While Jeff Gordon drove to victory lane in an incredibly dull race at Dover, four drivers were officially eliminated from the 2014 Chase for the Sprint Cup.  Here's a rundown:
An advertising slogan for this
weekend's race was "The Monster
Eliminates".  Ew.

AJ Allmendinger: The little driver that could couldn't "do the worm" into the next round, running in the back most of the day.  "Yeah, we sucked all day today", Dinger said upon exiting his car.  While it was an obviously disappointing experience, it wasn't all bad, as the 47 at least finished "the best of the rest", essentially making them winners of Nascar's Playoff Bowl.

Kurt Busch: Kurt ran a silver-colored car to celebrate his 500th Cup start (and, apparently, attempt to blend into the track surface).  However, he was unable to sneak his way into the next round, fading late after contending for a Chase spot most of the day.  Well, at least this means we don't have to deal with Kurt humble-bragging about his continued career recovery.

Greg Biffle: The Biff got stiffed, failing to advance into the upcoming Challenger Round.  So, if you're keeping track at home, Roush-Fenway Racing has one of three drivers still in the Chase, and he's leaving at the end of the year.  While it doesn't make sense from a management standpoint, it does explain why the Red Sox suck.

Aric Almirola:  The hallowed number of John Andretti will not move on, as Aric Almirola and the RPM team were unable to get the miracle they needed to advance.  In his post-race interview, Almirola described his feeling as "sad", which is a pretty accurate description of how most people feel after spending time in Dover, Delaware.

"Dialed-In with Claire B. Lang": Dover Edition

Last night I had the privilege of attending SiriusXM's live broadcast of "Dialed-In with Claire B. Lang" as an audience member at Dover Downs.  Here's some pics, observations, and strained puns...

The show's set-up:  Claire & guest on a stage at the Rollins Center (a small general performing arts venue at the casino), made to look like one of FDR's fireside chats for some reason.

Kyle Larson.  Seemed like a good guy, and he humored me when I asked my question, "Got any good Felix Sabates stories?"  (NOTE: That's not a joke, I actually asked that.)

Ricky Stenhouse Jr., who (after a few perfunctory questions about this weekend's race) then was subjected to Claire B. asking him constantly about Danica.

Telling answer to an innocuous question: When asked how he was approaching this weekend's race, he noted that he had to be careful around Chasers trying to get into the second round, mentioning, "one of my teammates is IN the Chase"...guess Carl Edwards is already out the door at Roush!

Aric Almirola.  Seemed like a nice guy, though he seemed to be in a slight hurry.  On Sunday morning, Nathan's Famous Hot Dogs (owned by Smithfield) will be hosting a Hot Dog Eating Contest qualifying event at the track--the winner gets entry into the famous July 4th event at Coney Island.

"Chase Elliott!  Tearin' up the track in the Napa 9 car!"

Chase also seemed like a good guy, though his answers were slightly "too polished" for my taste.  BTW, Chase inexplicably came dressed like me.

AJ Allmendinger, easily the funniest guy there.  He started things off by joking around with his spotter (who was in the audience, as well as a big fan, a PR flak, and one of the hottest women I have ever seen in person).  They traded some light barbs with each other about fantasy football.

Check out the beginning of this article to see Dinger doin' The Worm!

Special thanks goes out to my dad for coming up with the idea to go to this, as well as SiriusXM (and Claire B.) for putting it on.  Also, thanks to everyone who didn't steal my wallet when it fell out of my pocket.

Dover "News" and Notes: Early Edition

--A slight change in the usual schedule this week, as I will be a guest at Claire B. Lang's "Dialed In" SiriusXM radio show tomorrow at 7pm--I'll be in the highly-selective position of "Audience Member #73".

--Kurt Busch is celebrating his 500th career Cup start this Sunday.  Everybody on the planet, however, could care less.

--Didja hear that Timmy Hill's hometown wanted to sponsor him, but they had to pull out?  Yep, Nascar still outlaws (Port) Tobacco sponsorships.

--Dover has the ability to completely change the Chase layout, with first eliminations coming after the race.  Don't scoff--this is the same track that crumbled in the spring, which track officials fixed by having an old guy in an Earl Weaver t-shirt stare at it for an hour.

--The Truck Series runs at Las Vegas Saturday night, despite there being no support races around it (nor any other bigger races the next day).  Furthermore, the race will air beginning at 10pm EST.  No help, no exposure, late start times…heck, the Truck Series is becoming IndyCar! 

