NASCAR – Where Did The Real Kyle Busch Go? Dale Jr. Moves into the top 10 in Points.

This past weekend we saw yet another track dominated by none other than Kyle Busch as he swept both the Nationwide and Sprint Cup races at Bristol.  For those of you out there reading this who are members of the “Anyone but Kyle Busch Club” is was rather disappointing to watch as he lead most of the laps on Saturday in the Nationwide race and then took the lead a few times on Sunday and holding off Carl Edwards and Jimmie Johnson at the end for the win.  Now it is not the first time Busch has  swept a weekend, nor will it be the last if he has anything to say about it.  What intrigued me however was not the fact that he got out front and won like he has done many times in the past, much to my dismay, and that of my family who are rooting for Dale Jr and Tony Stewart, but rather how in every interview I saw him in he was nice, cordial, gentlemanly if you will.  He apologized to other drivers he made contact with, he thanked his sponsors for his contract extension, he even smiled without a hint of his usual sneer that we’ve all grown to love to hate.

So where has the real Kyle Busch gone?  Will the rude, explosive and often maligned Kyle Busch make his return if things don’t go just the way he wants?  Or is this Kyle Busch here to stay?  The only thing that really changed for him during the off season was going from a single man to getting married, a change that happens in most men to varying degrees, but never to the extreme we are witnessing here.  Did body snatchers take his soul on his honeymoon or something? [Read more...]

NASCAR – Edwards Takes the Pole as Goodyear Makes Last Minute Tire Changes

Carl Edwards has set the pace for others to follow at this weekend race at Bristol Motor Speedway by showing the field that a sub 15 second lap was achievable.   Setting a blistering pace of 14.989 seconds (128.014 mph), Edwards scores his second pole for the season, which has had him out front for at least one lap at every race so far this year.  However as the temperature was cooler than anticipated and the track has not been “rubbering up” as expected Goodyear make the executive decision to bring new right side tires to the track which has the potential to change the entire race. The tires Goodyear provided for the race failed to “rubber in” the race track, and heavy wear on the outside shoulder of the right-rear tire did not improve during practice.

Edwards acknowledged, however, that a right-side tire change made on the fly by Goodyear has the potential to change the nature of Sunday’s race. [Read more...]

Audi R8 GT Coming to America

When The Garage announced Audi’s plans for the R8 GT last year, it wasn’t clear if there were any plans to import the car to the US, but thankfully a small number of buyers will be able to enjoy a lighter, more powerful R8. Total production is limited to 333 cars, 90 of which are destined for the US. The R8 GT is powered by a massaged 5.2L V-10 rated at 560hp (35hp more than a standard R8 5.2) paired to Audi’s R-Tronic sequential manual transmission. The R8 GT, according to Audi, will hit 0-62mph in 3.6 seconds, with a top speed of 199mph. Pricing is set at $196,800USD. Options available include carbon fiber reinforced ceramic brakes and a 12 speaker Bang & Olufsen stereo.

2011 Ford Explorer redefines the name

When it comes to product names, Ford has a few skeletons in its closet. Tempo and Topaz are a couple of notable ones. The Taurus moniker looked to be headed into the closet too, until the 500 name did little for sales and they resurrected the Taurus name. Having been called the Exploder, among other not so complimentary things, Ford could have been forgiven for wanting to nuke the Explorer nameplate. Fortunately, Ford execs learned their lesson from the 500/Taurus sales disaster and chose instead build the absolute best Explorer they could.

Starting with a clean slate for the 2011 model year, Ford sought to build a world class family hauler and it shows in several areas. Previous Explorer models were little more than big boxes on wheels. Not overly refined or appealing. Ford designers stepped up their game to create a shape that is distinctly Ford, but is as stylish as any of the high end competitors, without taking any undo risks for the sake of artfulness.
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Review: 2011 Acura MDX

In the world of luxury SUV’s, the Acura MDX doesn’t quite grab the amount of attention most car magazines devote to its BMW and Mercedes competition-which is unfortunate. The MDX, Acura’s first serious attempt at an SUV debuted as a 2001 model. The second, and current generation MDX went on sale as a 2007, and in 2010 was treated to an exterior refresh to closer tie in to the rest of the Acura line, as well as a new engine. So while the competition grabs the headlines, we at The Garage were interested in how Acura’s Canadian-made MDX holds up. Read on to find out!

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Performance World in Toronto this weekend

The 2011 Performance World car show is the most fun show I’ve been to so far this year and it’s right here in my own back yard. Imagine that: a killer car show that I didn’t have to board a plane to get to!

