Monday, December 28, 2009

Commentary: Fox, Hurney to stay at Carolina in 2010

John Fox has apparently saved his job... for another year at least.

A report in Monday's Charlotte Observer says that both Fox and Panthers' General Manager Marty Hurney will both return in 2010 but that no extension will be given to Fox, who has taken the Panthers to the post-season three times since being hired in 2002 to replace George Seifert who led the Panthers to a dismal 1-15 season.

The report credits the Panthers' upset wins over the Minnesota Vikings on December 20th and this weeks 41-9 shocker over the New York Giants as the catalyst for keeping Fox around another year.

Fox, Hurney, and the current coaching staff will stay in 2010. But then the question of what's next will be the topic of conversation on ESPN and various radio and television markets in the Carolinas and probably around the nation as well. The Panthers are currently 7-8 on the season heading into the season finale with New Orleans on Sunday afternoon.

Fox is one of two coaches in NFL history to inherit a team with only one win in the season before their arrival and later take that team to a Super Bowl. And that's pretty remarkable considering the only other coach to accomplish that was Vince Lombardi.

The Panthers have enjoyed the most success in their short history with Fox at the helm. His 68 wins are by far the most in the history of the franchise. In fact he has 22 more wins than Dom Capers (1995-1998) and Seifert (1999-2001) combined. He took the Panthers to their only Super Bowl appearance at the end of the 2003 season. He's taken the Panthers to the playoffs three times which is twice more than Capers did (1996). He has turned the franchise into one of the elite in the NFL with an explosive wide receiver in Steve Smith, a multi-time Pro Bowler Julius Peppers, and what I think is the best running back tandem in the league with DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart.

But does he deserve to stay around another year? Despite another season of missing the playoffs after a disastrous start I'd have to think the answer is yes. Here's why: Who else are they gonna get to coach the Panthers? The list of quality coaches is very short right now in my opinion. Most of the top coaches already in the NFL are staying put. They've got success right now and why should they change that and risk being a failure?

Obviously the top candidate is former Steelers coach Bill Cowher. But other reports suggest he may be snatched up by Tampa Bay during this off-season. Who else can take over this franchise and win immediately? A college coach? Maybe another year of coaching changes in NCAA and NFL levels might land the Panthers a winner.

The second question I pose is this: does Marty Hurney deserve to stay around another year? Absolutely not. Look at the talent the Panthers have right now on both sides of the ball. Look at where the Panthers are struggling right now (specifically at quarterback, wide receiver, and defensive secondary.) How can a general manager of an NFL franchise not work to fix those problems? Part of the reason the Panthers struggled earlier this season was because Jake Delhomme couldn't find anybody downfield that actually wore a Panthers uniform. Interceptions were expected when he played. The Panthers have nobody to really compliment Steve Smith at wide receiver (now nobody after Smith's season ending injury on Sunday) and the defense struggled to contain both the pass and run until the last two weeks.

If the Panthers do not fix these problems in the off-season they will struggle again next year. I'll permit keeping John Fox but there is no reason at all to keep Hurney. The Panthers have gone to the playoffs three times in this decade. If significant changes aren't made now they might not make it back there for a long time to come.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Jimmie Johnson named AP Male Athlete of 2009

It's been about a month since I last posted. In that time I've graduated college and embarked on a new chapter in life. Just wanted to get that out of the way and now on to my point...

Monday morning Jimmie Johnson was announced as the Associated Press Male Athlete of the Year. He beat out names like Peyton Manning, Alex Rodriguez, and (yes) Tiger Woods. He became the first NASCAR driver to ever win the award. Yes, Jimmie Johnson has done something else that Petty, Earnhardt, Pearson, and Yarborough never did. Just the fact that Johnson was in the running is remarkable and it boasts so much about how NASCAR's place in mainstream sports media has jumped over the last decade. When I began watching NASCAR in the late 1980's, I doubt anyone would have selected a racecar driver as male athlete of the year. Here we are: December 21, 2009, and it's become reality.

I've talked at length about the enormity of the Johnson's accomplishment this year. A fourth straight championship is remarkable in any sport. I've noticed over the years that drivers who win a lot get booed by fans. Gordon, Stewart, Kyle Busch all come to mind for receiving their fair share of boos. But in the races I've been to in the four seasons that Johnson has taken home the crown, I don't ever remember hearing boos. I don't remember hearing cheers either. Are NASCAR fans nonchalant about Johnson and what's he done?

But back to the point at hand and this morning's announcement of Johnson's newest title. Take a look back at the 2009 sports world. Let's see what's happened in the last 12 or so months. A-Rod finally won his World Series title, Big Ben Roethlisberger won the Super Bowl with great heroics, Peyton Manning is on the verge of perfection in this year's version of the National Football League. And Tiger Woods overshadowed both John & Kate separating on national television and Mark Sanford and his antics with South American women.

But whatever Rodriguez, Roethlisberger, Manning, and Woods have done this year, have they done more than what Johnson has done? The obvious answer is no and anyone who is still thinking about this question needs to hit the refresh button because you are taking WAY too long.

I think NASCAR fans look at this from a two-fold standpoint. First, those that are Jimmie Johnson haters don't like this because it's Jimmie Johnson and they'd rather someone else had won the award. On the other hand, you've got a core group of NASCAR fans, some of whom have felt very neglected by mainstream media over the years, that are just happy that a driver had been chosen.

I remember when Dale Earnhardt made the cover of Time Magazine following his February 2001 death at Daytona. I remember thinking how huge it was for the sport to have one of its own on the cover despite the manner in which Earnhardt got there. Last February I was surprised to see the number of different national news outlets that were on hand for the season-opening Daytona 500. And now I'm seeing news people from all over the world at Daytona to watch Danica Patrick make single-file runs in an ARCA car (a topic by the way that I haven't even begun to vent about and will do so at length at a future date and time.)