Team Penske to Rest Starters Next Week at Dover

Coming off a second-straight Sprint Cup win, Team Penske has announced that, with next week's race being essentially meaningless, they will rest their starters in the AAA 400 at Dover.
Screenshot of the 4 car's hood today
"We have nothing to gain, since we're already locked-in to the next round", said team owner/captain Roger Penske.  "We go out there every week to win, but we don't want anybody getting injured in a wreck, on a pit stop, or pulling on a slot machine at the Dover Downs Casino."
Penske has said that he has cleared the plan with both of his drivers, with Brad Keselowski expected to contribute to the ESPN broadcast, while Joey Loagno will busy himself with prank phone calls to Kevin Harvick.
"We think we're going to put Sam Hornish Jr. in one of the cars next weekend, but he said he's not sure if he wants to give up his current work schedule of seven days a year", Penske explained.  "We don't know who'll be in the second car, but we're thinking about having a raffle for it at one of our Penske Truck Rental facilities in North Smyrna."
Despite criticism that Keselowski and Logano should at least have to start the race next Sunday, Penske said that he will likely get medical exemptions to avoid having to run at Dover.
"Brad's going to come down with a pretty bad case of hay-fever", Penske said, "while Joey, well, he's going to be sidelined with a lobster-pinched nerve."
When asked if a driver COULD skip a Chase race, even with a medical exemption, Brian France groggily woke-up in his Daytona Beach office.
"Whu-uh…PENSKE FILE!", France said.  "Can't wait to really…sink my teeth into that Penske File!"

New Hampshire "News" and Notes

--Well, the other shoe fell in the breakup of the RPM #9 team.  Just days after Marcos Ambrose confirmed that he will be leaving the team to go back to Australia, Stanley/DeWalt confirmed that THEY will be moving to Joe Gibbs Racing in 2015.  DeWalt will be partnering with Matt Kenseth, since they've partnered with him in the past, and Stanley will be partnering with Carl Edwards, since he's a tool.

--I don't know how or why, but NHMS has become THE PLACE for drivers to make one-off appearances.  Case-in-point--Corey Lajoie, who'll be, um, "competing" for Randy Humphrey.

--The Motorsports Group (aka That Nationwide Team with all the "40" numbered cars) has said that they will move up to Cup next year.  Over-under on when the team goes out of business is spring Dover.

--With the Nationwide Series running at Kentucky Speedway this weekend, people are wondering what will be more-surprising: A race without Cup regulars, or the fact that a race in Kentucky is called the VisitMyrtleBeach.com 300.

--(Channelling David Spade, circa "Hollywood Minute")  So, that new Derek Jeter commercial has everybody talking.  I especially liked the use of Frank Sinatra's version of "My Way"…WHEN IT WAS USED FOR ALAN KULWICKI.

Nascar's First Free-Agent Fan

That's me!

As some of you may know, while I follow the entire sport of Nascar (even JJ Yeley), my personal favorite driver has been Marcos Ambrose, following in a not-so-distinguished line of drivers (Kyle Petty, Penske-era Ryan Newman).  Alas, Marcos has announced that he will be leaving Nascar at the end of this season to return to Australia.

First off, good vibes and good thanks to Marcos for providing me with four great years of racing.  While there weren't quite as many wins as anybody would have liked, you* were a class act and a great driver.
(*--I'm actually assuming that Marcos is reading this, because I am that delusional)

But who will be my NEW favorite driver?  It's pretty wide-open, since I have no particular ties to any make of car, and other than an affinity for the Pettys, I don't have a particular favorite team owner.  So who will I pick?

Well, that all depends on who makes the best offer.

As of immediately, I am declaring myself a Free-Agent Nascar Fan for the 2015 season.

I will offer up my cheering services, my sponsor-support, and endless supply of Derrike Cope jokes to whichever driver and/or team makes the best case to me.  By offer, it could be something grand, or something as simple as a personalized response.  Here's the message that I will be sending out via email and postal mail (because deep-down, I'm just a 90-year-old) this week:
Dear (driver/team),
My name is Mike Mackler, and I am a (mostly)-lifelong Nascar fan.  Up until the end of this season, I have been a Marcos Ambrose fan.  Alas, he is headed back to Australia, leaving me without a driver.
This is where YOU come in.
I am trying to determine which driver to root for in 2015, and have declared my "Free-Agency" as a Nascar fan.
So--why should I be a fan of (driver/team)?
Please let me know either via email or postal-mail (the address for my pathetic apartment would be listed below)
Thank you, and good luck finishing out the 2014 season!
--Mike Mackler

I don't have many "stipulations" for which driver I choose, other than they must be a full-time Cup driver not named "Busch".

Let's see what happens--I'm a free-agent!!!

