Archive for category Racing

A.J.’s Failed Test

90 minutes before the start of the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway, NASCAR announced that driver of the #22 car A.J. Allmendinger has been suspended for the race for failing a random drug test after the Kentucky race last week stunning everyone at the track.

Despite a very exciting finish to the Coke Zero 400 that had Tony Stewart holding off Matt Kenseth and Greg Biffle taking his third victory of the year in front of a massive final lap pileup, all anyone wanted to talk about after the race has been A.J. Allmendinger.

A.J. and Penske Racing has 72 hours to request another test to possibly reverse or shorten the suspension if it is negative. If they do not request another test or the test is positive, the suspension will become indefinite.

As soon as NASCAR announced Allmendinger’s suspension, Penske Racing and the #22 team scrambled to get a replacement driver to fill the seat. They had to call Penske Nationwide driver Sam Hornish Jr. who flew back to Charlotte after his race on Friday Night, to get on a plane immediately and get back to Daytona. Hornish arrived in Daytona 8 minutes before the command to start engines. Sam finished the race in 33rd place several laps down after blowing a tire early.

After driving for Red Bull Racing and Richard Petty Racing, getting behind the wheel for Penske Racing this year was Allmendinger’s big break in NASCAR. Giving him the team and equipment to pair with his driving ability, this was the perfect situation for A.J. to win races and compete for a championship. But the 2012 season has not been going the way both A.J. and Penske hoped for, going winless through Kentucky sitting in 23rd in Sprint Cup Points far away from chase contention.

The thought of anyone driving a car 200 MPH on any type of drug is a extremely scary thought. Driving a stock car requires your full attention and concentration and that could be a little difficult on any type of drug especially in a three wide pack with 42 other cars. Thats putting not only your own life but all of the other drivers, crew members and fans in danger as well.

NASCAR’s biggest drug use story was in May of 2009 when driver and car owner Jeremy Mayfield tested positive for methamphetamine and again in June of that same year after his suspension was lifted effectively ending his racing career. His legal fight with NASCAR ended years after the positive test and has not raced in NASCAR since. His race team has folded and bought off as well. A.J. now runs the risk of forever having his name stand next to Mayfield’s as faces of drug use in NASCAR.

Now A.J. is innocent until proven guilty but in the eyes of most people around the sport he is guilty until proven innocent. Even if the second test that A.J. takes comes back negative and the suspension is removed from him, he will have an extremely difficult time returning to the mainly clean image and track record he had. A.J. was reportedly “shocked” by the positive test results. This has not been A.J.’s first run in with problems. In 2009 while driving for Richard Petty Motorsports, Allmendinger pleaded no contest in North Carolina to a misdemeanor charge of driving while impaired and was given a 60-day suspended sentence, 18 months of unsupervised probation and 24 hours of community service.

Even before the positive drug test his job security was in a little bit of jeopardy. His performance on the track was below expectations for Roger Penske and with possible free agent drivers like series points leader Matt Kenseth, Ryan Newman, Joey Logano, and Nationwide Penske driver and replacement for A.J. durring the suspension Sam Hornish Jr., they may move on to another driver with a better track history and cleaner slate then A.J. and will attract more sponsors that he will.

It has been announced that Sam Hornish Jr. will drive the #22 Dodge at New Hampshire Motor Speedway this weekend and for the near future as long as the suspension of Allmendinger continues.

If the suspension continues, Hornish could take over for the rest of the year and use A.J.’s misfortune as his ticket back to NASCAR’s premere series if he can preform well enough. He is currently racing for the championship in the Nationwide series but wants to return to the top series. This could be his big break.

A.J.’s entire career and future will be impacted by this positive test and the events that follow it and will determine if he can keep a ride, find a new one or become another ex driver forced out of the sport due to drug related issues.

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Daytona 500 Preview

After the shortest offseason in sports, NASCAR is back. And unlike any sport, NASCAR starts its season off with its biggest event. NASCAR has made this years edition of the Great American Race more unpredictable than others by restricting the use of the two car tandem racing that we have seen over the past few years and created a hybrid of the two car tandem and traditional restrictor plate racing seen at Daytona and Talladega. As the Budweiser Shootout and the Gatorade Duels showed us, this race should be exciting.

