The Darkside to Collecting Diecast

29 Apr

In the weeks after Dan Wheldons fatal accident, when all of the wonderful tributes came rolling in, I pondered. I pondered several things, why do I love racing so much, what’s next for the Izod Indycar Series. The collector side of me wondered will this be like when Dale Sr. passed and the market was flooded with cars from his past. While it’s taken some time I’ve been able to pick some of those up because the price and interest waned considerably.

Now, there’s something new, something fresh for the diecast companies to latch on to and make a buck. But, this time it’s different. Dan didn’t own a collectables company like Dale did, Dan had a relationship with Hot Wheels. See while waiting for a ride to become available in the off season Dan did a voiceover for Hot Wheels Battle Force 5 animated series on Cartoon Network. Ok, while this may not be a role on the Simpsons or Family Guy, this did further the relationship between Indycar, Wheldon, and Hot Wheels.

Indycar diecast has always been a really odd road. Back in the 90’s we had companies like Onyx, Matchbox, and Racing Champions to select our favorite driver. The one I remember the most is the Scott Brayton #22 Amway car and flatbed semi. I have a couple of older diecast from those days Vasser, C. Fittipaldi, Papis, Sullivan, and Mario’s last ride.

Now we have Greenlight Collectables and Hot Wheels. Greenlight makes an excellent product, of course being based in Indy helps a lot. Hot wheels makes a decent very mass produced Indycar. I wouldn’t write home about it, but it does capture the paint schemes perfectly. I hunted down a Graham Rahal McDonald’s car because I was a huge Newman-Haas fan. Soon Hot Wheels will have some more cars added to it’s Indycar resume, including what will be undoubtedly rare by the end of the season…..a Lotus. These will be part of the Hot Wheels Racing Series.

Indy 500® Oval (National Guard)
Indy 500® Oval (Dad’s Root Beer)
Indy 500® Oval (Izod)
Indy 500® Oval (Lotus)
Indy 500® Oval (Sarah Fisher)
Indy 500® Oval (William Rast)

Table and info from 1stopdiecast.com

With all that it brings me to this. Greenlight released the Indy 500 winning William-Rast Dallara in 1:64 and 1:18. The “matchbox” car sized one can be picked up for as little as $8 on the internet. It’s the Hot Wheels tribute that has me up in arms. Let’s face it, as with all collectables the value is whatever it’s worth to whom ever buys it. This has been a bone of contention with me over the course of the 10+ years that I went from rolling  Hot Wheels on the floor to truly collecting. While working at Wal-Mart in the toy department I was introduced to a whole diffrent culture, and that’s when I made the move to collecting. I’m not one of those guys that show up at Walmart right as the pallets are brought out so I can get the overhyped, in my opinion, treasure hunt. I absolutely refuse to put more than one of single style of car in my cart, unless one of my family is getting one also. I hunt and collect 1:64th diecast. I DO NOT horde them or believe that by getting all of the one off paint schemes that I will put my children through college. That is a completely asinine assumption.

With that in mind when I saw that Hot Wheels was releasing a Dan Wheldon tribute I thought it was absolutely fitting. Crimson metalflake red, Lionheart flag on the side pods, Lionheart on the Real rider tires, signature an DW symbol on the front wing. It was a perfect tribute to such a great racer and two-time Indy winner. Proceeds from the car were to go to the Wheldon family, just a perfect situation. Knowing the collectors in my area, it’s going to be a 50/50 shot on me getting one. Reason being? Yes it is a special edition, I haven’t seen a driver specific tribute in the mainline series all my years of getting Hot Wheels. There are the driver or rider designed vehcles of Dale Jr., Danica, and Jorge Lorenzo but not a driver tribute. The other reason is I know what these guys around here collect alot of, Volkswagen and muscle cars, so my chances were decent.

I went on ebay a couple days ago to see if they had hit there yet. I was apalled to what I was seeing. An .88 cent car (walmart current price) with Dan Wheldon was going for $49! Now I can see the validaity in it, if it was an auction to raise money for the Wheldon’s but sadly it is not. This is the type of thing that embarrases me as a collector. If I’ve calculated this right a 5000% profit on a car because of his death seems a bit shitty at most. It makes me sick to think of myself as a collector of what truly is just a kids toy. Will I stop buying Hot Wheels? No. But I will abolutely refuse to buy, anything from the sellers on ebay that are trying to make a profit.

