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(Photo source: Stewart-Haas Racing Race Release)

Well it seems that my brain is full of lugnuts this week! Here is what has been pinging around my brain like lugnuts during a green flag pitstop:

1. I find it interesting that Kyle Busch’s recent back-to-back sweeps has sparked a lot of interest but not in the way you would think. Instead of everyone being a buzz about what a monumental accomplishment back-to-back weekend sweeps (even haters have to be impressed) are,  most of the buzz I am hearing is from NASCAR fans who don’t think that the cup drivers should be able to drive in any of the feeder series but instead should be relegated to just driving the premiere cup series.  If this is the case (and I don’t believe this should be the case AT ALL just to make that clear) then by following that same logic new drivers should not drive in the cup series until they have a full time cup ride. See? Cup drivers driving in the series not just give the up-and-coming racers different driving levels and styles to drive with and around (the thought here being is that they can learn from the cup series regulars) but there is the bigger draw to having the cup drivers participate in races in the “lesser” series  and that is that you are drawing fans to seats that might not have otherwise been filled.  I honestly don’t see a problem with it. It’s not like the cup drivers can run for the lesser series championships anymore so I don’t really see why it’s a big deal- they should be able to run if they have the ride and sponsorship to do so.  I know that when Tony occasionally would run what is now the Xfinity series I would be more apt to tune in and pay attention then not.

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I love to read. It’s how I learn, how I escape. It’s something I try to do every day if and when possible. And when I come across books that I think fellow NASCAR fans would love I review them here- I have been doing it awhile now and you can read back through all those different book reviews here.  A few years ago I was introduced to the Kate Reilly Mystery series by author Tammy Kaehler. I was asked to review book two- which I jumped right into no quite realizing it was the second book of a series- and while the book read fine (and I LOVED it) by itself- I found myself compelled to go back to the first book and read that. I have been hooked on the Kate Reilly mysteries ever since and greatly anticipate the next one coming out. The reason these books fall into something I can review here on BG is because Kate Reilly just happens to be a young up-and-coming racer and the books tend to center each around one particular race.  When I saw on the author’s facebook page that the fourth installment of the series, Red Flags, was due this month I was beyond excited and not just because I would have a fiction book to review which I haven’t had in awhile, but because I LOVE these books.

You know that feeling when you are reading a series, or even just a new book by an author that you love and you are greatly anticipating the release of that book, but in the back of your mind you worry that you will be disappointed? I had that worry with this book because in my mind I had hyped it up and was so excited for the release that I couldn’t imagine it would live up to the hype in my head.  Well luckily for us all- it not only lived up to it- but it surpassed it.  I dare say that Red Flags is the best book in the currently four book series to date. And with that I will say while this book could probably be read as a standalone you will find it a much richer reading experience to read the other three books in the series (Deadman’s Switch, Braking Points, Avoidable Contact).

Now onto this book: Kate Reilly is a busy busy racer. She arrives in Long Beach for the Grand Prix of Long Beach busy- she is not just racing her car in the Sportscar event, but she is also coaching a celebrity driver in the pro-am race, and taking one of the steps towards her big dream- testing an Indycar in Fontana. Not to mention meeting with her two biggest sponsors- Frame Savings and Beaute. Yet the first thing we see of Kate in Long Beach? She is identifying the body of her despised cousin Billy who has Kate’s hero card in his pocket at the time of his obvious murder.  She vows that this time she will leave it to the authorities but of course she gets roped into investigating who might be responsible in this mystery that has more turns than a road course.  I don’t want to get too much into plot points with this book because I don’t want to spoil anything…but as far as plot lines go I was guessing who was responsible from the beginning and who I thought killed Billy and who actually ended up killing Billy? I never suspected that person. (more…)

Avoidable Contact by Tammy Kaehler

Race car driver Kate Reilly is back in author Tammy Kaehler’s 3rd book in the Kate Reilly mystery series Avoidable Contact.  I can’t tell you how excited I was to get my hands on Avoidable Contact. I’ve read Kaehler’s first two books of the series (Deadman’s Switch and Braking Points) and I thoroughly enjoyed them both so I knew I was in for quite the ride.  I was definitely not disappointed.