But the fact of the matter is that the Associated Press has named a NASCAR driver as it's male athlete of the year. I like the idea and I say that while disclosing that I'm not necessarily a Jimmie Johnson fan. It's true I didn't like him that much when he first got into the sport and he certainly didn't help his cause with me when he won his first, second, and third championships. But you've got to respect the man and his latest accomplishment.

Take pride NASCAR. For the next 12 months you have the top male athelete in your ranks. Enjoy the ride. Maybe five in a row will also warrant the honor as well.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Jimmie Johnson is one of the greats. Period.

Sunday afternoon Jimmie Johnson locked up his fourth consecutive Sprint Cup Series championship. On route to the title this year, he scored seven victories, three poles, 15 top 5's, and 23 top 10's. In his four championship seasons (06, 07, 08, and 09) he has accumulated 29 victories, 64 top 5's, and 94 top 10's.

Allow me to do the numbers for you: in 144 starts in those four years, he won 20.1% of the races, finished in the top five in 44.4% of the races, and finished in the top 10 in 65.3% of the races. That my friends is what you call domination.

The man has accomplished something that no other driver in the 61 year history of the sport has done and he's done it without boasting about his ability, but rather giving credit to his Hendrick Motorsports team. He's done it by consistently finishing races and finishing well (only seven DNF's in that four year streak.) And he's led laps and gained bonus points as a result (over 6,300 laps led in that time.)

Folks, what don't you get about this guy? He might be the best ever. He was hand picked by Jeff Gordon. He was mentored by Rick Hendrick and Jeff Gordon. He grew up racing motorcycles on dirt before switching to off-road racing and finally to stock cars. He has car control down to a science. He has strategy and knowledge of the sport down. His crew chief is the most detail guy I've ever seen on a pit box and was a protege of Ray Evernham (who I might add was one of the greatest crew chiefs of all time.) There is a reason why the #48 Lowe's team has been at the head table at the banquet for the last four years.

Jimmie Johnson has not ruined NASCAR. He has not ruined the chase. He has realized how to win the chase and that's what is most important. He's realized how to make this racecar do what he wants it to do and he's figured it out faster than a lot of other guys. And when I talked about the COT and his figuring it out I'd also like to point out that he won two championships with the old car as well.

Jimmie Johnson and Chad Knaus have done something that nobody else has been able to do. Petty couldn't do it, Pearson couldn't do it, Yarborough almost did it and failed, and Earnhardt and Gordon all came close but failed.

To the people who are upset at this point or stopped watching the Chase after the Talladega race I am very sorry that you didn't get to witness history. When you look at all the sports dynasties out there, Jimmie Johnson ranks among the greats.

In the late 90's Jeff Gordon and his Rainbow Warriors had a banner in their shops. On that banner was a checklist of goals. It went from Upstart to Contender; From Contender to Winner; From Winner to Champion: and from Champion to Dynasty. Jimmie Johnson is a dynasty. He's a first ballot Hall of Famer in my opinion. His legacy will live on for the ages. And if you think for one minute that he shouldn't be called "Great" then look at what he's done and look at what others have tried to do.

He may go for five. He may go for six. He may surpass Earnhardt and Petty and win eight in a row. The thing is until someone steps up to prove him otherwise, Jimmie Johnson is currently the best driver in the sport. And for anyone to downplay what he's accomplished in the last four years or to say he couldn't stack up with the Yarboroughs, Pettys, and Pearsons is just plain wrong.

Congratulations Jimmie, Chad, and Mr. H. I'm waiting to see what you can do in 2010.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Chase Clinch Scenarios...

It's that time of the year again when the Sprint Cup Series converges upon the 3/4 mile Richmond International Raceway to determine the 12-member Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. The last 25 grueling races all come down to 400 laps on Saturday night. I've decided to post on here for easy reference the Chase clinch scenarios for the drivers who are still not mathematically eligible for getting into the Chase.

First and foremost, the following drivers are locked in going to Richmond: Tony Stewart, Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, Denny Hamlin.

The following drivers are still eligible and here are their scenarios for getting in (from

Carl Edwards

Edwards is currently 105 points ahead of 13th place. Regardless of any other driver’s finish, he will clinch if he finishes:

24th or better
25th and leads at least one lap
27th and leads most laps

Kasey Kahne

Kahne is currently 96 points ahead of 13th place. Regardless of any other driver’s finish, he will clinch if he finishes:

21st or better
23rd and leads at least one lap
24th and leads most laps

Kurt Busch
Busch is currently 95 points ahead of 13th place. Regardless of any other driver’s finish, he will clinch if he finishes:

20th or better
22nd and leads at least one lap
24th and leads most laps

Juan Pablo Montoya

Montoya is currently 88 points ahead of 13th place. Regardless of any other driver’s finish, he will clinch if he finishes:

18th or better
20th and leads at least one lap
21st and leads the most laps

Ryan Newman
Newman is currently 81 points ahead of 13th place. Regardless of any other driver’s finish, he will clinch if he finishes:
16th or better
17th and leads at least one lap
19th and leads the most laps

Mark Martin
Martin is currently 69 points ahead of 13th place. Regardless of any other driver’s finish, he will clinch if he finishes:

12th or better
14th and leads at least one lap
15th and leads the most laps

Greg Biffle
Biffle is currently 68 points ahead of 13th place. Regardless of any other driver’s finish, he will clinch if he finishes:

11th or better
13th and leads at least one lap
15th and leads the most laps

Matt Kenseth

Kenseth is currently 20 points ahead of 13th place. Regardless of any other driver’s finish, he will clinch if he finishes:
Second and leads at least one lap

· Third and leads the most laps

Brian Vickers currently sits 13th, 17 points ahead of Kyle Busch. He would need to gain 21 points on Kenseth and stay ahead of Busch to clinch a Chase spot.

