Two for the Road is a hangout for mystery writers Tammy Kaehler and Simon Wood to chat, reminisce, gossip, speculate and argue about all things motorsport.

Monday, December 17, 2012

See You in Daytona!

by Tammy

As some of you may know, I'm currently writing the third Kate Reilly Racing Mystery, this one set at the 24 Hours of Daytona. I attended the race once, in 2007, and I've watched it many times. But I've never really been inside the race before. But that's all going to change come January.

No, I won't be driving a car. But I'll be doing the next best thing.

Through the generosity of Kevin Buckler (with me, right) and The Racer's Group (whose friendship and support goes all the way back to 2004), I'm going to embed as part of the TRG team for the race weekend. That means I'll be sitting in the pits for as many of the 24 hours as I can manage (I won't promise not to sneak off to find a stack of tires to take a nap on), and typing just as fast as my fingers will allow.

Not only will I be doing research (I've got two pages of notes about questions to ask already), but I'll also be posting to Twitter, Facebook, and blogs, both for myself, for TRG, and maybe for other media outlets.

So anyone who wants a photo of a hard-working writer, let me know, and I'll send one. And feel free to send me (@tkaehler) or TRG (@theracersgroup) questions throughout the race. I'll be happy to give you all the inside scoop I can about what it's really like in the pits for a 24 hour race ... from the excitement of the start to the dragging, cold hours of the night.

Stay tuned for more!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Gifts for the Race Fan

TAMMY: It's that time of year again, so Santa Simon and Elf Tammy are here to help you find the coolest gifts for your favorite race fans.

1. I've mentioned the racetrack coasters I got for my birthday this year, which I still enjoy the heck out of. Even better, you can test the race fan's dedication by seeing if they know all the tracks.

2. To go a step further on the track map idea, Griot's Garage will sell you wall hangings of track maps, so you can show your love in wood, on the wall.

3. Merchandise from Glass Hammer Racing, at the URL (which is awesome). Glass Hammer exists to "encourage the interest and participation of young women in motorsports," and they do so by sponsoring, coaching, and providing scholarships for established or aspiring drivers (photo here from one such event, courtesy of Jessica Bean's Facebook page). Once-and-future (we hope) IndyCar racer Pippa Mann (second from left in the photo) works with young women through Glass Hammer, and I see the organization out there at a lot of races rallying around women in the industry.

4. Support a young racer. For example, Jessica Bean (who also works with GHR, in full black firesuit in photo), is trying to raise funds to get herself back in a midget racecar in 2013. You can donate through's page for Jessica. I donated last week, and I'll be looking for news on her season next year.

5. The experience of driving or riding-along in a stock car. At tracks across the country, you can strap into passenger or driver's seat of a real NASCAR stock car and take a few laps. (Simon, I think we need to arrange this the next time you're down in Los Angeles.)

Of course, it goes without saying that mysteries set in the racing world make the #1 gift, right?! Simon, what can you add to the list of good gift ideas?

SIMON: Ah, Christmas laps but once a year, so what to get that race fan in your life.  Here's my thoughts.

1. Buy tickets for a race in 2013. Whether you're into NASCAR, IndyCar, sports cars, go see a race in the flesh. Dollar for dollar, motorsport is pretty good value for money compared to other sporting events or live entertainment in general.

2. Pre-order Tammy's next book, Braking Point (a title which she stole from me). Also check out our good pal, Steve Ulfelder's Conway Sax books.  Good people writing good books.

3. Tammy mentioned driving a stock car, but you could go a little smaller and affordable and buy that someone special a gft certificate to an indoor go-kart track.  They're all over the country, so you can't miss.

4. Steve Matchett has an interesting memoir called, The Mechanic's Tale.  It's an older book but still available. Warning: this book could leave oilstains.  :-)

I think that's all from me for this Xmas season, but if there's something you're hoping to find in your Christmas stocking, then call it out.

Monday, December 10, 2012

NASCAR's Early Days

by Tammy

I finally finished reading a book someone recommended a while back about the early days of NASCAR: Driving With the Devil: Southern Moonshine, Detroit Wheels, and the Birth of NASCAR, by Neal Thompson.

The back-of-the-book copy sums it up better than I could:
Part Disney, part Vegas, part Barnum & Bailey, NASCAR is also a multibillion-dollar business and a cultural phenomenon that transcends geography, class, and gender. But dark secrets lurk in NASCAR’s past.

The bottom line Thompson tell us is that revisionist history would have NASCAR springing from the genius of Jim France on the sands of Daytona Beach ... which is only partially true. France had the iron will and the foresight to see what NASCAR could become (though how could he have envisioned the megalith it is today?). But daredevil drivers pushing souped-up cars to the limit? That came from moonshiners seeking to outrace the authorities on their tails.

