Saturday, July 14, 2018

A Guide to the Many Home Tracks of Martin Truex Jr. (Plus a BONUS Pick)

Editor's note: Due to that pesky little thing called "Real Life", there'll be no post-race "Burnout" article this weekend.  Instead, enjoy this handy guide.  ALSO, Uncle Max has said he's picking Ryan Newman for the mid-week Eldora Truck Series race.

Dover—closest track to his birthplace on the Jersey Shore

Pocono—closest track to his birthplace on the Jersey Shore by driving distance (Truexes never take the Cape May-Lewes Ferry)
Hometown Hero

Watkins Glen—first time at a race was in the mud bog (literally—he got thrown in by some Jimmy Spencer fans)

New Hampshire—its in a state with “New” in the name, just like New Jersey

Richmond—closest asphalt oval track to his birthplace on the Jersey Shore

Martinsville—hey, its got his name in it! (Note: may be replaced if the proposed track in Truexopolis, Oregon ever gets built)

Charlotte—home track of his former teams, DEI and MWR, both of which went OUT OF BUSINESS without him, so there

Darlington—the future birthplace of his Dick Passwater tribute paint scheme

Bristol—Bass Pro Shops sponsors the night race there, don’t they?

Atlanta—Bass Pro Shops used to sponsor the race there, didn’t they?

Daytona—birthplace of Nascar (come on, isn’t that good enough?

Homestead—has a nuclear power plant nearby, just like his birthplace on the Jersey Shore

Kentucky—race is sponsored by Quaker State, which is named for Pennsylvania, neighbor of his home state of New Jersey

Talladega—let’s just chalk it up to a kiddie pool, a case of reasonably-priced beer, and a package of factory-second Nilla wafers

Indianapolis—just always liked the place, even after he discovered that the “Clabber Girl” wasn’t a real person

Chicagoland—Chicago is mob-controlled, just like his birthplace on the Jersey Shore

Michigan—in Brooklyn, just like the borough of Brooklyn, which is near his birthplace on the Jersey Shore

Kansas—really quick McDonalds nearby

Texas—nothing prepares you mentally for the drain of a 500 mile race like trying to promote foreign cars in The Lone State State

Las Vegas—closest track to Furniture Row Racing

Phoenix—closest track to the closest track to Furniture Row Racing

California—home track for Toyota

Sonoma—closest track to his birthplace on the Jersey Shore if you go in the opposite direction around the globe

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Nascar Pick Challenge: Uncle Max vs. Mystery Picker—Kentucky

In honor of this Tripleheader Weekend, here’s some advice from Uncle Max on how to handle things at work when you can’t get a day off for far too long:

Make sure your supervisors know of your sacrifice for the company.  Whether its making sure you push the merchandise past him every chance you get, or checking in her office to let her know you’re working even though you technically don’t have to be, make your presence known.

Cut out any outside interference.  This doesn’t mean don’t have a life—it just means to make sure all your bills are paid, your pets are taken care of, and your meals are ready in advance (in fact, chicken tacos taste better once they’ve marinated in the fridge for a week).

Take time for yourself.  Even if you don’t smoke, take a minute or two every hour to stay in contact with the outside world, but try to avoid stressful situations, like trying to engineer a nine-player, three-team fantasy baseball trade.

Have an outlet.  We all get a little angry, especially when we’re working.  So make sure you have a pillow to punch, a car to scream in, or a light tube to bash against a dumpster when your World Cup picks fall apart.

Truck Series Buckle Up 225 (3 wins)—Justin Haley—pretty nice consolation prize after last weekend’s screw-up.

Xfinity Series ALSCO 300 (2 wins)—Kyle Busch—because of course.

Cup Series Quaker State 400—MYSTERY PICKER (4 wins) PICKS Ryan Blaney.  Favorite (2 wins): Martin Truex Jr.—the master of the intermediates wins out over Mystery’s reach.  Next Favorite (2 wins): Kyle Busch—2nd straight win for JGR comes in a walkover.  Dark Horse: Ryan Newman—gas mileage in effect!

