FRI 11/18

Rrrrrrrace fans! Are you ready for high-speed action and pure NASCAR satisfaction? The 2005 Ford Championship Weekend is finally here, and although we're bummed that the Ford 400 is sold out, you can still score tickets to today's Craftsman Truck Series Ford 200 (gates open at 8:00; tickets cost $30) and Saturday's Busch Series Ford 300 (gates open at 10:00; tickets range from $15 to $65). And don't fret, because you'll have a chance to see Nextel Cup Series stars Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, and Dale Earnhardt, Jr., in their final practice session prior to the Ford 200 race, and watch them qualify for the pole before the Ford 300 takes the track Saturday.

If you're not up for the deafening thunder of high-performance engines but still want to embrace the country-lovin' feel of the NASCAR community, check out the Homestead Mainstreet SpeedFest in downtown Homestead Saturday night from 8:00 to midnight. The free street festival features interactive race displays, live music, and plenty of fried food. Call 305-230-RACE, or visit —Lyssa Oberkreser



Ramble On

Fairchild's annual celebration

SAT 11/19

Since 1941, the Ramble-a-Garden Festival at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden (10901 Old Cutler Rd., Coral Gables) has brought eager visitors to the lush venue. To celebrate the venerable event's 65th year, the organizers have placed informative plaques before various booths. Stop by Nell's Tea Garden and enjoy a tradition of yore, when ladies sported lovely hats and delicate nibbles were served on umbrella-shaded tables. The Garden of Chocolate gives delicious context to the sweet treat, from broad-leafed cacao trees to homemade truffles. Drop the little ones off at Kid Way for face-painting and carnival games, then fill your basket with organic produce at the Farmer's Market. Of course, since this is a plant extravaganza, more than 15,000 verdant items will be available for purchase today from 9:30 to 4:30. Admission is $15. Call 305-667-1651, or visit —Patrice Elizabeth Grell Yursik

Forget Brotherly Love

FRI 11/18

The Miami Heat made it to the conference finals last year. They were beaten by the Detroit Pistons, a team that, after winning it all the previous year, maintained the status quo, making almost no moves to improve their team and subsequently losing the 2005 championship series against the San Antonio Spurs. The Heat took the opposite approach, revamping its roster by bringing in bratty Antoine Walker, speedy Jason Williams, senior citizen Gary Payton, and Karl Malone clone (let's hope) Wayne Simien. With Shaq and Dwyane Wade, this lineup should be able to handle the Philadelphia 76ers. Find out at 7:30 p.m. at the American Airlines Arena, 601 Biscayne Blvd., Miami. Tickets range from $10 to $300. Call 305-577-HEAT, or visit — Greg Baker


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