Las Vegas Sun

October 21, 2014

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When Dale Jr. wrecked, so did I

I had a cartoon wreck this week. Every Monday I pen the StockcarToon. I get it out of the way early so that I can concentrate on local, national and international news for the editorial cartoons I’ll be drawing for the remainder of the week.

This past Monday I drew the cartoon below, which focused on Dale Jr. capturing the pole position for Sunday’s Daytona 500. Well, little did I know that my efforts would soon be as worthless as a Cup car that was involved in “The Big One” at a restrictor-plate track.

After I returned from lunch on Wednesday, I immediately went to one of my favorite NASCAR news websites to read the latest information on that morning’s practice session. And there it was, breaking news that Dale Jr. had lost his pole position after a crash that would force him into a backup car for the Daytona 500.

I felt like I had just been sent airborne after being bump drafted by Carl Edwards. The cartoon was a complete loss, and I had no other ideas to cover for the cartoon that had crashed and burned. I had no choice but to go back to the garage and build a new cartoon from scratch.

I’m often asked how I come up with ideas for my cartoons and my standard answer is that it’s all about reading as much information as I can. But an intense deadline can do more to get the creative juices flowing than any amount of reading. I can be suffering from a brain that’s stuck in neutral, but the closer I get to that deadline the more creative I’ll become. Sometimes I find myself craving that pressure because I know that it will make my brain sharper. And there was plenty of pressure on Wednesday.

Here is the replacement cartoon I came up with.

So what can we expect from the Daytona 500? Well, there are a lot of question marks heading into this race. Here are a few things I’ll be watching on Sunday.

Fuel mileage:

The Cup cars are now being powered by Ethanol, which slightly reduces the fuel mileage. Will an extra pit stop be needed and could fuel mileage hurt someone’s chances at winning under a green-white-checkered finish?

Brian Keselowski:

Brian Keselowski raced his way into the Daytona 500 with a lot of pushing from his brother, Brad Keselowski. The duo was at the front of the pack at one point during the second Gatorade Duel on Thursday night. Could we see Brad’s brother going to the front in the 500? And who will Brad feel more obligated to help in a pinch, his teammate Kurt Busch or his brother?

Large packs of cars:

Is the large pack of cars a thing of the past? As we have seen all week, the cars are running in packs of two and the cars don’t seem to draft well in a large pack. It will be strange, and possibly a little less exciting, to see 21 packs of two cars racing around Daytona, especially if one or two of those packs break away from the remaining cars.

The cooler Ford engines:

Ford’s new FR9 engine was engineered to run cooler than the previous Ford engine. This design allows the teams to run more tape on the front grille to increase downforce. And, as we saw in the second Gatorade Duel last night, the Fords were able to stay behind the lead car in the two-car drafts for a long period of time. The FR9 engines were capable of staying in the right operating temperature without a lot of fresh air to the radiator. Since they seem less prone to overheating, could they have an advantage in the draft? Will the drivers of other makes want a Ford behind them on those last laps?

Dale Earnhardt:

What would the master of restrictor-plate racing have thought about the two-car packs that seem to have made a large pack of cars obsolete?

The Las Vegas Sun has a story today that the Stratosphere Tower casino in Las Vegas will dim its lights tonight in honor of the 10th anniversary of Dale Earnhardt’s death. Here’s the full story.

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