Wednesday, August 31, 2016

The Unofficial Official First NFL Prediction

And so the 2016 preseason concludes and the unofficial official first NFL prediction of the season is offered.

Panthers over Broncos - The Broncos looked somewhat like the 2013 Ravens in they come into defending their title with a massive overhaul, this one at the quarterback.   Mark Sanchez was signed as the Name quarterback and he promptly played his way to the bench (and subsequently got cut) behind Trevor Siemian while Paxton Lynch looks to redshirt this year.   The Panthers come in after an uneven preseason and a downright abysmal performance by Cam Newton in the third game, but that shouldn't be enough to stop a Panthers team that hasn't gone through the instability the Broncos have.

Ravens over Bills - 2015 was a dismal season for the Ravens and they face a Bills team that has shown sign of improvement. Past breakdown of discipline (which led to some public player complaints) remains a staple of Rex and Rob Ryan as they face Rex's old team.

Packers over Jaguars - The improvement of the Jaguars is legitimate, but it hasn't reached the point yet of being able to consistently hang with or stop a high-powered offense like the Packers. Aaron Rodgers gets Jordy Nelson back while Blake Bortles has two ace receivers.

Chiefs over Chargers - A decidedly lifeless preseason and the ugly contract fight with pass rushing rookie Joey Bosa permeated a Chargers team demanding a new stadium rather than actually rebuild Qualcomm, and Philip Rivers' empty 4,700 yards in 2015 atop a mediocre decade indicate he isn't the answer anymore. San Diego hits the ground against a Kansas City team that won eleven straight and broke through for their first playoff win since Joe Montana's 1993 season - and ironically against the same city (Houston) that Montana shot down all those years ago.

Buccaneers over Falcons - Matt Ryan continued to show nothing in the way of improvement in the preseason or the previous three seasons and they get an improving Bucs squad to open their last season at the Georgia Dome.

Texans over Bears -  The Bears at times looked very undisciplined this preseason and they are stuck with Jay Cutler, who will never amount to anything beyond a volume stats whore with nothing in the way of substantive achievement.   Brock Osweiler bolted the Broncos for Bill O'Brien and the Texans (and a fat contract), and as preseason went on began to show reason to have faith in him.  

Saints over Raiders -  The end of Oakland as home of the Raiders looks like a done deal with Las Vegas slated to build a new stadium (we think) and the Las Vegas Raiders name now trademarked.   The Raiders are an improving outfit with Derek Carr and they should show fight against a Saints team that was atrocious on defense last season and didn't put up enough offense to overcome it; the Saints have to overcome recent home field disadvantage as they've lost seven of their last sixteen home games. 

Bengals over NY Jets  - The Jets got Ryan Fitzpatrick back but his ceiling is lower than most other quarterbacks and the Jets get a Bengals team that has two quality quarterbacks at least as far as the regular season goes with Andy Dalton. The Jets under Todd Bowles are no pushovers, though, with a culture of discipline the Jets organization hasn't seen since the Parcells period.   

Eagles over Browns -   The Eagles are rebuilding after a surprising collapse of Chip Kelly's regime and have shown something under Doug Pederson; they get the perpetually-unachieving Browns first, debuting Redskins washout Robert Griffin III.

The Titans enter 2016 with some momentum

Titans over Vikings - The Titans enter 2016 with some momentum from preseason after a strong game against the Raiders and overall, and with Marcus Mariota looking to continue improvement, a potential draft steal of steals in receiver Tajae Sharpe to go with genuine receiver depth for the first time in a long time, and a much-improved running game with Derrick Henry and veteran DeMarco Murray looking like a real deal. Here though they get a more opportune opportunity with a Vikings team that not only lost quarterback Teddy Bridgewater for the season but whose reaction to his injury - cancelling practice and then seeing Mike Zimmer crying in the press conference - is indicative of a weak outfit; a strong team that lost its quarterback would see him leave in the ambulance and then the team would immediately resume practice - in Belichick-speak it's called Next Man Up. The shocking trade with the Eagles means Sam Bradford takes over a talented roster and if the Vikings can salvage anything out of this season Bradford has to step up his game - and stay healthy.

Seahawks over Dolphins - The Seahawks showed why they're still NFC West controllers with some eye-popping play by Russell Wilson in - of all things - preseason. Of course Wilson had already built a potential Hall Of Fame resume the previous four seasons so game-winning play is old hat for him. He gets a Dolphins team showing lifelessness with Ryan Tannehill playing his way out of the league.

Cowboys over NY Giants - Even without his back injury, Tony Romo looked like he was becoming rookie Rayne Dakota Prescott's backup for the Cowboys, but the back injury has merely accelerated the timeline of the Dak Prescott era. The Cowboys' overall roster has looked strong, especially the O-line, and Prescott's play in preseason has been encouraging overall; he gets his first chance to make something of it as he takes on perennial foe the New York Giants, who've looked strikingly sloppy on all sides of the ball during preseason.

Colts over Lions - Some oddly schizophrenic play by the Colts this preseason may raise a few doubts for 2016 after a subpar and injury-shot 2015. Andrew Luck has been spectacular yet he has also been woefully inconsistent, with roughly half his wins coming against division foes and his play against the AFC East in particular has been outright worthless. He opens 2016 against the Colts' former coach Jim Caldwell, who leads a Lions team that has looked weak in the preseason. Matthew Stafford also has a bad reputation - 3-40 - against quality opponents in his career and the last time he faced the AFC South the games themselves were super-competitive yet he ultimately failed to deliver the wins.

