As a contributor to this august publication, I travel quite a bit. Perhaps you remember my insightful coverage of the 2005 Tokyo Motor Show. If so, you really need to up your dose of ginkgo biloba, because I never made it to the 2005 Tokyo Motor Show. For every story that makes it from concept to reality, there are several that crash and burn, and my confounded attempt to get to Tokyo was just one of many Stories That Don't Make It.
That one is pretty straightforward. My connecting flight out of O'Hare leaves the runway at an angle more common to a Trident missile than a 747, and three hours into the flight - around the Arctic Circle, somewhere - the pilot announces that the tail of the plane dragged on the runway at takeoff. Which is a problem, since 747s don't have wheelie bars. So we'd been flying around to burn enough fuel so we can land again without punching the struts up through the fuselage. Back in Chicago, the airline says that they'll try again tomorrow, but that's problematic, since the Tokyo show is only two days long. I give up and fly home to Boston with no story except, "Did I ever tell you about the day I flew to the Arctic Circle and back for no reason whatsoever?"
Then there are ideas that are doomed by their own complication. I'm full of those. For instance, have you ever wondered if the Chevy Corvette ZR1 is actually faster than a NASCAR stock car - at least, a restrictor-plate car? After all, the Vette does 205 mph, and Jimmie Johnson earned pole position at the 2008 Daytona 500 with a qualifying lap of 187 mph.
I decide that I want to find out if we're at the point where a Chevy you can drive to the track will actually compete with the cars out on the track. All I require to make it happen is a ZR1, a stock car, a NASCAR driver, and private access to a NASCAR speedway. Simple, right? With several false starts and probably more than a few favors called in by GM's PR people, it all comes together on race weekend. On the eve of the story, I have dinner with photographer A. J. Mueller to discuss our game plan. As we're walking back to the hotel, he casually says, "Hey, what if it rains?" And just like that, I know that in fact it will rain. Which is a possibility that, believe it or not, had never even entered my mind.