Busch, 37 points behind 12th, needs to gain 17 points on Vickers and 37 points on Kenseth to clinch.

David Reutimann, 132 points behind Kenseth, has an outside shot at clinching. He would have to gain 133 points on Kenseth. A maximum of 161 points can be made up in a given race.

Ok... now that you are totally confused, just watch the Chevy Rock & Roll 400 Saturday night. It'll all make sense in time.

Monday, August 10, 2009

No to Rain Tires... Yes to Earlier Start Times

The idea of using rain tires for the Sprint Cup Series at a road course is not only absurd, it's just plain dumb.

I want to tell a little story, and then I'll tell you my answer to those who insist we could have gotten that race in yesterday by using rain tires.

About 14 years ago, NASCAR decided to go race in Japan. They were gonna go to a road course in Suzuka, Japan and they needed to insure that the race could be run on the scheduled date and time and couldn't stay in the country any longer than necessary. So Goodyear built NASCAR a rain tire. I think they practiced in the rain during that first weekend in Japan. After NASCAR stopped going to Japan, the need to absolutely get a race in on the scheduled date on a road course went away.

Flash forward to 2005 when the NASCAR Nationwide Series ups and goes to Mexico. They are in a different country with deadlines to race and get back across the border. The teams had to race when scheduled and couldn't wait another day. So Goodyear pulled back out the rain tires and ever since the crazies in NASCAR land have said we can race in the rain on a road course.

The Nationwide Series did it in Canada last year, and while it may have been fun for the drivers (at times mind you), the fans were forced to sit in the rain and forced to watch a bad race.

The Sprint Cup Series is the biggest form of motorsports in the country. To put on a race in the rain that is gonna produce few passes and multiple accidents is just plain wrong. There's no reason for that nonsense.

I will tell you a solution to prevent what happened yesterday from happening again.

You ready?

Start the race earlier. Earlier start times could have gotten in atleast half of the race yesterday. If not half, then a good portion of it and we wouldn't have to race the full distance today. A 1:00 start would have gotten in the entire Daytona 500 back in February. NASCAR has moved the start times back to around 2:00 (Daytona started at 4:15 EST) for most tracks because they want to pick up on the west coast crowd. I've done some reading on the internet and I think most west-coast folks don't like the start times we've got now. They seem to prefer the earlier start times from a decade ago so they don't spend the entire middle portion of their day watching the race.

I think the ratings will pick back up from starting at 1:00 EST or earlier. I also think the ratings would pick back up by fixing the car and getting the bells and whistles out of the way at ESPN and FOX. Watch how TNT and SPEED broadcast NASCAR races. That's the way to go.

Friday, August 7, 2009

One Week to go...

Camp for Camden High School concluded yesterday afternoon and the first scrimmage is tonight at South Carolina State University. Lugoff-Elgin also hosts a scrimmage tonight at Lugoff-Elgin Stadium, which I think I would like to go to. Summer school is over at USC and teachers for the Kershaw County School District report on Monday. All these signs can only point to one thing.

It's Time for High School Football.

It's hot outside and kids around the state have been sweating like there's no tomorrow for a week. Of course some teams choose to practice at night. Which is what Camden has done; practicing around midnight during this week's camp. There's one week to go before the season begins and the first time under the lights in front of actual people takes place at Zemp Stadium in the 34th edition of the Camden Shrine Club Football Jamboree.

I'm excited. I've said it before, other than the weeks leading up to the Daytona 500 in February, this is my favorite time of the year. The Sprint Cup Series is heading to some fun race tracks. The summer is slowly coming to an end and fall is almost upon us. And the start of High School, College, and NFL Football are all very near.

I think it might have something to do with the fact that we live in a "Football" community. Camden's been playing football for 115 years. While Lugoff-Elgin and North Central haven't been in existence that long, each have a tradition of excellence when it comes to the gridiron. But the community embraces football. Each Friday night Zemp, L-E, and Boonetown stadiums are all packed with fans eagerly awaiting that first big play for a touchdown, hear the marching band play their fight song after a victory, and wake up the next morning beaming with pride that their team has won.

This year's football season presents some very interesting story lines for all three Kershaw County schools. We'll start with North Central. 2009 marks a new era as Louis Clyburn comes to town to take over as the school's head coach. Clyburn grew up just a few miles from NCHS and graduated from Camden High School in 1990. After stints as a college assistant, he became head coach at Andrew Jackson a season ago, bringing the Volunteers up to one of the upper echelon teams in class AA. Now he comes to Boonetown and will try to regroup and rebuild that team after a disappointing 1-9 2008 season. Numbers are up at NCHS, and things are looking up for the Knights as they try to dethrone Chesterfield as the top dog in class A in South Carolina.

Lugoff-Elgin is a team that I'm really not sure about for 2009. They were strong a year ago, going to the Upper State Semi-final game against Daniel. The Demons lost a lot from last year's team, but in reality they have a lot coming back including starting quarterback Forrest Koumas. Koumas is an outstanding baseball player, but the football team I think is going to rely on him more than Scott Jones would like. I think LE can go deep in the playoffs this year if their running game can stay on point. I think the running game is gonna be key for these guys. Their defense was also strong a season ago and I think they've got most of those guys back. LE has one chance left to do something in class AAA, as it's projected they will move to class AAAA in 2010.