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Rated Rookie: Ranking Nascar Cup’s All-Time Rookies of the Year--Part 2

"Rookie of the Year”.  Its a term that can portend future success—or flash in the pan.  Sometimes its a fierce battle between several talented drivers—sometimes a walk-over by a single person.  So looking back, how have the overall careers of Nascar Cup’s various Rookies of the Year stacked up against each other?
That’s where I come in!
While a “Rookie of the Year” award has been given out in Nascar Cup since 1954, its only since 1974 that some sort of points system was implemented—prior to this it was merely agreed upon by “the media”.  So we’re going to only count ROTY award winners from 1974 onward.  Also, the previous three Rookies of the Year (Erik Jones, Chase Elliott, and Brett Moffitt) are not going to be considered since their careers are so young.  Drivers will only be judged on what they did in the Cup Series, with added weight toward “major” races and season championships.
Now, on with the rankings!

(*—active in Cup; win totals through Chicago 2018)

11. Ricky Rudd (1977)—23 Cup wins.  “The Rooster” beat out a thin crowd for his Rookie of the Year award, but that was just a preview of the success he’d find in his Cup Series career.  One of the greatest drivers to never win a championship, Rudd’s biggest Cup Series win was likely the 1997 Brickyard 400, which he won driving his own equipment.

12. *Joey Logano (2009)—19 Cup wins.  It would be hard to find anyone who came into Nascar with expectations as high as Joey “Sliced Bread” Logano in 2009.  Logano would enter the history books as the youngest-ever driver to win a Cup Series race during his rookie year for Joe Gibbs Racing, easily winning the ROTY honors over Scott Speed.  After a lull in his career, Logano would see his fortunes revitalized after moving over to Team Penske, including winning the 2015 Daytona 500.

13. Geoff Bodine (1982)—18 Cup wins.  After setting the Modified racing world on fire, Bodine came south and got his first major shot in Cup with Cliff Stewart.  After winning the ROTY award, Bodine would see his greatest success with Hendrick Motorsports, posting his biggest career win in the 1986 Daytona 500.  Bodine’s greater racing career included winning the IROC championship in 1987, six Xfinity Series wins, and a key role in the Winter Olympics as the co-founder of Bo-Dyn Bobsleds.

14. Jeff Burton (1994)—19 Cup wins.  “The Mayor” beat out a crowded field (including future race winners Joe Nemechek, John Andretti, Jeremy Mayfield, and brother Ward) to win the 1994 ROTY award for the Stavola Brothers.  In 1996 Jeff Burton would move to Roush Racing and, combined with his later run with RCR, would become one of the most consistently successful drivers of his time, including four straight top-five Cup Series points finishes.

15. *Ryan Newman (2002)—18 Cup wins.  After developing his career in a variety of lower series, Roger Penske brought Newman up to Cup in 2002.  Newman didn’t disappoint, posting a rookie-record six pole positions and scoring wins both points-paying (New Hampshire) and non (the All-Star race).  Somewhat controversially, Newman was named Rookie of the Year despite having less wins than future legend Jimmie Johnson, with consistency winning out.  Newman has gone on to successful runs with Stewart-Haas Racing and RCR and remains a race win contender.

16. *Kasey Kahne (2004)—18 Cup wins.  The popular young driver beat out a crowded field in 2004 to claim 2004’s ROTY honors for Evernham Racing, soon becoming the team’s lead driver.  However, the departure of Dodge from the sport, coupled with the collapse of new owner George Gillett’s finances, saw Kahne’s career derailed, only for a comeback to occur upon signing with Hendrick Motorsports.  Despite winning his first “major” in 2017 at the Brickyard, Kahne was transferred to the backmarker LFR team in 2018.

