A Brotherly Challenge

Jul 12, 1996

TOM: There are two brothers, well versed in automotive technology. And one of them drives around in a 1974 Chevy.

RAY: Who could that be? Wait a minute. Is there a family of raccoons living in the back seat?

TOM: Yep, there are raccoons and huskies. They get along you know.

RAY: Yeah, the wildebeests keep them apart.

TOM: Now the one brother, we'll call him Brother A, he drives around in this '74 Chevy. The other brother is sort of a motorhead. We'll call him Brother B. He happens to, in fact, drive race cars. Every year he drives in the Indianapolis, or is that the Minneapolis, 500?

RAY: Mindianapolis.

TOM: OK, he drives around in the Mindianapolis 500 and in fact owns an Indianapolis 500 race car.

RAY: With 12 turbo chargers--the whole bit.

TOM: Well, Brother A, with the Chevy, challenges Brother B to a race around the Indianapolis track.

RAY: Well folks, we've used up all the allotted time for the puzzler.

TOM: Why are we in such a hurry? We've got to slow down the world.

RAY: Sorry folks, this is a 35-mile-per-hour puzzler.

TOM: Anyway, Brother A, with the Chevy, challenges Brother B, with the race car, to a race around the Indianapolis speedway. But instead of 500 miles, 50 miles.

RAY: Because he knows his car won't make it for 500 miles.

TOM: He's thinking his car can make it for 50. There are only two stipulations. The two stipulations imposed by Brother A are these. One: neither brother can make any alterations to his vehicle other than the way it happens to be right now, which is the way it is. So the '74 Chevy is like it always was--the raccoons in the back, the huskies on the right side and the raccoons on the left side. And the race car is in the hangar there in Indianapolis, all set to go. So the first stipulation is no changes to the car. And the second stipulation is Brother A says, "I get to say when we race." Brother B says, "You're on...piston-puss." A few weeks go by, and one day the phone rings and Brother B answers the phone.

RAY: And it's Gorbachev saying "you're on, comrade."

TOM: He says, "NOW." And Brother B--now here's the hint--Brother B says, "Aw, no, not today." So they go out to the track and indeed Brother A beats the pants off of Brother B.

RAY: Or, beats the pistons off.

TOM: How come?


TOM: The answer is because when I called and said, "Right now," you said, "Awww, jeez." You lost the race because I waited until it was pouring rain. And in the pouring rain your car is in big trouble. 'Cause you've got what in your car?

RAY: Slick. Tires without treads, so to speak. And they are not designed to run in wet weather.

TOM: And the truth of the matter is that you get far better traction without treads. And it's curious that you measure tread to figure out how good your tires are; you measure the tread depth. The truth of the matter is, the more tread you have, the worse your traction is. The only reason for the tread is to get rid of the water, so that in the rain the treads are great but the slicks are bad.

RAY: So they push the water out of the way and prevent the car from hydroplaning. So Thomas's car did all right.

TOM: Because I just had plain old, run of the mill, nothing special, good old tires. And I killed him in this race.

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