What We Learn From Bristol

August 28, 2013 Comments off

kenseth

The NASCAR racing we saw at Bristol Motor Speedway on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday turned out to be very entertaining throughout the top-three series. Usual for the high-banks of Bristol, but did we see the type of racing we expect?

Kyle Busch made it clear the high lane by the wall was the quickest, yet treacherous, way around the .533-mile short track. It was obvious this turned to be true throughout all races during the weekend. Busch would attempt another chance at the “triple crown” and neared closure after winning the Camping World Truck Series and Nationwide Series races on Wednesday and Friday night.

Though wrecking in qualifying for the Sprint Cup race, Busch would start 43rd and finished 11th after never leading a lap.

And honestly, it is better for the sport to have Busch continue to be short in sweeping the weekend at Bristol. It is news and good vibes leading up to the events and growth for the sport when he is racing in all three series.

Matt Kenseth would come out on top Saturday evening after leading a race high 149 laps and now leads the garage with the most wins with five. After a late charge with fresh tires, Kasey Kahne would come up short as he and Kenseth raced side-by-side over the final 7-10 laps.

Kahne made it a point during his post-race interviews that he would not wreck Kenseth or a driver to win a race. Though, the drama the media and Kahne has instilled since their Watkins Glen incident, it was believed Kahne would do anything to make sure Kenseth did not win at Bristol. Besides a straightaway of beating and banging against each other, Kahne was clean as could be when attempting to pass Kenseth in the closing laps.

“I just wanted to pass him,” Kahne said post-race. “And after I took the checkered flag, I wanted to wreck him. At the end of the day, I don’t wreck people.”

kahnekensethAs my roommate can concur, my actions toward Kahne in the final 10 laps consisted many “Rattle his cage!” “Wreck him!” “Do something!” Then followed the rest of the broadcast frustrated, disappointed, but gratified at the action we were able to witness at Bristol. In the final 10 laps, I wasn’t thinking about how often ESPN talks about Danica, how many commercials took place, whether I was seeing enough action from the camera views or if the stands were full.

I was fully engaged in the competition on the track, something we rarely see in this series outside of Martinsville, Richmond, Bristol, Daytona and Talladega. The race itself was entertaining, as I expected. We had wrecks, tempers, passing and a fight for the win at the end of the race. All things mentioned before, was not on my mind in the final 25-30 laps.

This type of racing is something we all are begging for on a weekly basis, and it is not realistic to expect. As fans, we picture what it would be like to have the racing and tempers we saw Saturday night every week on the NASCAR circuit.

As one of those fans expecting those types of results, I can say I am looking forward to Richmond in a few weeks as the opportunity to be in the 2013 Chase closes.

Broken Leg Sidelines Tony Stewart

August 6, 2013 1 comment

Tony Stewart crashes at Southern Iowa Speedway and sustains a broken right leg. He will miss this weekend's Sprint Cup race at Watkins Glen. (Credit: OskyNews)

Tony Stewart crashes at Southern Iowa Speedway and sustains a broken right leg. He will miss this weekend’s Sprint Cup race at Watkins Glen. (Credit: OskyNews)

Three-time champion Tony Stewart will miss NASCAR’s upcoming weekend at Watkins Glen International after wrecking a Sprint Car Monday night suffering a broken right leg.

Stewart was transported to a local hospital from Southern Iowa Speedway by ambulance after a four-car wreck in Oskaloosa, Iowa. Sustaining a broken right tibia and fibula forced him to undergo surgery following the accident.

Timing is everything in motorsports, and NASCAR hasn’t seen a detrimental injury toward a championship-caliber driver this late in the season in multiple years. Stewart is 11th in the Sprint Cup standings and has one win this season at Dover in June with five races remaining until the Chase.