Entering the 2012 season there are several big stories about several big names that have and will continue to dominate speedweeks. The obvious attention getter is the first Sprint Cup start for Danica Patrick. Bringing the attention and all of her fans to NASCAR from Indy Car, Danica has become the no. 1 sight for fans to see at Daytona this week. But she is not just here to be a side show. In her duel race on Thursday she showed she can hang with the big boys in Sprint Cup and had a good run going for her until Aric Almirola got into her after being forced down by Jamie McMurray and caused her to take a huge hit against the inside wall down the backstretch and will send her to a backup car for the 500. But in Nationwide qualifying Danica took the pole for the race so her week has had his ups and downs.

Danica’s car owner for the Daytona 500 and defending Sprint Cup Champion Tony Stewart comes into speedweeks as the hottest driver out there. Putting on a clinic in the 2011 Chase, winning half of the races after struggling to compete in the regular season, lead him to his third Championship in NASCAR’s highest series. But the one thing missing on Tony’s resume for the Hall of Fame is a Daytona 500 victory. Could this be his best chance to get it?

As with every year in NASCAR drivers switch teams and move to different cars for the next season, and they are a few this year. Kasey Kahne leaves Red Bull Racing after his one year contract is up and joins Hendrick Racing in the #5 car forming one of the best 4 car teams in NASCAR history with Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. Kahne replaces Mark Martin who moves to Michael Waltrip Racing and will run a limited Schedule in the #55 car. Clint Bowyer joins Mark at MWR and will drive the #15 5 Hour Energy car after leaving Richard Childress Racing. After his tirade towards ESPN pit road reporter Dr. Jerry Punch, Kurt Busch finds himself being let go from Penske Racing and joining Phoenix Racing driving the #51 car. Replacing Kurt will be AJ Allmendinger in the #22 car.

Trying to predict the winner of a race at Daytona is like trying to hit a three pointer with a blind fold on so rather than give you one pick for a winner, I will give you 5 drivers I expect to have a chance to win at the end and a few drivers who can surprise some people this Sunday.

Expect To Win

Kevin Harvick

Harvick has to be thought of every time there is a race he is in. Kevin just finds a way to be near the front at the end of any race. Just see the end of the Daytona 500 in 2007. Selling his truck team should help him focus just on the 500 more than other years. Harvick will start 13th in the Great American Race and he should stay up front and have a great chance to get his 2nd 500 victory.

Tony Stewart

The defending champion has won almost everything in NASCAR except this race and he knows it. He is coming off one of the greatest postseason runs in sports history and is looking to use the momentum of that run to get his first Daytona 500 victory. He has already visited victory lane once this week winning the first Gatorade Duel race and will start 4th for the 500. Look for Smoke to be in the front when the white flag waves.

Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Yes I know Dale hasn’t won a race in forever but he has made strides towards ending that streak. And what better place to do it than at the place his father owned for years. Dale has always ran great at Daytona including a victory in 2004 in the Daytona 500, and he has to always be a favorite to win every trip to the track. He will start 5th and will keep himself in the front of the pack all day possibly leading him to his 2nd 500 win and his first win in a long time.

Kyle Busch

Kyle showed how skilled he is behind the wheel of a race car durring his win in the Bud Shootout on Saturday, almost wrecking twice but somehow saving the car both times. Kyle has run good in the 500 but just could never get to the checkered flag first. This year could be the year he finally gets there first.

 

Greg Biffle

Roush has brought a lot of fast cars to Daytona but the one car who has been constantly fast all week has been the #16 car of Greg Biffle. Greg qualified on the front row for the 500, was competing for the win in his Duel race, and has been at the top of the charts for speed all week in practice. Him and his race team have got his car hooked up for the 500. They just have to put it all together in order to get his first Daytona 500 victory.

Surprise Drivers

Regan Smith

After getting his first career win at Darlington last year, Smith is looking to take the next step in his career. Regan raced well last year in the 500 especially in the Duel race pushing Kurt Busch to a win. Finishing 2nd in this years Duel race again, Smith looks to have a car that can compete this sunday and starting 6th will help him try to get his 2nd career win.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

This may only be a one race deal for the defending Nationwide Champion but this young driver has shown he can race with the best of them. Filling in for Trevor Bayne last year in the Coca Cola 600 at Charlotte, Ricky finished 11th in his first career Sprint Cup Race. Now driving for Jack Roush in the #6 car Ricky has been running fast all week and looks to be just as fast in the 500.