Patriots over Cardinals - The four-game Brady suspension starts and Jimmy Garoppolo takes over under center with some solid play in his first two preseason games and some struggle against the Panthers while not playing against the Giants; the overall offense has looked curiously raw with some poor O-line play, several key injuries, and an old problem resurfacing - inability to get quality play from well-regarded free agent pass catchers. Loudmouthed tight end Martellus Bennett was signed from the Bears but has been all but irrelevant in the preseason and a fumble against the Giants got him benched a la butterfingered ex-Patriot Stevan Ridley. The performance of Tom Brady in his two preseason games merely showed how behind his backups are and also illustrated his own rustiness as he needed the entire first half against the Giants to establish unit cohesion and rhythm.    The Patriots thus get a Cardinals team that is certainly very good but which people seem to overrate somewhat; it's still a Carson Palmer team and he has to face a far-improved Patriots defense with ex-Brown Barkevious Mingo arriving via latter-August trade suddenly exploding late in the preseason. 

Steelers over Redskins - The Steelers are not what they were in 2010 or in 2011 before falling in the famous 3:16 Game loss to the Broncos; in fact that loss began a striking slide into mediocrity for the Steelers (29 losses, two of them playoff losses, in the last four seasons) as their shaky win over the Bengals marked their first playoff win since 2010 yet merely made their subsequent loss to the overrated Broncos little in the way of any surprise. They hit the season against a Redskins outfit that showed real improvement but still has a reputation for collapsing when asked to handle success.

Rams over 49ers - Colin Kaepernick not only insulted the intelligence of the human race by refusing to stand for the national anthem and justifying it by claiming non-existent oppression of minorities (his own upbringing disproves his premise) but in doing so atop miserable play the previous two seasons and his trade demand when the Niners changed coaches he proved to other NFL clubs that he is not a leader or a reliable player - he is a spoiled petulant brat once heralded as potentially the greatest quarterback the league could see but whose game is just freelancing and relying on athleticism over intelligence. Blaine Gabbert showed the beginning of a career turnaround with some solid play taking over halfway through 2015 but he has a tough test against a Rams team getting more than deserving attention for moving to Los Angeles - the worst sports market in the country as shown by the failure of the Rams and Raiders there before atop the more-recent failure of California Speedway, the collapse of popularity for the Lakers, continuing mediocre fan support for any of its other pro teams, and some ugly fan set-tos during Rams preseason games at the long-outdated Memorial Coliseum. The Rams have been a mediocre team the last four seasons with just 27 wins, but some of them (such as over the Colts and Broncos) have been eye-openers. Jared Goff has shown struggle as a rookie and likely won't see action at least in the season's first half.

We thus await the 2016 season.

2016 IndyCar Firestone 600k

Indycar's delayed Firestone Texas 600k turned into a thriller at the end.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

The Department Of Clinton

Hillary Milhous Clinton's life is about humping that ass with money and perks.
"The foundation is a massive family enterprise disgtuised as a charity, an opaque and elaborate mechanism for sucking money from the rich and the tyrannous to be channeled to Clinton, Inc. It's purpose is to maintain the Clintons' lifestyle....."

Monday, August 29, 2016

1975 Champion Spark Plug 400 Michigan International Speedway

MRN's call of the 1975 Yankee 400 from Michigan International Speedway, a tough race with a wild five-lap shootout at the finish between Richard Petty and David Pearson.

Drug Makers And Prices

The Mylan company came under fire recently for escalating prices for EpiPen - a drug used for severe allergies.   Hillary Milhous Clinton has advocated price controls in response, but of course she and other liberals refuse to understand how market forces work - and how the distribution system inflates prices.

Weekend Sees Kyle Larson-y

Before Kyle Larson won the Yankee 400 Brett Moffitt broke through to HIS first NASCAR win in the Michigan Truck 200

Kyle Larson made it look easy in the Yankee 400 at Michigan International Speedway, this in his 95th start with Chip Ganassi's team and 99th overall after four 2013 races with the Harry Scott Chevrolet.   His career has shown a  plethora of good finishes but the longer it went without a win the more one had to wonder if he truly had it in him to win at the Cup level.   Even changing crew chiefs from Chris Heroy to Chad Johnston (with a one-race fill-in role by Phil Surgen at - ironically - the Michigan 400) wasn't seeming to help with some downright radical swings of fortune almost race to race.   The Michigan win comes off back-to-back bottom-half finishes.

The breakthrough has now come as far as a Cup win goes.   Now he needs to start sustaining it, especially as he did something astonishing becoming the first non-Hendrick Chevrolet outside of Stewart-Haas Racing to win since DEI was an independent outfit.    Larson also continues a curious renaissance for Chevrolet (four of the last six races) at Michigan International Speedway, once almost exclusively a Ford track.

That weekend also saw Indycar finish the rain-delayed Firestone Texas 600k and the final eight laps exploded into a fantastic drafting fight (won by Graham Rahal, a veteran of such shootouts after 2015's immortal MAVTV 500 at Fontana) the likes of which NASCAR doesn't see yet should be seeing

NASCAR tested another reduction of downforce for the Michigan race and the result was the same as with low downforce everywhere else - and in continuing contrast to the high-downforce lower horsepower package of the Michigan Truck 200 and the much higher downforce of the Indycars at Texas - higher to where those cars are underpowered relative to how much grip they generate. NASCAR thus continues not getting it about repeating the same mistake hoping for a different outcome.