What I most enjoyed, and why I recommend the book, wasn't the story of how criminals and illegal acts were the genesis of NASCAR (though that's amusing), but the stories of the early stars. Thompson clearly admires them too ... what they accomplished and against what odds. Men like Raymond Parks, the first, great team owner (who funded his racing efforts from his empire of illegal or slightly legal businesses); Red Vogt, the first genius mechanic, and Red Byron, NASCAR's first (and by some accounts, first two-time) champion. (Byron, by the way, won dozens of races and his championships with a leg full of shrapnel from WWII.)

Most of all, as history does, this book of NASCAR's history helps illuminate the present. The origins of the racing series in running 'shine and breaking the law explain some of the affinity the modern fan has for the rebels in the field today. NASCAR fans don't like their drivers too Yankee, too pretty-boy, or too polite, after all (hello, Tony Stewart? Kyle or Kurt Busch?). Through these drivers who push the limits and outrace (by car or mouth) the authorities, fans can live vicariously, dreaming of their own speed. And being glad we're not the ones crashing.

Have any of you read the book? Or did you know NASCAR's history already?

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Health Check

by Simon

From time to time I like to check my health when it comes to condition as a petrol head and seeing as I've just had my physical-physical it seems a good time to check racing health. I’ve examined myself and I’m glad to say my lust for motorsports is still strong. Here are the results from tests:

1. I will forgo a stereo in my vehicle as long as I have a great sounding engine.

2. I will keep the air conditioning off so not to drain engine power.

3. Stick shift always trumps an automatic.

4. Pit lane is still the best place on earth.

5. I list exhaust fumes as one of my favorite smells.

6. I can’t look at a bend in the road without looking for the corner’s apex.

7. Hearing someone say, “Start your engines,” gives me chills.

8. Race circuits are special places.

9. You're only as good as your last lap time.

10. I still want to race cars. :-)

If you feel like you need to give yourself a health check, please do and share your results.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Wrapping Up Our Predictions

by Tammy

Early in the year, Simon and I set out our picks for who we thought would win season championships in various series. Along the way, a couple friends jumped in with their picks. I figured it's time to see how good we were at telling the future ... though let's just say, none of us should quit our day jobs.

Formula 1 Driver
SIMON: Jenson Button
TAMMY: Lewis Hamilton
RICK HUNT: Jenson Button
RICK HELMS: Sebastian Vettel

Verdict? Rick Helms pulls this one off, while Tammy and Simon/Rick Hunt are almost in a dead heat (2 points apart) for the McLaren drivers. 

Formula 1 Manufacturer
SIMON: Red Bull
TAMMY: McLaren

Verdict?Simon and Rick Helms correctly pick Red Bull. Hey, at least Ferrari didn't win, right?

IndyCar Driver
SIMON: Dario Franchitti
TAMMY: Will Power
RICK HUNT: Will Power
RICK HELMS: Scott Dixon

Verdict? None of us picked the ultimate champion, Ryan Hunter-Reay, but Tammy and Rick Hunt got closest with Will Power.

IndyCar Team
SIMON: Chip Ganassi
TAMMY: Penske (gotta go with the combo of Power, Castroneves, and Brisco)

Verdict? Tammy and Rick Hunt again; Penske drivers had a 422-point average to Ganassi's 348.

ALMS GT Driver
SIMON: Jan Magnussen (b/c I raced against him--once)
TAMMY: Patrick Long (maybe that's just hope)
RICK HUNT: Joey Hand
RICK HELMS: --------

Verdict? Simon comes the closest, with Jan Magnussen, who finished third in the GT drivers' ranks.

SIMON: Paul Miller Racing
TAMMY: Corvette Racing!
RICK HELMS: --------

Verdict? Corvette Racing, all the way! It was their year.

NASCAR Cup Driver
SIMON: Jeff Gordon (he's a local boy)
TAMMY: Carl Edwards (honestly, the bigger question is if Junior will win a race this year)
RICK HUNT: Jimmie Johnson
RICK HELMS: Greg Biffle

Verdict? Tammy fail. What happened to Carl this year, honestly? Jimmie, Biffle, and Gordon were all in the Chase with a chance. Kudos to Rick Hunt for the call (at least Rick Helms got his ABJJ result ... Anyone But Jimmie Johnson). (Photo from @keselowski.)

SIMON: Chip Ganassi
TAMMY: Hendrick Motorsport
RICK HUNT: Hendrick Motorsport
RICK HELMS: Hendrick Motorsport

Verdict? Hendrick swept the board, placing all four of its drivers in the Chase, compared to neither of Ganassi's two. But we do have to give Montoya the moment of the year, however, for his wreck with the jet dryer back in February....

OVERALL TALLY? Tammy and Rick Hunt picked 4 winners correctly, Rick Helms picked 3, and Simon picked two. None of us should quit our day jobs.... Thanks for participating, all of you! Everyone start considering your picks for next year.