17. Sterling Marlin (1983)—10 Cup wins.  Marlin won his ROTY award in a relatively thin year despite posting only a single top-10.  Although Marlin would not notch his first Cup Series win until 1994, he made it count, winning the Daytona 500—then repeating the feat the following year.  Later, Marlin would go on to help lead Dodge’s return to Nascar’s Cup Series, winning the make’s first race in its return, then contending for the 2002 series championship.

18. *Jamie McMurray (2003)—7 Cup wins.  Jamie Mac had an auspicious debut—already planning to debut full-time in 2003, he was named a substitute for an injured Sterling Marlin late in 2002, stunning the Nascar world with a win in just his second Cup start.  Although he’d win the 2003 ROTY award over Greg Biffle and teammate Casey Mears, it would take until 2007 (and a move from Ganassi to RoushFenway) for McMurray to visit victory lane again.  Since then he has returned to the Ganassi team, notably winning the 2010 Daytona 500 and Brickyard 400.

19. *Kyle Larson (2014)—5 Cup wins.  Coming to Cup with a number of lower-series wins to his name—particularly in sprint cars—Larson beat out a crowded field, most-notably Austin Dillon, for the 2014 ROTY award.  Since then he’s gone on to become one of Nascar’s brightest young stars for team owner Chip Ganassi, with five Cup Series wins to his name so far.

20. Ken Schrader (1985)—4 Cup wins.  Arguably best-known for his versatile racing style and willingness to compete in almost any type of motorsport, Schrader won the 1985 ROTY honors on the strength of three tenth-place finishes.  Schrader’s greatest successes would come upon leaving Donlavey Racing for Hendrick Motorsports, posting four career Cup wins and three consecutive Daytona 500 pole awards.

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Scott Pruett Tired of Being Harassed

Recently-retired road racing ace Scott Pruett revealed today in an exclusive interview with Spade Racing that his life has been turned upside down, mostly due to the similarity in his name to recently-retired EPA head Scott Pruitt.
“I saw that clip online of that woman confronting the other Pruitt in a restaurant in DC—well that’s nothing compared to what I went through”, Pruett explained.  “I can’t tell you how many tire tests I’ve been to where I’ve had to deal with protesters trying to scale the fences of the tracks.  Not to mention the fact that I’ve had to remind people on Twitter pretty much daily how our names are different, we look nothing alike, and that I’ve never bought tactical pants.”
Pruett made his mark in endurance racing, posting wins in such prestigious races as the 12 Hours of Sebring, the 24 Hours of Le Mans, and the 24 Hours of Daytona.  However, he is now better-known to the general public—erroneously so—as being the embattled former head of the Environmental Protection Agency.
“Sonoma was Hell for me”, Pruett explained, referring to his experience as the grand marshall for the recent Nascar race in Sears Point, California.  “People were screaming at me the whole time, throwing garbage at the pace car, and blaming me for ruining the environment.  Sure, I drive a race car—not the most energy-efficient method to make one’s living—but this is taking it way too far.  Then I remembered that some people are simply angry about the state of the country, and are looking to take it out on a guy they think is in charge.  Well the NAME IS SPELLED DIFFERENTLY, people.”
Pruett joins a long line of other Nascar drivers who are frequently mistaken for others—Jimmie Johnson (with former football coach Jimmy Johnson) and Ryan Newman (with actress Ryan Newman) being just two of them.  However, the vitriol directed at Pruett over the past year or so appears to be some of the worst the sport has ever seen.
“Just last week I had someone smear my daily driver with Tide liquid detergent”, Pruett lamented.  “Of course, Ricky Rudd fans have been doing that to me for YEARS, so maybe that one was warranted.”

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Nascar Pick Challenge: Uncle Max vs. Mystery Picker—Daytona

Well, it SHOULD be good to be back, but unfortunately Murphy’s Law seems to be in effect for me.  First I come back to a disaster at work—it seems that you can have a college degree and STILL not know how to properly do an inventory check.  Then on one of the hottest days of the year, the power goes out all through town!  Nothing quite like working in 95 degree heat, then coming home to 90 degree heat.  And then just when the power comes back ON, you find out you’ll be working on the Fourth of July.  I have to tell you, its not a very fun start to the month of July for me.