The finish of the Michigan Truck 200 showed anew the competitive renaissance underway for the Truck Series, with amazing competition at Daytona, Kansas, Texas, and now Michigan with some memorable moments at Kentucky as well.  Brett Moffitt, a Grimes, Iowa native and  former ASA and K&N East racer (driving in the East series for veteran Busch North racer Andy Santerre), has driven for a strikingly high number of teams (JGR, Michael Waltrip, now Jeff Hammond and Tom DeLoach's Truck Series #11); he won nine times in the K&N East series for JGR, Waltrip, and twice for ex-Indy racer Shigeaki Hattori.  He then ran most of 2015 for the now-defunct Michael Waltrip Cup team and has one race in the Xfinity series, a 9th at Iowa in the Robby Benton Toyota.   The Michigan win comes in only his sixth Truck race. 

Another young gun in NASCAR is Christopher Bell, but his career is taking a disturbing turn with yet another crash, this one when he blasted into the lead then the Truck got out from under him

It was a whale of a weekend leading to NASCAR's Throwback weekend at Darlington.

Monday, August 22, 2016

NFL 2016 Preseason Thoughts

Jimmy Garoppolo of the Patriots has shown credible moxie in the 2016 preseason, notably on AJ Derby's touchdown, while the Patriots defense has made scoring plays as well

The NFL preseason has now gone two weeks and some thoughts have developed so far -

The New England Patriots remain the machine of the NFL -  Concern Garoppolo might be in over his head in the NFL for the first four weeks is fading as his poise has steadily improved after a raw start against the Saints.   Several young players for the Patriots have shown promising form, perhaps none more than AJ Derby, a tight end and converted quarterback who looks to make New England's two-TE set a three-TE set.   It has gotten to where rampant media speculation about Tom Brady and whether absences from camp are something other than personal has replaced concern about whether the Patriots are still up to winning.

New England's win over the Saints also indicated the Saints have improved on defense a year after being abysmal there.

The Bills may be better than advertised - Not that the Bills have been expected to be any kind of playoff team, but Tyrod Taylor has shown better-than expected fight and the Bills' shutout of the NY Giants may not be a true "quality" win but it looks more like such than the other way around.

The game also illustrated a less-than-inspiring performance from the Giants' starters with a new head coach, and it is starting to look like the common first-year-coaching blues for Big Blue.

Dak Prescott looks like a Cowboys starter sooner rather than later - while the Dolphins look like a last-place team - Dallas' 41-14 slaughter of the Dolphins showcased striking acumen by Dak Prescott, to where suddenly it's no longer implausible to think the ever-overrated Tony Romo may wind up finally getting benched. The Miami Dolphins meanwhile have been mediocre under Ryan Tannehill and looked a lot worse in this game, with no sign of improvement anywhere.

The Panthers are still kings of the NFC South; the Titans aren't a playoff team - yet - Cam Newton looked like Cam Newton again, while Marcus Mariota continues to look like the real deal but nonetheless not ready for a big playoff run. The Titans nonetheless are building something that can become really good much as the Panthers were heading in that direction five years ago. Tajae Sharpe already looks like he'll become the real deal and Tennessee's run game has overall shown genuine promise.

The Bucs have had some struggles in preseason but as seen here also some muscle. The Jaguars likewise began trending upward in 2015 and look to continue trending upward in 2016

The AFC South looks to be stronger top to bottom than last year; the Ravens should not be as weak as in 2015 - Andrew Luck has been the real deal from Jump Street but has feasted on a weak AFC South; that may not be quite the case in 2016.

The Rams the sleeper of 2016? - A dismal performance in Week One by Jared Goff was followed by clear improvement in Week Two against a competitive Chiefs team. While the Rams have to face the Cardinals and Seahawks they look like more than a 7-9 team in their first year back in LA.

Mark Sanchez plays his way out of Denver - His underhand throw of a fumble may have ended the quarterback controversy in Denver, this atop his second fumble with 22 seconds to go in the half against a Niners team with little expectation.   Trevor Siemen may have played his way to start at least the first half of 2016 for the defending Superbowl champs.

So it goes with preseason continuing.

The Attack On Uber And Lyft Continued

Rideshare programs have been attacked almost since they started because they have obsoleted the inefficient taxi model favored by local governments - so in Massachusetts government is on the offensive a la Roger Goodell - i.e. for personal spite.

Opposition To Charter Schools Isn't Funny

An ugly rant by TV comedian-anchor John Oliver attacks charter schools and gets it all wrong.

Obama Fiddles While Putin Burns

Barack Obama continues letting Vladimir Putin and his new allies conquer.

Harvick Rains At Bristol

Kyle Busch's crash effectively ended any competitive challenge to Kevin Harvick at the rain-delayed Volunteer 500

Somehow they got this one in, and once again survival was the fittest approach as Kevin Harvick survived three multicar crashes and outlasted Kyle Busch for his second Cup win of the season. It was a race - and a weekend - with a little bit of everything as the track applied a resin to the bottom of the turns to improve traction and thus open up the bottom for passing, this after years where the leader would ride high and an attacker would dive to the bottom but couldn't stay there and the leader would clear him by the stripe.