Stewart-Hass Racing has not yet announced a driver to replace Stewart for this upcoming weekend in the No. 14, but they did cancel a test scheduled today to take place at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

Here is the statement left by SHR regarding Stewart’s sprint car wreck and injuries:

Tony Stewart, driver of the No. 14 Chevrolet for Stewart-Haas Racing in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, sustained a broken right tibia and fibula in a Sprint Car crash Monday night at Southern Iowa Speedway in Oskaloosa, Iowa.

Stewart was transported to a local hospital immediately following the accident and underwent surgery. An injury update will be provided later this afternoon.

A scheduled test for today at Atlanta Motor Speedway has been canceled. A replacement driver for this weekend’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International has not been determined. Information regarding the No. 14 team’s driver status at Watkins Glen will be provided once it is known.

Stewart is a five-time winner at Watkins Glen, but will miss his first Sprint Cup race since before 1999. Two weeks ago, Stewart flipped multiple times in a Sprint Car race prior to his fourth-place finish at the Brickyard 400.

tstewartHe has been adamant about sprint car racing after the death of Jason Leffler in June.

“I’d be grateful if you guys would understand that what happened this week wasn’t because somebody didn’t do something right with the race track,” Stewart said days after Leffler’s death. “It was an accident. Just like if you go out and there’s a car crash. It’s an accident.”

“Nobody as a track owner wants to go through what happened, but it’s not due to a lack of effort on their part to try to make their facilities as safe as possible under the conditions they have.”

Friday after Sprint Cup practice at Pocono, he echoed those comments after his accident in Ontario calling it “just another accident.”

“You mortals have got to learn, you guys need to watch more sprint car videos and stuff,” he said. “It was not a big deal. It’s starting to get annoying this week about that. That was just an average sprint car wreck. When they wreck, they get upside down like that.”

Today, and outpour of comments, opinions and get-well wishes have been circulating on Twitter and Facebook pages from drivers, team members, journalists and fans. The hashtag #GetWellSmoke is a popular use to join the conversation with other NASCAR individuals and fans.

Fellow competitors who also race extracurricular events such as Clint Bowyer, Kasey Kahne and Kyle Larson have expressed their thoughts for Stewart via Twitter. Larson finished second in the Sprint Car race Monday night.

Allmendinger’s Next Opportunity

June 1, 2013 Comments off

A.J. Allmendinger finished seventh in Sunday's Indianapolis 500 as a rookie. His next opportunity will be racing for Penske in NASCAR. (Credit:  USA Today)

A.J. Allmendinger finished seventh in Sunday’s Indianapolis 500 as a rookie. His next opportunity will be racing for Penske in NASCAR. (Credit: USA Today)

A.J. Allmendinger steps out of a Roger Penske machine after finishing seventh Sunday in the 97th running of the Indianapolis 500 wondering what will be his next opportunity in racing.

The 31-year-old Allmendinger has dipped his helmet in different series throughout his 2013 racing season including the IZOD IndyCar Series and NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. An offering he was not positive he would ever receive after his NASCAR suspension due to the use of banned substances, Adderall, in 2012 while driving for Penske.

Opportunities materialized for Allmendinger this season in open-wheel and stockcar racing. In NASCAR’s premier series, he has made the most of his chances in James Finch’s No. 51 Chevrolet with an average finish of 13.5 and worst finish of 16th.

His IndyCar performance is highly anticipated after his successful finishes of five wins in 2006 in Champ Car, but his best finish was at Indianapolis after leading 23 laps.

The rookie’s first race at Indianapolis was impressive on many accounts. He was forced to pit twice off-sequence mid-race due to a possible flat tire, and later in the race due to his racing-belts coming loose. Rallying to a seventh place finish was a success.

“With seven or eight laps to go, I thought we still had a shot to win it,” Allmendinger said. “We had just passed three or four cars the lap before and I thought we were right there. But we just didn’t have enough at the end. It was a great experience, but I really thought our car was good enough all day.”

