Friday, February 22, 2008

Another Review

A trip to the local speedway inspired this piece which also appears on the Review blog this week.

The Speedway Experience (International Midget* Series USA vs. NZ)

If you visited my home city, Kuala Lumpur, you would probably be struck by the comparative lack of hoons on the roads. Less roars of souped up cars, more drones of the likes of reliable Volvos, Beemers and Toyota Harriers.

Malaysians. We just don't have a need for speed. Wildly out of character, then, that I spent my Saturday evening at the Speedway, Western Springs!

Robert Crumb once described Harvey Pekar's life as being so ordinary as to verging on the exotic. In this vein, out of curiosity and fascination, I invited my Aussie ex-pat friend E. to check out the rubber-meets-dirt subculture with me.

The hoi polloi did not disappoint. Can we say full marks for ambience? Consider this: a glorious afternoon with a lingering lilac sunset. Well-prepared oldies with their deck chairs, munching peanut-butter-on-celery-sticks. The smells of hot, fatty foods. Even the burnt petrol smelled sweeter than usual.

I scanned the terraces of heads for an audience demographic (though, this is pure guesswork):
Male/Female ratio: 50/50.
Old/Young ratio: 20/80.
Kids: Mostly boys.
Asians: 5.

If you ask me, the sprint cars stole the thunder from the midget cars. These are larger cars with Z-shaped wings on their tops so as to create downforce round the bends. They grunt more deeply and sound great, but someone needs to improve the aesthetic of those adhoc-looking wings.

The event culminated in a 50-lap midget car race with New Zealander Michael Pickens finishing first, but getting bumped to 3rd place for driving on the in-field a couple of times. 1st place thus fell on the cheeky American Brad Kuhn who had spent all 50 laps hot on Pickens' heels. The boos of nationalistic protest went past our Aussie and Malaysian heads.

I am no petrolhead, but if there ever will be a demolition derby, I am so there. I'll plant a tree today.

*referring to the cars, not drivers. I made that mistake, too.