The oddity of the weekend was that the resin first showed itself effective Wednesday night in the UNOH Truck 200, a race where unheralded Ben Kennedy stormed to a surprise victory, yet by Friday when the Food City 300 Xfinity series race hit the concrete the resin was worn out and the race became a spirited fight where the low groove wasn't effective.

The battle for the lead, especially Friday night, turned into a spirited affair

The lack of a low groove made for spirited competition up front and also led to one of the most surprising wrecks of the season

JGR wound up empty-handed as far as winning at Bristol went, as in all three races their ace Toyotas wrecked, and the result was a rarity - a sweep for Chevrolet, a marque that has just six wins to eleven so far for Toyota and six for Ford. The three-race sweep came on the heels of the signing by Hendrick Motorsports of Kyle Busch Toyota Truck ace William Byron, the first good news for Chevy pretty much all season. The signing raises question about the longer-term viability of the ineffective Kasey Kahne (a respectable 13th at Bristol, his best finished since 14th at Kentucky) and also potentially about Dale Earnhardt Jr., who appears not to have a timetable for returning to the cockpit.

Byron is the latest young gun on the track toward Cup, and his eventual graduation to Cup comes amid some downright schizophrenic performances by NASCAR's touted youngsters. Kyle Larson's weekend saw him lead 200 laps on Friday night yet still not win, and the more one watches him the more he seems to find ways to lose and not be able to figure out how to win.

It makes the second for Ricky Stenhouse all the more eye-opening.  Little better than a nothing driver his whole career, Stenhouse somehow pulled off a spectacular effort enough to finish runner-up; it was a surprisingly good day for the moribund Roush effort after Trevor Bayne salvaged 12th while Greg Biffle - the definition of moribund the last four races - had another forgettable weekend. 

The most striking contrast lay with Austin Dillon, who posted his tenth top-10 finish after winding up winning the Xfinity 300 Friday night.   His ten top-10s top the combined total of his RCR teammates (nine), and one of them, Paul Menard, has become the subject of Rumor Control Central with scuttlebutt that he will go to Penske's outfit. 

Ten top-10s in Cup look more and more impressive compared to much-heralded Darrell Wallace Jr. in the Xfinity series; his top-tens there (with another at this Bristol race) show there's ability but the lack of wins there - and really little in the way of sustained fight since leaving Kyle Busch's Truck team where he won five times - leaves one wondering if he has that killer instinct. 

It all added up to a prolonged weekend that left some legitimate surprises.   One hopes Michigan can recover its old competitive vinegar next week and the sport can see even more surprises.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

The Goodell Mirror

Matt Chatham authors a superb summation of the complete dishonesty of Roger Goodell.
"The NFLPA simply failed to predict the league would act with such scumbaggery."

It's clear the owners, while they couldn't make this prediction, nonetheless had some inkling there is something wrong with a career front-office bureaucrat, because they needed multiple votes before they elected him commissioner; they nonetheless took the chance and everyone is now paying the price.  

It's also interesting with Goodell's decision to go after four players named in the now-defunct Al Jazeera TV piece on NFL steroids and Peyton Manning for "non-cooperation." Some think it is him emboldened by court decisions against Tom Brady and Adrian Peterson (which apparently made no effort to actually examine the facts involved), and while there's some validity there, there is also the angle discussed in some forums suggesting it is a power play to the NFLPA with CBA negotiations due in 2020 and the belief the NFLPA will fight against Article 46 of the present CBA - if that is a part of this (and I suspect it is), there is also the power play angle by Goodell toward the other owners, who have been quietly undermining him; one sense Goodell is flexing muscle not just to the NFLPA but to the owners, conveying that he is in charge and no one else.

The Failure Of Baltimore

NOTE:  This was originally published on April 28, 2015; it has been updated:

The mayor of Baltimore failed in the rioting that plagued the city in late April. It is yet another example of how Democratic cities are all failures.  

UPDATE: Freddie Gray, the man whose death rioters use to justify their savagery, was himself a vicious thug. And the prosecutor in his favor struck out.    

August 16, 2016:  Milwaukee had the latest of several racial riots where the Black Lives Matter group, launched in the Ferguson violence, tried to blame police, except the facts there as in Ferguson and Baltimore are against them. And Thomas Sowell asks the question no one answers - does black success matter?

Monday, August 08, 2016

Demography Working Against Democrats

Democrats claim demography is making the country more left-wing. It isn't.

More Boobery From Barack

Barack Obama paid a huge ransom ($400 million) to the Iranians - he denies it, but a ransom is a ransom. And it was illegal. It also may have been designed to directly finance Hezbollah. It reflects the deeper cowardice of Obama.

Barack and leftist judges also dismiss vote fraud - because they perpetuate it.

Sunday, August 07, 2016

Denny Does Watkins Glen

The collapse of Hendrick Motorsports continues with Jimmie Johnson's melee with Greg Biffle at the Watkins Glen race.

Kevin Harvick's day ended late

Denny Hamlin continued the Toyota-Ford conquest of NASCAR as he won for the first time since the Daytona 500, ahead of a Keselowski-Truex set-to that left Truex irked to no end while Chevrolet's chances for the season continue down the drain and a remarkable effort by the Ford company unfolded amid the chaos that littered the road course.

