I say it every year. If you don’t believe I say it every year, look for yourself at 2005 and 2006 on this blog to see that although I would hardly label my self as a gear-head, I would absolutely tell you that the Daytona 500 delivers every single year.
There is no such thing as a bad Daytona 500. If you watch it (or in my case – sort of watch it for the first 150 laps, then lock in for the final 50) you will be entertained. You will have things to talk about. You will like it a lot.
I sure felt for Mark Martin. But, WOW. The fireworks late in the race were amazing. Busch takes out Smoke, Jimmie Johnson hits the wall for no reason, Little E is caught up in the big one, and Clint Bowyer crosses the line on his roof with the car on fire.
That is called “delivering”.
I will tell you that I am a seasonal racing fan. Feb-March is racing season. April-August is racing unless golf has a major or a big baseball game interrupts. Once we get to Labor Day, Racing is over for me due to something called the NFL. But, there are days like yesterday that make you think the sky is the limit for these boys.
The report from Daytona …
This was the Daytona 500.It was wild and it was controversial. It ended in a way that people will discuss and argue about for weeks, if not years. It was nearly enough to make one grown man cry.
“Man,” said Kevin Harvick, who won it with a stirring last-lap pass that came just as eight cars were piling into a huge wreck behind him, “this is the Daytona 500.”
“Man,” said Mark Martin, who was trying for the 23rd time in his career to win his sport’s biggest prize only to have it ripped from his fingers by two one-hundredths of a second, “this was the Daytona 500.”
Man, was it something.
For 150 laps, it seemed Tony Stewart and the brothers Busch, Kurt and Kyle, had the three cars from which the winner would emerge. But Kurt Busch and Stewart – or Stewart and Kurt Busch, depending on how you saw it – wrecked each other out of the race and things changed.
With the door thrown open to any number of potential winners, it was as if someone had dropped a tanker load of chum into a shark tank. It was every man for himself and, as established earlier, this was the Daytona 500.
Martin, who left Roush Racing after 19 years at the end of last season, found himself leading Greg Biffle and Matt Kenseth driving two of the team’s Fords with 20 laps to go Martin’s first start in Ginn Racing’s No. 01 Chevrolet.
Two multicar pileups later, Martin was still in front as the track was being cleaned up for a green-white-checkered finish. Behind him about eight spots was the rookie who replaced him in Roush’s No. 6 Fords, David Ragan.
“I would’ve paid money to have had the race over right then,” Ragan would say later.
Martin was sitting beside Ragan when he said that.
“You and me both,” he said.
Nascar’s access is amazing …
Fox couldn't have gotten a more photogenic Daytona 500 finish if it had used a screenplay to stage one.
"Four wide with five to go!" said Fox analyst Darrell Waltrip, clearly in no danger of running out of gas with five laps left. "Tires are smokin'! Sheet metal's draggin! And we're still racin'!!! "
Well, they raced a few more seconds, until various cars crashed and drivers turned off their engines and sat on the track. Fortunately, even during breaks, there's really nothing like NASCAR, where everything and everybody is accessible — and drivers emerge from seeming near-death experiences to go on TV.
No wonder NASCAR fans are so fervent. The world might end if spy satellites picked up too much from NFL sidelines. But everything in NASCAR — including chatter by drivers going nearly 200 miles per hour — is fair game. Long before Kurt Busch and Tony Stewart collided while leading the race, viewers heard Busch tell his pit crew that Stewart's car "is out of control."
Kevin Harvick edged out Mark Martin by the length of a few lug nuts to win, as Fox shots showed cars behind them spinning around in smoking pirouettes you'd normally associate with disaster movies. Fox announcer Mike Joy didn't seem unreasonable in suggesting it was "the wildest Daytona finish ever." Predictably, Martin went on Fox to thank his team, sponsors and fans: "I really hate I let them down."
Meanwhile, something that didn’t deliver, the NBA All-Star game was played …yawn.
Dirk Nowitzki and Josh Howard turned out to be bit players in this All-Star Game. The two of them combined for just 12 shots, which is half the total hoisted by MVP Kobe Bryant.
But Sunday's All-Star Game wasn't about the spotlight falling on the two Mavericks stars. Neither one seeks it out. This was about enjoying the weekend before getting back to the goal of winning a title.
"I enjoyed the weekend," said Howard, who had three points and four rebounds in about 20 minutes. "Being around those guys I've been playing against the last three-and-half years, it's been great. For me to be able to label myself as an All-Star now is even better.
"I'm going to enjoy this moment. It's another one in the books. Now, I'm trying to get a championship."
Nowitzki scored nine points in his first All-Star start. He was the first Maverick to start in the event since Jason Kidd 11 years ago.
