This Is The Atomic Explosion That Did Not Occur While I Was Selecting Jalopnik's Seven Least Favorite Dodge Neon Drivers

Jack Baruth
by Jack Baruth
this is the atomic explosion that did not occur while i was selecting jalopnik s

“Dude, Jalopnik’s put a hit piece out on you.” The voice on the other end of the phone was on the edge of tears or laughter, I couldn’t tell which.

“What’s a jalopnik?” I responded.

“You know, that website that talks about airplanes, and ekranoplans, and tsunamis, and erotic male photography.” Oh, that Jalopnik. I’d recently offended the nice people at that particular branch of the Gawker Media octopus by pointing out that the fellow they’d praised to the sky for his ethical stance on auto journalism had a little credibility issue. Since the aforementioned fellow has now forgotten all this “ethics” crap and returned to his old job, one might even say I was ahead of America’s Favorite F-15-Crash-Centric Website on that one.

“What’s the name of the article?”

“The Seven Crappy Kinds Of Car Reviews.”

“Well, that’s not fair for them to discuss. I mean, they don’t even do car reviews. It would be like if TTAC did ‘The Seven Worst Kind Of Articles About Large Train Tunnels’.”

“Still, dude, they’re after you. They specifically talked about someone who races Dodge Neons and writes car reviews.” The tension drained from my face. Whew! What a relief. After all, I race a Plymouth Neon. I’ve also raced Mustangs, Mercedes-Benzes, a Supra, the Jalopnik V8olvo itself, the occasional Ford Focus, and a Grand-Am Civic, so I felt pretty sure that Ray’s minions weren’t taking aim at me. No website with Jalopnik’s historically admirable record of fact-checking would call me a “Dodge Neon racer” when I’m obviously a Plymouth Neon racer.

Still, just because I wasn’t on the hit list didn’t mean that someone else wasn’t being unfairly criticized. With that in mind, I’ve found seven people in the automotive world who raced Dodge Neons. Any one of them might be the very person about whom Jalopnik’s prodigal editor, Mike Spinelli, was complaining. Let’s investigate.

John McElroy Yes! It’s true. Until I uncovered McElroy’s Neon-racing history, I was absolutely certain that he was actually a poorly-animated head on a screen, similar to “Max Headroom” but sans the wit and human warmth. No such luck. In April of 1995 McElroy competed in the Neon Challenge, racing a Dodge Neon coupe. No word on whether he won, but since he was facing Lorenzo Lamas and Crystal Bernard, we have to accept that he probably didn’t.

Tiff Needell Starting out in the humble, grounded world of Formula One, the “Fifth Gear” television presenter eventually rose to the rarefied air of Neon-centric competition, participating in 1994. Amazingly enough, in at least one race Tiff found himself out-qualified by…

Tony Swannnnnnnn Four years ago, I drove nonstop from the SCCA Solo National Championships in Topkea, KS to Flat Rock, MI to take a seat in the first-ever full-length 24 Hours Of LeMons. When I got in the car, we were in third place and Car and Driver magazine was leading the pack. I steadily unlapped us, pressuring the C/D guys until they decided to put their “pro”, Tony Swan, in the car. Sadly, after I lapped Mr. Swan a few times, he lost his temper and drove into the wall trying to teach me a lesson. I ended up winning by 52 laps, the largest margin of victory in the history of crap-car racing. Nobody’s seen Swan since, or perhaps they just haven’t checked all the “Applebees” restaurants yet. Or maybe they haven’t even looked.

Denise McCluggage Denise gave the C/D and Motor Trend staffers a hell of a time in the Neon Challenge. To be fair, she was only sixty-seven years old at the time. A few years ago, I attended an Audi R8 event and noticed that only one other driver was matching the Jim Russell guys’ lap times around Infineon. No prizes for guessing that it wasn’t the Top Gear guys, but rather Ms. McCluggage, who was just about to celebrate her eightieth birthday. Honestly, Spinelli, I hope you aren’t messing with her. She’ll tear your head off.

Steven Cole Smith: This guy’s done a ton of racing in the Neon Challenge and elsewhere. I can’t remember a single thing he’s ever written, but it might be because he writes for Autoweek, and I’m currently using the last few issues of Autoweek to protect the bottom of my cat’s litterbox from destructive urine.

Frank Beard. That’s right, the Frank Beard. As in the guy who played drums on “Gimme All Your Lovin”. There’s no record of Mr. Beard ever participating directly in automotive journalism, but given that every autowriter between the age of thirty and forty-five can vividly recount a dream in which Frank showed up, tossed us the keys to the “Eliminator Coupe”, and smiled approvingly as we drove off with two chicks en route to Our First Threesome, it’s possible that Mr. Spinelli, who has never, ever, had a threesome, is taking out his personal disappointment on the Sharp Dressed Man himself. Seriously, Spin, don’t get so worked up. Having two girls at the same time isn’t so great. I mean, you have to keep them both busy, and there’s the matter of who sleeps where afterwards, and… OH WHO AM I KIDDING! IT’S AWESOME AND I PITY YOU FROM THE DEPTHS OF MY SOUL.

#1. You know who this is.

And now we come to the most likely target. Maximum Bob himself. The man who issued a ten-second beatdown to Ekranopolopnik in the CTS-V Challenge. The fellow who kicked Wes Siler right in the ass of his too-tight pants despite the wet conditions and complete lack of Geritol in the vicinity. The alpha male before whom all auto journalists bow. Except for yours truly, of course. I went out in wetter, colder conditions and still beat the old guy. My advice to Jalopnik: don’t mess with the Dodge Neon crowd. It takes a Plymouth Neon racer to do that.

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2 of 111 comments
  • Adehus Adehus on Mar 25, 2011

    I read a pretty eclectic mix of websites, and I've bumped into links to this very article twice today already: Anybody seen any others? Seems pretty clear that there isn't a lot of Jalopnik love out there in the blogosphere, and that Ray and his project aren't exactly held in the highest esteem. I personally haven't been all that anti-Jalop, but gotta admit that the site redesign is a complete turn off and (on the rare occasion I decide to go to it) brings my browser to its knees with its ridiculously overwrought interface and equally excessive advertising foolishness (ads actually covering up the content? Smooth...) I also have to say that I haven't been the biggest fan of Ray's online conduct either here or at Jalopnik. There were plenty of comments at Jalop that made reasonable observations about how the redesign screwed up so much of what was good about the site before, and Ray has been way too thin skinned in response. All in all, it amounted to an unpleasantly dictatorial showing on a site whose comments section had once been of an unusually high quality. And now, having initiated some back and forth between TTAC and Jalop, Ray's looking a bit unhinged here as well.

  • Scs Scs on Apr 03, 2011
    #3: Steven Cole Smith: This guy’s done a ton of racing in the Neon Challenge and elsewhere. I can’t remember a single thing he’s ever written, but it might be because he writes for Autoweek, and I’m currently using the last few issues of Autoweek to protect the bottom of my cat’s litterbox from destructive urine. Yes, my stuff is very hard to find. Google hits: 486,000. Jack Baruth Google hits: 40,700. (Cough.) Don't forget, Jack, I have a carry permit, and you don't. BTW, if you haven't tried Feline Pine for the litterbox, you should. My cats have never stunk so minimally.

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