This is the new place I will start uploading blogs. Be sure to check me out on Twitter @Fujis123, friend me on Facebook (Ross Fujibayashi) so we can talk racing or whatever.

Finally,

Dan Wheldon was so much for so many people, I for one didn’t get to have the experiences others had with him. Although, after seeing the tributes, I now have a better understanding of what he meant to the fans. A great man, a great father, a great racer and teammate. This little bitty 1:64th scale tribute may not seem like much to people, well obviously the ones trying to make a buck. But, to those that knew him, the car is just like he was……perfect.

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At The Car Show

26 Apr

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Where the show is at now

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Where it should be

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’56 Chevy, the car that has inspired me to make a hot rod out of my Mercedes

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Growing up in the Chicagoland area, with a automotive obbsessed father and family. I was treated to some of the best car shows Chicago had to offer. It wasn’t a thing to spend a whole day walking the Lake County Fairgrounds oogling over the 60-70’s muscle, rat rods, or anything else someone thought would be cool to bring to a show. So, coming to a show in Arkansas I had a little bit more of an expectation to as what would be there. The very little use of salt means there should be some really nice all original cars. Turns out I was right.

Going to the Greenwood Annual Car Show is always fun because it’s right in the middle of town. I mean right in the middle, of the town square or downtown area if you must. The past times I had gone to this show it had always rained that morning which hurt car count. But, yesterday it was a bright sunny day, so that means good turn out. I just didn’t expect that good of a turnout though. Cars that should’ve been in the show where left on the outside looking in. Like a 67 Bullitt Mustang replica, a 69 and 70 Chevelle SS 396’s, and a excellent looking Dodge Power Wagon flatbed.  It seems to me that the Greenwood show has grown larger than the area it’s using. Which is really, bad because it’s always a great atmosphere. Something has to be done to change the over crowding. It’s literally elbow to elbow to manuver around the cars that show up.

My suggestion which I’m sure won’t be popular with the downtown area inhabitants, is to more the show to a much larger area. Like the Sebastian County Fairgrounds, they are maybe a mile north of where the show is held currently. I firmly believe more cars will show up, and it will make a better car show for all those involved.

While on the subject of my fun Saturday, I got to enjoy it by taking my kids to the show and meeting my dad and a his friend there. It was a good time had by all. My daughters got to see thier friends from school. Charlie learned the importance of “Look but don’t touch” and “Don’t run around someones brand new Corvette Grand Sport”. 

Later on in the evening I met back up with my dad and raced him on go karts. This whole week we’ve been trash talking each other on who would win.  going into the first race I started last out of 5 people, which was fine. There was some confusion at the start as one course worker let two people go then kept me, my dad, and his friend on pit lane. As the two others came around to finish a lap we were released from pit lane. Obviously dad took off as I waited patiently for his friend to exit. Once on the track I got around her then worked at chasing my dad down. A couple laps later one of the first people to go out was stopped at the outside of turn 5. As I exited turn 4 he got going, I battled with him for several laps, before we came up on my dads friend again. Going down into one I’m all over this guys rear bumper, I see my dads friend is going to the inside of one putting us on the outside. I short braked the corner to give me distance on the two that are now side by side in front of me. Midway through the corner the guy on the outside swings a bit wide to give dads friend room, or his kart plowed to the outside. Either way there was a gap, so I dove into it making us go three wide on a narrow track. After passing them on a very lucky move, I was in full attack mode to chase down my dad.

Several laps later I found myself hounding my dad for first. On the inside part of the track we would swap the lead three times, on three turns! Once again going into one we came up on his friend. Now going into this turn I’m thinking, there’s no way I could pull that same move is there. Well……I did! Same exact move to a tee. He went wide, opened a gap and I drove right to it. Going into two he was left on the outside, and we raced clean in the middle section again. Coming into four he made a wide entry opening the door on the inside. I stuck my kart in the hole and drove away, giving me the victory. That was probably the hardest I’ve ever driven a kart for a win, and let me tell ya it was worth it. Then we had a second race.

