Beginners Guide to the Coke Zero 400

We’ve finally made it to the 4th of July! Happy birthday America! And three day weekend! Why hasn’t someone handed me a hotdog yet? Besides fireworks and watching Joey Chestnut eat an insane amount of hot dogs, this weekend also has the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona. What’s more American than NASCAR at Daytona on 4th of July weekend? Maybe this picture of George Washington dunking on Kim Jong Eun but that’s about it.

If you are new to NASCAR and were trying to pick a great track to visit for your first race odds are you’d choose Daytona.  It’s the most famous track and has the most prestigious race, the Daytona 500, but maybe you wanted a little less fan fare around your first NASCAR race yet still get the history. That is exactly what you’ll get at the Coke Zero 400 this weekend. So far you’ve made a great race choice for your first one but the thought of going to your first NASCAR race can be a daunting one. Luckily I’m here to help. There’s a lot going on at race weekend and you’re going to want to take advantage of as much as possible with as few hiccups as possible. When it comes to large events like these I tend to overthink most scenarios so you can trust that I’ve worked through most situations.

Take NASCAR up on their offer to tour the garages. (Photo: Patrick Smith)

Take NASCAR up on their offer to tour the garages. (Photo: Patrick Smith)

First and most important is to wear comfortable shoes. It always surprises me how massive these venues are. Having to walk around the grounds from where you park and tailgate to the Sprint FANZONE to your seats is going to require a lot of steps. Comfort is definitely going to beat out any need for fashion this weekend. Crocs maybe?

If you are the type who would like to cut out most of that walking, just park close to the track. Easier said than done, so if you are targeting prime tailgating real estate you better plan to get there early. No matter how dedicated of a fan you are, you still have hundreds of counterparts who plan on getting that same great tailgating space. The earlier you can get there, the less walking you’ll have to do to get to the track. And that means more tailgating time! Let’s cook something else, preferably wrapped in bacon!

If you really want to take your tailgating to another level consider camping at the race track. You can cut out the worry of traffic getting there on Saturday morning and you’ve got a much longer time to prep and set up your tailgating area. You’ll also be in a mobile community of like minded NASCAR fans which will make the experience even better.

Once you’ve had your fill of bacon and other grilled meats, I would definitely suggested checking out the Sprint FANZONE. There are going to be tons of pre-race events including a concert by country music artist Lee Brice, driver appearances and introductions, auto graph sessions and even guided tour of the garage areas. There’s more to a race weekend than the 400 laps and NASCAR has done a great job of giving their fans access to more than just seats. If they’re letting you go see the garages you should probably take them up on their offer. It would almost be rude not to.

The final tip I have for you is to bring your own cooler into the race. Yes, you heard me correctly: they will let you bring in your own drink of choice as long as it all fits into a cooler no bigger than 14x14x14 inches. And don’t be too worried about that size of cooler, that size supposedly holds between 24-36 cans. Having gone to dozens of NFL and MLB games where they take away any form of liquid, this blew my mind when I heard it. At Yankee stadium a beer can cost as much as $12, and if my friends and I were to have 24 of them it would cost $288! Besides having your preferred drink of choice, you’re going to save huge amounts of cash not buying beer or soda. A cooler is a must.

Well, It’s the 4th of July weekend and you’ve made the great choice to spend it watching the Coke Zero 400. I’ve given you all the tips I’ve got and you should now be well prepared to get the most out of your first NASCAR race. Remember, don’t forget the cooler.

British Eagle Mania: The British Open heads to Liverpool

It’s been almost two weeks since Martin Kaymer’s demolition of the US Open field and for the casual golf fan their attention may have been drawn elsewhere. We had one of the deepest NBA drafts ever, Lebron James opting for free agency and causing a frenzy (again), there seems to be a never ending stream of cliffhanger World Cup games (RIP team USA) and Wimbledon to name a few. Oh and let’s not forget Michelle Wie cashing in on that prodigy status and winning the Women’s US Open at Pinehurst.

