It’s that time of year again

Yes, the holidays are upon us. Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, my favorite holiday of the year! The smells, the sights, the pumpkin pies! And with Christmas now right around the corner I have put on the Christmas theme for my blog and will leave it up through the holidays.

Speaking of which, my wonderful wife has just baked three of the most scrumptious pumpkin pies to date! One is actually a pumpkin banana meringue and I have to wait until tomorrow and an entire car trip to Fort Bragg before I can have any! Bah, hum-bug!

We are going out to Fort Bragg to see Suzanne’s sister and her family. Aaron, her husband, joined the Army this year and he is now stationed out there. We are very proud of his decision and fully support him. They have just arrived last month to their new home and a new state. We were very surprised that they wanted to host Thanksgiving dinner…but who are we to argue with that 🙂

Well, now that the NASCAR season is over I will refocus on my other favorite sport and post more about the Carolina Panthers. It’s not looking good for the home team. After going 0-3 to start they went 4-2 over the next six games to get to 4-5. Then Miami came to town. To get to .500 all we needed to do was what we did against Atlanta just four days earlier, but it didn’t work out. Not that the Panthers did really anything wrong, but it seemed that they couldn’t keep thing going.

They did have some great moments. Steve Smith’s touchdown catch stands out to me. It was a great catch at a great time to cap off a great drive. I know I have been critical of Jake on this blog before and have called for him to be replaced, but I am willing to give him a couple more weeks.

This Sunday they play at the New York Jets and then back at home against division rivals, the Bucs. If they can squeak through these games with a couple of wins and depending on Jake’s performance in those games, I will get off his back. But I see no hope in making the playoffs this year with the last four games being against the Patriots, the Vikings, the Giants, and the Saints.

If you had asked me last year if we could roll into the playoffs with wins against those four teams I would have said no problem.

This year?

Maybe next year.

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4

That’s a great number isn’t it?

It’s my favorite number.

It’s my lucky number.

And now, it’s Jimmie Johnson’s favorite number.

Congratulations Jimmie, Chad, and the 48 Team!

Our thoughts and prayers are with Rick Hendrick and his family as his niece is having emergency liver transplant surgery in North Carolina. He was not able to be at the race.

Jimmie Johnson is under-rated and under-appreciated

I didn’t say that, but I wanted to.

No, the man who said that is a very respected individual in his own right. He is a 27 year veteran in his profession and is extremely respected by his peers. To have this man speak words like this about Jimmie Johnson is remarkable, but not hard to believe. This 50 year old, who holds such high esteem for 34 year old Jimmie Johnson, is none other than Mark Martin.

Why do I feel this is important to share? Well for starters, Mark Martin has never won a Championship and is arguably the best driver to have never won a Championship. He has finished second 4 times. Who were those drivers he finished behind? How about none other than Dale Earnhardt twice in 1990 and 1994, Jeff Gordon in 1998, and Tony Stewart in 2002. All while driving a Ford for Jack Roush.

For Mark Martin to say that he doesn’t mind coming in second to Jimmie is putting Jimmie in the same category as the other three drivers he has played second fiddle to. Nice company wouldn’t you say?

Only three other drivers in the history of NASCAR have won four or more Championships (Richard Petty, Dale Earnhardt, Jeff Gordon). Jimmie is one race from joining that club too. In fact all he has to do is finish 25th or better. For Mark Martin to win the Championship he has to win the race and Jimmie needs to finish 31st or worse. When Jimmie starts his engine, Jeff Gordon will be eliminated from winning the Cup altogether. And since Jimmie qualified on the pole, that seems a fore gone conclusion.

Three men at the top of their sport. History would be made if either of them won the Championship, but none so memorable than four in a row. For Jeff Gordon to win his 5th is awesome enough, but not spectacular. It would be Mark’s first in his long 27 year career and would be to him what the Superbowl win was to John Elway. Heck, even Dan Marino didn’t win a Superbowl so Mark won’t be alone in that category if it doesn’t happen this year.

But for Jimmie to win an unprecedented fourth in a row. It may never happen again.

How does that stack up against other sports? Well in baseball for example, only the New York Yankees have won four in a row (twice) and one those was actually five in a row. The Green Bay Packers won 3 NFL Championships in a row (twice), including the last NFL Championship and the first two AFL-NFL World Championship games which would later be renamed to Superbowl I and II.