The second race was a bit better. I started last once again in a field of seven drivers, but I had to start in a kart with cold tires. While racing at this track I have learned it’s better to start at the back with a group of unknown drivers because they tend to pile up in turn one on the out lap. Why, I don’t know, but this race was no diffrent. Going into one I took the wide line, because two karts spun on the inside. Got down into 4 and one guy spun in front of dad. Now I’m up to third in one lap! Chasing down the 2nd place guy, spun a lapped kart and stopped in turn 1 two laps later. Now I’m up too 2nd, and in full attack mode to get too 1st. Passed dad twice because he had spun in turn 3, he too had cold tires that weren’t heating up fast enough. I finally catch the 1st place guy and duel with him for a couple laps, each time giving him the line into corners, because I did not want him to spin and ruin his and my race. Finally, finally got a gap after Villenueve dive bombing him into 5. He rammed me into the wall after I was half a kart to his inside. But by luck I made it stick and drove to victory.

I had a great time with dad getting to race with him, and trying to get him to regret not buying me my own kart oh so many years ago.

Thirst For Speed

26 Apr

We all dream about it. We all lust for it. When it happens, we want more of it. Some might say what’s the point or that’s just stupid. But deep down, the adrenaline rush, the satisfaction of being on the edge is what keeps us coming back. Like vampires to blood, once we get a taste we want more. More of that physical drug called speed. It maybe a driving a fast car, a bike, or even running, but once you get it you want it more and more. It’s what makes us miss the glory days of Indy, when we would hear “And he’s on it” and “that’s a new track record”.

That’s were I’m at with Nurburgring Nordschliefe. Ever since I drove it on Gran Turismo 4 I couldn’t get enough of the tricky 12.93 mile course. Up until last week I had never really thought about attacking some of the records there. Granted, yes I know although the courses on video games do look similar to the actual there are some discrepancies to make it easier to drive in a race. So with that in mind I still don’t give two poops. I just want to go fast and beat some one else’s time.

After posting on Twitter that I was going to go after the ever so fast German Stefan Bellofs time at the “green hell” of 6:11. A couple people replied to tell me thier time. One was a 6:47 in a Indycar, and that’s where I set my first goal, to beat 6:47. The weapon of choice would be the Peugeot 908 HDi FAP. I knew that car was fast, and I would have a better shot at it in that car.

After running with the base setup they had to get some baseline numbers, which where 7:12. I went in and tuned to get a faster cornering speed and messed with the gear ratios for a faster acceleration, but not lose top speed. After that and some on the edge of my seat driving, I posted a lap of 7:00. Thinking holy crap that was quick, I checked some of the other lap times from the past, and yes it was a flyer of a lap!

Remembering that during a Sebring race in 2010 the Acura/HPD ARX-02a, was quicker than the Peugeots, I opted to try it. I didn’t get any baseline numbers I just went in and changed the setup to what I thought would work. Second lap out I put up a 6:50! So I tuned a bit more, I made downforce, air pressure, and gear ratio adjustments. Second lap out I got a 6:48, so I’m.getting closer to my goal. I know where I’m losing my time, and that’s just a driving line adjustment.

I did try the Audi R15, I am an Audi fanboy and it did leave me a bit upset I could not get that car dialed in to do what I need to. I’m going to keep trying though. I think that car has a ton of potential.

Speaking of addiction to speed, I went and visited with the one who got me hooked, my dad. Ya know the loss of teeth, and feeding tube don’t bother me much, as he starts his treatments. No its the amount of weight he has lost. Dad aslong as I could.remember was a big guy. Now its like looking at a skeleton with some skin draped over it. Seeing that hurts so so much, because the little kid in me who still sees dad in the same, just wants that dad back. Now I know how my sister felt when he shaved his beard back in ’88. I think she said something like “your not my daddy!” Haha. I do thank everyone for thier well wishes and prayers. They are working.