Camden has had success on the hardwood and baseball diamond this year. Both Boys Basketball and Baseball teams advanced to state championship games, with the Basketball team winning their first state title in 51 years, and the baseball team coming up just one run short against Belton-Honea Path. Camden turned things around last year with a 7-6 record and with an experienced quarterback, running back, and a pair of wide receivers coming back, I think they can continue the success they've seen this year. The biggest question is going to be the defense, who has lost their top two tacklers from a season ago. Chris Outten graduated, and Roland Johnson has transferred to Byrnes. Camden's offensive line is experienced at places, but will see some youth this year. The wide receiver core will see Alvonta Jenkins team up with Brandon Kersey and Trevor Jefferson, who transferred back to Camden after leaving during last season.

I'll be hosting a special Round Table Season Preview for Kershaw County Football next Thursday night (August 13th ad 6:00 on KOOL 102.7 FM) and we'll talk more about the three county schools. And don't forget the 34th annual Camden Shrine Club Football Jamboree on Friday, August 14th. KOOL 102.7's live coverage begins at 6:00. Kickoff in the first mini-game is at 6:30.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

ESPN and Brickyard Flops on Sunday

The 16th running of the Allstate 400 at the Brickyard was heralded as a must-see event by the folks at ESPN in the buildup to the portion of the season where the network, along with ABC, broadcasts all NASCAR Sprint Cup and Nationwide events. The 17-race stretch not only includes the Brickyard but the night race at Bristol and the entire 10-race Chase for the Sprint Cup.

ESPN was set up by a great Camping World Truck and Nationwide series races at O'Reilly Raceway Park, which is across town from IMS. The racing at the 5/8 mile was spectacular to say the least. We saw two-wide (and often times three-wide racing) at the bullring in the closing stages of both races. Ron Hornaday made history by becoming the first driver to win four truck races in a row and Carl Edwards charged from the back and held off Kyle Busch for the win. ESPN was set. They had the momentum going from the Nationwide broadcast, which was very well put together.

But when the green flag fell on Sunday, ESPN failed to deliver and the Allstate 400 also failed to deliver. To summarize it: the tire debacle from a year ago would have been more entertaining than the 400 miles of mediocrity I saw on Sunday.

Let me clear up a few things: I was pulling for Juan Montoya to win. But the manner in which he dominated the race made it boring. He had a five-second lead at one point. Even for the most hardcore NASCAR fans (which I count myself as) it was hard to watch. If not for the final 25-lap duel between Mark Martin and eventual winner Jimmie Johnson, the race would have been a total flop.

Goodyear brought a great tire. But this car isn't meant to be raced on this track. Stockcars in general aren't meant to be race on this track. Do I think NASCAR needs to leave the Brickyard? Yeah I do. We've got tracks all over the country that produce better racing. Let's try going there instead of continuing to go back to Indianapolis for a boring race. The same could be said for the Auto Club Speedway as well.

ESPN didn't have much to play with on Sunday, but what they did have they totally flopped. I was thrilled when Jerry Punch was named the Play-by-Play guy for NASCAR on ESPN in 2007. I felt better knowing that he was up in the booth simply because of his history in the sport. He was one of the best in the business on ESPN races in the 90's and he was in the booth for Earnhardt's final win at Talladega in 2000.

But seven years past between Punch's last stint with NASCAR and his current role. He's the wrong person up there. He's bringing down the broadcasts, and I'm concerned about how the final 16 races will go. NASCAR right now needs a punch in the stomach (no pun intended there.) They need someone who can put excitement in the racing. They need a production team who comes from a racing background and understands what to look for during the race broadcasts. ESPN doesn't have that right now. What they have is a bunch of "stick and ball" guys running things in the production truck, and a pit reporter who was put in the booth to be the voice of the franchise.

ESPN does have superior pit reporters, a good balance in the infield pit studio, and two great analysts in the booth who help out Punch. But ESPN failed to deliver on Sunday, just like the race did itself.

I'm actually looking forward to the race at Pocono now. What does that say?

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Quick-Fix Change for a Big Problem

There's a show on Food Channel called Quick-Fix Meals. On this program, a female host prepares large amounts of one particular food for multiple meals during the course of a single week. This is advertised as a way to help save time for people who have busy schedules. Essentially, Quick-Fix is this program's way of saying they are solving problems.

Well a few weeks ago NASCAR made a Quick-Fix to its top two touring series by introducing the Double File Restarts-Shootout Style. I think tonight was an excellent way of viewing how the practice has changed the sport.

NASCAR scheduled a truck race at one track to start at 7:30 eastern and a Nationwide race start at another track at 9:30 eastern. So essentially they are gonna run the equivalency of an almost 500 mile race at two tracks with two series. On two television networks.

The truck race was intriguing to watch, but I think that Mike Skinner, Matt Crafton, and Timothy Peters could have put on more of a battle with Ron Hornaday that what we actually saw if the truck series used the double file restarts. This is the only of the top three series that has yet to introduce the new rule this summer. I'm hoping NASCAR is holding off so they can also announce at the same time that teams can change tires and fuel during the same pitstop which has been a total disaster and really a joke in 2009.

Now watching the Nationwide race (and I'm probably one of the few on the east coast that are watching it at this point I'm sure) the double file restarts have made this race a lot more competitive than it has been in the past. Last year in this 250-mile event at Gateway International Raceway, there were a total of 12 lead changes. I think just past the half-way point there have been 11 or maybe 12 (or more.)

These new restarts made the Infineon Sprint Cup race watchable. They made New Hampshire and Daytona more interesting than ever, and they are making the Gateway Nationwide race a sight to see in the latter stages.

The sport is better because of double file restarts. The sport is better because of the COT, safer barriers, and HANS devices. However starting a 250 mile race at 9:30 eastern is something else. I'll blog later about my opinion on uniform start times for all races. But that's for another day. I'm going to enjoy the rest of the Nationwide race now.

Friday, July 17, 2009

2008 Camden Football Archive

For the last two days after I've returned from my "vacation" I've been listening to the 2008 KOOL 102.7/StarTime 1590 archive of Camden High Bulldog Football. This is fun. It's awesome to go back and relive the excitement of high school football. For me, 2008 was my first at the play-by-play spot for CHS Football and I'm amazed at how I've grown in the role over the last 12 months.