Chris Buescher had a frustrating day after his surprise win at Pocono, and what unfolded at The Glen was revelatory to an eye-popping extent - Ford intensified its effort behind Buescher's team to get them into the Chase, something we suspect hasn't happened to this extent since the ill-fated Dixie 500 at Atlanta in 1990 when Ford made Robert Yates test a car for Mark Martin and then had the Yates car raced by Martin under Roush auspices because it was faster than anything Roush could build - all in an ultimately-futile effort to beat Dale Earnhardt for the 1990 championship. 

This effort by Ford indicates that a renewed commitment to NASCAR is real, first shown by the signing of Stewart-Haas Racing for 2017; it also indicates a renewed commitment to depth by Ford - a commitment first seen in the latter-1980s and early-1990s, especially the pivotal 1992 season when Fords won sixteen races and the manufacturer crown, their first since 1969 and the first time a GM brand didn't win it since Richard Petty pretty much single-handedly won it for Dodge in 1975.  

It's a commitment the other brands need to take into account.  Though cleaning up the wins Toyota is doing so with basically one team; the signing of the Truex #78 and its expansion to a second car with youngster Erik Jones for 2017 is a step, but Toyota needs three organizations or more to truly have competitive depth.   Ford likewise needs to shore up so four organizations are fighting for the win.

Chevrolet's slow-motion collapse has been the market correction the series has needed for well over ten years; the last time one can remember Chevy being this mediocre was the mostly-forgettable 2000 season.   There is an admitted level of schadenfreude involved in seeing Chevrolet's struggle - the hoariest gripe in fan circles in NASCAR has always been ostensible favoritism for Chevrolet by NASCAR, first tacitly acknowledged in 1965 by Ford stalwart Fred Lorenzen amid the Chrysler boycott and the massive decline in race crowds that resulted, this amid a forlorn effort by a few Chevrolets in late spring of that season.  

One must also acknowledge the surge in race crowds in the 1970s when Richard Howard signed Junior Johnson's moribund race team in early 1971 to build a competitive Chevrolet, and the effort exploded in Bobby Allison's monstrous 1972 season of ten wins and over 4,300 laps led.   By 1974 Chevrolets constituted some 75% of most fields and it stayed that way even as other GM brands were brought in during 1978 and beyond, until Ford's recommitment of the 1980s reached maturity by 1992.

It does bring to mind a Brian France comment from earlier this season as to rumor of another manufacturer - or two - wanting to commit to NASCAR, a rumor that has been curiously quiet with no perceivable evidence of any embryonic NASCAR program by another manufacturer. 


Amid all that Hamlin's win was only the second for Toyota at Watkins Glen.    Other notable runners were Trevor Bayne, who finished an astonishing ninth, and AJ Allmendinger, the 2014 winner.   Likewise lost in the shuffle was Jamie McMurray, finishing eighth and getting far less attention of late to teammate Kyle Larson, who ran good but didn't finish particularly well.

A bit of trivia largely overlooked was Matt Kenseth's 600th start, which ended in tenth.  

Overlooking all of this is the continuing semi-mystery of Dale Earnhardt Jr's recovery from concussion symptoms, a recovery that seems to be progressing yet curiously hasn't yielded any timetable for him to return to a racecar - a fact that leads one to believe his season may be done.  

It is starting to cast a bit of a pall on the sport with Bristol and an unsually late August date for Michigan beckoning amid a rare bye week.

Saturday, August 06, 2016

The 'Condition of America' Question

The 'Condition of America' Question

The National Academy of Sciences released a stunning report in December 2015. Coauthored by Princeton economists Anne Case and Angus Deaton, the paper revealed “a marked increase in the mortality rate of middle-aged non-Hispanic white Americans between 1999 and 2013--a departure from decades of progress in which the mortality of this demographic had improved. The increase, Case and Deaton said, could be attributed to suicide, liver disease and cirrhosis, drug and alcohol poisoning, and other related effects of drug and alcohol abuse.

Self-reported declines in health, mental health, and ability to conduct activities of daily living, they wrote, and increases in chronic pain and inability to work, as well as clinically measured deteriorations in liver function, all point to growing distress in this population. The trend was visible among all non-Hispanic whites but most pronounced in those with less schooling. No other U.S. ethnic group, and no other country, experienced such a dramatic reversal of fortune.

Thursday, August 04, 2016

NASCAR Drafting Busts

This was originally published on April 27, 2007.   It has been updated -

In the NFL well-regarded draft picks who don't pan out as well as expected are considered busts, and with the 2017 NFL Draft coming after this coming season, looking back on draft picks who worked out and those who didn't has become a cottage industry. NASCAR doesn't have a driver draft, but it has also seen plenty of drivers who were felt to have great potential but who never produced as well as that potential. A look at some of NASCAR's drafting busts..........


Kenny Irwin Jr. - He was a veteran of USAC short track open wheelers, and he was from Indianapolis. He was considered the next Jeff Gordon because of this background, and he joined Brad Daugherty's #98 Ford in the Craftsman Trucks Series for 1997. He battled Ron Hornaday and Mike Skinner and others in a hard-fought Homestead 300 at Miami and won the race, and followed it up with a win at Texas in June of that year.

Ford then helped slot him with Robert Yates for 1998, but first he needed a few races in a satellite Yates car for latter 1997. David Blair Motorsports provided the car, Yates provided the hardware for the car, and at the Capital City 400 at Richmond, Irwin timed in the top five, led 12 laps, and finished eighth. His finishes in three other races that season were uninspiring, but the potential was seen to be there.