Things We Learned On An Airport Runway In Central Florida

25 Mar

Ahhh, Sebring, the 2nd race of the triple crown of endurance racing. It taught us some things this week. One obviously how brutal it can be. Just before the start the Luxury Racing Pro-AM 458, driven by former ESM driver Dominic Farenbacher got  together with the #45 Flying Lizard 911 GT3 RSR of Joerg Bergmeister. Who knew that would set the tone for the 60th 12 hours of Sebring. During morning warm-up the Falken Tire 911 had thier race motor go up in flames. The crew worked like mad to get the car back on track. They would start from pit lane.

Audi jumped out to a commanding lead with the next two spots taken up by the other two Audis. This though wasn’t a surprise. The surprise was actually sitting in the 4 th spot with the Team Cytosport Muscle Milk HPD ARX-03a of Klaus Graf, Lucas Luhr, and probably the fastest guy in a non Audi prototype Simon Pagenaud.

As the race wore on, Audi 2 of McNish, Capello, and Mr. Lemans Tom Kristensen were going to be the ones to beat. The race would see several lengthy yellow flag safety car sessions through out the race. Including one that had the Dempsey Racing PC (formely LMPC) getting airbourne, into the catch fence going into the hairpin. The Audi’s proved that under the Florida sun and pounding race course that they weren’t invincible. The pole sitting car of 2011 lemans champs Lotterer, Tréluyer, and Fässler had shifting issues half way through the race. After repairs were made they finished 16th overall 15 laps down.

The ALMS favorite Muscle Milk Honda, were poised to be the spolier of the Audi party. Due to a speeding penalty, replacing body work on the back, and a rare issue with the fuel buckeye late in the race. They tumbled all the way back to 28 from 3rd. Absolutely heartbreaking for Klaus Graf, Lucas Luhr, and Simon Pagenaud, after a hard fought race to were they kept the mighty Audi’s at bay till the last hour.

With Muscle milks issues that propeled the Starworks Motorsport entry, yes that Starworks that finished second at Daytona with Mcnish, Ryan Dalziel, Lucas Luhr, and Enzo Potolicchio. Into third overall. Former Peugoet driver Stéphane Sarrazin, with Dalziel, and Potolicchio, put the brand new HPD ARX-03b on the podium. Neat factoid this is the 2nd year in a row a HPD that showed up the week of the race has made the podium. Last year Highcroft almost ran down the Oreca-Matmut Peugeot 908HDi-FAp.

In GT it came down to the wire with the sleeper of the week Joey Hand and the Rahal-Letterman-Lanigan BMW taking top honors. But it wasn’t without some controversy. On the last lap Gimmi Bruni moved into the inside of Hand going into 5, nearly spinning Hand. Behind that Olivier Beretta who was in 2 nd place at the time, also spun to avoid the sliding BMW. That put the #71 AF Corse 458 into third and the #03 Corvette into 2nd. Coming into 17 Hand caught up to what was thought to Beretta. Hand out brakes him in the ever so bumpy last turn. It actually ends up that Hand has got back up with Bruni! Joey Hand, who is doing a full season of ALMS and DTM, wins the GT Class in a wild finish.

PC was won by the Core Autosport Oreca FLM of E.J. Viso, Alex Popow, and Bury Friselle. GTC was won by Alex Job Racing with Townsend Bell, Bill Sweedler, and Dion Von Moltke. What a momentum builder for AJR as they step up to GTE with the Lotus Evora starting at Long Beach.

Some notes and stuff.
John Dagys reported that the FIA/ACO’s intention was to not have a combined event ALMS/WEC, when the WEC was formed. So what does this mean? The same that it did for the Petit Lemans. Is it a downer yes. But if I was a betting man a 6 hours of Austin doesn’t seem to far off. When the 2 Audis and the Rebellion crashed in night practice, I predicted that, that would be the nail in the coffin for the WEC at Sebring. Do I want it to happen? Eff no I’m planning my honeymoon around the 2013 12 hours of Sebring. I want to see some WEC cars. But, if it does happen Sebring will be just fine. They went from the 70’s till 2011 without a world championship.

Do I think a 6 hour race in Austin would be successful? Who knows. All depends on promotion. Sebring has tradition to help it, Austin is new. From the little I’ve seen of the track it looks like a neat track.  I kicked around the idea of Road America getting a WEC date, but that’s because I’m very biased. We’ll see though I’m sure.

