Archive for the ‘NASCAR’ Category

English: Andretti Green Racing's Danica Patric...

Image via Wikipedia

NASCAR is regarded among professional drivers as the elite level car racing league. NASCAR is divided into separate series. The Nationwide Series (the lesser of the two “big dogs”) and the Sprint Cup Series (the elite). The perennial contenders for the NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship are among the best drivers on the planet.

Indy Car celebrity Danica Patrick has long desired to race in the NASCAR series and got her chance when she announced in November 2011 that she would be signing on with JR Motorsports, one of racing’s biggest teams, to race a limited number of NASCAR circuit races.

The weekend of the 54th running of the Daytona 500, Patrick was given the opportunity by JR Motorsports to drive in three races this weekend for her Sprint Series debut in the Daytona 500 (the third of the races).

The first race was Thursday, February 23, 2012 at the Gatorade 150 (Gatorade Duel), which is the qualifier for the Daytona 500. Patrick slammed into the wall on the last lap of the qualifier, wrecking her car.

The second race, Saturday February 25, 2012 was the Nationwide Series race at Daytona, where Patrick once again wrecked. This wreck was due to a teammate bumping the “Go Daddy” #7 car and sending Danica into a spin.

Finally, Patrick entered Monday’s Daytona 500 with hopes of a top finish in her Sprint Series debut.

It didn’t take long for her hopes to be dashed as she was involved in a six-car pile up on the very second lap of the race, leading to extensive damage to her car, and overall a 38th place finish in her debut.

I think it’s generally accepted that Danica Patrick is the worlds best female driver. You’ll get no dispute from me and I think you know where this is going.

Three races. Three crashes. One small step for mankind, one giant leap for men.

Advertisements

image

What a year 2010 turned out to be in sports. From the Alabama Crimson Tide winning the national championship to the Giants winning the World Series.

2010 saw Tiger Woods’ first full calendar year without notching a single victory, neither in majors nor non-major events.

2010 was host to both the Winter Olympics in Vancouver and the World Cup in South Africa. Surprisingly, South Africa seemed to handle the role better with seemingly less to work with. Really, the only negative throughout the World Cup were those Vuvuzelas (they haunt my dreams).

2010 was the year of the media. Endless talk of where LeBron James would play the ’10-’11 season and beyond hijacked every sports radio station, column, channel, etc. until finally, it built up to “the Decision”, a poorly thought out plan by the LeBron James group to publicly announce his contract plans live on ESPN.

“The Decision” badly backfired when James chose against returning to Cleveland, where he was drafted 6 years ago, and left to play in Miami with Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh. The backlash was instant in Cleveland and soon even the media, which profited greatly from “the Decision” threw James under the bus, calling his actions classless, selfish, and pretty much all the things the audience was wanting to hear.

Nearing the end of the year, and with the season under way, many of the media are forgiving of James and are more focussed on his play on the court.

2010 was a shaky shaky year for college football. It started with expansion rumors out of the Big East and the Big 10. The Big 10 fired first, inviting Big 12 member Nebraska into their ranks. Nebraska accepted the invite. The PAC-10, not to be outdone, fired next. They invited Colorado, Texas, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, and Texas A&M. Colorado was the only school to accept. They later invited the University of Utah, who gladly accepted.

BYU, being passed over and no longer sharing a conference tie with rival Utah, left for far greener pastures as an Independent in Division 1A football, and far browner pastures in everything else, joining the West Coast Conference in all other sports.

TCU left for the Big East, and the top half of the WAC in football shifted over to the Mountain West Conference, to fill the holes left by the power trio that had, for nearly a decade, ruled the top of the conference.

Cam Newton burst onto the scene, dominating all in his way to winning the Heisman trophy and leading the Auburn Tigers into the national championship game. Looming over his accomplishments, however, were allegations that he was involved in a pay for play scheme with his father and an agent. Cam was ruled eligible for lack of evidence that he knew anything about the scheme. Let’s hope 5 years from now that we don’t have another Reggie Bush situation.

2010 was the year of the pitcher in the MLB. Roy Halladay, Tim Lincecum, Cliff Lee, and numerous others were in the spotlight this season. The Giants’ pitching staff received praise all season and they showed why. Solid pitching and late season play from Rookie Buster Posey led the Giants into the playoffs and hot bats at perfect times in the World Series sealed the deal for them.