"It's not my kind of game," said Nowitzki, who has never scored more than 12 points in his six All-Star appearances. "But I always have a good time."
Dirk and Dwyane not “BFF” …
Potentially the tensest moment of Sunday's All-Star Game never materialized.
Dirk Nowitzki and Dwyane Wade didn't greet one another as the Western and Eastern Conference starters met at Thomas & Mack Center midcourt circle just before the opening tip.
Each bumped fists and man-hugged with just about every starter out there. Somehow, Nowitzki and Wade missed sharing pleasantries.
Wade criticized Nowitzki's leadership skills, saying, "The reason they [the Mavericks] lost the [NBA] championship [is] because he [Nowitzki] wasn't the leader that he's supposed to be in the closing moments."
The two franchise cornerstones hadn't communicated with each other since, including the first two days of All-Star weekend despite being in the same room on several occasions.
"I don't have nothing against Dirk," Wade said. "Dirk don't have nothing against me. He said something about my team. I said something to back my team. It wasn't personal."
That's a matter for debate. Questioning someone's leadership skills is about as personal as it gets and Nowitzki privately took offense. Not one to forget it, Nowitzki has taken the high road publicly.
"To me, it's over now," he said before the West's 153-132 victory. "There's really nothing to talk about. We both did our talking and I think we're past that now.
"I haven't spoken to him. I haven't seen him. If he were to come up to me, I'd be more than willing to say something about it. But if not, I don't worry about it."
Maybe that chat comes Thursday when the Heat make their only American Airlines
Center visit of the regular season.
Michael Irvin out at ESPN …apparently, ESPN believes they will be able to carry on without the weekly Terrell Owens interviews…
Michael Irvin, an ESPN NFL studio analyst since 2003, won't return next season.
Irvin, the ex-Dallas Cowboy recently elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, was briefly suspended by ESPN after a misdemeanor arrest for possession of drug paraphernalia in Plano, Texas, in November 2005.
He was working at ESPN on a one-year deal last season and drew criticism for suggesting on ESPN Radio that Dallas quarterback Tony Romo's speed might have resulted by a maternal ancestor mating with a slave.
Logical additions to ESPN NFL studio shows include recently retired coach Bill Parcells, who has already worked at ESPN, and Emmitt Smith, who had a recent tryout at ESPN and last season worked on the NFL Network.
Said ESPN's Mike Soltys on Sunday: "We thank Michael for his contributions and wish him well."
Sunday, Irvin said ESPN "was great for me and I want to thank all of them for the opportunity."
Irvin was in the film The Longest Yard and is interested in doing more acting: "When you work for ESPN, there are certain things you can't do. … I'd still love to talk football on TV, but also want to have leeway."
Another nice win for the Stars …and again I ask, where would this thing be without Mike Ribeiro???
It could've been one of those dangerous situations. Facing a team that has struggled to score lately, the Stars could have been dealing with a cornered animal ready to pounce.
But thanks to a strong defensive effort, the Stars quelled any possibility of an attack.
Mike Ribeiro and Jere Lehtinen each scored two goals, as the Stars' offense proved to be their best defense in a 5-2 victory over slumping San Jose at American Airlines Center on Sunday afternoon. It was a strong effort for the Stars, who used scoring goals as much as stopping them to upend the Sharks.
"That was one of those games where part of our defense is how well you play with the puck," coach Dave Tippett said. "You don't let the other team generate pressure. And when we had to defend, we defended well."
Turco, who had flu-like symptoms during the game, had a solid effort in the victory. The Sharks' first goal was a tough-luck one, as it deflected off Stu Barnes' stick.
Darryl Sydor, who finished with three assists, remembered a similar situation in December, when the Sharks came in after a lopsided loss; the Stars kept the Sharks at bay then, and wanted a similar performance Sunday.
"What we talked about is worrying about ourselves," Sydor said. "They played a lot more physical [Sunday], but it seemed we answered the bell."
Clayton looks at NFL Free Agency …
No time to waste: The big spending will go quickly. Expect most of the top players to be signed between March 2 and March 9. Already, agents for top players are getting feelers from teams. With most positions being only two to four players deep, agents for those players are being recruited. Meetings at next week's combine in Indianapolis already are being booked. Top interior linemen will get close to $6 million a year. Top corners could go between $7 million and $8 million a year. Top defensive ends should easily get $7 million. The key for all teams is identifying the top group and not slipping average players into the top pay scale.
