NASCAR’s playoffs begin today, in Chicago or thereabouts, and people in stock car towns such as Kannapolis and Randleman and Hueytown and Buhminham – which is how people in Alabama say Birmingham – must be stoked like a ’67 GTO with a Quadrajet four-barrel carburetor.
It’s called The Chase for the Sprint Cup, these 10 races at the end of the season, and it would be sort of exciting if Peyton Manning wasn’t launching a comeback. It also is my belief that some traditional stock car racing fans have as much use for playoffs as Jim Mora did when he was coach of the Colts.
Playoffs?!? You’re talkin’ about playoffs?!? You kiddin’ me?!? Playoffs?!?
Yes, we’re now talkin’ about playoffs in just about every sport. Even in golf. In NASCAR, the playoffs begin at the speedway near Chicago, of all places, which surely must drive the good folks in Kannapolis and Randleman and Hueytown and Birmingham crazy, because Chicago is where President Obama is from. And most NASCAR fans I know are hoping America’s crew chief finishes second.
In Birmingham, they love the governor, but they may not much care for NASCAR playoffs that begin in Chicago. Nor do they much care for Neil Young.
The reason there are NASCAR playoffs and they start around now is because once the NFL starts, everybody more or less stops paying attention to the other sports. This is why baseball will have even more playoffs than usual.
And, in a roundabout way, it also explains why there will be a NASCAR-themed slot machine, developed by Bally Technologies Inc. of Las Vegas.
Owing to pro football’s Cro-Magnon era views on legalized gambling, one can assume there never will be an NFL-themed slot machine, and every little bit helps when one is trading paint with Roger Goodell and the Bounty Hunters in September.
When I clicked on eBay on Saturday, there were 196,146 officially licensed NASCAR products for sale, and a bunch of can koozies with Martin Truex Jr.’s picture on front that looked a little sketchy.
Sometimes it’s a hassle getting an official license from NASCAR, which now has lawyers on the payroll. And you’ve got to run everything past Jeff Gordon’s people, too.
So it has taken until now for Bally’s to bring its NASCAR-themed progressive slot machine up to speed – it will be unveiled at G2E 2012, the global gaming expo, Oct. 2 to 4 at the Sands Expo and Convention Center.
NASCAR’s television ratings are down and so is attendance, but I have a feeling this slot machine is going to lap the field with NASCAR fans who visit Las Vegas, and also NASCAR fans who visit Harrah’s Cherokee Hotel and Casino in Cherokee, N.C., because it is closer.
(It is 198 miles from Cherokee to Kannapolis, and Google says it is a four-hour drive from Cherokee to Randleman. I’ll bet max coins that Richard Petty can do it in 3:15, easy.)
Bally’s NASCAR slot machine features the images and cars and car numbers of Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, Kevin Harvick and Clint Bowyer. It also features gas cans, which you can line up like BARs or cherries or Lucky 7s or Granny Clampett’s moonshine jugs on a “Beverly Hillbillies” slot machine.
And it’ll only cost pennies to play, so even guys who haven’t won for a while – Kurt Busch and Harry Gant come to mind — can afford a few spins.
The minimum bet is 40 cents; the maximum $3.20. Cheaper than Wal-Mart. There will be three bonus levels, including one with a tire and a Wheel of Fortune-type wheel, because tests have shown the public still is enamored of Wheel of Fortune and Pat Sajak and Vanna White and buying vowels.
(This also explains why I still have a headache from hearing the infernal “WHEEL OF FORTUNE” chant, ad nauseam, while waiting in line for a cheap hot dog and a $2 Heineken at Slots-A-Fun.)
“You can’t do NASCAR without the drivers,” Bill Wadleigh, the Bally Technologies director of game development – and avowed Harvick enthusiast – told me. “There’s just enough nerd stuff in here (i.e., the Fox NASCAR theme song and the play-by-play voice of Eli Gold) for the hyper fan. But even if you don’t like NASCAR, it’s still got some cool features.”
And Jeff Gordon’s hair will be coiffed, more perfect than a werewolf drinking a pina colada at Trader Vic’s.
Wadleigh said he once designed a NASCAR video game for Hasbro, and Gordon wouldn’t sign off on it because he didn’t like the way his hair was parted on one of the game screens.
So Bally’s NASCAR-themed slot machine will be a lot like the Chase for the Sprint Cup – there will be bells and whistles and, if you’re lucky, a payoff at the end.
Jeff Gordon’s hair will be perfect.
And it doesn’t include Kyle Busch.
Las Vegas Review-Journal sports columnist Ron Kantowski can be reached at email@example.com or 702-383-0352. Follow him on Twitter: @ronkantowski.