Danica Patrick

Danica has shown that she can race with NASCAR’s top tier drivers and be competitive. Despite the rough wreck during the Duel race on thursday, Danica was competitive and stayed near the front all race. She will have to start in the back of the field because of going to a backup car so she will have her work cut out for her, but if she can keep her noes clean and stick around till the end, she could find herself in a history making position.

by: Andrew Isaac

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Time To Grow Up

Kyle on Left, Kurt on RIght

Everyone has to grow up some time.

Apparently that time has not come for the Busch Brothers yet.

The most criticized and disliked brothers in NASCAR have always had their attitudes overshadow their skill for as long as they have been driving in NASCAR full time. Almost every time there is a conflict in NASCAR, either the Sprint Cup, Nationwide, or Truck series, it usually involves either Kurt or Kyle.

Both of the brothers have has a great amount of success in all levels of NASCAR. Kurt Busch won the 2004 then Nextel Cup Championship driving the #97 car for powerhouse Roush Racing. He is one of only 23 drivers to win in all 3 levels of NASCAR competition.

Kyle Busch has had just as much success as his brother. He currently holds the record for most race wins in a season across the top three NASCAR series with 24 in 2010. On August 21, 2010, Busch became the first driver to win in all three of NASCAR’s top three touring series in the same weekend at Bristol Motor Speedway. He also holds the record for most wins in the NASCAR Nationwide series with 51. Since his first year in NASCAR in 2001, Kyle has earned over 100 total wins and now owns his own race team that runs in the Truck series.

Before the 2011 season Kurt and Kyle seemed like they had at least started to grow up and mature. They seemed more calm and took a professional approach to the upcoming season. But many people around the sports were obviously skeptic of the “new” brothers. Their skepticism was right as shown over the season.

After the 2011 Southern 500, driver Kevin Harvick parked his car in front of Kyle’s car and went over to Kyle’s car to “talk” to him about the two of them racing each other a little too hard sometimes during the race. When Harvick approached Kyle’s car, Kyle floored his car pushing Harvick’s car down pit road unmanned until it eventually ramed into the pit lane wall. Because of this Kyle was fined $25,000 and put on probation for 4 races.

Later on this season once again Kyle got into trouble. At the O’Reilly Auto Parts 250 it is believed that Kyle bumped the #22 car driven by Joey Coulter for Richard Childress after the race in retaliation to the way Coulter raced him. In the garage after the race Childress, age 66, came up to Busch, put him in a head lock and started punching him. Busch, who was still on probation at the time of the incident, did not violate his probation. Childress however, was fined $150,000 and placed on NASCAR probation until the end of the year.

Ron Hornaday in the White #33 Car, Kyle in the Black Car

On November 4th, 2011 at Texas Motor Speedway during a Truck series race, Kyle Busch driving for his own race team entered the race against other drivers racing for that series title and because Kyle is racing for the Sprint Cup Championship he could not race fot the Truck series championship. After a racing incident during the race with series regular and championship contender Ron Hornaday, Busch deliberately turned him into the outside wall under caution, ending Hornaday’s title hopes. This caused a wave of backlash towards the disgruntle driver. NASCAR black-flagged Busch and parked Kyle for the rest of the race. The next morning, NASCAR announced that Busch would remain parked for the remainder of the weekend, including the Nationwide series race and more importantly the Sprint Cup race for that weekend, all but ending his hopes for the Sprint Cup Championship. In addition to sitting for the weekend, Kyle’s main sponsor, M&M’s, removed their sponsorship from the #18 car for the rest of the season. It was the first time since the Truck Series was created in 1995 that a driver was suspended from all three series in NASCAR.

Not to be overshadowed by his brothers actions this year, Kurt Busch took what Kyle did a step farther.

At the season ending race at Homestead, Busch finished 47 laps behind the leaders, after spending time in the garage for mechanical issues for the majority of the race. While turning into the garage, Busch made an obscene hand gesture towards someone that was caught on the in car camera and shown on the live national broadcast. To make the day worse for Kurt, while his car was being repaired in the garage, Kurt began verbally abusing ESPN reporter Dr. Jerry Punch who was waiting to do an interview with Kurt. Unknown to Kurt the off camera conversation was captured by a fan and placed onto youtube where the video spread like wildfire. Kurt’s race team, Penske Racing, issued a apology for Kurt’s inappropriate actions. After the season Kurt Busch and Penske Racing agreed to a mutual split, however many in the sport believe that he was fired rather than a mutual split.

Kurt Busch will run for Phoenix Racing for the 2012 season. If I had to compare NASCAR race teams to MLB teams, If Hendrick Motorsports is like the New York Yankees, Phoenix Racing is like Pittsburgh Pirates.