I've had a lot of experience calling games during the calendar year 2009. I was on the call for both of Camden's state championship runs in boys basketball and baseball. Through my experiences with that, and observing how professional broadcast crews work, I feel that the 2009 high school football season will be awesome.

I started the trek back to the past listening to the Camden-Hartsville game, my first official appearance as the Voice of the Bulldogs. It's amazing how I've changed the way I announce. I'm now more experienced with what to do in certain situations. I enjoyed reliving the calls of the touchdowns- the triumphs; and all the memories from a year ago.

The fall is a magical time of year for me. Football is starting up, NASCAR is in the Chase for the Sprint Cup part of their season, and the Gamecocks... well they are the Gamecocks. I enjoy the fall more than any other time of the year (sans the weeks leading up to the Daytona 500.)

I'm looking forward to being on the call for another season of CHS Football- the 115th season of CHS football I mind you. The preparation for the game: doing depth charts, memorizing names, and working on the pre-game show are just some of the things I'll be doing over the next four months.

Aside from the on-air stuff, I get to hang out in the pressbox for junior varsity and 9th grade football, and I'll be calling at least three middle school games this year.

The fall will be packed with excitement week in and week out. Despite the strain it puts on my relationships with friends and family, it really is a fun time of year and I'm really looking forward to it.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

The Mayfield Saga Continues...

Ok, so I was out of town this week and didn't have a chance to check out NASCARLand as much as I probably should have.

I wish I kinda hadn't kept up at all.

The Jeremy Mayfield saga has dominated the NASCAR world in recent weeks and it took another turn on Wednesday afternoon as NASCAR announced that the results of a second drug test last week reported back positive again for methamphetamine. Mayfield's step-mother went on record as saying she saw the driver take meth over 30 times in a seven year period. Mayfield claims she was being coached up and that she lied about the issue because of their strained relationship.

You know that when Mayfield was contacted by NASCAR over a week ago to take that second test that he ducked out of contact for a while, claiming he couldn't find the testing center and that he got the call too late to report to the testing facility when they wanted him to. Then NASCAR security ended up going to Mayfield's house to obtain the sample. I'm sorry, but when NASCAR comes a calling you answer the phone and don't try to play cover up.

I heard a caller call in on Sirius NASCAR Radio Channel 128 this morning saying that if his employer came to his house and demanded a drug test be taken that they would both end up in an emergency room. I applaud the hosts for the show holding back because I would have let loose with something like, "well sir you don't work in a situation where you are operating a 3,400 pound weapon at 180 miles per hour and don't make millions of dollars a year."

At this point, after two failed tests and months of "he said-she said" between Mayfield, his law team, NASCAR, and NASCAR's drug testing facility, Mayfield just needs to admit he was wrong, back out of the sport, and go on about his way.

His career is effectively over at this point. I think most within the NASCAR community will admit that, and to some extent I think Mayfield might think that.

Hopefully the Mayfield Saga is behind us all now. As the sport approaches the race at Indy next week, and the Chase for the Sprint Cup not far after that, NASCAR drivers, media, and fans need to move on and keep the momentum going that the sport has been building the last few weeks. I know the ratings and attendance are still down, but the racing has been better at times since the advent of "Double File Restarts-Shootout Style" seven weeks ago.

Jeremy has thrown away an opportunity that thousands of short track drivers around the country dream of: driving a racecar and winning at NASCAR's top level. It's the same opinion I had when hearing about the mistakes made by Shane Hmiel, Aaron Fike, and Kevin Grubb.

Jeremy Mayfield's story, like so many others who get caught up in drug addiction, is sad but it's time for all of us to move on.

I think Jeremy needs to move on too.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Vickers Wins 5th Pole... But What's He Doing Next Year?

Brian Vickers put his Red Bull Toyota on the front row last night for this Saturday's 400 at the Chicagoland Speedway. It's Vickers' 5th pole of the 2009 season. He has been consistent at times this year, but has also seen his share of struggles. Everyone in the Cup garage thinks Vickers is very close to breaking Red Bull into the win column. But my question is if he's doing better this year: winning poles and contending for wins, why hasn't the team inked a contract extension for next year? Do they not like leading laps and winning poles? Would they prefer Vickers' teammate Scott Speed who failed to qualify multiple times this year to be the front runner? Or would they like IRL's Danica Patrick to come to NASCAR and run 40th every week in the 83 car? Where will Vickers end up? I think he would be a good fit at Stewart-Haas Racing personally.

The 83 and 82 will lead the field to the green flag shortly after 8:00 Saturday night. But where will Vickers race next year is the question at hand.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Rain, Rain Go Away and Tony Jr. to Crew Chief for Keselowski at Chicago

Rain Postpones Wednesday's Dixie Youth Action
It looks like we might get more rain for the second night in a row which could again postpone Dixie Youth Baseball in Bishopville, S.C. Last night torrential rains halted the start of the game between Kershaw County National and Chesterfield and delayed it until tonight. The game was called off about 20 minutes before the 7:00 scheduled first pitch.

I'd like to point out that the field resembled a water reservoir BEFORE the heavy rains began to fall. It was at the point the heavy stuff started that we made our way out of town and I can only guess as to what it looked like after the heavy rain fell. We'll try it again tonight. Join Tyler Cupp and myself for the call on KOOL 102.7 FM beginning at 6:45.