Ecoboost isn’t just a sponsor on a stock car hood anymore. Libra racing will debut thier Radical-Ford at Long Beach or Laguna. The power plant is a turbocharged V6 built by some guy in Nascar country named Roush-Yates. Word on the street is they make some wicked Ford engines for them roundy round cars.

Dempsey Racing on the heels of there high-flying ALMS debut in PC. Announced they will be running a Lola-Mazda starting at Laguna Seca. John Dagys also tweeted he’s not the only Grand-am owner wanting to join ALMS and a deal could be done in a couple weeks.

Derek Bell was on Wind Tunnel discussing how thier should be only ONE sports car series in the USA. Do you hear that you two, fans want it, legendary drivers want it….let’s make it happen.

Being There For My Dad

25 Mar

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For years my dad would threaten to move down to Arkansas from Chicago. So as to spend time with myself and my sisters. He finally did so in 2010. It’s been great having dad around to watch big games or races with. Or to just take out to lunch. Around 2 o’clock today I got some news that just absolutely gutted me, it was that my father had throat cancer. First thought was oh crap, and then my aunt told me that it was inoperable because it was now attached to a main artery. Now starts a new chapter in my life, helping dad beat cancer. When I wrote about Michael Wanser back in October, I mentioned life being cruelly unfair, I always had that nagging thing in the back of my mind. Will it, can it, and when will it happen to me. I had hoped it wouldn’t ever, but today life reared its head to show me again that it’s still a cruel evil thing.

Dad and I have always joked around about the what if this happens, or keep up smoking I’ll get your hot wheels collection sooner. To be honest I would never wish ill harm to my dad. I want him to watch my daughters grow up and get married. I want him to see my sons grow into the fine gentlemen that I’ve raised them to be. But, today one phone call put all of that in check for me.

Two weeks ago I took my dad out to lunch and noticed he was eating diffrently. Usually he’ll smoke my ass at eating quickly, then I looked across the table after I got done eating and he hadn’t finished half his sandwich yet. He openly told me he had trouble eating because of this lump in his throat. I pleaded with him to get it checked out. He wanted to but he just didn’t want to hear the dreaded “C”. Today when I got off the phone with my aunt I got angry. Not Hulk style throwing a crazy fit angry. But a strongly irritated angry. I couldn’t help but think “dummy had you gone in sooner…”. Ya know, after a long drive to Northwest Arkansas I realized none of the past matters now. It can’t be changed, I need to look toward the future. The future my friends is getting my dad healthy.

I look at old photos on his Facebook and see the dad that cared for me when I was sick myself. When I was born I had club feet, and my dad took blame for it because he had it too. After some coaching from my aunt and uncle my feet were fixed. Better than what everyone had hoped. When had asthma attacks that would put me in the hospital for days he would come and stay with me for hours on end. One time he built me a Phil Parsons Skoal model car as a coming home present. We even built a Chevy Bison Semi in my hospital room. There are other countless memories of growing up. One of my favorites was my mom punishing us and sending us to a race at Road America with him. He questioned who was truly being punished.

Me, my dad, and my sister Meghan

He taught me how to be a dad. I don’t know how he put up with some of the stuff we pulled on him. There were times when I know I let him down. He sent me to the grocery store with my mom to get a Super Chevy magazine. I put the $5 in the bib pocket of my overalls, that was my only duty was to get that magazine. I dropped the magazine at the rack and bent down to get it. At the same time the money came out, got to the register and there was no money to buy the magazine. Mom went ahead and bought it, but I had to tell dad I lost the $5. For sure the worst thing ever.

Another time I was being a complete asshat to him. I didn’t want to be disciplined so I ran, he hopped on my bike to catch me. He tried to follow me down a dirt path and wiped out on my bike. I felt horrible after that one. Not soon after that I was riding bikes with my bestest friend in the whole wide world…..well when I was 11 he was. We were racing, he had this sweet 12 speed mountain bike, I had a precursor to the trick bikes that are popular now. Going into a corner I was carrying to much speed to make it and I drove straight with no speed scrubbed off I hit a fire hydrant. I launched over the handle bars hit the hydrant, I mean I messed myself up fantastically. Not a minute after hitting the ground I felt two arms pick me up. Some how my dad got there quick, don’t know how but he was just there to carry me home.

