Do you have the wheels for this?Published 8:32pm Thursday, August 12, 2010
By ANDREW GERARD
Blue Star Highway
Twenty-two teams thought they had the courage, fortitude and (most importantly) wheels to win the 5th Annual NASCHAIR Challenge. Three teams — not surprisingly, all involved in the sale or creation of office chairs or wheels — raced their office chairs hard enough to stand on the black and white-checkered boxes on Lake Boulevard in St. Joseph on Aug. 6 and accept their rewards for first, second and third places.
The NASCHAIR Challenge is organized each year by Harbor Habitat for Humanity in Benton Harbor. This premiere racing event has an even more serious goal — to eradicate substandard housing from Benton Harbor and Benton Township.
The race began at roughly 5:30 p.m. (right after quitting time), just as the sunny, warm day was beginning to cool. Teams of four, sponsored by local businesses and non-profits, propelled one racer down the street, competing against another racer drag-race style. As soon as momentum from the launch wore off, most racers kicked their chairs (and themselves) to the end of the course — some with more ease than others. Crashes added to the drama, though unlike 2009’s race, with two broken bones sustained during a rainy NASCHAIR Challenge, no one was seriously injured.
Al Pscholka, fresh off a victory of his own in Aug.3’s Republican state congressional primary, announced the race with pizzazz and occasional taunting (“Bad day for bankers, I guess. Be careful taking a loan from this team!”).
When the race ended, Shepherd Casters — 2009’s winner — had defended its title successfully against Doubleday Office Products, who finished in second place with a stock office chair (and a little performance-enhancing lubricant) and Halo/Integrated Distribution — an amazing team of rollerblade-wheel builders who raced a 15-wheel office chair and never once kicked with their legs. Notable (and ultimately unsuccessful) teams included Harbor Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore, and two teams made up of a St. Norbert’s Catholic Church volunteer team, which volunteered at Harbor Habitat the week of the race. St. Norbert’s youth helped flesh out teams sponsored by WIRX and other organizations, and also organized the Black Caulks and the Neon Zebras, an all-girl, brightly colored, but ultimately not-all-that-fast dream team. Blue Star Highway, my illustrious benefactors, put together a team, although due to equipment problems (ie. A loud, heavy, decrepit chair) they did not place. Alas.
Nonetheless, the energy, the competition, and the thrill of destroying office furniture on a sunny day — combined with the knowledge that proceeds went to Harbor Habitat — made for a satisfying experience, even for those who truly did not have the wheels for this.