When Kurt was let go from Penske Racing and when NASCAR sat Kyle for intentionally wrecking a driver, it showed that no matter who you are if you make stupid decisions you will be punished. The incidents that stretched throughout the entire season showed that the Busch Brothers did not change as much as they had said at the beginning of the season. The lack of respect that they showed through the season that they are still as immature as they have always been and NASCAR and the people around are losing their patience.

Just like in every business if your behavior is unacceptable people will not want to work with you no matter how talented you may be. Kurt Busch losing his job at Penske made a statement that others in NASCAR are following. When Kurt was looking for a car to drive for the upcoming year he tried to agree to a deal to run for Richard Petty. However when Petty was asked why he did not sign Kurt during the offseason, he was approached by his sponsors for his race teams and they told Petty that they did not want Kurt to drive a car that they were sponsoring. The same type of sponsor reaction was made by Kyle’s primary sponsor M&M’s after the Texas incident. What this says is that a drivers personal image and character has a huge effect on their success especially in a sponsor driven sport like NASCAR where drivers wear something with a company logo on it almost all the time.

At some point both Kurt and Kyle Busch need to learn to control their temper when they are driving and realize that every action that they make in the heat of the moment will have a reaction that often times will be bad for them. Hopefully having Kurt lose his job because of his off the track actions will wake both of the talented drivers up and show them that they need to change their ways. It is ok to be agressive on the racetrack but you need to have a level head on and off the track.

If these two dont change their acts and grow up soon no one will put up with all of their baggage and they will be known as the drivers that nobody could deal with.

by Andrew Isaac

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Andrew’s 12 Bold Predictions for 2012

12 quick predictions I have for the 2012 year.

1. The Buffalo Bills will draft Heisman trophy winner Robert Griffin III in the 2012 NFL Draft

2. Tim Tebow will struggle and will get benched.

2a. Tim Tebow will file a restraining order against Skip Bayless when Skip gets Tim’s face tattooed on his chest.

3. Lebron James will hit a game winning jumper to win game 7 of the NBA Finals to silence critics.

4. Albert Pujols will struggle in his first year with the Los Angeles Angels.

5. Peyton Manning will start the season as the New York Jets Quarterback after the Jets drop Mark Sanchez.

6. Tiger Woods will win multiple tournaments including a Major.

7. Dale Earnhardt Jr. will win 3 races in Sprint Cup.

8. Sidney Crosby will miss the rest of the 2011-2012 season.

9. A double digit seed will make the Final Four.

10. Dwight Howard will play for the Nets in the 2011-2012 season.

11. The SEC will win their 7th consecutive National Championship in Football

12. The Buffalo Bills will make the playoffs!!! (Hey I can dream right)

Happy New Year!

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2011 A Year in Review

Taking a look back at this past year in sports, there has been everything. Stories of triumph and underdogs and comebacks were everywhere but seemed to be overshadowed by the dark events that have taken place this year. Tragic, horrific and disturbing stories that take the magic that sports can bring to people away and brings everyone to the realization that there is much more important things in sports.

Tragedy struck hard for me personally as me and a nationally televised audience watched a extremely talented driver and kind human being lost his life. Dan Wheldon’s life reached the highest of highs and the lowest of lows in 2011. Getting a one race ride together for the Indianapolis 500 was difficult for Dan, who was a former winner of the race in 2005. Getting into the race was hard enough but to compete and have a chance to win the race was a task that seemed unreal. But it was becoming real as the race continued as Dan was in second with one lap left in the race. Trailing rookie J.R. Hildebrand (the very driver who replaced Dan) heading into the final turn it appeared that a second place finish was in Dans future when the unthinkable happened as Hildebrand took a turn too wide attempting to pass a lap car and crashed into the wall coming off turn four. Dan made the pass taking first and his second Indy 500 victory. It seemed like a dream that a driver who everyone seemed to give up on and nobody wanted could reach the highest peak in his sport again. The emotion that race brought to Dan and his family made us all believe in the magic that sports can bring to us. Unfortunately the next time we would see Dan on a national stage would be the last.

