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December 2008

Seven Days: Vermont Car Blog

December 28, 2008

The Top Ten Auto List for 2008

This year has been one for the record books. Our economy imploded to a degree not seen since the Great Depression, and a historic election delivered an inspiring African-American to the White House. If you're one to observe the dualities of life, there's certainly some yin and yang to contrast here.

After the financial markets the auto industry became the most battered sector of the economy. First, record high gas prices pulled the plug on sales of trucks and SUVs. This impacted already ailing American automakers far more then their foreign competitors. Then the recession took an even bigger bite. Ouch. At least gas prices have dropped again.

The following fun facts and figures from auto land provide a snapshot of this unique and dramatic year. I wish you all the best in the coming one.

2009-honda-fit Drop in Sales, Nov. 2007 to Nov. 2008
1. Chrysler -47%
2. Volvo -46.5%
3. Nissan -42%
4. GM -41.3%
5. Acura -38.9%
6. Hyundai -38.6%
7. Lexus -34.7%
8. Toyota -33.9%
9. Mazda -31.3%
10. Honda -30.6%
11. Ford -30% (OK, this is more than 10, but given what's going on in Detroit, it seems relevant to include Ford.)

2009-ford-f-150 Bestselling Cars
1. Ford F-Series     
2. Chevrolet Silverado
3. Toyota Camry   
4. Honda Civic    
5. Honda Accord    
6. Toyota Corolla/Matrix
7. Nissan Altima
8. Chevrolet Impala
9. Dodge Ram
10. Ford Focus

Worst-Selling Cars
1. Hyundai Entourage
2. Mitsubushi Endeavor
3. Hummer H2
4. Chrysler Pacifica
5. Nissan Armada
6. Hummer H3
7. Dodge Durango
8. GMC Envoy
9. Jeep Commander
10. Toyota FJ Cruiser

2007_Smart_Fortwo Least Expensive Cars
1. Hyundai Accent GS, $9,970
2. Nissan Versa Sedan, $9,990
3. Kia Rio, $11,495
4. Toyota Yaris, $12,205
5. Smart fortwo, $11,590
6.  Chevrolet Aveo5, $12,625
7. Suzuki SX4 Sedan, $13,299
8.  Kia Spectra, $13,550
9. Hyundai Elantra GLS, $14,120
10. Honda Fit, $14,550

Most Expensive Cars
1. Bugatti Veyron, $1,192,057
2. Pagani Zonda C12 F, $667,321
3. SSC Ultimate Aero, $654,400
4. LeBlanc Mirabeau, $645,084
5. Saleen S7, $545,568
6. Koenigsegg CCX, $545,568
7. Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren, $457,250
8. Porsche Carrera GT, $440,000
9. Maybach 62, $385,250
10. Maybach 57 S $367,000

Cars With Lowest Ownership Costs
1. Honda Fit
2. Chevrolet Aveo
3. Hyundai Accent    
4. Toyota Yaris
5. Nissan Versa
6.  Scion xB
7. Pontiac Vibe
8. Toyota Corolla
9. Kia Rio
10. Suzuki SX4

Audi_r8 Cars With Highest Ownership Costs
1.  Mercedes-Benz CL class 
2. Mercedes-Benz S class    
3. Mercedes-Benz SL class
4. Audi R8
5. BMW Alpina S7       
6. BMW M6
7. BMW M5
8. Audi S8
9. Mercedes-Benz G class
10. Audi A8

Best at Holding Their Value (% of Value Retained)
1. 2008 Mini Cooper Clubman — 56.4%
2. 2008 Mini Cooper — 53.1%
3. 2008 BMW M3 — 52.8%
4. 2008 Lexus IS F — 49.6%
5. 2008 Scion xB — 49.2%
6. 2008 Volkswagen R32 — 49.0%
7. 2008 Infiniti G37 — 47.2%
8. 2008 Chevrolet Corvette — 47.1%
9. 2008 BMW 1 Series — 47.0%
10. 2008 Volkswagen Eos — 47.0%

Worst at Holding Their Value (% of Value Retained)
1. 2008 Kia Rio — 26.3%
2. 2008 Kia Spectra — 27.0%
3. 2008 Hyundai Accent — 28.0%
4. 2008 Suzuki Reno — 29.2%
5. 2008 Suzuki Forenza — 29.3%
6. 2008 Mercury Grand Marquis — 30.4%
7. 2008 Kia Amanti — 30.6%
8. 2008 Chevrolet Malibu Classic — 30.7%
9. 2008 Hyundai Sonata — 30.8%
10. 2008 Jaguar S-Type — 31.3%