More teams playing tag? With those prices in mind, more teams will use the franchise tag. It's better to keep an unhappy franchise player for a year than lose him to free agency. The Bengals were the first team to give the franchise tag by keeping defensive end Justin Smith. Defensive end Dwight Freeney (Indianapolis), cornerback Asante Samuel (New England), kicker Josh Brown (Seattle), linebacker Lance Briggs (Chicago), defensive end Charles Grant (New Orleans) and defensive tackle Cory Redding (Detroit) are the main candidates. I'd be surprised if the Ravens didn't franchise linebacker Adalius Thomas. Players don't like the franchise tag. If a long-term deal isn't reached by March 15, the player usually holds out until the start of the regular season or works out a deal to report in time by not being tagged the next year. In this market, though, there is no way to replace a top player at a position cheaply. It's cheaper to keep a player for a year than lose him if no deal can be worked out.
Trades becoming the trend? If teams are less active in free agency, they might be more active in the trade market. We saw that last year. Trades escalated slightly, and a rule change helped matters. After June 1, teams that trade players have to account for only the existing signing bonus proration in the cap. Excess proration would count the next season. Teams close to the salary cap have an easier ability to make a trade. But with teams having so much cap room, teams will be more willing to take all the cap hits now. The Saints did a great job with that last year. They made numerous trades. Even though they have $9 million of dead money in 2007, they have $21 million of cap room. Usually third-year players heading toward the end of their rookie contracts are the most likely to be traded if they aren't starting for the team that drafted them. Financially, a lot of the traded players are considered bargains, and if they have multiple years left on their contracts, they are truly bargains.
Jan Hubbard on the 5 trades JD has made …
In his 16 months as general manger, Daniels has made five major trades and one that could become major - in a negative sort of way. Like Rangers fans, he likes some better than others.
Dec. 12, 2005
The Rangers trade second baseman Alfonso Soriano to the Washington Nationals for outfielder Brad Wilkerson , outfielder Terrmel Sledge and minor league pitcher Armando Galarraga .
Comment: If winning a division is the priority, why trade Soriano (46 home runs, 41 stolen bases, 95 RBI, 119 runs), even if he is in the last year of his contract?
Daniels: "Two things. We thought we were getting a healthy Brad Wilkerson, and, second, financially with our budget, we would not have been able to keep Soriano and sign [Kevin] Millwood and [Vicente] Padilla . But sitting here right now, obviously with the year Soriano had, I don't think anyone could have predicted that."
Bottom line right now: Bad trade. With Soriano, the Rangers might have been able to win the division and even a playoff series last year.
Jan. 4, 2006
The Rangers trade pitcher Chris Young , first baseman Adrian Gonzalez and Sledge to the San Diego Padres for pitcher Adam Eaton , pitcher Akinori Otsuka and minor league catcher Billy Killian .
Comment: Young had five years before he could become a free agent while Eaton had only one. Otsuka adds to bullpen depth, but Eaton is gone.
Daniels: "If Adam had a full, healthy season, this trade probably looks a little bit different. But we probably outsmarted ourselves on that one. I think there are times when you take things a little more at face value and not try to outsmart the industry. The jury's still out, but sitting here a year later, we underestimated Chris."
Bottom line right now: Former manager Buck Showalter was convinced Young could not pitch in the August and September heat and pushed for the deal, but Daniels should not have listened. It is the worst trade of the Daniels era.
The Rangers trade outfielder David Dellucci to the Philadelphia Phillies for pitcher Robinson Tejeda and minor league outfielder Jake Blalock .
Comment: After Eaton was sidelined by injury, the Rangers felt they had to obtain a starter. But they overestimated Tejeda's preparedness, and he was of little use to them until mid-August.
Daniels: "I'm very happy with this one. The goal was for him to have a more productive year than last year, but we have him for the next five years, and, if he can be even partially as good as he was in the second half of last year, you're getting five years of him for one of Dellucci. It was a hell of a deal."
Bottom line right now: Again, Dellucci could have contributed to a team trying to win the division last year, but he left the Phillies for Cleveland so they got nothing for something. Rangers win this one.
Rangers send pitcher Francisco Cordero , outfielder Kevin Mench , minor league outfielder Laynce Nix and minor league pitcher Julian Cordero to the Milwaukee Brewers for outfielders Carlos Lee and Nelson Cruz .
Comment: Lee would leave as a free agent, but the Rangers never missed any of the players they traded.
Daniels: "This was a deal designed to go both ways - help us immediately and in the future. Carlos led us in slugging percentage the second half of the season. But, even though [Lee] left, we have Cruz as a piece of our future, and he's someone we really like. And we have two first-round picks [as compensation for Lee leaving]."
Bottom line right now: Excellent deal for the Rangers.
In the fifth major trade, the Rangers sent top prospect John Danks and minor league pitcher Nick Masset to the White Sox for pitcher Brandon McCarthy, who was Chicago's top prospect.