At the season ending race in Las Vegas, Dan was racing for a $2.5 million prize if he won this race as well as the Indy 500 while other drivers were racing for a championship. It was learned before the race that Dan would replace Danica Patrick and race full seasons for Andretti Autosport. Several people around Indy Car and complained about the dangers of the high speeds the cars obtain on the oval in Vegas reaching over 200 MPH at times. At lap 11 running in a pack of about 15 cars, one car got loose, taped another car and all hell broke loose. Cars hitting other cars, getting airborne and flying everywhere. It was a mess. As the cleanup began, one by one drivers walked away from the accident until there was only one driver who did not. Dan was loaded into a helicopter and taken to a local hospital. As we all waited watching the accident again and again on tv and still not hearing any news about Dan, everyone started to fear the worse might have happened. At 1:54 PM PST Dan Wheldon was pronounced dead. Because of the events the race was called and the grieving began for the entire sports world. The sport lost one of its bright stars.

Losing faith and trust in coaches is a unfortunate fact that we all have had to cope with this year. The horrific atrocities that allegedly have occurred at Penn State from former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky and his inappropriate relationships with young boys and the events that have taken place afterwords still shake all of us to the core that all of these acts can go undiscovered or just pushed under the rug for so many years. And knowing that head coach Joe Paterno knew about all of this and did not do everything in his power to make sure the truth came out and keep Sandusky away from his program and report him to the proper authorities is just as disturbing.

Having these types of stories at one organization is bad enough but to have more coaches from more universities now being brought to light pushes the issue of really knowing who is around your children. Former Syracuse mens basketball coach Bernie Fine sexual abuse allegations shows that this is and has been a problem all over and has been happening for a longer time than we first thought. Parents must pay attention to who they are letting their children around and really know who that person is.

Along with the NBA lockout that stretched into the beginning of the NBA season and resulted in lost games for the season, all of the colleges breaking rules for recruiting and obtaining illegal benefits showed that not all things in sports are nice and good and friendly.

Hidden behind all of the dark stories are the moments in sports that we all love to see.

The Vince Lombardi Trophy returning home in Green Bay as the Packers beat the Steelers in the Super Bowl. Aaron Rodgers escaping from the shadow of Brett Favre and reaching the potential greatness that people had projected him to reach. The unbelievable season that Tom Brady had and the unexpected exit that the Patriots had all lead to a exciting NFL season that lead into a lockout that scared all NFL fans into the reality that their might not be a NFL season in 2012.

The excitement of the final day of the Major League Baseball regular season and the craziness that ensued. Having two of the biggest collapses in MLB history with the Boston Red Sox and the Atlanta Braves falling to the Tampa Bay Rays and the St. Louis Cardinals. Who would have thought in August that the St. Louis Cardinals and the Tampa Bay Rays would be in the post season. As the playoffs continued the Cardinals continued their miraculous run all the way to the World Series to face the Texas Rangers returning to the Fall Classic for the second consecutive year. In game 6 the Rangers lead the Cardinals 3 games to 2 as the Rangers led the game in the 9th inning with one out remaining from their first championship. But David Freese hit a game tying 2 run Triple to send the game into extras. After the teams exchanged runs again in the 10th inning again the Cardinals coming back from the brink of elimination to send the game into the 11th inning. Again David Freese came to the plate and again he came up clutch. Smacking a solo shot to dead center over the fence sent St. Louis into madness and into game 7 and the eventual championship. The unbelievable events that occurred in game 6 have caused many people around baseball to call this one of the best games they have ever seen.

Several other examples of sports moments like the Mavericks winning the NBA championship over the Miami Heat and their superteam, The US Women Soccer teams run in the World Cup and falling short of the championship, the exciting finish to the NASCAR season between Tony Stewart and Carl Edwards, the Bruins winning the Stanley Cup, Derek Jeter hitting his 3000th hit in grand fashion with a homer, Cam Newtons rise to prominence and winning a national championship with Auburn, University of Connecticut winning the NCAA Basketball championship behind Kemba Walker’s impressive run, and of course the media’s obsession with Tebow Mania, are only a few of the events that made the 2011 sports year the one that it is.

What we all must remember when these type of scandals and tragedies occur is that there is much more in this world than just sports and we all have to remember that. At the end of the day it is just a game that gifted athletes play against each other and should not be taken so serious some times. You must take a step back and look at the bigger picture. But when sports can show us good in the world and make us feel good, that is when it is more than just a silly game. It can heal woulds and give hope to people without it.

Unfortunately all of the other events that showed what good sports can do to for people was overshadowed by the countless stories of tragedy, scandals, and accusations.

This is what the 2011 year in sports will be remembered for.

by Andrew Isaac

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