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Stock Car Champion

Series: Choose Your Own Adventure (1979-1998) #96
Author: Montgomery, R. A.
Illustrators: Thompson, Thierry (cover)
Morrill, Leslie (interior)
Release Date: 1989
MrEndshiftresign's Thoughts: C-

Whooooaaaa-kay. Leave it to Crazy Ray to predate Sly Stallone's Driven debacle some 20 years, only in a NASCAR setting. Story starts off with mechanic Bill Mazzaro and ace driver Mike Peterson feuding with each other, and you, the assistant mechanic, torn between driving for Bill or acting as Mike's head mechanic. Add some elements of family issues (mechanic's parents are divorced) that R. A. loved to insert in his later works, add in some particularly unlikeable cops in some of the choices, more unsavory characters including that beehive lady, and BAM! - you get R. A. ruining NASCAR for a 12-year-old kid already favoring Formula 1 to stock car racing. (Well, not really. I did follow NASCAR a bit during my teen and adult years). Higher-than-expected rating goes out because this was quite a page-turner, and because Leslie Morrill's artwork is great as usual. What I still don't get, though, is the unclearness behind Mike's character. In most endings, he comes off as a generally good person who's gotten into some snafu with his long-time mechanic but doesn't exactly want him dead or his garage burned down, but the whole Tom Rutledge/arson storyline paints a more sinister picture. Sure, Rutledge has got villain written all over him, but did Mike hire him to exact revenge on Bill, or has Mike fallen under Tom's nasty influence?

Random observations - Tom Rutledge was one of the few CYOA characters who looked remotely African-American. Pity he had to be cast as a bad guy. Not too familiar with NASCAR behind the scenes in the late '80s, but what's with the disclaimer at the start of the story? And Montgomery sure loves his auto racing. See my review for Behind The Wheel to show you how he tried to ruin old-school F1 for me.

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