Toronto has along history of breaking up the Winter months with custom car shows and over the years there have been a number of different promoters, but the one that has consistently been on the calendar is Performance World. Maybe that’s because the PW show has grown with the times and embraced the youth of the sport.
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Review: 2011 Nissan Versa SL

By sheer coincidence, last year was the second time The Garage had a Nissan in its stable for the Christmas holiday. While the popular crossover Murano seemed like a logical choice when some travel and hauling Santa’s loot were factors, friends and family howled at the prospect of me repeating the same feat in Nissan’s smallest, entry level car, the Versa. Turns out the joke was on them, so let’s hope they don’t end up with coal in their stocking next Christmas.

While it was once fair to toss around terms like “bottom feeder” when describing an automaker’s most inexpensive offering, such derogatory terms do not apply when discussing the Versa. The Versa has been around since 2007, with some refreshing in 2010 in four door sedan and hatchback forms. In 2010, the Versa outsold the long-tenured Sentra, making it Nissan’s second best selling car behind the Altima. So, you ask, what make the Versa a hit? Read on.

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Review: 2011 Jeep Compass & Patriot

The Garage’s last stint in a 2009 Jeep Compass left us a bit cold, so when Jeep announced a revised 2011 Compass, we were curious to see how the changes would affect their smaller-sized soft-roader. Our friends at Chrysler were quick to respond not only with the revised Compass, but also provided us with the Patriot as well. Since 2007, Jeep has offered buyers a curious choice of entry level small SUV’s based on the same mechanicals-the cute Compass, and more traditionally styled Patriot.

With Chrysler in serious trouble and seeking a US Government bailout, I figured the slow-selling Compass would be a goner, but I was wrong. Instead, Jeep let go of the Compass’ soft styling in favor of a miniaturized version of the all-new Grand Cherokee. With the Compass, Jeep is still chasing the younger, urban buyer it has sought from the original. The look is definitely more upscale and sophisticated than the outgoing model, but whether buyers will respond with their wallets remains to be seen.

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NASCAR – Edwards Takes Vegas, Stewart Has a Late Race Pit Stumble But Ties For First in Points Lead

Image Courtesy of JDTImages.ca

Carl Edwards was feeling like he had missed his chance up until the end of the race at Vegas.  After finishing second at Daytona and suffering from an early wreck last week, Edwards felt he had something to prove for himself, for his team, and for his fans.  While Tony Stewart had led the race for the majority of the day, Edwards was working his way through the field quietly, running lap times very close to those of Stewart while he was leading, and a late race pit gaffe penalized Stewart allowing Edwards to get the win.  Taking his first victory for 2011 meant more to Edwards than trophy.  After spending time with the Airmen on Nellis Air Force Basse, Edwards wanted to thank them for all that they do, and all the votes of confidence they gave him.

“This means a lot, coming off Phoenix,” said Edwards, who led the final 23 laps. “After last weekend, I had no clue — I just didn’t know how things were going to go from there. You don’t get a good race car like that very often, but I had another one.”

“I’ve got to thank the Air Force, the Thunderbirds. They let me fly with them on Thursday, and this trophy is going over there in that hangar (a reference to nearby Nellis Air Force Base). They taught me a lot about discipline and about believing in what you do. I can’t thank them enough.” [Read more...]

NASCAR – Kenseth Takes the Pole in Record Setting Fashion – Busch Brothers at the Tops of the Points Board

Another week of record smashing speeds on the track for NASCAR this time in Las Vegas for the Kobalt Tools 400.  Although last week saw driver after driver breaching the previous record, this week only a handful broke the previous record of 188.719 mph last year set by Kurt Busch, who qualified 22nd Friday.  But when all the dust had settled it was Matt Kenseth starting from the pole for the fifth time in his career, and the first since May 2009 at Darlington. On Sunday, the 2003 Cup champion will try to break a winless string of 72 races that dates to Feb. 22, 2009, at Auto Club Speedway.

“Qualifying is not my strong suit, but I knew we had a really fast car today when we did our last qualifying run in practice,” Kenseth said. “Honestly, this is the most nervous I’ve been before qualifying in probably five years at least, because I knew we had a shot at the pole, and I knew last week we really messed up. I didn’t want to mess up a fast car today, so I was really happy with that.”

Kenseth was determined to atone for a disappointing 24th-place qualifying effort last week at Phoenix. Setting a blistering pace around Las Vegas Motor Speedway in a track-record 28.589 seconds (188.884 mph) allowed Kenseth to knock fellow Ford driver Marcos Ambrose off the pole for the Kobalt Tools 400 Sprint Cup race at the 1.5-mile track.  Not too shabby an effort for Ambrose either who reached a speed of 188.166 mph for a lap time of 28.427 seconds, and matching his best qualifying efforts at an oval track yet.

“I’ve been second a few times now in my Cup career, so I’ve been the bridesmaid plenty of times — it doesn’t feel any nicer,” said Ambrose, “But I’m really pleased today. Can’t complain. Matt did a great lap. Can’t complain about someone beating you on speed. It’s not like he lucked into it.”

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