First up was the McCain Uphill Slog Penalty. John McCain has done plenty of struggling in his life, and trudging to the top of the very tall mountain that is the United States Presidency is tough enough under any circumstances… but what about when you're dragging the dead weight of an unpopular lame-duck administration, during tough economic times, and most of your own party hates you? What's that like? Well, we figure it probably feels similar to donning a rubber McCain mask and pushing a Ford Taurus SHO with seven burly guys sitting on it the length of the pit road in the muggy petro-enhanced Houston air… so that's what we had this miscreant do after he did Badness on the track. Bet he thinks twice before trading paint with a CRX at the next race!
The jeering crowds liked that so much that we figured we'd McCain-ize the next driver black-flagged in for too much aggro on the track. It's a lot easier when the car is a BMW 2002 and your team only has four members, so we had the Loverman add his weight to the load. Man, that McCain mask gets sweaty fast!
Then there's Barack Obama, who promises change and plenty of it. You know what, though- change can often be painful, hard work, and it can force you to throw away a lot of sweat you've already invested! That's why we figured the Obama Change You Can Believe In Penalty had to be hard mental and physical work that undid a lot of the team's previous efforts. The way it works goes like this: we give the team members spray paint, tagger-grade fat permanent markers, colored tape, etc., and the team needs to completely change their car's theme before we'll let them continue racing. Not only that, we have to believe in the change, so half-assed efforts get sent back to the penalty box for more work.
By far the most impressive Change We Can Believe In victims were the guys on the Svedish Slaabs Saab 900 Turbo team. Their original theme was a sort of IKEA-meatball-style mishmash of Swedish Chef and ABBA iconography, but they managed to change their car to the Exxon Valdez in about six minutes flat.
Got to admit, we were freakin' awed by their accomplishment (which stood in stark contrast to their typical LeMons Saab on-track performance, which generally involves completing less than 20 laps and then nuking the engine). "Dancing Queen" became "Leaky Queen," for starters.
The Swedish Chef doll became Captain Hazelwood, complete with beer cans ziptied to his body. We liked this accomplishment so much that we gave the Slaabs our created-on-the-spot Judges' Choice Award (12-pack of Shiner Bock) after the race.
Other teams didn't quite measure up to the incredibly high bar set by the Svedish Slaabs; the Enginerds went for a "We're Sorry" theme, apparently figuring we'd stop punishing them if they showed remorse.
When they beat the shit out of their formerly-dent-free car with hammers, their new theme became "Sorry Piece Of Crap," and we let them back on the track.
Then we had the über-recidivist Unintended Acceleration Audi team. The kind of Audi you can get for 500 bucks is almost invariably gonna be one evil-handling beast in a LeMons race, and this one was no exception; we hit these guys with every penalty we had (though they successfully pleaded their way out of the metal-shavings-in-the-crankcase one), but every time we turned around they'd be back in the penalty area with sheepish looks on their faces after spinning out and/or hitting something… again.
We also had a Hillary Clinton mask and a couple of genuine Hillary signs picked up by a friend who was on the floor at the Democratic National Convention, so we figured we'd do a Hillary punishment as well. To symbolize the broken dreams of Clinton supporters, we taped the posters to the car and had the miscreant (in this case, one of the Punisher Racing Caprice drivers) put on the Hillary mask and sit, disrespected and forgotten, at the judges' table for 30 minutes.
Hillary haters- no shortage of them in Texas- got a big kick out of the "Hillary: To Enslave And Torture" logos on the Punisher's new/improved door emblems.