Kurt Busch Suspended for Conemestic Violence

Following in the footsteps of other major professional sports leagues, Nascar has adopted a zero-tolerance policy towards violence by its athletes.  As such, Kurt Busch became the first driver suspended by the sanctioning board, after video evidence surfaced of him viciously hitting the commitment cone.
An undated photo of the cone and its family
"We have zero tolerance for this sort of behavior", Nascar President Mike Helton said at a post-race press conference.  "Conemestic Violence is an issue that we've dealt with for years, but after enough people complained, we finally decided to do something about it--just like the NFL."
Public outcry may have influenced the indefinite length of Busch's suspension, but it apparently did not affect the original issuing of the suspension itself.
"Once we heard about what happened, we immediately suspended Kurt Busch for two weeks.  Then, when the video surfaced, however, we decided to react.  Again, we take our lead from the NFL."
The Stewart-Haas Racing team has not yet acted on Busch's contract with the team, although they did agree to meet with the media post-race.
"We were disgusted when we saw what Kurt did to that cone", said team co-owner Gene Haas, "but we were totally shocked that someone like Kurt could do such a thing.  Wait--no we weren't.  Kurt has a pretty short fuse, and he's taken out his anger on inanimate objects--cups, helmets, Jimmie Johnson.  Quite frankly we're surprised that he hasn't put a fist through the vending machine at the shop yet."
Helton said that while the zero-tolerance policy is in effect for everybody, they will still approach each incident on a case-by-case basis.
"Yes, this sort of thing has happened before--Mark Martin attempting to beat a pit wall to death, Matt Kenseth beating on a water barrel--but we still leave the ultimate decision on whether to race or not up to the teams themselves, thus making the zero-tolerance policy meaningless.  Again, we take our cues from the NFL."
Kurt Busch was unavailable for comment, as per usual.

Chicagoland "News" and Notes: Special Newspaper Edition

With the Chase about to begin on Sunday, I thought that this would be a good time to look at what some of the world's leading newspapers were saying…

First, there's this report out of Joe Gibbs Racing:

Contradicted by this report out of Roush-Fenway Racing:

And, of course, there's this headline from one of Richmond, Virginia's leading papers:

United Nascar: The Chase Nations

via Nascar.com's horribly-designed website

Nascar--and, by extension, ESPN--has been putting some serious promotional muscle behind this year's lately permutation of The Chase.  This has inexplicably included frequent references to "The Nations" of fans.  Besides Junior Nation, the rest of these "nations" are pretty well unknown.  Here's a thumbnail sketch of the 16 sovereign countries participating in Nascar's latest crapshoot.
Flag of United Nascar

National Captain: Roger Penske
Major Exports: Canned water, rental box trucks, used Dodge Challengers, slightly-irritating intellectualism
Fun Fact: 20% of it's GDP goes to supporting its colony, Briankeselowskia

President: John Bickford
Major Exports: Paint-related chemicals, wine, monetary penalties for loss in Battle of the Brooke
Fun Fact: Rated tops in the world for elder-care

Junior Nation
Council of Advisors: Martin Truex Jr., Josh Wise, Regan Smith, Steve Park (amongst others)
Major Exports: Hats, t-shirts, diecast cars, keychains, beards
Fun Fact: Nation plans to demilitarize for 2015
Nation unrecognized by the UN

Royal Dominion of Johnsonia
Sultan: Fitness Celebrity John Basedow
Major Exports: Championships, reasonably-priced tools, confetti
Fun Fact: The Dominion was recently struck by a serious, unforeseen water shortage

Tribal Chief: His Imperial Holiness High Chief Penn Zoil
Major Exports: Oil, military support for minor skirmishes, soda
Fun Fact: Despite its status as a young nation, the tribe has been involved in numerous battles

Har Vickpublic
President: Delena Harvick
Major Exports: Clydesdales, sub sandwiches, plugs
Fun Fact: Almost all of the country's population lives in the so-called "Happy Valley"

Commander-General: Jack Roush (interim)
Major Exports: Protein powder, various industrial screws, Jay Glazer
Fun Fact: The national mascot/mammal is Flipper

Official currency of Rowdyland
Commissar: Cornelius Pumperdinkle
Major Exports: Tantrums, sugar, silicone
Fun Fact: Rowdyland has been subjected to numerous sanctions for its abuse of lower-level countries

Premier: Michael Jordan
Major Exports: Packages, injuries, Spinal Tap albums
Fun Fact: This nation has only recently established democratic relations with Edwardzonia

Kuurtt's Official national bird
Dear Leader: Gene Haas
Major Exports: CNC machines, screaming, more screaming
Fun Fact: Nothing is ever fun in Kuurtt

United Kahnedom
Elder Shaman: Prof. Nathaniel Burke
Major Exports: Farming implements, barber hair, dairy products
Fun Fact: Named Most Underachieving Nation 8 years in a row

New Aric
King: Richard Petty
Major Exports: Pork products, leftover John Andretti merchandise, dull interviews
Fun Fact: This country is still recovering from the brutal invasion staged by Hamlinistan