Xfinity Series Firecracker 250 (2 wins)—Tyler Reddick—TR goes back-to-back at Daytona.

Cup Series Overtons 400—MYSTERY PICKER (4 wins) PICKS Paul Menard.  Favorite (2 wins): Kyle Larson—redemption for KLar and myself.  Next Favorite (2 wins): Jimmie Johnson—because this is about the only place Chevy CAN win.  Dark Horse: Michael McDowell—ya gotta go REAL dark at Daytona!

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Rated Rookie: Ranking Nascar Cup’s All-Time Rookies of the Year--Part 1

"Rookie of the Year”.  Its a term that can portend future success—or flash in the pan.  Sometimes its a fierce battle between several talented drivers—sometimes a walk-over by a single person.  So looking back, how have the overall careers of Nascar Cup’s various Rookies of the Year stacked up against each other?
That’s where I come in!
While a “Rookie of the Year” award has been given out in Nascar Cup since 1954, its only since 1974 that some sort of points system was implemented—prior to this it was merely agreed upon by “the media”.  So we’re going to only count ROTY award winners from 1974 onward.  Also, the previous three Rookies of the Year (Erik Jones, Chase Elliott, and Brett Moffitt) are not going to be considered since their careers are so young.  Drivers will only be judged on what they did in the Cup Series, with added weight toward “major” races and season championships.
Now, on with the rankings!

(*—active in Cup; win totals through Chicago 2018)

1. Dale Earnhardt (1979)—76 Cup wins, 7 Cup championships.  Dale Earnhardt Sr. never had anything easy coming up, and his rookie year was no exception, as he had to beat out future stars Terry Labonte and Harry Gant for the ROTY honors.  The following year the future “Intimidator” would go on to win the first of his record-tying seven Cup Series championships and would wind up as arguably the greatest driver in Nascar history.

2. Jeff Gordon (1993)—93 Cup wins, 4 championships.  After beating out future Cup Series champion Bobby Labonte for Rookie of the Year honors, Gordon would go on to post his first-ever Cup win the following year.  While his career is filled with accomplishments—three Daytona 500 wins, five Brickyard 400 wins, six Southern 500 wins, and three World 600 wins, just to list the “majors”—arguably his biggest impact has been off the track, helping Nascar to transition from a regional Southern sport into a national phenomenon.

3. Tony Stewart (1999)—49 Cup wins, 3 championships.  Coming into Nascar with plenty of sprint car and Indy Racing League experience, “Smoke” posted a trio of late-season wins in his rookie campaign, running away with the ROTY award in the process.  That season served as a launching pad for one of the most-successful racing careers of the modern era, one that Stewart would punctuate with three Cup Series championships.

4. Rusty Wallace (1984)—55 Cup wins, 1 Cup championship.  After an auspicious start to his Cup career with a runner-up finish at Atlanta in 1980, Wallace won the Rookie of the Year award in his first full-season in 1984.  Soon after Wallace would sign with Raymond Beadle’s race team, winning the 1989 Cup championship, then signing with Roger Penske (who, ironically, served as his car owner for his first race) in 1991.  Still winning races late into his career, Wallace retired as one of the most-successful drivers of the modern-era.

5. *Kyle Busch (2005)—47 Cup wins, 1 championship.  Though controversial for his brash persona and domination of Nascar’s lower series, you can’t say that Rowdy’s career has ever been boring.  Busch won two Cup races in his rookie campaign for Hendrick Motorsports, winning the ROTY award easily over closest competitor Travis Kvapil.  Since then he has gone on to win at every level of Nascar at almost every track, capping things off with the 2015 Cup Series championship for Joe Gibbs Racing.