Eury Jr. to Crew Chief for Keselowski at Chicagoland
Tony Eury Jr. will be the crew chief for Brad Keselowski as he attempts to qualify the #25 Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports at the Chicagoland Speedway this weekend. Eury Jr. had of course been the crew chief for the sport's most popular driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. but was removed of that title after the Coca-Cola 600 in late May. Keselowski had been working with now current crew chief for Earnhardt Jr., Lance McGrew.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Official: Truex to MWR in 2010; Waltrip to Partial Schedule

Michael Waltrip Racing announced earlier today that Martin Truex Jr. will join the team in 2010 and drive the #56 NAPA Toyota Camry in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Truex's contract runs out at the end of 2009 and he will finish the season with Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing in the #1 Chevrolet. He says he is totally committed to EGR and looks to finish the second half of the season on a strong note. He currently sits 24th in points with only three top 10 finishes.

Waltrip on the other hand will stay in the #55 Toyota next season and run a partial schedule to focus more on being a car owner. NAPA has signed on for a multi-year contract to sponsor Truex. Waltrip has four career Sprint Cup wins, two of which were the Daytona 500 in 2001 and 2003.

Baseball Action Continues...

I'm not sure where or when, but I'll be at a ballpark somewhere today as Dixie Youth and Dixie Boys Baseball continues in Kershaw County. We still have a team going strong up in Lancaster at the Dixie Boys level, and in Dixie Youth there's a team that has won 5 straight games over the last week and a half playing in Bishopville.

We have now covered 15 games over a 12 day period - something I'm awfully proud of.

I'll say that I'm very tired though and Summer 2 starts today at USC. Little sleep... lot of driving... confusing schedule... gotta love Dixie Youth and Dixie Boys Baseball.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Mayfield not entered at Chicago

Update: NASCAR on Monday said they want Mayfield back on suspension from competition and they have filed papers to have the same judge who lifted his suspension to go back on his decision. This should get interesting over the next few days (as if it hasn't been already.)

Jeremy Mayfield is not entered for this Saturday night's LifeLock 400 at the Chicagoland Speedway. Mayfield won an injunction last week to allow him to return to Sprint Cup competition but could not get his Mayfield Motorsports #41 Toyota to Daytona on time nor could he find a ride over the weekend for the Coke Zero 400. Mayfield released an open letter this week saying he was planning to return to the sport but didn't specify when.

Mayfield hasn't raced since Richmond in early May and was suspended for violating NASCAR's drug policy on May 9th.

MWR to announce Truex on Tuesday

Update: The MWR presser will be at 12:30 Tuesday afternoon and I think it's gonna be carried on SPEED.

Tomorrow Michael Waltrip Racing will announce that 2-time Nationwide Series champion and current driver of the #1 Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing Sprint Cup Chevrolet will join MWR in 2010. With the announcement of Truex, it's highly anticipated that Michael Waltrip himself will step down from a full-time driver next season and only run a partial schedule. This will allow Waltrip to concentrate more on his duties as a car owner and his television responsibilities as well.

Waltrip has 4 career Sprint Cup wins including the 2001 and 2003 Daytona 500. Truex got his first career Sprint Cup win at Dover in 2007 and before that won the 2004 and 2005 Nationwide Series championship, driving for Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Chance 2 Motorsports.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

One of my favorites...

Over the years as my career in sports broadcasting and journalism has evolved, there was always one voice and one writing style that I tired to emulate. That's because this one character always had a reason for saying something and he always knew what he said was, in his opinion atleast, the right answer.

Tuesday that voice and that talent was silenced. Charlotte Observer motorsports writer and co-host of The Morning Drive on Sirius Satellite Radio David Poole died of a heart attack shortly after signing off the air Tuesday morning.

I admired David because he really didn't seem to care what others thought of his ideas and always tried to see both sides of a NASCAR issue. He argued every caller that called his show and when he debated them, he debated via facts. I always knew that he'd come up with some stat that was really from left field and didn't back down from his opinions. I think a lot more journalists should share the same philosophy.

Now I didn't always share the same ideas as David did. I screamed at my radio on Monday morning driving back from Talladega about his ideas to bulldoze the banking at Talladega because of the danger it posed to drivers and fans. Some of those fans were injured in a last lap wreck that saw Carl Edwards' Ford fly through the air and into the catchfence in the trioval at the Alabama track. I belive there are other options to make the track safer for fans and drivers, but this isn't the time to talk about that.

I give props to Dave Moody and Mike Bagley who somehow managed to both make it through four hours of programming on Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday morning. I don't think I could have done what those guys did.

I'll always remember David Poole for his opinions and those hilarious Dramatic Readings each week on TMD. His voice is now silenced, but his influence on me and the rest of the NASCAR media will forever be felt.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Wow... that was like a month ago

Yeah, so I had this great elaborate plan to document every part of my trip to the 51st Daytona 500 last month. Today is March 18th and the race at Daytona was February 15th, so I'm a little late with all that stuff.

I really did have a great plan for everything. I was gonna talk about walking through the Daytona Fan Zone and seeing AJ Foyt a couple of times. I was gonna talk about standing atop the Fan Zone to watch practice on Friday. I was gonna talk about watching Smoke win the Nationwide race, the look of terror on people's faces during that horrific wreck during the Truck race, and sitting in the tv compound food tent on Sunday morning knowning that it was gonna rain at some point during the day. I could also talk about standing in the old victory lane where Dale Earnhardt celebrated his only 500 victory in 1998.

Oh, I had a bunch of stuff to talk about for sure. But, a lot of stuff has happened since I got back.

Combine school, and a playoff run for Camden that culminated with me calling the AAA Boys Basketball Championship game at the Colonial Life Arena in Columbia, and I haven't really had time to update my trip to the Great American Race.

I'm past the half way point for my penultimate semester of college, and I've got to admit I don't think I've really learned anything. It's like I've learned more about how to call a basketball game and design a website than I have anything sitting in a classroom. My choice for classes this semester was not as good as it could have been and now I'm having to deal with that. Hopefully I'll be able to pass everything and move on in life. And I'll tell you now that the summer is going to SUCK because I need to take 4 classes this summer to assure graduating in December.