But in his first outing in Yates' #28, he took out Todd Bodine in a wreck in his Daytona 125 and in the 500 ran mediocre all day. Mediocrity permeated his rides until he stormed to the front and led over 100 laps in the Atlanta 500, ultimately finishing fifth. But his driving didn't improve as the season went on other than a June spurt of top-15 finishes - he failed to make the field at Charlotte; at the Brickyard he ran strong all day but crashed; at Martinsville he needed a relief driver, earning a rebuke from Yates about partying too much instead of working on his racing. In all he managed only six lead-lap finishes in 1998.

The 1999 Daytona 500 promised to be a launching pad for improvement; instead it effectively ended his car owner's confidence in him. He hooked teammate Dale Jarrett into a massive wreck in Turn Three past halfway; Irwin rallied from mid-pack and finished third, but he crashed twice in the next four races and was generally uncompetitive anywhere he ran. He finished on the lead lap only nine times and was released from the Yates ride.

He joined Felix Sabates' Chevrolet team for 2000 and the pattern of mediocre racing continued; only a fourth place at Talladega broke the ice. At New Hampshire before qualifying he was killed in a horrendous hit in Turn Three. It was a tragic ending to a young driver's career.


Greg Sacks' last NASCAR win was a wild one in the Busch Series at Talladega

Greg Sacks - Talk about doing it the hard way, Greg Sacks lived that saying. Managing to run the full Winston Cup schedule only twice, he jumped from team to team to an inordiante extent after a successful Modified Series career with Ernie Wilsberg. His first run in a Winston Cup car was a Daytona test with Richard Childress in which he flew bottom-first into an earthen embankment and flipped to the trioval, his helmet falling out of the car; he suffered a broken collarbone. He drove his own car until DiGard Racing signed him to drive an experimental Chevrolet for the 1985 Firecracker 400. He shocked the sport by whipping Bill Elliott for the win.

It was his only Winston Cup win, but he kept plugging, joining whatever team would hire him. Hendrick Motorsports hired him for racecar film work in latter 1989 and early 1990, and Hendrick entered a fourth car for selected races in 1990; he fought Dale Earnhardt to the end and finished second in the 1990 Winston 500. He fought for the lead at both Pocono races, finishing seventh in June and getting into a seven-car melee in July, before the effort dried up at the end of the year.

In July 1996 Gary Bechtel hired him for his team, and in BGN's Talladega 500k he fought for the lead - and early on caught Phil Parsons in the right rear in a wreck that swept up seven others - and bested the field in a torrid race.

He nearly won at Talladega again, this time in the 1997 Die Hard 500 when he jumped into Felix Sabates' #40, but when Jeff Gordon swerved into John Andretti the ensuing melee wiped out 20 cars; Sacks and Sterling Marlin wound up wedged into each other.

Sacks was seriously injured at Texas in 1998, and while he returned to race again the magic was gone. The shame of it is he showed he had the talent to be a serious contender; he really should not have been a bust.


Rob Moroso's career was defined by this wreck

Rob Moroso - He entered BGN in 1987, and in 1988 won at Charlotte, then won the championship in 1989. He then moved up to Winston Cup and went nowhere. In late September of that year he was killed in a highway accident following a race at North Wilkesboro. He was awarded Rookie Of The Year honors anyway.


Always close, never in contention - such was Mike Skinner

Mike Skinner - The first graduate of the Craftsman Truck Series, Skinner won poles in his rookie season, driving RCR's #31 Chevy, but was uncompetitive in race trim, until in mid-1998 crew chiefs were swapped and Larry McReynolds, a bust as Dale Earnhardt's crew chief, took over, and Skinner suddenly began to find some form. He mixed it up quite a bit in 1999 and 2000, blowing in the final 25 laps of the 2000 Atlanta 500 after leading over 180 laps. He came within two laps of a win at the 2000 Die Hard 500.

When McReynolds left after 2000 Skinner's racing collapsed. He was released from RCR in October 2001 and fired from Morgan-McClure in June 2003 after managing just one top-ten finish in over one season with the team. He returned to the Trucks, found some of the magic he once had, but finally quit for good after just two starts in 2011 and 2012.


This was Ken Schrader's highlight - yet one can't help but say Tim Richmond watching this clip

Ken Schrader - He managed four Winston Cup wins, but it says a lot about his career that none of them are widely remembered. He won the 1988 Die Hard 500 in Harry Hyde's final win as a crew chief, then won at Charlotte in 1989. He slogged through a winless 1990 and somehow won twice in 1991, but since June at Dover that year he's failed to scratch. Curiously, Schrader's endless short track endeavors have never become an issue to his team owners even though they have long served as a distraction, a sign of a lack of seriousness to his Winston Cup commitment.


Michael Waltrip's last Winston Cup win

Michael Waltrip - His mouth has helped him keep rides and made him a fortune in sponsorship endorsements, but his racing has been less than stellar throughout his long career. He spent 15 seasons without a Winston Cup win and without a single top-ten points finish, yet some still believed he had that potential. Dale Earnhardt apparantly thought that, as Ron Hornaday was released from his NAPA-sponsored team and replaced with Waltrip for the 2001 season. Waltrip then somehow won the Daytona 500 of 2001, and was nearly run out of town that October. He pulled off wins at Daytona in 2002 and in 2003, then won at Talladega. He hasn't scratched since and has tried to field a Toyota team with three cars.