6. *Kevin Harvick (2001)—42 Cup wins, 1 championship.  Harvick was originally planned to make his ROTY run in 2002, but the death of Dale Earnhardt Sr. in the 2001 Daytona 500 forced his promotion to the Cup Series a year early.  Harvick had a sparkling rookie year, winning twice and beating out future Cup champion Kurt Busch for the award (despite missing a race).  Since then Harvick has gone on to a fantastic career, winning numerous major races and the 2014 Cup Series championship.

7. *Matt Kenseth (2000)—39 Cup wins, 1 championship.  Kenseth entered full-time Cup competition in one of the biggest Rookie of the Year battles in memory, beating out Dale Earnhardt Jr. for the 2000 award.  Kenseth would go on to become a star in the Cup Series, posting wins for Roush Racing and Joe Gibbs Racing, reaching the sports’ pinnacle in 2003 with a series championship.  He recently returned to now-RoushFenway Racing for a part-time schedule.

8. Alan Kulwicki (1986)—5 Cup wins, 1 Cup championship.  Despite having to switch to running his own equipment mid-year and missing six races, Kulwicki was still named Rookie of the Year over the full-season efforts of future Daytona 500 winner Michael Waltrip.  The fiercely-independent Kulwicki would pull off one of the major upsets in Nascar history by winning the 1992 Cup championship as an owner-driver, only to perish in a plane crash the following year.

9. Davey Allison (1987)—19 Cup wins.  Davey Allison’s rookie season was the stuff of legend, winning twice and starting on the front row in the prestigious Daytona 500.  Allison would go on to win such “majors” as the Daytona 500, World 600, two All-Star races, and nearly captured the 1992 series championship.  Tragically his career was cut short in a helicopter crash in 1993.

10. *Denny Hamlin (2006)—31 Cup wins.  Starting out as a substitute for the fired Jason Leffler the previous year, Denny’s Cup career started out like wildfire, winning the Rookie of the Year award on the back of a season sweep at Pocono and a record-high third-place championship points finish.  Hamlin has gone on to win a number of “majors” and post a number of close championship finishes, arguably becoming the greatest driver in Cup to not win a season championship.

Next Week: Positions 11-20

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Nascar Announces Plan to Tout Shrinking Fanbase as "Extremely Exclusive Club"

Having dealt with sinking television ratings and plummeting attendance numbers for several years, Nascar has attempted to deal with the problems in a number of controversial ways—introducing a playoff system, the introduction of stage racing, and more.  However, in an apparent pivot away from such “gimmicks”, Nascar has stated that starting next weekend, a new marketing initiative will promote the sport’s dwindling popularity as an “exclusive opportunity” for fans.
“Everyone wants to get into an exclusive club—well, what’s become a more-exclusive club than the ranks of the Nascar fan?”, Nascar chairman Brian France said from his Daytona Beach offices.  “Anybody can be a pro football or baseball fan, but only a select few can be a Nascar fan, and the time is now to join in on this exclusive opportunity.”
Nascar will roll out the new marketing program starting with Saturday Night’s race, airing a number of commercials promoting the sport’s select clientele of remaining fans.
“One commercial shows a really high-end club in Manhattan—and boy do I know about those—with only about a dozen or so people inside”, France said while standing next to a “The Few, The Proud, The Racefans” sign.  “We then fade to black and these words appear: ‘Less people than the most exclusive cocktail parties in New York—a Nascar race.’  Now who wouldn’t want to join a club that is THAT exclusive?!?”
Commercials will also air during a number of other sporting events, including one that shows a person being crowded at a Major League Baseball stadium, then lounging in comfort at a race.
“Not just anybody can be a race fan, and we’re finally playing up that fact for the first time”, France said proudly.  “We’re the not-so-secret society, the platinum club of platinum clubs, the 1% of the 1%.  So join now, while you still can.”
France went on to point out how such future innovations as mid-week Cup races will do even more to narrow down the fan base’s “exclusivity”.