For all of my dads faults, he was always there for me. Now it’s my turn to be there for him. I hope I don’t let him down.

Let’s Do This Again Soon

6 Sep

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It’s the first week of high school football in Arkansas. Which means the talk at the coffee shop or local barber ramps up for 10 weeks in the fall. The usual who’s got the best defense, who’s got the best offense will echo throughout the state. But, come November one week will matter, Rivalry Week.

The Hatfields and McCoys, Texas vs Arkansas, Dallas vs the Redskins, USA vs Russia, snake vs the mongoose, are all rivalries that have shaped the history of the world for years. Obviously in the River Valley of western Arkansas the big rivalry has always been considered Fort Smith Northside vs Fort Smith Southside. But over the last 16 years there has been a changing of the guard so to speak.

Alma vs. Greenwood has risen up from obscurity to taking center stage, depending on who you talk to, and I just don’t mean the residents of the town. When Kris Weible made that touchdown on a pass from Brooks Coatney. Followed by the kick from James Grady, Greenwood started its rise to be a game that people would circle on thier calender as a must see.

Each one of the crazed Bulldog fans can remember something special or unique in the “November Classic”. Being part of  something like that rivalry was neat. Like the time in ’98 that behind the fieldhouse in green paint was a big “Greenwood Sucks”. Greenwood Vet clinic had “Airedale Neuter Specials”. I remember pulling into Alma and some kids showed us thier version of Indycar driver Will Power’s “Angry Birds”. During the wonderful Peacock Farewell tour of ’00, I got to do a Lambeau Leap into the student section, after a Anthony Hancock to Josh Bell touchdown. Ahh memories…….

See this is what made this rivalry great, It had everything! Clutch plays, overtime wins, penalties that were never called even though the next morning in the paper it clearly showed Jon Martinsky was being held on an overtime touchdown in ’98, and even a tribute to legendary Head Coach Frank Vines, when he retired. Enough of a run on sentence for ya?

As I write this the Bulldogs just beat, Sallisaw 49-21. Looks like this group of Bulldogs have re-fueled and are ready to make one final run through the 5A-West. 9 weeks from now, this ’11 season edition of the Bulldogs will step on to the field one last time ,for a little bit I hope, as conference rivals to Alma. If everything goes as predicted it will be another exciting chapter in the book.

I’m glad that the rivalry doesn’t have to end that Coach Jones and Coach Dilbeck know what this game represents. Not so much the High School vs High School aspect. As what it means to the community. I know what it meant to a little 3 yr old last year. He can’t wait to be a Bulldogs and play those bad guys in green as he put it that cold November night. It’s things like that, that make it special. That make it not another game. Who knows, in 11 years maybe that little boy who “verbally commited” to Greenwood may help write another chapter in the Alma-Greenwood book. I sure hope so because that would be neat.

As Bulldog fans, we may move on and forget who we beat in a playoff game or some before conference game. But, we always remember two things, who we beat in all of our 5 State Championships in the last 10 years. Ok ok, that was a bit smug, but it is the truth. But we also know who holds the upper hand in the Alma-Greenwood rivalry.

this is me, and a little bit about well…..me

17 Jun

Wow, I finally got my own blog. My name is Ross Fujibayashi. I’m a 28 yr old father of 4, and I’m addicted to racing. Whew, they always say the first step is admitting your addiction. I’m excited to share with all of you my take on racing. Wither it be NASCAR, Izod Indycar, or any of the sports car series’.

My addiction started at a young age. My earliest memory was, sitting at the access road just before T14 at Road America on an IMSA weekend in the 80’s. As a matter of fact there’s a picture on my wall of Al Holbert/Derek Bell’s Lowenbraü Porsche at the same spot. They say addictions are passed down, and that couldn’t be more true than with my family. My Grandfather used to race sports cars, my uncles raced motorcycles and cars, and my father was a course marshall, my mom did timing and scoring, plus other relatives that did other things in racing. That’s just a Tidbit of info that I will expand on at a later date.

I want to thank triple racing league for the opportunity to write about a sport I’m very passionate about.