Amazingly, in eight full-time seasons as a car owner Michael Waltrip has won seven races, yet his team was torn asunder in the 2013 Richmond fake-caution scam and after Robert Kaufmann left the organization it fell apart.


One of NASCAR's craziest races produced its most unlikely one-shot wonder

Bobby Hillin Jr. - It was one of the most exciting racing upsets ever; Bobby Hillin Jr. raced past Tim Richmond and won the 1986 Die Hard 500. After that his career spiralled downward. He struggled everywhere, blew a possible win in 1990 at Daytona by a spin, then appeared done, limited to substitute rides with SABCO in 1991 and a lowly satellite RCR ride owned by Martin Birrane, until in 1992 Davey Allison's injury put him in Robert Yates' #28 for a relief role at Talladega, and he rocketed to the lead and finished third. Yates helped Junie Donlavey get his team stronger and Hillin drove the car. He fought for the lead at the 1993 Daytona 500 but got swept up when Dale Earnhardt cheapshot Al Unser Jr. off Four late in the going; despite losing his brakes Hillin foolishly tried to keep his car running and plowed backward into a surprised and furious Kyle Petty. Hillin then earned the helmet-throwing wrath of Dale Jarrett at Bristol and failed to record a top-ten in less than 40 starts with Donlavey. Hillin drifted from ride to ride after that and was done in racing by the end of 2000.


Joe Millikan - He was highest placed of the Rookie Class of 1979 in that year's championship points, managing five top five and fifteen other top-ten finishes. When L.G. DeWitt Racing folded in May 1980 Millikan was drifting, until Richard Petty's bad Pocono wreck put him in a relief role that he handled well. He ran for rahmoc in 1981 but was released and wound up the season with Cliff Stewart, but that deal was ended early in 1982 and Millikan ran only sporadically afterward. His career ended barely four years after it had begun.


Robert "Bootie" Barker - Not all busts are drivers. His extensive TV work has made Robert Barker a well-known crew chief in the sport, but one strains to find where he ever won anything in this capacity. Not that he's a bad crew chief, but his lack of success on the track doesn't speak highly of his true ability.


The highlight of Jason Leffler's career was taking out Michael Waltrip and Dale Earnhardt Jr - Junior in Turn Four, the ultimate irony - at Daytona

Jason Leffler - He was a 2001 rookie with Chip Ganassi, and he went nowhere. He raced Jim Smith's Dodge Truck, and at New Hampshire had a sure win, but threw it away trying to lap a Truck and wrecked. He did manage a win in the Smith #2 in 2003, but was gone from the Truck after that, jumping into Gene Haas' BGN car. He won at Nashville in 2004 and at Daytona slammed Michael Waltrip and Dale Junior into the wall on the last lap, finishing second to Mike Wallace in the decade's wildest finish to that point. He thus got a second Winston Cup chance, this time with Joe Gibbs and a third JGR Chevy, and as before it went nowhere, his tenture not reaching the end of the year.

In roughly 430 combined stock car starts Leffler managed just three wins, none of them memorable.  

He was killed in June 2013 in a sprint car race at Bridgeport, NJ, days after racing in the Pocono 400.  


John Wes Townley's sole highlight as a racer to date is winning the ARCA 200 at Daytona

John Wes Townley - While expectations here haven't been high, Townley has stood out as an example of a driver who's able to bring sponsorship to a team yet go nowhere with it - and has even been called out on his abysmal showings. In his career, such as it's been, Townley has raced a plethora of stock car events and has two wins (the Daytona ARCA 200 in 2013 and again in 2016), five additional top-fives, and eighteen additional top-tens - fourteen of them in ARCA.    He has the Zaxby's restaurant chain as his primary sponsor - his dad Tony Townley is the chain's co-founder.  

One would think this guy would have shown some kind of talent by now.


Paul Menard - The scary part for the RCR team in 2016 - right now Paul Menard is their on-track leader.   Richard Childress' team has struggled since Kevin Harvick left, and the idea of Paul Menard - another driver able to bring sponsorship yet do little to nothing with it for his racing - being a leader of a contending Cup team is laughable.   He's managed 109 top-tens in some 460 combined stock car starts - 76 of them in the Busch Series; notably he managed only one career win driving DEI Busch Series cars Dale Junior and Martin Truex won 36 times with.  

His one Cup win was a fuel mileage win at Indianapolis - with the requisite irony that Indianapolis is the home base of the Menards store chain.   His top-tens have averaged to roughly four per year in his Cup career.


Danica Patrick - She has raced well over 300 times between stockers and Indycars - where she first made herself known in racing - with quality equipment throughout her career, and has just one win and sixteen top tens and little in the way of laps led to show for it.    When FOX Sports did a puff piece claiming improvement in her racing, it ran counter to the stats and the hard analysis of her racing.    Because her gender is her entitlement to race and the wall of immunity against objective criticism of her.  

They aren't the only drafting busts, and they won't be the last.

Wednesday, August 03, 2016

The Wrong Approach To Economics

Democrats still demand "the rich" and corporations balance everyone else's books, even though it never works.

The Ransoming For Iran

We're now learning more of a massive ransom paid the Iranians back in January.