“All the crap going on in the outside world can’t stop me from doing what I do best: kicking butt on the racetrack.”  pg 238, Avoidable Contact by Tammy Kaehler

In Avoidable Contact, our protagonist Kate is driving one of the Sandham Swift team Corvettes in the famed 24 Hours of Daytona endurance race.  The book opens with Kate Reilly standing on a very crowded pit road amid the chaos and crowds that is pre-race.  With less than an hour until the green flag, Kate spots two police detectives “with their serious faces on” heading her way flanked by the second in charge of operations fro the newly formed United SportsCar Championship series (USCC).  It immediately concerns her and well it should.  They are there to tell her that her boyfriend Stuart was involved in a hit-and-run accident outside the speedway that morning and is in serious condition at a nearby hospital fighting for his life.  Stuart is in charge of operations for the USCC and it doesn’t make sense to Kate that he would even be outside the track an hour before the start of the race.  Pushing that aside, Kate decides that Stuart wouldn’t want her to not drive in the race when the only thing she could do in the hospital for him is sit in the waiting room. Kate is determined to press on in spite of what is going on at the hospital blocks away and decides to concentrate on the race and her car and in between her driving stints she can watch for updates on Stuart and help in the search for who ran Stuart down and why.  She pushes Stuart and the rumors floating around the track as far out of her mind as she can and concentrates on driving- except during her first stint on the track Kate witnesses a terrifying on track incident that heaves her and the entire USCC racing community shaken to the core.  Kate can only wonder if the on track incident is related to Stuart’s pre-race accident and if that was the case who was their next target?

The thing that I adore most about the Kate Reilly Mysteries is Kate herself.  She is a very real character- and while she is spunky she still has those human moments and flaws that we all have and that makes her very real to me.  She is not a crime fighting machine in the guise of a race car driver- she just happens to usually be in the wrong place at the right time and the drive to see things though.  While Kate is a female driver in a male dominated sport (although not really- as Kate isn’t the only female driver) readers aren’t continually hit over the head with the fact that she is a female.  Kate doesn’t see her self as a female race car driver- but as a racer and that’s it.  Kate Reilly is a multifaceted character that I can identify with on a personal level.  She is the reason that I love these books.  I also love that Kaehler actually incorporates a real racing series right down to the recent creation of the United SportsCar Championship Series created when the American Le Mans Series and the Rolex Sports Car Series merged back in 2013.

What unfolds over the course of the race is a gripping tale with more turns than the road course at Daytona.  I am not going to go any further into plot of Avoidable Contact because I want you to enjoy it as untainted by spoilers as possible.  But I will say that of the three Kate Reilly Mysteries- Avoidable Contact has moved into first place as my favorite!  Readers get to see parts of Kate’s life we haven’t seen before.  And I will say this: expect to be left craving book 4 and to be saying things out loud like “Urg! But what happens next?!” after you turn that last page.

Author Tammy Kaehler is a technical writer in the Los Angeles area.  To go along with the release of her third Kate Reilly Mystery, Tammy Kaehler has been blogging about some of the research she did for Avoidable Contact.  These blog posts are a perfect companion to the book: Avoidable Contact – The Backstory, Avoidable Contact- Racing Into The NightAvoidable Contact- My Sleep Research, and Avoidable Contact- Daytona’s Checkered Flag. They give you just a little bit of insight on what kind of research goes into a book like this plus are just fun race experiences and you KNOW how I like those since I write them for BadGroove. Pick up a copy of Avoidable Contact today- I really think you will love it! I certainly did.

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For disclosure an advanced readers copy of Avoidable Contact was supplied for review purposes- but I would have had it queued up in my kindle pre-order queue if it hadn’t because I LOVE this series!