It was not until earlier this morning that it was announced of Allmendinger’s future plans for Penske. Prior to the Indianapolis 500, he noted this could be his “last chance” and needing to make the most of it. But Penske released today Allmendinger will drive the No.22 Nationwide Series car at the road course events at Road America and Mid-Ohio Sport Car Course.

”There’s nothing I could do to come even close to repaying him,” Allmendinger said. ”So, I just try to give everything I’ve got and hopefully it’s enough.”

Allmendinger is not in a car this weekend at Dover in NASCAR, but is racing in Detroit’s grand prix in IndyCar, but look for him to only accept a competitive ride in IndyCar or NASCAR. His best option is to have a chance to win, but he has a different opinion.

“I’ve always really enjoyed the road course racing in NASCAR, so to get the opportunity to compete in two events in the Nationwide Series with Penske Racing is amazing,” Allmendinger said. ”I’m just happy to have the opportunity to drive something.”

Sweet 16 Loss Ends Season For Hoosiers

March 29, 2013 Comments off

The Indiana Hoosiers would fall to the Syracuse Orange in the Sweet 16. The Hoosiers are the second No. 1 seed to fall out of the tournament. (Credit: InsideTheHall.com)

The Indiana Hoosiers would fall to the Syracuse Orange in the Sweet 16. The Hoosiers are the second No. 1 seed to fall out of the tournament. (Credit: InsideTheHall.com)

Indiana Hoosiers fell to Syracuse Orange Thursday 50-61, and different areas of the game made the result of the second No. 1 seeded team to lose early in the tournament.

The 2-3 zone, too big of a game for Yogi Ferrell, scoreless Jordan Hulls, refs unfair in foul calls and Tom Crean was outcoached were a few reasons, or excuses, for how Indiana would eventually fall for successive years in the Sweet 16.

Turnovers. That was the game changer for Indiana as they fell Thursday. Syracuse was able to force 18 total turnovers for the game, 12 in the first half and 10 in the first 10 and a half minutes of the game.

Allowing the Orange to outscore the Hoosiers 12-2 on points off turnovers in the first half, put Indiana down 12 heading into the locker room at halftime. Many turnovers came down to the high-paced offense Indiana has shown all season.

“Strength and size no doubt had something to do with (Yogi and Hulls),” Crean said. “It wasn’t the missed opportunities of scoring that hurt us so much, but the points of turnovers that turned into live-ball turnovers.

Though, their season average per game in turnovers was 12, which was matched in the first half, and turnovers will be high when in a run’n gun offense.

Yogi Ferrell ended his freshman season with 0 points, 1 assist and 4 turnovers. (Credit: CincinnatiBell.net)

Yogi Ferrell ended his freshman season with 0 points, 1 assist and 4 turnovers. (Credit: CincinnatiBell.net)

“Yogi will be a great player, and it is the first time he has seen that kind of zone and length,” Coach Crean said postgame. “You have to have quickness, and unless you have five (Hanner Mosquera) Parea’s, you can’t sim a zone like that in practice.”

Ferrell did not start the second half after starting with four turnovers. Will Sheehey took his place, and had his own issues like he had for many weeks leading to the NCAA Tournament.

Sheehey is an interesting player, and after getting off to a great start in the season, fizzled through the duration. He gave a spark off the bench as the Hoosiers jumped to a seven-point deficit early in the second half, but few poor decisions later, missed free-throws and chuck threes, Indiana found themselves losing trace of the lead.

Atrocious is the word to describe Sheehey’s shooting in games. Anything outside of the paint and he is ice cold. He is a great player when he pump-fakes, dribble drives and passes from the baseline, but he is not a threat to teams who leave him open like Hulls and Christian Watford were.

Lastly, was the inability of Hulls to make shots beyond the arc. People want to put all the pressure on Zeller playing well in order for the Hoosiers to win, but, in reality, it is more important for Watford and Hulls to make shots by a drive-and-kick in order to get Zeller the spacing in the paint.