People's Republic of Allmendinger
Secretary-General: Brad Daugherty
Kensethian view of the world
Major Exports: Baked beans, bleach, pharmaceuticals
Fun Fact: National motto: "All are equal, except in height"

Grand High Cheesehead: UNKNOWN
Major Exports: UNKNOWN
Fun Fact: Known as "The Slightly-Funny Hermit Kingdom"

South Biffleca
Generalissimo: John Henry
Major Exports: Chemicals, tough girlfriends/wives, eyeballs
Fun Fact: Most-powerful remaining member of the deteriorating RoushFenway Guild

Newman Island
Great Exalted Ruler: Austin Dillon (appointed by High Regent Richard Childress)
Major Exports: Cats, bulldozers, loans
Fun Fact: It is considered impolite to allow people to pass in this country

Fan Stages Sit-In Protest on Richmond Fence

"The revolution will NOT
be televised, but it WILL
be Tweeted!"
A fan was taken away by the police after committing an act of civil disobedience, saying that he was staging a "sit-in" style protest against Nascar's Chase system.
"This was all a non-violent protest in the mold of some of the great thinkers of our world", the fan (who did not give his name) said upon being led away in handcuffs.  "When the fan's voice is not being heard, then it must be seen, no matter how strange it may appear."
Despite the strangeness of the protest, the anonymous fan had an explanation for his actions.
"I'm on the fence because the sport has been 'on the fence' between giving hardcore fans what they want, or giving casual mainstream fans what they want.", the fan explained.  "I climbed up so high, because it'll be a long fall down for this sport if they don't get their acts together soon.  And I went shirtless because I wished to not affiliate with any one specific driver--I am the every-fan, I am the Junior fan, the Gordon fan, every fan of every driver."
The fan's protest appeared to have little impact on those in the stands, although upon hearing about it, race-winner Brad Keselowski did comment on it.
"Really, we had a guy sitting up on the fence?", Keselowski said in Victory Lane.  "Huh.  That's a first.  Y'see, this is why we always say 'Please enjoy Miller Lite responsibly' at the end of our commercials."
A Nascar official said that, while they will reevaluate its security protocols, it WAS the most-exciting thing that happened all night.

Richmond "News" and Notes

--Finally, after two weeks, I'm back to my normal schedule--yay lack of a social life!!!

--With that being said, here's hoping that the wet weather stays away from Richmond from here on out.  A flooded garage is no fun (since Ward Burton left, there's nobody to go duck hunting with).

--Nationwide Insurance has significantly expanded its sponsorship of Dale Earnhardt Jr. (starting next year) to more than half the schedule.  This means that they are essentially replacing the National Guard, who is ending its sponsorship since it, you know, didn't work.

--Meanwhile, Stanley/DeWalt is rumored to be leaving Richard Petty Motorsports to become a sponsor of Carl Edwards' at Joe Gibbs Racing.  As a Marcos Ambrose fan, I'm irritated, but its hard to fault them for leaving--still, I'm irritated.

--Furthermore, Xfinity has officially replaced Nationwide as the sponsor of Nascar's second-tier series.  The sponsor progression sounds like the progression of a partier--beer (Budweiser), then cheap beer (Busch), then realization of responsibility (Nationwide Insurance), and finally staying in at night to watch TV (Xfinity).

NXS: Getting to Know Xfinity

Here's hoping that "Stealing Cable" becomes the new "Busch-wacker" or "Claim Jumper"

This Wednesday Nascar is expected to announce the naming of Xfinity--the cable and internet service of Comcast--as the new title sponsor of the Nascar Nationwide Series.  But who is this oddly-named corporation?  Let's take a look:

--As stated above, Xfinity is the brand-name of Comcast's internet and cable services (which were previously known simply as Comcast).  The name change happened a few years back in order to associate "Xfinity" was infinite speed, as opposed to "Comcast", which was/is associated primarily with evil.

--The title sponsorship (expected to be worth approximately $10 million per year) is actually part of a larger brand-activation deal between Nascar and NBC (which is also owned by Comcast).  So basically it was, "Televise the second half of our series today!  BUT WAIT!!!  Agree to terms now and we'll throw in title sponsorship of our second-tier series for FREE! (plus processing and handling)".

--Comcast is based out of Philadelphia, where they own a controlling stake in the Philadelphia Flyers hockey franchise.  This makes sense, since the Flyers are known as the "Broad Street Bullies", and bullies seem to be the only people that succeed in Nascar's lower series.

--Comcast's most-visible ownership stakes are in Universal Studios and the many networks of NBC.  So a slight change in marketing direction could've led to us having the Love Actually Series or the Oxygen Network Series.