Most Expensive for Repairs
1. Dodge Viper    
2. Jaguar XK-Series    
3. Jaguar XJ-Series    
4. Land Rover Range Rover Sport    
5. Land Rover Range Rover    
6. Mercedes-Benz SL-Class    
7. Mercedes-Benz CL-Class    
8. Land Rover LR3    
9. Audi RS4    
10. BMW Alpina B7

Least Expensive for Repairs
1. (tie) Suzuki SX4    
1. (tie) Honda Element    
3. Nissan Versa    
4. Hyundai Accent    
5. Kia Sedona    
6. Honda Pilot    
7. Hyundai Veracruz    
8. Suzuki XL7    
9. Honda CR-V    
10. Mazda Tribute

Most Fuel-Efficient Vehicles (City/Highway)
1. Toyota Prius Hybrid, 48/45
2. Honda Civic Hybrid, 40/45
3. Nissan Altima Hybrid, 35/33
4. smart fortwo, 33/41
5. Toyota Camry Hybrid, 33/34
6. Ford Escape Hybrid, 34/31
7. Mazda Tribute Hybrid, 34/31
8. Mercury Mariner Hybrid, 34/31
9. Volkswagen Jetta, 30/41
10. Toyota Yaris, 29/36

Biggest Gas Guzzlers (City/Highway)
1. Lamborghini Murcielago, 8/13
2. Bentley Azure, 9/15
3. Bentley Brooklands, 10/14
4. Bentley Continental GT, 10/17
5. Bentley Arnage, 10/14
6. Ferrari 612 Scaglietti, 9/16
7. Ferrari 599 GTB Fiorano 11/15
8. Ferrari F430, 11/16
9. Aston Martin DBS Coupe 11/17
10. BMW M5, 11/17

Surprised by any of these facts and figures? Which ones make you scratch your head?

Sources: www.forbes.com, www.thesupercars.org, www.bankrate.com, www.Edmunds.com

December 18, 2008

Auto Plants Closing For January

Big_three All three U.S. automakers are extending their normal two-week holiday shutdowns. These closings reflect two stark realities facing U.S. automakers. First is the unconfirmed and undefined bailout plan. Second is the lack of buying customers in the showroom resulting in the lowest sales rate in 26 years.

Ford is closing 10 of its North American plants for the first full week of January. In a plan made public in early December their goal is to reduce first-quarter production by 37.9 percent or 430,000 vehicles.

Chrysler’s closings are more dramatic extending the already planned two-week holiday shutdown to a month, possibly longer for 30 U.S. factories. Whether or not all of the plants actually open again is yet to be seen.

General Motors will temporarily close 20 factories.

All of the automakers are in a fragile state, but Ford is at least in a position to maintain its operations without intervention through 2009. GM and Chrysler need some government assistance or… else.

December 16, 2008

A Rabbit By Any Other Name

In October, when Car and Driver named the Volkswagen GTI one of the 10 “most fun cars for $25,000,” I knew I had to get my hands on one. I’ve been reading great things about it for years and finally got my chance to test-drive one last week, courtesy of Lewis Motors in South Burlington.

The Volkswagen GTI is really just a sport version of the Volkswagen Rabbit — though they’re marketed as different cars — and that got me thinking. Maybe I should take them both out and compare. So that’s what I did.
The story actually starts way back in 1938, when Volkswagen began building the economical Beetle. It became one of the most influential and iconic vehicles of all time, and was once the world’s best-selling. By 1975, though, the nearly 40-year-old Beetle was primitive by most vehicular standards. Volkswagen needed a solid replacement. It took years of trial and error, but the company finally came up with a winner. Enter the Rabbit.

Before I go on, there’s a wrinkle in this story: The Rabbit is a Golf. “Rabbit” is just a name, and everywhere else in the world, except the U.S. and Canada, it will always be a Golf. To further confuse matters, though the car is called the Rabbit now in North America (as it was in 1976 when it came to our shores), from 1985 to 2006 it was called the Golf here as well. And Golf doesn’t refer to the sport of golfing. It is short for Golf-Strum, and that’s German for Gulf Stream. It’s a nod to the ocean connecting our shores, where the Germans hoped to ship many, many cars.

OK, glad we cleared that up.