With all of that going on how is the 2014 British Open going to compete? Oh what’s that? Tiger Woods is healthy and playing golf again? Problem solved.

Photo: David Cannon

Photo: David Cannon

As I’ve talked about before, large amounts of people just don’t care about golf unless Tiger Woods is playing. Ludicrous I know, but not everyone can appreciate the art of the game. It’s probably because they have never listened to Will Smith talk about golf. There is something to be said for seeing history made before your eyes. It’s a badge of honor to say you saw Derek Jeter play his last game in Yankee Stadium. Sure the moment may be fleeting and after a few hours or days the game or round will be over but the memory of being there is a mark of pride that thousands of people will envy. A lot of people can say they saw Kobe score 81 in person but only 18,000 or so actually did.

So they may not love the art of golf but they definitely can appreciate the gravity of a major when Tiger Woods plays. The Tiger effect happens without even knowing it. I have spent half my time writing about Tiger and not one word about the course, the major or the other golfers. Despite the history Tiger could reel a little bit closer, his outlook for winning at the Royal Liverpool in two weeks isn’t looking great. He’s just returned from injury and missed the cut at the Quicken Loans National last weekend. Before the injury he had three straight top 10 finishes so a return to the last group on Sunday wouldn’t be a surprise however. He also won here back in 2006 almost entirely without a driver so he knows what it’ll take.

If you are considering attending the British Open you’re going to find the course to be very flat and open. You’ll also notice a lack of trees which means great sight-lines for those walking in the gallery. For those of you who want to go with the grand stand option, you’ll get a wider view of the whole course and may be able to watch play on a neighboring hole. You should also be able to see the vintage, red roofed homes the surround the course. If that doesn’t make you feel dignified watching golf I don’t know what will. If you’re just looking for a hole with a view, I’d say plant yourself on the 13th green. It’s a short hole at only 198 yards which means an ace is always in play. In between shots you’ll get a chance to look over at Hilbre Island sitting out in the River Dee.

While the view may be spectacular, one thing you are going to have to be aware of is the weather. This course is planted on the coastline so expect for some windy conditions. It could be a pleasant summer breeze or something heavier but it’s always windy in England so be ready. With this being a coastal golf course, weather can change rapidly make sure to keep an eye on the reports.

We’ve seen some pretty amazing and historic golf courses host Major championships over the last few months but they might all be outdone by the Royal Liverpool. The Royal is the second oldest seaside golf course in England having been built in 1869 which is a staggeringly long time ago. When it was built things like cars, planes, light bulbs and the telephone hadn’t been invented yet. The civil war had only ended four years prior. If you’re looking for a reason to go watch the British Open in person, the history might just be it. The Royal hosted the first amateur championship, several first international friendlies and was involved in Bobby Jones’ famous 1930 grand slam.

Regardless of the event this course is going to be a fantastic venue to visit. Add in the British Open, Tiger’s return, Kaymer’s opportunity to rule golf with an iron fist, and Rickie Fowler’s attempt to bring back some color to England, you have a great Major championship to be in attendance for.

Austrian Grand Prix: Red Bull Hope To Give You More Than Wings

Another week and another race on the Formula 1 circuit. This time the teams flock to Austria’s Red Bull ring looking to add to their win totals. Red Bull has revived an old staple of the Formula 1 circuit which hasn’t had an official circuit race on the course since legendary driver Michael Schumacher claimed victory way back in 2003.

Despite the drama on the Mercedes team, they are still tops in the standings. Team driver Nico Rosberg took some momentum from four consecutive 2nd place finishes to win the famed Monaco Grand Prix. Apparently Rosberg had had enough of the “always a bridesmaid, never a bride”talk and went out and proved he he was still capable of crossing the finish line first. The only problem was that he edged out teammate Lewis Hamilton, who was on the a four race winning streak. Having his teammate and friend, who had previously played the Robin to Hamilton’s Batman, beat him had an adverse affect as he failed to finish the next race in Montreal. Rosberg didn’t seem to mind the potential rift he may have caused and subsequently went out and grabbed second place pulling him further ahead of Hamilton in the overall standings. Rosberg also doesn’t seem to think he’ll be going back to second fiddle any time soon either. For most teams having your drivers sitting first and second in the standing is a dream scenario but they both drivers seem more determined to beat each other than other teams which doesn’t bode well for long term success.