There were no NASCAR races last weekend. Everything was on hold because the powers that be didn't want to compete with college basketball conference tournaments. Hey, for me it wouldn't have been a problem because my team was done on Friday. Hey NASCAR, next time you plan an off-week, just look at who South Carolina's playing to determine if you should do it then or push it back a couple weeks.

Anyway, I need to wrap things up for now. Apparently the USC Sumter faculty thinks its necessary for me to go to class today. I'm really kicking myself for not finishing school when I was supposed to.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Saga That is Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Alright, alright. Here we go...

I didn't see the wreck that was started when Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Brian Vickers got together on the backstretch during the Daytona 500 last week while I was actually at the racetrack. I heard the commotion on my headset and saw the cars after they were towed back to the Sprint Cup Series garage. But not until yesterday afternoon did I actually have time to sit down and review the video of the accident in detail.

And guess what... Dale Earnhardt Jr. is totally responsible for what happened. It took out the dominant car (Kyle Busch) and wrecked several others that had legitimate shots at going to victory lane (i.e. Jamie McMurray.) Of course I'm not gonna say that without watching the tape first. I'm expected to be the Dale Jr. supporter that I am and not question his integrity on the racetrack or his ability as a Sprint Cup Series driver.

Now, let me answer a few questions that have been raised this week on Sirius NASCAR Radio and various other talk shows (i.e. The Locker Room Sports Show on KOOL 102.7)

First, did Junior wreck Vickers? Yes.
Did Vickers block Junior which caused the wreck? Yes.
Was Junior frustrated over dumb things he'd done on pit road ALL WEEKEND? Yes.
Did Junior want to get back on the lead lap? Yes.
Did Junior INTENTIONALLY wreck Vickers in an attempt to get back on the lead lap? I still say the word "intentional" when used to describe an event happening at 190 miles per hour is absolutely absurd.

Now, here's my thing about all of this. Dale Earnhardt Jr. is expected to lead every lap and win every race. Junior Nation expects it and the media criticizes him when he doesn't. And at that point being a lap down, not in position for the lucky dog, and knowing rain was coming, he did what he could to try to live up to those expectations. At Daytona more than any other track, the fans expect him to win the race. He screwed up earlier in the day (on pit road twice) and then he screwed up on the racetrack.

That unrealistic expectation of winning every race needs to be dropped. He's not Dale Earnhardt Sr. He never will be. I've never expected him to be. He doesn't have the raw talent and ability that Dale Sr. had. People ask me why am I a fan of Dale Earnhardt Jr. My answer is I've been an Earnhardt fan all my life. But what people don't know is that I followed Junior through the Nationwide Series (formerly Busch Series) in 1997, 1998, and 1999. I bought the AC Delco hats and t-shirts and I celebrated when he won the championships in 98 and 99.

And following Dale Sr.'s death in 2001, I didn't necessarily pick another driver to pull for. I flip-flopped between Junior, and Kevin Harvick, and Bobby Labonte, and hell I even thought about switching to the dark side and pulling for Jeff Gordon. But it wasn't really until late 2002 that I became a Junior fan. And my loyalty to Junior has continued even through the switch to Hendrick Motorsports.

But what Junior did on Sunday was inexcusable. I'll admit it now after reviewing the DVR even though I wouldn't on the Locker Room Monday night, or to anybody else I've talked to since. As an Earnhardt fan, I apologize to everyone whose favorite driver was taken out in the wreck (that's for you Bobby.) I also apologize to everyone for saying so many times over the years that Dale Jr. was capable of winning a Sprint Cup Series championship and being competitive enough to win a bunch of races. At this point in his career, I think that a championship is out the door. I also think my allegiance to him as a fan has begun to dwindle. Overrated is a term that has really begun to sink in with me when talking about his Sprint Cup Series career recently.

If it were any other driver, 2 Nationwide Series championships as a driver and 2 more as an owner, 18 Sprint Cup wins (including the Daytona 500) and driving for the most successful team in the modern era would be a very respectable career. Unfortunately for him, 100 wins and 10 championships wouldn't begin to make the fans happy.

I'm criticized for being a Junior fan, cheering when Jimmie Johnson won his 3rd championship last year, saying Kyle Busch is a good driver, and dipping out when it comes to answering the hard questions about an idiotic move at Daytona. So I ask you this: If I wasn't a Dale Earnhardt Jr. fan, who should I pull for? Gordon? Johnson? Stewart? Shrubby? I'm not saying I would switch over, but I want some input, remembering that I've been an Earnhardt fan since I started watching racing in the late 80's.

I'll take your suggestions here. I want real reasons and not just some dumb answer for your choice.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

2009 Chasers

I know I haven't posted about Daytona in a few days, but I'm still not caught back up on everything I missed here in the real world while I was down there.

But it occurs to me that I never documented my Chase drivers for 2009. Well, here they are:
Jeff Gordon
Jimmie Johnson
Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Carl Edwards
Matt Kenseth
Greg Biffle
David Ragan
Kevin Harvick
Jeff Burton
Clint Bowyer
Kyle Busch
Tony Stewart

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Daytona (Thursday)

Thursday was go or go home day for 16 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers. I was down on pit road after the second Gatorade Duel race and was right there when Jeremy Mayfield and AJ Allmendinger got out of their cars after they raced their way in to Sunday's 51st running of the Daytona 500.

The look on their faces, and their crew guys and family, was priceless. Mayfield Motorsports didn't exist a month ago and Dinger lost his guaranteed starting spot the week before the Budweiser Shootout. For the first time in a while they, along with Scott Riggs and Regan Smith, will get a somewhat comfortable night's sleep tonight because they are in.

