Tag Archives: NASCAR

Gentlemen, Start Your Tough Mudder

By Pete Williams

Tough Mudder’s notorious ice plunge

Tough Mudder, the popular obstacle mud run, has staged events all over the world, typically in rural areas, ranches and at ski resorts in the summer months.

Now Tough Mudder is coming March 2-3 to Homestead-Miami Speedway, best known as the site for NASCAR’s season finale race, which was held on Sunday.

Tough Mudder has worked with other racetracks, including Raceway Park in Englishtown, N.J., an NHRA venue that hosted the “World’s Toughest Mudder” competition last weekend. In January, Tough Mudder will return for a second year to Phillip Island, a grand prix venue outside of Melbourne, Australia.

Dan Weinberg, Tough Mudder’s director of strategic partnerships, said Homestead-Miami Speedway was chosen because of its vast infrastructure, parking, and experience handling large crowds. Tough Mudder events have attracted up to 30,000 athletes over a two-day period, a fraction of the speedway’s 65,000-seat capacity.

“Racetracks are good fits for us from all aspects,” said Weinberg, who said Tough Mudder is exploring other NASCAR venues for U.S. events. “From parking to concessions to logistics, they make for a great overall fan and participant experience.”

Weinberg said the event layout was still being determined, but said it’s likely the course will go both inside and outside the venue, which is a 45-minute drive south from Miami and just over an hour from Fort Lauderdale. The track is a 1.5-mile oval and the infield includes a man-made lake big enough for swimming. In August of 2011, Homestead-Miami Speedway hosted Olympic-distance and sprint-distance triathlons consisting of a swim in the infield lake, transition in pit road, bike through Homestead, and a run around the golf cart path surrounding the track. The track is surrounded by vast stretches of parking lots and undeveloped areas.

Tough Mudder, at roughly 12 miles, requires only a fraction of that space. The bigger key to the event will be the infrastructure. Since debuting early in March of 2010, Tough Mudder has grown exponentially, with revenue of more than $70 million in 2012. With that has come growing pains, such as a September event near Washington D.C., where massive traffic back-ups and weather caused the cancellation of the event’s second day.

Here in Florida, Tough Mudder had to move its planned Tampa area event from Dirty Foot Adventures in Fort Meade after Polk County officials refused to issue a permit for a 20,000-person event. That event takes place next weekend (Dec. 1-2) at the Hi Hat Ranch in Sarasota.

The Homestead-Miami Speedway race will be Tough Mudder’s first Florida event beyond the greater Tampa Bay/Sarasota area. Tough Mudder debuted in the Sunshine State in December of 2011 at Little Everglades Ranch in Dade City and also has events planned for 2013 in Jacksonville (May 18-19) and at a to-be-determined Tampa site (Nov. 2-3).

Unlike Central Florida, with its many sprawling ranches and thousands of acres of undeveloped land, South Florida has fewer wide-open sites for obstacle races. This year, Spartan Race and Superhero Scramble debuted South Florida events at Oleta River State Park in North Miami. Spartan Race will return to that venue in Feb. 23-24, the weekend before Tough Mudder in Homestead. Superhero Scramble shifts to Amelia Earhart Park, also in Miami, for a Jan. 12 race.

Tough Mudder’s move to a larger sports venue is part of a recent industry trend. Last week Spartan Race staged an event at Boston’s Fenway Park, attracting 8,000 racers over two days to the storied baseball facility.

NASCAR’s Sprint Cup circuit will be in Phoenix the weekend of March 2-3, which will make it impossible for any drivers to participate in Tough Mudder at Homestead. Top drivers Jimmie Johnson and Kasey Kahne posted impressive times at a triathlon in Charleston in July, competing the morning after a NASCAR night race in Daytona Beach.

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NASCAR’s Johnson, Kahne Complete Charleston Triathlon

By Pete Williams

Jimmie Johnson tweeted this transition photo of himself from Sunday’s James Island (S.C.) Triathlon

We’ve long believed NASCAR drivers are among the best conditioned athletes in sports. Anyone who sits in an oven for five hours in a firesuit and navigates a car going more than 150 miles per hour is a serious athlete.

Jimmie Johnson and Kasey Kahne proved it again yesterday on a rare Sunday off. They jumped in the James Island sprint triathlon near Charleston, an event consisting of a 600-yard swim, 12-mile bike, and 5K run.

The drivers, who raced with colleagues from their pit crews, posted more-than-respectable times, according to their Twitter feeds. Kahne, 32, finished in 1:11:30, slightly ahead of Johnson, 36, 1:11:57.

They competed just hours after racing in NASCAR’s Coke Zero 400 race in Daytona Beach on Saturday night. Presumably they jumped in a private jet and did not make the five-hour drive, but that’s still an impressive turnaround.