"The jury's out on that one, but we like the deal," Daniels said. Daniels made other deals that worked in the Rangers' favor - getting Padilla from the Phillies and John Koronka from the Chicago Cubs - but they weren't considered major at the time.
Lost gets head handed to it …
"Lost" crashed in the ratings this week, hitting an all-time low for a new episode. ABC's drama about plane crash survivors stranded on a mysterious island drew an estimated 12.8 million viewers Wednesday, according to preliminary figures from Nielsen Media Research. That's well off the peak of more than 20 million for the drama that became an instant sensation when it debuted in September 2004.
ABC has worked hard to try to protect a show that helped turn the network's fortunes around, moving it to 10 p.m. EST Wednesday this year to steer clear of Fox's blockbuster "American Idol" and CBS's increasingly strong "Criminal Minds."
After "Lost" fans complained about reruns interrupting the show's serial flow last season, the network tried an experiment: It split the current season in two, airing six episodes before an extended break and then resuming with 16 additional episodes.
The show's Feb. 7 return was heavily promoted and drew nearly 14.5 million viewers. But the bounce didn't last, with the show slumping this week.
Although protected from top-rated "American Idol" in its new time 10 p.m. time slot, "Lost" now has the disadvantage of trying to draw viewers at an hour when fewer people are watching television. This Wednesday,
Valentine's Day put a 7 percent dent in overall TV viewership.
Zidane to Chicago? …
How would you Chicago soccer fans like to see the world's most famous head-butter, the zippily-named Zinedine Zidane, right here as a member of the Chicago Fire?
Me, I pay attention to soccer only during World Cups and major rioting.
But I know there are some of you out there who pay attention year- round (what I hear, anyway).
And according to Washington Post soccer writer Steven Goff's breathless posting on his blog Friday morning, ZZ Bald Top (my name, which I might copyright for millions) has re-started (when did he start?) talks with the Fire about joining the team as your basic Midwestern Beckham.
Last I recall, ol' Bald Top had just head-butted Italy's Marco Materazzi right off his feet in the '06 World Cup final, and shortly thereafter, the French three-time FIFA Player of the Year said he was retired.
But nobody in sport ever truly retires -- ask Scottie Pippen -- and, as giddy bloggist Goff gushes, ''a reliable source tells me a decision [on ZZ] could be made by Monday.''
Are we ready for this, Chicago?
My childhood idol is assaulted …
Spears with HairCut
Britney Spears' hair has turned up for sale on eBay. The pop star shaved it off after a wild week at a string of Californian bars.
There are several listings on the auction website claiming to be Spears' lopped off locks. It is unclear which listing - if any - is the real hair.
One of the listings is from a hairdresser, who is promising to give some of the proceeds to charity.
Spears' recent behaviour is being described as erratic and worrying and shows she she needs help.
Prior to shaving her head the singer checked into rehab, then checked out again within 24 hours.
Tom Hicks 1st headache at Liverpool: Bellamy assaults Riise with golf club while very drunk …
The dispute involving Bellamy and Riise seemingly started with a karaoke competition in the early hours of Friday morning, when Bellamy took offence at the Norwegian left-back's refusal to sing.
Increasingly irritated by the Welshman's jibes, Riise reportedly became incandescent and, surrounded by fellow players, the pair squared up to each other, trading expletives. Although things calmed down as the group dispersed and headed for their rooms, Bellamy apparently felt he had lost face in front of his team-mates and, having armed himself with a golf club, tracked down Riise before allegedly swinging it at his legs.
Benítez, who had spent the earlier part of the evening at the nearby resort of Vilamoura, was contacted and he separated the clearly inebriated pair.
Age Hareide, the Norway manager, was sufficiently concerned to phone Riise yesterday before reporting: "John Arne is fine, he escaped without injuries."
The evening had begun quietly enough with the players enjoying a group meal but, according to a source, things turned distinctly "lively" as the post-dinner drinks flowed. Eventually security police stepped in to calm Pennant, Fowler and Dudek, with the latter apparently particularly boisterous. Nevertheless newspaper reports that a policeman was head-butted and extensive damage caused are claimed to be "well wide of the mark and wildly exaggerated".
It is possible that Benítez - who cannot be delighted at having to explain his players' behaviour to the club's new owners George Gillett and Tom Hicks - will continue to field the miscreants, Bellamy included. However once the transfer window opens they may well find themselves moved on. "You've got to realise this manager is a pragmatist," said a source.
The Amazing Race Has begun ...and yes, I am tired of Rob and Amber. But the midget running is fun...
Shaq, Lebron, and Dwight Howard dance in Vegas
Guerin on Fire!