Volkswagen Isn’t Just a Bug Anymore
I bid you welcome gentle readers, and of course that is extended to our ever-present assigned reader of all things NASCAR, although technically, this column only concerns NASCAR through rumor and innuendo… but since we all love a good rumor, just consider this an early Silly Season speculation from abroad.
Along about last Thursday, Jayski.com cited a short article from AutoWeek that highlighted a rumor about Audi “perhaps” coming to NASCAR, and within that article one found this “tweet” from Matt Dillner of NASCAR.com:
"I've heard rumors for two years of Audi entering #NASCAR and know the interest has been there," Dillner tweeted on Tuesday. "My prediction is that it will happen."
That quote came on the heels of another conversation a few days earlier on SiriusXM Radio with NASCAR HMWIC (Head Man What’s In Charge) Brian France, who, when asked about new manufacturers coming into the sport had this to say:
"There is some interest by a couple of different manufacturers and we would be open to that in the right conditions," France told SiriusXM. "I think a lot of the car companies are understandably looking at the terrific job that Toyota has done by partnering with NASCAR and the success and all the things that comes along with that.
"They've been an incredible success story for a car manufacturer looking to come into a sport that's very difficult to come in, compete and win every weekend. But there's an interest. And this is obviously the biggest opportunity in auto racing in North America."
Matt was not the only one that has heard rumors; heck, rumors abound around all racing series and venues. Rumors are fun, and even more fun when they turn into truth. The rumors I’d heard most often centered on Volkswagen, not Audi, and that difference sent me into research mode. For an old gal, I play a pretty wicked tune on the computer keys.
Most of us, upon hearing the name “Volkswagen” conjure up an immediate picture of a “Bug” or “Beetle.” Well, as the old saying goes, “They’ve come a long way Baby!” Indeed, when I found what I’d been missing by not keeping abreast of the foreign automobile market it made me think that I need to get out more.
Raise your hand if you’ve ever heard of the “Volkswagen Group.” OK, that got a few waves. Now just shout “Yeah” if you can pronounce “Volkswagen Aktiengesellschaft.” And silence reigns, just as I thought. Don’t worry… that is the German technical term for the Volkswagen Group, and looks to me like an extension of what you say to someone that sneezes, but they’ve made it easy for those of us on this side of the Atlantic (I can already hear my Swedish friends, Jens and Berra, laughing out loud at me) and it is simply abbreviated as VW AG or simpler yet, VAG. We’d better be getting familiar with that because I think we’ll be hearing much more about VW AG in days to come.
VW AG sells passenger cars under the Bentley, Bugatti, Lamborghini, Audi, Porsche, SEAT, Škoda and Volkswagen marques; motorcycles under the Ducati brand; and commercial vehicles under the MAN, Scania, Neoplan and Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles marques.
Take a minute to catch your breath. This is not your Granddaddy’s Volkswagen! As of 2013, VW AG ranked ninth in the Fortune Global 500 list of the world's largest companies. In 2014, it reached production output of 10.14 million vehicles. The photo below is home to the VW AG in Wolfsburg, Lower Saxony in Germany. Whoever would have thought that the humble little “punch-bug” would grow to these proportions?
Quite frankly, if I had what I know about most of the vehicles emanating from the VW AG in my eye, I doubt it would even cause me to blink. My experience with European cars over a lifetime has been limited to two… the ubiquitous VW Beetle, circa 1968 and a lovely little Renault (pronounced rain-oh’ – they’re all silent) circa 1970. The VW was air cooled and I lived in Western NY. Our ’67 Mercury got the garage, and I soon learned that an air-cooled engine will never melt the ice on your windshield. I used a whole lot of salt while I owned that little gem. Oh, and did I mention that it had a driver’s door that would just suddenly fly open without warning? We didn’t have that one very long. The Renault, on the other hand, was a tiny little girl, but beautiful, right down to her real leather bucket seats. The only drawback it had was a push-button drive, which really didn’t take full advantage of what I refer to still as “52 pony power.” She was always willing, but going up a steep hill was always an adventure… like that little engine… “I think I can. I think I can. I think I can.” There are times when a stick shift just makes a whole lot more sense.
OK, please pardon the digression and let’s take a look at Audi. This is Tom Kristensen and the all-new 2017 Audi R8 – 10 cylinders, every bell and whistle available for racing and a top speed of 330 mph.
No, they won’t be bringing a 10-cylinder engine car into NASCAR Cup racing, but I watched the demonstration and fell in love. These cars do race I believe, in the LMS Series, which is now combined with the Grand-Am Sports Car Series and this year is called IMSA Weathertech SportsCar Championship. (It was TUDOR last year, if you are among the easily confused) I’ll definitely be looking for the Audis in that series, and looking forward to and wondering which Audi will make its debut in Xfinity or Cup sometime soon.
Time now for our Classic Country Closeout and this week we have a special request. While most of us are enjoying the thrills and spills of Martinsville this Sunday, RFF’s “Cub reporter”, Jeremiah Thalheimer will be performing the duties of a NASCAR Official at his first race… in Bakersfield California. His request? Of course, it is “The Streets of Bakersfield” by Buck Owens and Dwight Yoakam.
Jeremiah, I tried to find “Beer Can Hill” on YouTube without success. I own the song and asked my adopted son Darrell to put it on YouTube for me. They killed it, saying it was under copyright and could not be played on YouTube. I did find a “special” that contains only a line or two of it, but the video is kind of neat as it includes Buck and Dwight along with Merle Haggard. I think you’ll enjoy it. (I’ll send you Beer Can Hill privately. It’s a great song… I like it better than “Streets.”
Let’s stay with “Street” theme for a bit. Here’s a real oldie but goodie that was recorded by a whole lot of folks, but if Red Foley recorded something, I’ll almost always opt for his version first. Here is Red singing all about the “Hot Rod Race.”
Well, we can’t stand too long on one leg, so here is the “answer song” to Hot Rod Race. This is Commander Cody with “Hot Rod Lincoln.”
Winding up our musical interlude today is a song that isn’t Classic, but I hope someday it will be. I just like it a lot! This is Tim McGraw along with wife, Faith Hill singing “Meanwhile, Back at Mama’s”
Be well gentle readers, and remember to keep smiling. It looks so good on you!