Now, what did the Rabbit have that would make it a worthy successor to the Beetle? For one thing, it was a hatchback, a design that gave it lots of space for its small size. The tall hatchback was so influential that several copycat designs appeared within a few years, including on the Dodge Omni and Ford Escort.
While an economically spacious cabin was a plus, the Rabbit was a joy to drive, too. It had a Twist-beam rear suspension and independent Macpherson strut front-suspension system that gave the car excellent handling characteristics. I had two Rabbits in the ’80s and can attest to the fun I had whipping them around the streets of New Haven, Connecticut. Finally, when the high-performance GTI version rolled out in 1983, it created an entirely new genre of vehicles, called the “Hot Hatch,” and that solidified the reputation of this great small car.

Fast forward 25 years and the Golf (or Rabbit) is the third-best-selling vehicle of all time, with more than 25 million built. That puts it right after the Toyota Corolla and Ford F-Series pickups, at 35 and 32 million units, respectively, and, interestingly, just ahead of the VW Beetle at 21 million units. So, Volkswagen’s effort to replace the Beetle was indeed a great success.

Unlike the Beetle, which had essentially the same design for its many years of service, the Rabbit has evolved, keeping the car in competition with many formidable opponents along the way.

Today the Rabbit and the GTI share some common characteristics. Both show evidence of their German lineage, with many components and engineering deriving from Volkswagen’s sister companies, Audi and Porsche. That they are faster than their peers and fun to drive is a two-edged sword, as it also results in fair but not great fuel economy. Both vehicles can be described as well built, safe, sporty and tastefully designed. The differences between Rabbit and GTI are exactly what you’d expect from any performance upgrade: a better engine, brakes and suspension.

The GTI gets a turbo-charger with an extra 30 horses, which enables it to reach 60 mph about a second quicker than the Rabbit. It gets a six-speed manual transmission instead of the Rabbit’s five-speed. For automatic shifting, they both get six-speeds, but the GTI’s offers a state-of-the-art Direct Shift Gearbox, which delivers more power, better control and faster performance than a manual transmission. The GTI suspension is beefier and more comprehensive, which makes it a favorite on the autocross circuit. And since you can’t see all that performance equipment, the GTI’s interior and exterior design elements are cranked up a notch with sportier and more attractive details.

That doesn’t leave the Rabbit lacking much, though. First, consider that it starts at about $7000 less, with an MSRP of $15,890. And it has plenty of power for normal driving situations. Each of these VWs fills a different niche, allowing the same basic vehicle to compete on the lower end with affordable small cars such as the Mazda3 and Honda Civic, and on the higher end with upscale small cars such as the Audi A3 and BMW’s 1-Series.

The Rabbit and GTI are a couple of great vehicles, one a reliable daily driver, the other a little classier with some extras to get your adrenaline pumping.

December 15, 2008

WOKO Gigantic Indoor Flea Market Hosts Auto Finder

2009_challenger_bob I'd like to thank Tom Oddy and the whole crew out at the WOKO Gigantic Indoor Flea Market for having us at their event yesterday at the Champlain Expo fairgrounds in Essex, VT. We raised some money for the Good News Garage and I got to show off a 2009 Dodge Challenger from Goss Dodge in South Burlington, VT.

We had a little something for everybody. Pat McCaffrey from McCaffrey Sunoco was sharing tips on getting your car ready for Winter and I was demonstrating the ability for private owners to place their cars and trucks for sale on Auto Finder.

Woko1 The highlight for most people was checking out the Challenger. Man that is a nice looking vehicle. Dodge has hit the retro look so accurately that people had to ask whether it was new or an original muscle car from the seventies! And poor me, I had to drive it around for the weekend. If you were out on Bolton Flats Saturday night I apoligize for blowing your doors off!

December 10, 2008

Vermont’s Rally Royalty

This is the third in a series of Rally articles. See also "What is Rally?" and Rally Redux with Rally great John Buffum.

Af121008lance Lance Smith is the president of Vermont SportsCar in Colchester. He translated a love of rallying into a hugely successful business venture that keeps him right where he wants to be: in the heart of rally racing in America. Vermont SportsCar runs Subaru Rally Team USA, which has won the last three Rally America National Championships. Last week, Smith slowed down enough to share the ride.

BOB KILPATRICK: How long has Vermont SportsCar been around, and when did the focus turn to rally?
LANCE SMITH: We started in 1988 and our focus was restoring exotic sports cars. Though my background and education was with exotic sports cars, my passion was with rally. I always had a rally car and did my first rally school in ’79. I was 18.