No word on how they did in their age brackets, but the guess here is pretty well since the race was limited to 375 participants. Johnson, whose birthday is in September, raced as a 37-year-old under USA Triathlon rules, and in the always competitive 35-to-39 age bracket. Kahne, who turned 32 in April, competed in the 30-to-34 division.

It’s an impressive accomplishment, to be sure, but perhaps not as noteworthy as the doubleheader Michael Waltrip pulled off on April 30, 2011. Waltrip, a longtime NASCAR driver and team owner, celebrated his 48th birthday by watching his two Sprint Cup teams compete in Richmond, Va. The next morning he was an hour away in Charlottesville, Virginia for the Monticelloman Olympic-distance triathlon.

That event was significantly longer than the James Island Sprint, with a 0.9-mile swim, a 24-mile bike, and a 10K (6.2-mile run) and Waltrip is significantly older than Johnson and Kahne. Then again, the semi-retired Waltrip did not drive the previous night and only had to travel an hour between venues. Waltrip posted a time of 3:35:41. Either way, we can’t think of pro athletes in any other sports who attempt triathlons during the season.

There’s not much crossover demographic between NASCAR and triathlon, though a promoter did stage an Olympic-distance triathlon last summer at Homestead-Miami Speedway, attracting about 500 participants. The event began and finished along pit road on the track that hosts NASCAR’s season-ending event.

A spokesman for the Miami Speed Triathlon said scheduling conflicts prevented the race from returning to Homestead this year but that there are plans for 2013.

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Gentlemen, Start Your….Triathlon?

By Pete Williams

Waltrip doing an unconventional track workout

Back in November, I joked that I was the only person in America who competed in the Muddy Buddy race at Zoo Miami and attended NASCAR’s season-ending race in Homestead on the same day. After all, there’s not a lot of crossover demographic between endurance sports and NASCAR.

Then again, maybe there is. Take Michael Waltrip, for example.

The longtime NASCAR driver and team owner will celebrate his 48th birthday Saturday night by watching his two Sprint Cup teams compete in Richmond. The following morning, he’ll be up bright and early to compete in the Monticelloman Olympic Triathlon an hour away in Lake Monticello, not far from Charlottesville.

Waltrip is semi-retired as a driver and won’t be racing a car Saturday night. Still, he’ll be up late at the race and probably get little to no sleep. Plus, he tested a Ferrari in France last weekend for the 78th running of June’s 24 Hours of Le Mans, referred to in the motorsports community as “the world’s most famous endurance race.”

We can argue about whether 24 hours in a race car is more grueling than 16 hours navigating the lava fields of Kona. But how many people have done a 24-hour motor sports event and an Olympic-distance triathlon?

I’m guessing zero.

Waltrip’s participation should put to rest any arguments that NASCAR drivers are not athletes.

Carl Edwards and his washboard abs have appeared on the cover of several magazines. Mark Martin is one jacked 52-year-old. Jimmie Johnson, winner of the last five Sprint Cup championships, follows a tough workout regimen.

But triathlon?

Waltrip has completed several marathons, including the Boston Marathon in 2000. He says he can swim but had done no swim training until this week. That’s a concern since this is an Olympic-distance event, with a 1,500-meter (0.9 mile) swim. Water temperature will be in the 60s. Let’s hope he’s accustomed to swimming in a full wetsuit.

Other than that, he’ll be right at home among a group of feisty Type A personalities obsessed with their wheels. Getting hit jockeying for position in the swim can’t be any different than trading paint on the track. Perhaps Waltrip will wear a tri kit emblazoned with the logos of Napa Auto Parts, his chief sponsor. He’ll probably be fast out of the pits, er, transition and quick to change a flat.

But will he shave his body like other triathletes and risk all sorts of grief in the garage?

And does he know that drafting is illegal?

Most of all, why is he tackling the challenge?

“I use special events for motivation,” he told reporters this week. “For example, the Daytona 500, getting to race at Talladega, getting to race at Kentucky. I feel like it’s a privilege for me to get to do those things. I just look forward to them so much, they motivate me, they inspire me. The triathlon is just a part of that. Keeping in shape, having boxes in your life that you always wanted to check and accomplish that.”

Waltrip’s participation further expands the unlikely crossover between NASCAR and endurance sports.

On May 14, Homestead-Miami Speedway will be the starting point of a two-day cycling event from Homestead to Miami benefiting multiple sclerosis research. In August, the track will host the inaugural Miami Speed Triathlon. Originally scheduled for May, it will consist of a swim in the infield lake, transition in pit road, bike through Homestead, and a run around the golf cart path surrounding the track. Sprint and Olympic distances are offered.

And on Nov. 20, Muddy Buddy returns to Zoo Miami, with NASCAR wrapping up its 2011 season at Homestead later in the day.

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