The Eternal Brand 
Thursday, December 26, 2013, 10:43 PM
Posted by Administrator
On any given NASCAR weekend you'll see the crowds lining up in front of the No.88 souvenir trailer where fans can satisfy their cravings for everything and anything Earnhardt. The other trailers attract a few buyers here and there, never quite attaining fever pitch sales and the interest this family's name conjours up, even now.
The groundwork was laid when Sr. was at the apex of his career, winning almost everything in sight, setting the stage for his place in stock car history. He seemed the heir apparent to equal, if not surpass The King, whose reign was rapidly coming to an end. He was "The Intimidator", "The Man" and it appeared that his son, still standing in the wings, was going to continue in his footsteps when the elder Earnhardt decided he had had enough. His untimely death thrust Jr. into the spotlight and with it, the expectations that he too, would be equally successful.
Over time, it became clear that Earnhardt the Younger wasn't the driver his father was and for years he struggled to make a decent showing, trying to live up to the legacy of his father. It was frustrating for fans and more importantly devastating to a racing organization that wasn't used to seeing the Earnhardt name out of the top ten finishers.
Winning races is one thing but winning the hearts of the fan base is another. Even during those times when the Earnhardt clan was looking to move on, the fans stuck by Jr. through thick and thin and his winning of the 2013 Most Popular Driver by the NMPA (National Motorsports Press Association) remains as a testament to the popularity and the reverance for a family that has traveled the highest mountains and the lowest valleys stock car racing has to offer.
Jr. has come to this place honestly by hard work and perseverence...and he did it on his own.

J.R. Andres/SMM Editor-in-Chief

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One year ends and another is about to begin 
Wednesday, November 6, 2013, 07:39 PM
Posted by Administrator
It didn't seem very long ago that I was making use of superlative terms to describe the upcoming 2013 racing season. The teams, the fans and the car owners were looking forward to another round of racing and like other sports teams, most were sure that this was going to be their time to bask in the glow of victory. I suppose one has to be an eternal optimist to maintain the costs in machine and human terms to endure the rigors associated with this sport.
From my perspective, I suppose there's an unexplained post partum feeling that comes when the excitement of covering these events abruptly comes to an end and the prospects of a long winter without the sounds and the sights of cars and individuals trying to out do one another begins to stare media types in the face.
On the other hand, the memories of what was and what will be somehow seems to serve as a consolation. Like the teams who have already begun planning for the 2014 season, we maintain our focus and look forward to the coming year, understanding and believing it will be even better than the last.

J.R. Andres/SMM

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Sunday, July 28, 2013, 02:27 PM
Posted by Administrator
There was a time when sitting in the stands was everything I thought it could be. I was able to see the rails and the stockers and once in awhile we were lucky enough to get a wisp of nitromethane and rubber smoke if the wind was blowing just right.
I began to attend pre-med classes at Michigan State University in 1966 and my goal in life was to become a doctor, so my mind was wrapped around things like microbiology, organic chemistry and anatomy. Cars were kool but I couldn't see the advantage or importance of turning wrenches instead of saving lives.
My roomate was a journalism major and he used to entertain us all with stories about the places and things he'd seen...places reserved for reporters and law enforcement. It was sexy and enticing, the old forbidden fruit syndrome.
The Detroit News had a marginal interest in auto racing which is surprising considering the fact that Motown was the center of the universe for all things automotive.
My roomate had made a commitment to the News in late 1966 which involved him taking pictures at a big event at Detroit Dragway one Saturday. He said there were going to be "funny cars" there. After a very convincing period of begging, I agreed to take his place even though I knew NOTHING about photography. I wanted to do him a favor because he was sick or so he said. After a very short session of instruction, I knew everything I needed to know, which wasn't surprising since his camera was a Kodak 126 Instamatic, the one that used the little blue flashbulbs.
Things then were so simple. With just an honest face and assurances that I was a real NEWS photographer, I received permission to shoot on the starting line. In those days you really were on the starting line...the one without a k-wall or any barrier to hide behind if something exploded or someone went sideways.
By the end of the evening, I had had enough. Nicholson was using hydrazene, which was a popular addition to the usual concoction of methyl alcohol and nitro. I had a headache for days following my first sojourn into the advanced world of starting line photography. Funny thing though, it was pretty neat being so close to the action. Now I was able to tell interesting stories like my roomate, only mine were about cars instead of car accidents and dog shows.
All of that was 47 years ago but one thing has never changed. The excitement and the exclusivity of being able to go where few tread has never lost its appeal and its likely it never will. Everytime I go out to a wall at a NASCAR or IndyCar race or brave the walls at a NHRA event I remember how lucky I am to be there. I look up to the crowded stands and know most, if not all, would give alot to be where I am.

J.R. Andres/SM Magazine
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The Allure of Drag Racing 
Tuesday, July 23, 2013, 11:11 PM
Posted by Administrator
How can anyone not enjoy going to the drags? Sure its loud and sure its Plebian and surely it will tax your sense of smell, with all that leaded fuel and nitromethane but dollar for dollar there's not a better show anywhere in town.
We cover a lot of racing events from this office but when the NHRA circus comes to Sonoma we all look forward to three days of unadulterated mayhem, administered in large doses at 300 MPH.
These events don't attract the wine sippers or champagne officianados, they attract the beer drinkers, the hamburger and hot dog eaters...the people we all identify with...people like ourselves.

Ira Ostenheimer - Leonard Gelardi/SMM
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Detroit's Free Fall 
Sunday, July 21, 2013, 01:39 PM
Posted by Administrator
It didn't seem that long ago I was cruising the streets of Detroit in my new 1965 Plymouth Street Wedge. I had a regular route from Telegraph Road south to Michigan Avenue. Once there, I headed east towards Dearborn ending up downtown to catch Woodward Avenue. At the foot of Woodward I'd make a left turn and head north, driving through such places as Highland Park, Ferndale and then up to Royal Oak, where I'd turn around and head south until I hit 8 Mile, which would eventually take me back to Telegraph Road. I never thought twice about making this journey because it presented opportunities to show off my car, meet girls and pick up a few street races along the way. Things were different in 1965 and never once did I ever fear for my safety or worry about losing my ride to a car jacker.
Fast forward to 2013. The thought of doing the same thing 48 years later scares the bejeezus out of me. The streets I once drove have become nothing more than a war zone and the institutions we all looked up to have become fraught with corruption, fueled by greed.
I didn't realize it at the time but Detroit was a great town to grow up in. Downtown businesses were thriving, the streets were safe, the police and fire department came when you called them and everyone, all 1.8 million of us, seemed to have a job.
Thursday's announcement marked a new low point for a city that has been on the ropes for decades. The theories of how things got that way are not as important as the human costs that will continue to be realized until someone or something comes along to make it better. For a native Detroiter, it seems incomprehensable that it has come to this.

J.R. Andres/SMM Editor-in-Chief

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