However, there were a bunch of guys not so lucky. Boris Said, Geoff Bodine, Kelly Bires, and Kirk Shelmerdine are among the guys who will load it up and head for home tonight. I can't begin to imagine what they are thinking. Bodine and Shelmerdine planned to run the entire season. I wonder if those plans have now changed.


Thursday was a long, hot day at Daytona. My feet ache and I'm a little sunburned. I got a story into the pre-race show, and it didn't go over as well as I'd hoped, but it was still there. Basically it goes like this: when it was time to talk about Dale Earnhardt Jr, I suggested to the producer and the talent guy that we should say nothing (in the best Seinfeld fan-way I can.) And he did. And it was gonna be great but the people in the stands really didn't get what we were trying to do. Oh well, I tried.

Tomorrow I'll get to sleep in for a bit, then it's back to the track for Nationwide qualifying and the Camping World Truck Series race tomorrow night. That event is always fun to watch because their is side-by-side racing and beating and banging. There's a full-field of trucks tomorrow night and most of those guys need a good showing to stay on track for the full season.

As always I'll have more from Daytona throughout the weekend.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Daytona (Wednesday)

So if everything goes to plan, I'll have suggested and had aired the greatest story in the history of NASCAR Racing during the Sprint Vision pre-race for the Gatorade Duels tomorrow afternoon. Of course, this could be the worst thing I've ever suggested in my life. More on that later.

After the very comfortable drive to Florida (except through the construction zone that was ALL of Georgia) I got to the hotel and really enjoyed my afternoon. Got to sit in on the SV pre-race show prep for tomorrow (hence the opening paragraph above) and then caught up with my friends early in the evening. New Hampshire was a long time ago so it was nice to hang out with the crew for a little while. We're going to dinner in a bit and then who knows whats to follow. I just know I've got to be in the lobby at 8:45 in the morning.

I drove by the track today on my way in and it was a circus. The economy has hit NASCAR hard, but evidently fans are flocking to Daytona this weekend for what is sure to be an entertaining opening to the 2009 season.

Tomorrow's qualifying races will have some interesting points to it. In the first 150 miler, there are 6 drivers going for 2 spots. I'd take my chances in that race if I was Brad Keselowski, Joe Nemechek or Scott Riggs. But race number 2 has 10 guys going for 2 spots and that is gonna bring the fireworks. The difference between a guaranteed quarter of a million bucks to start on Sunday and loading up the truck tomorrow is huge-- this year more than ever.

In race number 2, you've got former Daytona 500 champs Geoffrey Bodine and Derrick Cope, not to mention a few other guys who have some crews that have put in alot of long hours over the last few months. And depending on what happens it could be a long weekend for those guys. I get to stick around until Sunday. Those guys who don't make the show tomorrow have to be out of the garage by sundown. The hopes and dreams of three months will go with them when they head back through the tunnel.

I don't know what's gonna happen tomorrow, except to say that we will all be entertained by the twin 150 mile last chance races. I'll have more from my trip to the 51st Daytona 500 all weekend long.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

18 Days and Counting...

It's only 18 days until the 51st running of the Daytona 500. Only 18 days until the start of what some people are calling the most pivotal year in NASCAR history. The economy has hurt the sport over the last three months. It seemed like things were going fine until the off-season started, then it was a free-for-all, which will (hopefully) come to an end with the Daytona 500 on February 15th.

Now, enough with the generalized thoughts about Daytona.

It's only 14 days until I leave for my second trip to the Great American Race. This time however... things are gonna be a little different. Let's get in our time machine, turn on the flux capacitor and rocket up to 88 miles an hour. Set the machine for 2005.

The 2005 Daytona 500 was my first. Left on a Wednesday, came back on a Monday. Had great seats in the Earnhardt Tower and watched Jeff Gordon win. That race was a time when things were very different for me. Back then, my biggest aspiration to do as little productive things as I could. Matter of fact the only thing I really wanted to do was announce high school football (for free at that time) and announce at the dirt track in Chester. 2005 was also the year that I decided that I hated college and didn't want to go anymore.

Alright... back in the time machine, back to 88 miles an hour, and back to the here and now.

It's 2009. I've realized that college is important and I'm getting the hell out in December. And I'm going back to the Daytona 500. But I'll be there on the other side of the track. The first time, my dad asked me if I wanted to get pit passes. I said no. I wanted to be in the infield because I was working. Well, in 14 days I'm leaving for Daytona to go work. It's at the point now where I haven't actually gotten it through my head that I'll be in victory lane at the end of the race on February 15th.

I'll talk about victory lane later, but for now this simply is a trip that I can't quite put into words at this point. I thought I had my "How did I get here" moment when I walked through the garage that first time at Pocono last June. I think the awesome will be turned up on that a little more when I make my way through the garage on Gatorade Duel day.

The Daytona 500 means so much to me, for no other reason than the fact that I grew up an Earnhardt fan. That race... it's just... All that there is. It's the World Series, Final Four, Super Bowl, and Masters all rolled into one. When the race is happening, it's almost a surreal type deal. You talk all winter long about the Daytona 500; who's gonna win, who's not gonna win, who's gonna win the championship. But then the race starts and you think it's not real. Like it's just any other event. Then when it's coming to an end you think my god, the Daytona 500's almost over.

I'm hoping that this isn't the last time I go to work at the Daytona 500. I know I have to make a good impression over the next three months and really work my butt off to get to where I want to be. Hanging on to the back of a billboard for four hours on a Sunday afternoon as the cars move past me at 190 miles an hour is the goal, obviously, but sitting in an air-conditioned truck pushing buttons at Pocono on a hot August afternoon isn't that bad.

I know this: carrying a tripod and batteries is where I want to be on this Sunday afternoon. Next year, hopefully, I'll be carrying a microphone.