Mark Thompson/Getty Images

Mark Thompson/Getty Images

While the Mercedes team is focused on internal relations, the Red Bull team is starting to get on the podium and gain some momentum. They’ve had drivers finish in the points for the last six races which has them second in the overall team standings. Yes they have less than half the points Mercedes does but it’s a long season. That streak of consistency culminated with Daniel Ricciardo’s victory in Canada. Ricciardo ended Mercedes’strangle hold on the winner’s circle which has lasted six races. He also was on the podium in both Monaco and at the Spanish Grand Prix so I wouldn’t be surprised if Red Bull was about to make their move. The upcoming race is at their new home for the Formula 1 circuit and what better place to show to the racing world that this season doesn’t belong to Mercedes just yet?

Not to be overlooked is the other Red Bull team driver, Sebastian Vettel. He placed third in Canada but what might be more concerning for his fellow drivers is that he may finally be rounding into form. Vettel was easily the most dominant driver on the circuit last year winning thirteen out of twenty one races, including nine straight to close out the year. Ricciardo has done a great job to keep the ship on course but if Vettel can regain his form from last year, which saw Red Bull dominate the standings in points, that gap Red Bull sees between themselves and first place could rapidly disappear.

Home cooking tends to help in sports and with the next race on Red Bull’s home track, the outlook for the rest of the Formula 1 circuit season may be about to change.

US Open Wrap Up

 

The 2014 US Open has ended and Martin Kaymer had to ruin the event for everyone by win by 8 strokes. I wrote a week ago that the Masters was a boring event and that all golf fans were hoping for a more exciting weekend. I guess the race for second was exciting…

All joking aside Martin Kaymer took a break from his side job as RoboCop to thoroughly dominant the field and his play made for some great viewing. Before the tournament started I heard some experts predicting that a score of one-over par might be a good enough to win and then Kaymer comes out and shoots back to back rounds of five-under 65. That is impressive in its own right but just for good measure he set a 36 hole record for a US Open. All in a day’s work for Martin Kaymer. That ten under through two days allowed him to still run away with the victory despite being 1 over on Saturday and Sunday.

Not to keep giving myself more credit but last week I also said this course was going to be one of the tougher US Opens in recent memory. There were incredibly long par 5s, narrow fairways and the rough was really just a mix of dead grass and sand. No one was even really sure where that rough ended and where bunkers began.

Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Kaymer’s dominance was interesting but I was overjoyed to see my personal favorite golfer and human highlighter Rickie Fowler making a run and coming away with a second place finish. Also I better not hear one bad word about Rickie. He came out onto the green on Thursday wearing knickers in honor of his idol Payne Stewart. He was out there having fun with his outfit in a major championship which is just the type of attitude that will help attract more fans to golf. Yes he hit some massively bad shots but he held it together enough to be one of three golfers to end the weekend under par. He was in the final group on Sunday and had Kaymer played like any other professional golfer, Rickie would have been right there vying for the victory. He didn’t win but he definitely cemented himself as a major player when it comes time for the next major. For all the publicity Rory McIlroy gets for being so young, Rickie Fowler is also only 25.

While many may have had lower expectations for Rickie Folwer, experts (me included) were looking for some big things from the big names of the tour. Phil Mickelson, who lost that epic 1999 US Open to Payne Stewart, came in to the tournament looking for a career grand slam. He left seven over par. Masters winner Bubba Watson’s chances of back to back majors ended on Friday when he missed the cut and Rory ended up six over. World number one Adam Scott came away ninth with a two over par which isn’t terrible and that score somewhat helped his case that he deserves that number one ranking.