BK: So, it’s been a lifelong passion?
LS: Yep . . . The collector car market slowed in 1990. I purchased what was left of the original company and carried on. Each of my former partners wanted to try rally. They said, “Jeez, we’d like to give that a go.” And I got to build their rally cars. I slowly changed the focus to be more rally oriented. We still do restorations now, but we do about one a year. It used to be 95 percent restorations and 5 percent rally, and now it’s totally the other way.

BK: Your specialty on the course is as a co-driver. Tell me about that experience.
LS: I used to be upset that I was born on the wrong side of the water [Atlantic Ocean]. There was no real rallying in the United States. You couldn’t get any funding. So I spent years frustrated with that. Then I went for a ride with John Buffum in his Audi Quattro when it was first delivered. Cutting-edge, state-of-the-art stuff, and here’s a guy in Vermont who had one! As soon as that happened, I could never change my focus again. I knew what I was going to do for the rest of my life: I wanted to be a rally driver.
But I loved the sport of rallying even more than my desire to be a rally driver. So building the cars and co-driving was a really good way for me to stay involved. I was onboard for any issues. I co-drove for Dick Corley in town here for three or four years, and we were running at a high level in the national championship. That was really good. We were fighting with the big boys from a team that started with nothing. Then, riding with Carl Merrill, we actually won the North American Rally Cup. That was my highest achievement as a co-driver.

Block BK: What makes Vermont SportsCar unique?
LS: When I started looking at rally, I thought I could make a name for us there. I tried to bring the fit and finish of a restoration project into the world of rally in the United States. At the time, the fit and finish of rally vehicles was not very high. Our cars presented very well and performed well. Our attention to detail was different than everybody else’s. I found a little niche for myself there.

BK: How did you get involved with Subaru Rally Team USA?
LS: We collaborated with Prodrive in 2001, providing half of the people and the infrastructure for the team, and that was our first factory contract. In 2003 Subaru contacted us about running a program of just parts delivery, and since then we’ve grown the project. Two thousand-six was our first year as a full factory team for Subaru. Since then we’ve won the championship every year. We’ve also put a new emphasis on marketing the sport. We have different drivers now that have a big fan base, and that’s why we have this explosion of interest in rally. These drivers, Travis Pastrana, Ken Block and Dave Mirra — when they talk, people listen. We didn’t have that before.

BK: How big was getting rally into the X Games?
LS: A huge move, monumental. The story goes that when Travis was leaving the X Games in 2005, after he won a Gold Medal in Freestyle, he said, “Well, it’s too bad I’m not going to be back next year. You guys don’t have rally in the X Games and I’m going rallying next year.” The guys running the X Games stopped and took the time to find out “what is rally?” And because of that, it opened a whole bunch of eyes. ESPN was looking for some form of motorsport to transition the X Games, to get to a slightly older audience and get more eyeballs, and Travis gave it to them on a plate. They took a big chance with rally and it worked.
Our team of drivers is unbelievable. We’ve been given a real gift. Between [sponsors] Subaru of America, BFGoodrich Tires, Red Bull, Monster Energy Drink . . . and then we get three spokesmen [Pastrana, Block, Mirra] who are all enthusiastic. Each one of them is different. They’re all experts in their own field and they’ve decided to converge on rally at one time? And with us? It’s crazy.


See also "What is Rally?" and Rally Redux with Rally great John Buffum.

December 08, 2008

Wolf Chase SCCA Rallycross

This Saturday I competed in the NER SCCA Wolf Chase Rallycross with two goals in mind.
1) Don’t break the car (1998 Subaru Impreza)
2) Don’t be last

I’m happy to say that the car is fine and by the narrowest of margins I was not last. I placed 11th out of 12 entrants in my class (Stock AWD). So a victory of sorts, but the most important thing is that I had a great time and met some cool people like Scott Beliveau whose Toyota Tacoma can be seen in my Weaver Farm Rally video, Kathy Moody from Team O’Neil, Robert Champion creator of VTRides and Burt Wilcke who was nice enough to let me drive along with him for a run. There was a great turnout with about 50 participants. We each got 5 runs through the course. Thanks to Jeff Hall for the pics!

Here's a link to video of cars actually racing around the field.