The Lakers won their 2nd straight title, beating the Celtics and avenging their 2008 defeat in the finals to that nearly identical Celtics team.

Jimmie Johnson won his 5th straight Sprint Chase for the Cup title in a row (first ever to do so).

The UConn women’s basketball team broke the once thought impossible win streak record of 88 wins, set by the UCLA men’s basketball team under coach John Wooden. The lady Huskies’ record ended at 90 games.

All in all, a very crazy year. Can’t wait to see what 2011 brings.

image

History has been rewritten. Records rebroken. The sports world has been hyping the event all week The biggest sporting event of the weekend. Bigger than the Colts/Patriots game. Bigger than the Packers/Vikings game.

Yes, I am of course talking about the NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup.

Jimmie Johnson is the Rodger Federer, Tiger Woods, or Michael Jordan of NASCAR. The man had won a record 4 straight Sprint Cups (equivalent of winning the FedEx Cup in the PGA, Wimbledon in the ATP, or winning the NBA championship).

Johnson came into the Sprint Cup Series finale Sunday trailing leader Denny Hamlin by 15 points Many NASCAR analysts and experts thought Hamlin would win the Sprint Cup this year and end Johnson’s run.

That was not to be, as Johnson finished the race in second place, good enough to edge Denny Hamlin, who finished a disappointing 14th, and outlasted any surge from 3rd place contender Kevin Harvick.

No one In the 62 previous NASCAR Sprint Cup Series had ever won 4 straight cups and Johnson stretched that record to 5 Sunday at the Ford 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Many people believe Jimmie Johnson is the best driver NASCAR will ever have due to the sheer dominance he has shown over the last half decade.

Pivotal to Johnson’s success is his team. I didn’t realize how much racing was a team sport until I met my best friend Cody Wilson.

Cody raced professional Moto-X (dirt bike racing) from early teenage years. He would tell me about how much time, money and energy his parents sacrificed for him and his racing dreams in order for him to succeed. The Wilson family home is up in Idaho Falls, where you’ll find a garage packed with podium finish trophies from Cody’s races, and he gives all the credit to his dad Reuben and crew for the work they did on the bike and for the ongoing support.

Strangely enough, another friend of mine, Jessica Price, is an actual pit crew member for her father Bud Price (I know, swapped roles here).

Bud Price is a local drag racecar driver in the Salt Lake City area. Price races at Rocky Mountain Raceways and was the 2007 NHRA Northwest Division Summit Racing Series champion in the Sportsman class, driving a ’71 Mustang.

Jessica has been part of the crew and a racing fan since she was a young girl. When asked about her feelings on NASCAR, she simply said, “I love it! It’s amazing all around.”

I knew she had been a crew member for her dad and she would know more than anyone the impact a crew has on the success of a winning driver, (aka I wanted to know how much the abilities of Jimmie Johnson’s pit crew have played in his run to 5 championships in a row). Honestly, her comments surprised me.

When asked how important reflexes, instinct and reaction time are to a driver on the track she told me “drivers are in their own world out there on the track. We [the pit crew] put forth our all so that the driver can remain focused and in their world.”

The way she and Cody talk about racing rings clear that as large a role as the driver or rider plays in the success of a team, it is just that… a team, a crew. I’d like to see how much recognition the drivers would get if, when they took a pit stop, they had to get out of the car change each of their tires, refuel, tape up cracks, and hammer out dings on their own, before heading back out.

One thing’s for certain. Jimmie Johnson is an amazing race car driver with a pit crew that allows him to stay in contention for the championship each year by season’s end. Are there crews faster than Johnson’s? Yes. Are there drivers who can beat Johnson on the track? Of course. But what it than Johnson’s? Yes. Are there drivers who can beat Johnson on the track? Of course. But what it comes down to, is consistency and a trust between the driver and his crew that the combination of comes down to, is consistency and a trust between the driver and his crew that the combination of the racing speed and pit speed will bring success in the results after of exhaust, smoke and dust clears.

Next up, the pursuit of #6 for Jimmie Johnson and #48 car crew.