Federalization of Labor

Incredibly, ostensibly serious economists are advocating federalization of labor despite the fact federalization never works.

The Poverty Of Progressivism

Democrats advocate government meddling in the face of eight years of interventionism failing to produce.

The Clinton-Kremlin Connection

Hillary Milhous Clinton helps Red Russia

"A program overseen by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as part of the reset with Russia wound up enhancing Russia's military technology and funneling millions of dollar to the Clinton Foundation, according to a new report by investigative journalist Peter Schweizer and the Government Accountability Institute he heads.

The report says both the U.S. Army and the Federal Bureau of Investigation found that the program, intended to support Russia's version of Silicon Valley, was exploited to improve Russia's military capability.

"The innovation city of Skolkovo on the outskirts of Moscow was center of the program. Its stated purpose was 'identifying areas of cooperation and pursuing joint projects and actions that strengthen strategic stability, international security, economic well-being, and the development of ties between the American and Russian people.'

Instead, the FBI warned several American technology companies in 2014 that Skolkovo 'may be a means for the Russian government to access our nation's sensitive or classified research development facilities and dual-use technologies with military and commercial application.' Indeed, it was."

Monday, August 01, 2016

Watkins Glen's Smashing Successes

Brad Keselowski's bad crash at Watkins Glen during a recent test session is just one of many melees in the track's history

NASCAR's stars hit Watkins Glen this weekend - and given the track's history we mean hits.   The recent surge of fan popularity toward road courses is a little odd given the racing on road courses usually isn't very good.   Historically the road courses are the weakest for passing up front of any track.   This isn't to say Watkins Glen hasn't had some surprising finishes.

The most celebrated finish in Watkins Glen history for a long time was 1988's showdown between Ricky Rudd and Rusty Wallace, who owned NASCAR's road courses for some three years

MRN's call of Marcos Ambrose's shocking win in 2012

AJ Allmendinger's first NASCAR win ruined what looked like a coronation for Marcos Ambrose

While it has had some memorable finishes, Watkins Glen is better known for the viciousness of its crashes.  

Ryan Newman passes the buck after escaping this mess.

In all the Glen has proven itself as nasty as the worst of Darlington or Bristol.

P.S. - Remember Boris "You can call me Badenov" Said?  

From Odd To Bizarre At Pocono Summer 500

The Pocono Summer 400 of 2016 became easily the strangest race of the season so far between frustrating rain, postponement to Monday, and then the cycle of staggered pitstops that has become characteristic of Pocono racing the last number of years; it also saw some of the old Pocono vinegar as the lead became a spirited fight; the Austin Dillon-Kyle Larson showdown at halfway where the two diced side-by-side for two laps and nearly wrecked was the highlight, but the weirdness exploded when fog put Chris Buescher - such a darkhorse that he only had two career finishes higher than 20th and nothing higher than 14th - into Pocono's victory, the first first-time winner for Winston Cup since Aric Almirola - wrecked out well before halfway - in 2014 at Daytona.

Buescher managed to prove wrong the proclamation of yours truly that a darkhorse or first-time winner looks out of reach.   Whether the rest of the season will see any additional darkhorses emerge remains to be seen.   The race certainly became a battle of the youth brigade as Kyle Larson and Austin Dillon emerged near halfway up front and started fighting it out, this coming a week after as one-sided a race as seen in years to where a lot of fans and some media were questioning the wisdom of keeping Indianapolis Motor Speedway on NASCAR's schedule.

Other surprises were Greg Biffle, who led sixteen laps and was perhaps the only leader to take the lead on the bottom on a restart.   It seems to me too many tracks no longer have any low-line grip, especially with those tracks that went to progressive or semi-progressive banking; it's a gripe I've heard about Bristol and it applies even more to places like Loudon and Pocono,  and was in evidence at Kentucky.  But as with everything else that phenomenon gets back to the general technology arms race that remains a major competitive issue for the sport.

When their set-to got settled Kyle Larson and Austin Dillon had strikingly different finishes as Larson, who led 37 laps, by far his most since Dover, finished sixth while Dillon wound up thirteenth.   For Dillon this race was a step, given a career with just five top-five finishes and 56 laps led, doubly pedestrian compared to Larson's fourteen top-fives and 309 laps led.   For Larson it was another solid run, though the wait for those breakthrough wins is still gathering some cobwebs.

If lack of wins for Larson is a disappointment given how touted he is, the collapse of Chase Elliott the last six races is downright disturbing as he is starting to look not like the next NASCAR star but the next Bobby Hillin Jr.

It certainly is wrong to blame Chase Elliott for this wreck - the classic racing accident - but his downfall since finishing second at the Michigan 400 with a high incidence of crashing cannot be anything but disturbing.   It also continues the fall of Hendrick Motorsports, as it failed to get one car in the top-ten at Pocono and has only two wins between four cars and five drivers.

It surprisingly wasn't that hot for JGR even though he got three cars to finish 7-8-9.   Bettering him there was Stewart-Haas Racing at 4th, 5th, and 10th.   It can only leave Ford execs rubbing their hands for 2017;  Ford's 1-2 at Pocono was the highlight, yet the Blue Oval brigade had nothing else to celebrate outside of yet another one-team rampage by Penske.  

So wrapped up one of the weirdest races in awhile, and the NASCAR guys head a short ways north to Watkins Glen.