Unfortunately for the Hoosier faithful, Hulls had arguably the worst month of his career in March while playing for Indiana. His field goal percentage was 26 percent and his three-point percentage was 23.5 percent during the final eight games of the season. As he agreed to, his shooting performance will haunt him for the rest of his life.

Three seniors will leave the Hoosiers, while they may lose more players. (Credit: TMNews.com)

Three seniors will leave the Hoosiers, while they may lose more players. (Credit: TMNews.com)

This team had high expectations entering the season. Being a No. 1 seed was expected, winning the Big Ten Championship was expected and winning a sixth championship banner was the most expected.

The level of talent in the starting-five was inarguable, but it will leave the team and fans in disappointment when next year’s team will not be as high-profile. The Hoosiers are losing seniors Hulls, Watford and Derek Elston, but more than likely will lose sophomore Zeller and junior Victor Oladipo.

In their postgame press conferences, Oladipo and Zeller both told the media they haven’t thought about the NBA draft at all. Obviously, they have thought about the draft, and they will not return for their junior and senior years.

If the feeling of defeat and disappointment of not reaching the Elite 8, Final Four or championship game isn’t enough for them to say they are returning, then nothing is.

So say goodbye to four of starting-five, and welcome the possibility of making another run for a title in a few years.

Preview: 55th Running Of The Daytona 500

February 24, 2013 1 comment

Daytona 500

In American sports, there are three single-day sporting events that take precedent over all other forms of entertainment including the Super Bowl, Indianapolis 500 and, the biggest of all today, Daytona 500.

NASCAR’s most respected venue and largest valued race in any season will take place on FOX at 1:29 p.m. as the green flag will be dropped by two-time NFL champion, and recently retired, Ray Lewis.

Headlines have been countless over the last week since Sprint Cup Series rookie Danica Patrick took pole and became the first woman to record the fastest qualifying lap in NASCAR’s premier series. Four-time champion Jeff Gordon will start outside Patrick to start The Great American Race.

The debut of the Generation 6 has been talked about in Speedweeks and has been the most important focus of all teams and media throughout the last week. With the style of the bodies looking like the cars you would see on the showroom floor, teams and manufacturers are happy to see a racy, brand identity machine that brings the stock, back in stockcar racing.

Throughout the races and practices held so far with these new cars, we still don’t know the type of racing we will see. Besides the two-car tandem now being inexistent, we know the pack racing will be back in full-force, but there seems to be new complications with the draft drivers are still trying to figure out.

kyle larsonHaving a pack of 43 cars will be something we all should look forward to in finding out what the racing environment will be like.

After a stunning race, in multiple ways, Saturday in the Nationwide Series, it left double-digits of cars wrecked crossing the finish line and 28 fans injured, some critically. All fans that were taken to the hospitals in the area of Daytona International Speedway were listed as stable this morning and some were released.

Fan safety is an area that is not talked about much when it comes to racing. The unfortunate reality that is motorsports is cars running near 200 miles per hour can become airborne leaving the possibility of flying into the catchfence where debris can become part of the grandstands.

Here is to a successful day where storylines are plentiful during the timeframe of 500 miles on a 2.5-mile high-banked oval. Speeds will be close to 200 mph and competitors will fight inches apart, sometimes three-wide, for the coveted Harley J. Earl Trophy.

danica gordonWill it be a former Daytona 500 champion, with nine of those drivers in the field, to win again? Will it be Tony Stewart to win his first 500 in his 15th try? Drivers to win their first Daytona 500 in their 15th try were Bobby Allison, David Pearson and Michael Waltrip. Will it be Danica Patrick? She will be the only female in the field, and will become the fourth woman driver to compete in the Daytona 500. Or will it be a first time winner?

The unknowns are great for the 55th running of the Daytona 500, and I know I will be glued to my TV for the entirety. Are you ready?

iRacing’s Daytona 500 With Jeremy Lukaszka

February 22, 2013 Comments off

Jeremy Lukaszka will race the BAJA Sports Chevrolet Impala on Saturday at 2 p.m. on GlacierTV.com for the iRacing Daytona 500.

