From February to November, race tracks throughout the Vulpine Islands* are buzzing with activity as the Island Stock
Car Racing League goes from track to track, to see who will take home the annual "Flying Wheel" trophy and $5,000,000 championship
prize. Each year, the season starts with 50-60 drivers who think they have the skills needed to win the championship.
Usually, by the end of the first month of the season, most of the rookie drivers drop out due to either a lack of sponsorship,
and/or experience. However, there are usually a couple of rookies who do make the grade and stay in the ISRL.
At the start of the 3004 ISRL season, 55 drivers, including 6 rookies would begin a 30 race season that would
determine who would get the "Flying Wheel" that year. Among the rookies, was the son of the ISRL racing legend Peter
Bernhard. For 6 years, Kuma Bernhard had been racing in the Mason Island Racing League (one of several "minor-league"
racing circuits throughout the islands). Prior to this season, Kuma had won the MIRL championship the past two years
and when his father retired from the ISRL, he decided that it was time to move up to the next level.
Being the son of a legendary driver, there were high expectations set for Kuma, and he promised to try his best to fufill
them. In the first race of the year (The "Blizzard 500" in mid-February), Kuma and the five other rookies got their
first taste of ISRL racing. In each ISRL race, 48 drivers qualify for the actual race. In the Blizzard 500 (since
it is the first race of the season) all the rookie drivers get to have their time trials first. One by one, the new
drivers did their qualifying laps. The first two drivers crashed into the wall in the first turn on their first lap,
they would be fine, but they failed to qualify. The next two drivers (a mousette** and a human from Kansas) managed
to keep their cars in one piece, but didn't have very good qualifying times. Then it was Kuma's turn, as he started
around the field for his first lap, he concentrated on keeping the car from hitting the wall. After the first lap, his
time was the 3rd best among the rookies. But then he stepped on the gas once he felt that he could control the car,
cutting over 6 seconds off his first lap time and taking over (albeit briefly) the lead in time trials. By the time
time trials were over, five of the six rookies plus two other drivers got sent home. Kuma was the only rookie driver
that had a qualifying time that was good enough to be in the race (he would start 23rd out of 48 spots).
On race day, Kuma began to show off the same skill that he had shown in the MIRL and that his father had taught him since
he was old enough to drive. Within the first 50 laps (out of 333***), he had moved up from 23rd to 10th and was the
second fastest on the track. Around lap 100 however, Kuma had a close call. One of the drivers about 1/4 lap in
front of him (that driver was a couple of laps down*) had blown out a tire and skidded into the
wall on turn #3. This started a 14-car chain reaction crash that took out the race leader and 3 other drivers in the
top 10. Kuma narrowly avoided joining that list as his car whizzed by just milliseconds before one of the
wrecked cars moved down the track towards where he would have been. Once the crash was cleared and the race resumed,
Kuma found himself in 5th place and was just a couple seconds behind the race leader. The race continued for several
more hours, while Kuma slowly moved up the field eventually moving into second place with just 5 laps remaining. At
that time, Kuma was only behind the leader by a half-second and gaining on him about 0.10 seconds per lap. At that rate,
it would be a close finish. By the final lap, Kuma got a run on the 10-year ISRL veteran and passed him just in time
to take the checkered flag by just over 0.10 of a second. Kuma's father won his very first ISRL race and eventually
won the "Flying Wheel" that year as well. The fans, sportswriters and almost everyone else in the ISRL believed that
Kuma could possibly do the same thing as his father did. They were almost right as well.
During the rest of the 3004 ISRL season, Kuma won 5 more races including the two biggest races of the year (the "Independence
500" and the high-endurance "Edison 1000"). However, in the final race of the year, a flat tire cost him a chance to
win the flying wheel. Kuma would have needed to finish at least 12th in that race to clinch the title. But because
of the blown tire, he had to make an unscheduled pit-stop and finished 15th. He ended up finishing 2nd for the season,
12 points behind the winner (the same driver that Kuma had beaten in the Blizzard 500). Despite the disappointing finish
to the season, to finish 2nd overall for the season and win rookie-of-the-year in his first year in the ISRL is not a bad
accomplishment at all. The only driver in ISRL history that had a better rookie season was his father. Kuma comes
into the 3005 ISRL season as one of the favorites to win the "Flying Wheel" this year. Will he be able to follow up
the stellar rookie season with a championship this year?, Only time will tell.
End of Act 2