Impreza3 The field at Barber Farm started out with a light covering of snow that was quickly blown away to reveal a field that was not yet frozen. It turned out to be a fun, slippery and muddy course that required adjustments throughout the day to keep it in a reasonable state.

On my third run through the course it had been changed. Being new to the sport I was totally unprepared. I think I drove right over the 4 cones pointing me to the new route! I got an off-course for that which knocked my time down a bit. Note to self: follow the cones, not the tracks!

Thanks to all who made this event possible!

Wolf Chase Rallycross - More Video

Here's some more video from the Wolf Chase NER SCCA Rallycross on Saturday, Dec. 6th, 2008.

You can check out my original post here Wolf Chase Rallycross

December 07, 2008

Gas Price Conspiracy Theory

Why Are Gas Prices Really So Low?

The all-time-high gas prices we saw this Summer tipped the scales of power around the world. New oil producers were starting to get enough money to invest in infrastructure that would make them serious competitors with OPEC. Here's an idea. What if OPEC is engaging in a price war to drive them out? From the corner store to international corporations this game has played out time and time again. Larger, better-financed companies drop their prices and hold them there until they drive out their competition. Then when the competition is removed the prices spike right back up.

This scenario is not my own, but David Byrne's, former lead singer from the Talking Heads, but David got me thinking...

Gas_sickle Have you noticed Russia getting in the world's face again lately? They've been quiet for years, but they are suddenly popping up with bold new moves in countries like Georgia, Venezuela, Cuba and Iran. They've been enabled by oil profits to start shaking things up. Want to shut them down? Drop oil prices and their new found profits and bravado either dry up or become meaningless. Who would be behind that move? That's bigger than OPEC.

So why are gas prices so low?

December 03, 2008

Rally Redux

Af120308buffum2 John Buffum is the best rally driver the U.S. has ever produced. He holds the U.S. record for rally wins with 11 national titles and 117 national championship event victories. He is also the only American to ever win a European Championship event. John came to Vermont in the early ’60s to attend Middlebury College and has lived here just about ever since. He continues to prepare winning rally cars from his company Libra Racing in Colchester, and is also an advisor to Vermont SportsCar and Subaru Rally Team USA.

BOB KILPATRICK: How were you first introduced to Rally?
JOHN BUFFUM: By a fraternity brother of mine, in ’64 in Middlebury. He said, “Let’s go to a rally,” and I said, “What’s a rally?” I had no idea. We borrowed another fraternity brother’s MGA. We went on this little local rally that a guy named Frank Churchill put on. We loved it — it was great, good competition; good trying to find our way around and also stay on the time.

BK: What was your first big race?
JB: I was stationed in the army in Germany and I’d always read about the Monte Carlo Rally. We bought an ex-factory training car (Porsche 911) and went and did the ’69 rally, which was as big a rally as you could get in the world. Talk about a minnow in the ocean: I was totally out of my realm, over my head, but it came out fine. Things just sort of flowed along and, after five days, we were really tired, but we ended up finishing 12th. It was an unbelievable achievement.

Af120308buffum1 BK: When you look back on all the years, are there any particular events or moments that really stand out in your memory as personal highlights?
JB: In ’84 we did a program in Europe. Joe Hoppen was the boss of Porsche, Audi & Volkswagen motorsports in America. He got me an Audi Quattro to race in ’82. Because of its four-wheel drive and turbo-charged power, it was head-and-shoulders above everything else at the time. In ’84, BF Goodrich had also been involved with Audi in the U.S. rally program. They said, “We want to sell tires in Europe, so why don’t you do this program in Europe with your Audi?” We did a five-event program. That was the World Championship level. We were fifth at the Acropolis rally, behind two factory (race-prepared) Lancias and two factory Audis. And then we won the Cyprus Rally, which was the European Rally Championship. That was as good a season as I could have.

BK: I’m getting ready to try my hand at rallying at the local level and I’d like to ask for your advice.
JB: If you’re interested in road rallies and some rallycrosses, that’s a great place to start. It’s exactly how I started. It gives you an idea of what you are getting into. It gives you some car control. You start to see tree lines.
BK: They start to have meaning.
JB: Yeah, and you start to put all these things together.