Jeremy Lukaszka will race the BAJA Sports Chevrolet Impala on Saturday at 2 p.m. on GlacierTV.com for the iRacing Daytona 500.

Sim racers across the globe will take part in iRacing’s World Tour premier event Friday and Saturday in their version of the Daytona 500.

18-year-old Jeremy Lukaszka, driver of the BAJA Sports Chevrolet Impala, will race at 2 p.m. ET Saturday in the top split of 43 cars broadcasted on GlacierTV.com.

Daytona International Speedway is a 2.5-mile oval, and the iRacing Daytona 500 will consist of 200 laps with iRacing’s Chevrolet Impala (Not the Generation 6 car, will be released Feb. 25.).

This is Lukaszka’s first attempt at iRacing’s Daytona 500, but without prior experience, his expectations are set high.

“I think realistically, we mainly just want to survive until the end to have a shot at winning,” Lukaszka said. “The expectations are to win.”

Lukaszka is from Palo, IA, where he aspires to be a fabricator, member of a pit crew, or a crew chief in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. His plans are to eventually attend the NASCAR Technical Institute in Mooresville, NC.

Winning is in Lukaszka’s history, with is career stats being exceptional since joining iRacing in March 2012. He has recorded 102 wins in 377 starts and is 51st overall on the overall Oval rating on iRacing. He has three championships, all in Season 4 2012, in NASCAR iRacing National Series (Fixed) for season and time trial and IndyCar Oval (Fixed) time trial championship.

With his expectations being to win, there is nobody he is looking to beat, specifically.

“Really, no one judges you in this race,” Lukaszka said,”you’re top split, and you’ve obviously earned your right to be there, so you’re not aiming to beat one person.”

“If you go for the win, you’ll beat everyone.”

JL A FixedSo with 43 virtual cars racing around the oval for three plus hours, what is the strategy to win, and what will the atmosphere of the race be like?

“As with any race, the beginning will be aggressive because everyone will be hyped up for it,” Lukaszka said. “I’ll want to stay up front for as long as I can, but if I get shuffled to the back, I’ll usually like to stay there.

“Hopefully, there aren’t wrecks, but if there is I hope there is enough time to check up and drive by.”

Fans, or viewers watching the GlacierTV.com broadcast, can interact with others via Twitter by following the hashtags #iRacingWT and #iRacingDaytona500 or by following @iRacing. You can also follow Lukaszka’s on Twitter at @JeremyLukaszka.

The iRacing Daytona 500 is the third World Tour event of the year, and has plans to run seven entirely. This race, specifically, is the most important to oval racers and Lukaszka.

“This race comes once a year, but, as far as iRacing, this is the biggest World Tour event on the schedule,” he said. “Everyone wants to win it, and it isn’t an easy race to win. It’s the race everyone puts a lot of work into it to try to build the fastest piece they can, and it is a race everyone looks forward to.”

Winning this race on the real surface is one of the biggest pinnacles in motorsports, but what does winning it mean for someone on virtual surface?

“It would solidify who I am as a sim racer with potential,” Lukaszka said. “I think it would, definitely, show other drivers that I can do this. This is the biggest deal, broadcasted and lots of work is put into it.”

“This is the Super Bowl of sim racing. This is Daytona.”

Granger Injury A Blessing In Disguise

January 18, 2013 Comments off

Danny Granger, the Pacers leading scorer for the 2011-2012 season, has missed all 40 games this season. Credit: BleacherReport

Danny Granger, the Pacers leading scorer for the 2011-12 season, has missed all 40 games this season with a knee injury. (Photo Credit: BleacherReport)

Through the first 40 games of the 2012-13 NBA season, the Indiana Pacers are 24-16, sit third place in the Eastern Conference and boast the No. 1 scoring defense in the NBA.