While I joked that Kaymer ruined the excitement of the tournament, that doesn’t mean it wasn’t enjoyable. It was actually fantastic viewing as an amateur golfer because my self-esteem is through the roof. Watching these guys whose jobs are to play golf at an elite level struggle so much was so very comforting. Hitting my shot from a bunker straight into another bunker sucks. Then I saw Phil Mickelson do it so I’ve got nothing to worry about next time my round goes to hell. I saw Rory miss putts and I miss putts. Rickie Fowler shanked shots and I shank shots. It’s like were twins or something. Yes, I know I don’t play at Pinehurst but for the first time in my life I guarantee I could have made some of the same shots the pros did. Shots that don’t go where I plan are my specialty.

Regardless it was a fun event to watch. Pinehurst looked unlike any other golf course I’ve ever seen and it lived up to its billing as a tough course. To honor the great weekend of golf I think I’m going to dress up as Rickie Fowler tomorrow.

Canadian Grand Prix

This sunday offers one of the worlds largest sporting events, the Canadian Grand Prix. Hot off NBC broadcasting the Monaco Grand Prix, which was the most watched Formula 1 race in six years, the Canadian Grand Prix hopes to keep the momentum going. Yes, NASCAR has a firm hold on the US racing market but don’t let that overshadow what Formula 1 has to offer. While NASCAR uses Toyota Camrys, Formula 1 employs the craftsmanship and engineering of some of the worlds finest automakers like Ferrari, McLaren, and Mercedes. And that Mercedes team is where you’re going to find some of the most intriguing story lines of race weekend.

The Mercedes team has won the last three races on the F1 circuit but tensions have been growing between the two drivers responsible for those wins. Team driver Lewis Hamilton had won the previous two races and presumably was looking to continue racing up wins. That was until teammate and off again on again BFF, Nico Rosberg swiped the pole position away from Hamilton at Monaco. Rosberg may or may not have also driven off the course on purpose to keep Hamilton from qualifying first. You’re probably asking yourself why he would do such a thing?

Photo: Mark Thompson

Photo: Mark Thompson

The answer is simply; strategy. The Mercedes team devises it’s whole strategy around the top qualifier on the team. If Rosberg wanted to win he’d have to have pole position. It would look terrible if out on the track the two teammates were dueling for a win. I mean maybe to the Ferrari team it would look great but it is most definitely not the image Mercedes would want to portray to the world. It’s makes sense though, Rosberg not wanting to keep living in the shadow of his longtime friend and teammate. He’s probably one of the five or ten best F1 drivers in the world but at the moment he was only second best on his team. Can you really blame him for trying to show he’s still got the talent to win?

Now I’ve never been behind the wheel of a race car, unless you count my numerous hours of playing Mario Kart, but I can tell you that these guys are as competitive as they come. Yes it’s a “team”sport but each racer gets individual results. Second best probably wasn’t what Nico Rosberg singed up for.

Even with the recent string of Mercedes victories Team Ferrari is lurking close behind. Had I written this post two months ago I’d be focusing on their string of back to back 1-2 finishes in China and Spain. Team drivers Fernando Alonso and Kimi Räikkönen had been racing at the top of their games and a return to form this weekend isn’t unrealistic. Especially with the flammable situation over at Mercedes. Alonso finished 2nd at the Canadian Grand Prix last year so he know what it takes to get onto the podium. Don’t count out Team Red Bull either. Whether at the X Games or on the Formula 1 circuit their athletes have been winning all over and this race might not be any different. They just makes such good commercials which just inspire me to believe that they can win at anything. They helped a guy jump out of a space ship for christ sake!

Now if you’re still looking for tickets you’re going to need to hurry as the race is tomorrow. While it is great to sit along the fence line and see the action up close and personal, I’d suggest looking to get seats a little higher up in the stands. It’s a long track and you’re going to want to watch more of the action than the few seconds these super cars whip by you. Seats with a view of the tight corners are also going to be good for viewing as you’ll get to see drivers making passes at sub triple digit speeds.

Fast cars and tight corners are going to make for a great race this weekend in Montreal.