Boo Journal: There Goes the NASCAR Vote

So the First and Second Ladies (Michelle Obama and Jill Biden) were brought in as grand marshals for the NASCAR season finale at Homestead (won in spectacular fashion by the absurdly entertaining Tony Stewart), and there was enough booing from the crowd to turn the story into "Michelle Obama, Dr. Jill Biden Draw Boos at NASCAR Event." Video is here.

In our podcast "Boo...Who?", we poked into political booing and sports booing, and how the two occasionally intersect. Bottom line: it's often not pretty.

A couple twists worth noting in this case: these weren't politicians getting booed but the wives of politicians (which would make the booing seem particularly hardcore); and they were there as part of a charitable campaign to help military personnel and veterans (which would make the booing seem to be a complaint about trying to score political points).

Now imagine for a moment that you were the person who handled this event from the White House side.

Confessions of a Racecar Driver

Last week we got an email from a reader named Daniel Herrington. He had just finished listening to our podcast, "The Upside of Quitting," and wanted to tell us about a big quit he's been pondering recently.

Daniel is a 25 year-old race car driver. He's also an engineering graduate student at Duke. On the race track, he's had enough success to keep at it: he's won at Chicagoland Speedway, and had multiple top ten finishes. But it's not quite enough to convince him that racing's the right path. The sport is super expensive; plus, Daniel's success has been a bit spotty. He's only completed 2 full seasons in the last 7 years. Keep at it, and he might wind up a star. But he could also end up a middle-aged, burned-out race car driver with no other career to fall back on. So Daniel is hedging and pursuing a graduate degree.

Daniel agreed to answer some of our questions. The result is an honest, revealing piece, one that (especially given the tragic death of Indy Car driver Dan Wheldon last weekend) sheds light on the tough decisions many young drivers face, where they have to weigh the considerable risks of the sport against its obvious thrill.

What Would Happen if NASCAR Tried Right Turns?

With the exception of a few road course races, most of the NASCAR races are held on ovals. The cars always race counter-clockwise on the ovals, meaning the cars only turn left.

Given all the attention that learning and expertise has been getting, I’m deeply curious as to what would happen if for one race NASCAR went in the opposite direction, so that it was all right turns. I understand that they would probably have to do a lot of work to the cars, because the cars must be optimized for left turns, but put that aside. Would lap times be appreciably worse because the drivers would have trouble cornering? Would there be more crashes? Would the same drivers excel?

I think NASCAR should give it a shot. It would generate a lot of interest. I suspect, both among hardcore NASCAR fan and more casual sports fans.

I’ve even got the obvious name for the race: The Rite Aid 400.

FREAK-est Links

Georgia's shriveling peach economy, one-third of Michigan teachers feel pressured to cheat, the annual Big Mac index, a public library incentive scheme, and why West Virginia is awash in car crashes the week after a televised NASCAR race.

Kyle Busch Answers Your NASCAR Questions

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Ask a NASCAR Driver

Kyle Busch It is possible, though not likely, that this blog exerts the opposite of the Sports Illustrated cover jinx. First we write about the Boston Celtics and then … drumroll … they win the N.B.A. championship! (Okay, okay, they were hardly an underdog, with the best regular-season record and home-court advantage through the playoffs. […]

Freakonomics in the Times Magazine: How Many Lives Did Dale Earnhardt Save?

The February 19, 2006, Freakonomics column in the New York Times Magazine concerns NASCAR, or the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing, which in a previous incarnation was known, quite fittingly, as the Stock-Car Auto Racing Society, or SCARS. This post contains bonus material.