Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Steering Clear

Your SpeedWoke this morning to an article in the local paper about NASCAR driver Kyle Busch. Busch is one of the sport’s top performers. He’s won a couple of races this year, finished in the top five a half-dozen times, and is currently third in points in the Sprint Cup series.

I don’t really follow NASCAR much at all, but it tends to dominate the sports page in my neck of the woods. Which means I am generally aware of guys like Busch who keep winning the races and getting a lot of press for doing so.

The article about Busch in today’s paper wasn’t from the sports page, though. Rather it was over in “Local & State” section.

Yesterday, just a few days before the big Coca-Cola 600 race this weekend in Charlotte, Busch was ticketed for speeding down Perth Road in nearby Troutman. The posted speed limit on this modest two-lane strip is 45 mph. Busch apparently got a little carried away while test-driving a fancy new yellow Lexus LFA sports car with his wife as a passenger.

How fast was he going? 128 mph. No shinola!

Busch could lose his driver’s license for 60 days, says the article, although that wouldn’t affect his ability to compete in NASCAR races. There is an editorial over in the sports section, though, calling for Joe Gibbs (for whom Busch drives) to suspend him from this weekend’s race. Like I say, I don’t really follow NASCAR too closely, but something tells me that ain’t gonna happen.

Sort of stuff happens a lot actually -- that is, lead-footed professional race car drivers getting ticketed for driving-related offenses, often for speeding. Ironic, sure. And perhaps even a little uncanny-seeming as we imagine these guys crazily taking their sport out onto public roads where they could send one of us flying as they accelerate through a turn.

The story made me think a little about the rarified world of those highest-stakes, “nosebleed” poker games online. And how even though they played right alongside our little dime-and-quarter games, they were nonetheless wholly separate. At a safe distance, you might say.

I’m thinking of those games that routinely saw players shipping five- and six-figure pots back and forth and how they could be said to resemble the spectacle of NASCAR races. Generally speaking, only “professionals” would dare wander into such high-risk situations, games which on the surface may have looked a little like what the rest of us low-stakes folks played, but which were clearly part of different world.

And, of course -- it must be said -- the prospect of seeing someone crash and burn added another potential thrill to the observer’s experience.

Ever dream you accidentally clicked your way into joining one of those games online? Where you’ve improbably got exactly one big blind with which to play -- your entire bankroll? Would probably feel somewhat similar to puttering out onto the track at Charlotte Motor Speedway this weekend in your little 4-door while Busch and his mates whizzed around at, I dunno, 140 mph? Faster?

Thank You For Driving CarefullyClearly we can’t have guys hurtling down country roads at those speeds. And while most of us were never really in any danger of getting mixed up in those big online games, I guess I can see how the U.S. government wouldn’t like the fact that we could (in theory, anyway). I suppose you could say the feds are further motivated by a desire to keep those “maniacs” off of our internet, too.

Of course, right now it feels a little like we all got our licenses suspended. Even those of us who were safe drivers.

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