The Chicago Bulls won three in a row (twice), the Lakers have done it (twice, once in Minnesota), and the Celtics stand alone with eight wins in a row and 9 of 10 in that same stretch.

In the NHL you have two teams who have accomplished four in a row, the Montreal Canadiens and the new York Islanders.

So where does the 48 team fit into this?

My response? They fit in right along with the rest of them.

Don’t believe me?

Just ask Mark Martin.

Jimmie and the 48 team does it again!

A few months ago I wrote about how well the 48 team did in Pocono to overcome engine problems and stay in the race and not get a DNF. Not only did they finish the race that weekend, they made up lost laps and finished thirteenth. Jimmie Johnson passed 17 other cars on the lead lap to do it. I said enough then about how great of a champion he is.

I’ll say more now.

After watching the Dickies 500 at Texas Motor Speedway Sunday, I have a renewed since of Jimmie and Company’s efforts to not only be competitive and win races (even when they don’t), but to win Championships. I’ll admit. I was scared on lap three when he was spun out and went into the wall. Hard.

Not scared for his safety, but for his points lead. Luckily the car wasn’t that bad. Sure, they pretty much rebuilt the car. New complete rear end. New front end, including the steering and suspension. They had to rebuild the body of the car. They had to make sure it met basic NASCAR rules for the track.

Oh and it took them only one hour and ten minutes to do it. Laps lost? 112. Points lost? At that point his 184 point lead was down to 30. He would eventually make up five spots and with Mark Martin’s fourth place finish Jimmie has a 73 point lead.

But you already know all of this. You’re a NASCAR fan right? You watched the race right? So why am I telling you all of this?

It has come to my attention that there are people in this world who don’t like Jimmie Johnson. I can’t figure out why. I think it has something to do with people believing he is unstoppable or infallible. Well they can put those ideas to rest.

He can be stopped. He can loose races. He can loose control of his car, although he almost saved it. He is not unlike every other driver. He is more like them than most people are willing to say.

And when the chips are against this team, they don’t pack up and go home like other drivers. They buckle down and get to work. Seeing Chad Knauss in the garage taking off tires and getting under the car and directing what was going on in there was just as much of an awesome sight as seeing Jimmie cross the finish line in first place.

I just hope I get to see that again this year.

Panthers Upset the Saints?

That would be cool.

It wasn’t that long ago I had expressed my displeasure with the Carolina Panthers. Now here I am hoping for an upset over the undefeated New Orleans Saints. Do I really think it will happen? Hey, it’s the NFL. Anything can happen!

The season didn’t start so great for the Panthers. When the schedule came out before spring training, I took one look at it and said they will start 0-3. I wish I hadn’t been so accurate with my prediction. But since then, the Panthers have gone 3-1 with a miserable “here we go again” loss to the Buffalo Bills who were 2-4 at the time and struggling themselves. We have wins against Washington, Tampa Bay, and Arizona in what can only be described as complete irony in that Kurt Warner had exactly the same number and types of turnovers that Jake Delhomme did when we lost to them in the playoffs last January. He threw five interceptions and lost a fumble.

But you know what won that game for us? The running game. In that game last week DeAngelo Williams ran for 158 yards and Jonathan Stewart scrambled for another 87 yards and two touchdowns. Do they always need a huge running game to win? Not really. In the win over the Redskins, the two backs ran for a combined 79 yards and one touchdown. But against the Bucaneers they ran for 262 yards and three touchdowns! In the first three games of the season however, the dynamic duo only broke one hundred yards rushing against the Falcons.

What I believe the Panthers need to do to win today against the Saints is to run the ball more than anything else. The Saints aren’t the best rushing defense in the league but they have allowed 102 yards a game on the ground and nine touchdowns with a 4.4 yards per rush average allowed. If DeAngelo Williams can get it going, early and often, the Panthers will have a chance to steal a win from the Saints in New Orleans. That would be huge. That would be bigger than huge. A divisional game on the road over one of the last two undefeated teams in the NFL? Talk about a shot in the arm.

If last weeks emotional win on the road over the team that made the Panthers look like a junior varsity team in the playoffs wasn’t enough, a win today, on the road, in the loud, thunderous Superdome would absolutely turn this team around for good.

Do they have enough to make the playoffs? Not sure. They still have to play the Vikings, the Patriots, the Giants, and the Saints again. But if they can just string a couple of wins together, maybe, just maybe, they can squeak out a winning season to have their first back to back winning seasons in team history.

That would be cool.