.  Again, not that it isn’t a fine vehicle, it’s just that it didn’t meet our expectations.