BK: Do you have any driving tips? How can someone learn to be a successful rally driver?
JB: Go to Tim O’Neil’s [rally school]. You need somebody to tell you all of these things. If you’re in the shade, if you’re coming down into trees, it’s apt to be more slippery, so leave yourself a little more buffer. You can use the tree line or the telephone pole line to guide you where the road may go. You want to look up. You don’t want to look two car lengths in front of you; look down the road. I did a German championship rally with the Quattro. I remember part way through the rally I started to try to drive fast. When you try to drive fast, a lot of times you get sloppy and you end up driving slower. And my co-driver said, “Easy, use the advantage of the car.” Don’t come barreling into the corner and do asshole over elbows around the corner. Make sure you get a nice acceleration and fast speed out of the corner. Carry the speed out of the corner.

BK: Do you see anything going on now with rally that gives you hope for its future?
JB: In the last two or three years Subaru has become heavily involved and (also) with Travis Pastrana and Ken Block. Travis’ name has been fantastic because people, especially younger people, know who Travis is. You’ve got the X Games — you’ve got a different segment of the population. Now you’ve got energy drinks coming in — Red Bull, Rockstar, Monster. And this is perfect to go along with rally. Yeah, there is some hope there.

BK: You’ve heard the saying, “If I knew then what I know now.” Is there anything you’d go back and do differently?
JB: I have a poem on my desk that my daughter gave me, by Robert Frost: “Two roads diverged in a wood . . .” which is a similar type of thing. There’s this guy walking along in the woods and there are two paths, a fork in the road, and he doesn’t know which one to take. It’s so true about life. Were there things I’d do differently? Sure, there would have been smaller things. I look back at what I’ve done and the people I’ve met and known with great fondness. You have what you have and live what you live.

This is part two of a three part series.
Part I: What is Rally?
Part III: Vermont's Rally Royalty with Lance Smith of Vermont SportsCar

December 02, 2008

U.S. Automakers Revival Plans Due Today

Big_three_2 Ford, General Motors and Chrysler lobbied hard for a bailout of the U.S. auto industry last month and were firmly rebutted by congress, primarily for not having explicit plans to outline how they would use the money to turn their companies around.

Today is the due date for those plans and hundreds of thousands of people around the country, whose livelihoods are tied to the auto industry, are hoping they came up with something good. That remains to be seen.

Each CEO took a private plane to Washington D.C. for their previous meetings with congress and were chastised for that waste in the face of millions of dollars a month in losses. This time Ford’s CEO Alan Mulally will drive to new congressional hearings, taking place this week, in a Ford Escape Hybrid. Did he get the message or is it just good marketing? Probably a bit of both.

December 01, 2008

Bob Sr.'s Weekend Racing Highlights

There's not much to report this week. Instead here's some news.

Formula 1
So far it appears that among the top five F1 teams - Ferrari, McClaren, BMW, Renault and Toyota  - there will be no driver changes.

Last week testing started in Barcelona with new rules including different tire specs, allowing slicks again! new aero packages, wider lower front wings, narrow rears and Kinetic Recovery Systems (KERS).

Some interesting driver tests include 5 time World Rally Champion Sebastien Loeb testing for Team Red Bull with Sebastien Vettel. Honda testing with Bruno Senna , nephew of immortal World Champion Ayrton Senna. Another transition finds MotoGP champ Valentino Rossi jumping into a Ferrari cockpit for a two day test  at Ferrari's Mugello, Italy test track.

Ferrari would love to be able to entice the internationally popular Italian into their family. They are presently without an Italian driver and the Italian fans are wildly partisan.

The 24 Hours of Daytona (Jan.24,25)
Testing has been going on for weeks now and drivers from every racing venue will take part again. This is an incredible race where over 60 of the World’s best sports cars go at a relentless pace for 24 hours. It’s quite a test of man and machine.

I have a friend who owns a small house a few miles from the track. It's really only used once a year, just for the 24 Hours of Daytona. We watch for the first 6-8 hours, wandering the infield and pits grabbing lunch from one of the many dining areas, meeting old friends and drivers, then retire for a few hours, maybe grab a few winks, then go back for the first of the night sequences.

There is absolutely nothing like watching these amazing cars barrel into the first turn at 200 mph off the high banked oval, while you are just a few feet away in the stands. We eventually watch from every corner getting the best overall feel of the race.

We leave one car in the in huge infield and another just outside the gate which makes getting around much easier. You could log many, many miles if you were on foot. Not for me.

Editor's Note: Bob Sr. is my dad. He has been racing cars for almost 50 years. If he's not racing on the weekend you'll find him watching auto racing on TV. Every Monday he'll post an update with highlights and the inside scoop on the previous weekend’s big races.

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