They’ve done all this without their star small forward, Danny Granger.

Granger continues to rehab a knee injury that has caused him to miss the entire first half of the season. Granger has led the Pacers in scoring every year since the 2007-08 season, including a career high 25.8 points per game in the 2008-09 season.

Without Granger, the Pacers struggled mightily at the beginning of the 2012-13 season, posting a 10-11 record through their first 21 games. It was evident that they missed the 18.2 ppg that Granger brought to the table last season.

The team struggled to find an identity over that stretch.

How would the Pacers keep up in a offense-based league without their best scorer?

The answer was simple: defense.

The Pacers lead the NBA in scoring defense at 89.1 ppg, a full point ahead of the next best team and 5.3 ppg better than their average last season.

Not only do opponents not score, they don’t shoot the ball well. The Pacers also lead the NBA in opponent field goal percentage at 41.3 percent.

The lock-down defense can be accredited to a new team emphasis.

Defense first, scoring second.

In years past, the Pacers have put more of an emphasis on scoring, averaging more than 100 ppg in four of the last five seasons.

But in his first full season (82 games) as Pacers head coach, Frank Vogel has challenged his team to play tough, relentless defense, and it has worked. They have held teams under 90 points 20 times this season and held them under 80 points an astonishing eight times.

The Pacers have used the strong defensive performances to turn their season around, winning 14 of their last 19 games to move within three games of first place Miami in the East.

Offensively, the Pacers have used a balanced attack to counteract the loss of Granger. Three Pacers average more than 14 ppg with Paul George leading the team with 16.9 ppg.

This is where the Granger injury is really going to help the Pacers in the long run. The Pacers won’t have to rely on Granger to average 20+ points a night because of the reliability of George, David West and George Hill. If one player is having an off night, a teammate is going to be right there to pick up the slack. The drop-off in scoring won’t be as dramatic as it has been in previous seasons.

Vogel will also have plenty of options to choose from when it comes to drawing up plays. The versatility of the Pacers starting lineup will be like nothing we’ve seen since the days of Reggie Miller, Jermaine O’Neal, Ron Artest and Al Harrington.

The absence of Granger has not only improved the Pacers defense and balanced the scoring, it has allowed for bench players to get more playing time.

Lance Stephenson was thrust into the starting lineup and new addition Gerald Green has seen his fair share of minutes. The increased amount of court time has greatly improved the play of both players, who will be the go-to guys for the Pacers second rotation when Granger returns.

That rotation will consist of Stephenson, Green, D.J Augustin, Tyler Hansbrough and Ian Mahinmi. This is a bench that it going to keep you in ballgames. A bench that will match the play of other teams second rotations.

Granger’s return has been kept hush over the past several months and their isn’t an exact day for when Granger plans to return to the court but Vogel is optimistic that he’ll be back in time to be ready for the playoffs.

In an interview with Dan Dakich on 1070 The Fan, Vogel said that he hopes to have Granger back by early February.

“His knee is healing and right now they’re at the point where they are just trying to increase activity on a daily and weekly basis to make sure it can hold up to the wear and tear of the NBA season,” Vogel said.

A big concern for Pacer fans is that when Granger returns he will destroy the team’s chemistry. It will take time for the Pacers to get used to having Granger back in the lineup just like it took time for them to get used to having him out of the lineup. That’s why it is key for not only Granger, but the Pacers as a whole, that he returns with an ample amount of time before the playoffs.

Even if Granger were to push back his return into late February he would still have more than 20 games before the first round of the playoffs, which is plenty of time for the team to get used to having Granger back in the lineup.

It is important Granger buys into the defense-first strategy that has become the norm for the Pacers this season. If he does, this team is going to be a tough out for anyone come playoff time.

Granger’s injury has resulted in a defense first mentality, balanced scoring and a deep bench.

For those reasons, the Granger injury has been a blessing in disguise for the Pacers.

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