2010 Off To A Great Start

Well 2009 has come and gone. 2010 has started with a bang!

The Saints won Super Bowl XLIV in fine fashion. It was the franchises first trip to the Big Game in its 44 year history which started just 2 months before the first Super Bowl was played Jan 15, 1967. This years Super Bowl took over the top spot for the highest viewed program ever, ending a 27 year run by the final episode of M*A*S*H, with an average audience of 106.5 million viewers.

Kevin Harvick won the Budweiser Shootout at Daytona. Not a points race for the Sprint Cup season but more of a pre-season all-star race which included all 12 drivers from the 2009 Chase, the 2009 Rookie of the Year (Joey Logano), past Sprint Cup Champions, past Shootout winners, and past winners of the Daytona 500 and Pepsi 400 (the July race at Daytona). In all 24 of 28 eligible drivers were in the race. Kevin won last year also to become only the fourth driver to win back-to-back shootout races joining Neil Bonnett, Ken Schrader, and Tony Stewart.

The Daytona 500 is lining up to be a great race (isn’t it always!) with Mark Martin getting the Pole and Dale Jr to the outside of row one. We will get the lineup for the rest of the field in the two Gatorade Duel races this Thursday.

With some of the rule changes recently made by NASCAR this year should be more enjoyable for the fans. They are lifting the restriction on bump drafting at the high speed tracks and giving them a less restrictive restrictor plate for the same races. They are letting the drivers police themselves which is a much welcome change to at least one NASCAR fan (me). It shows that NASCAR realizes that they have to trust the drivers on the track and not dictate so much to them.

Yes, make the cars safe, make the track safe, but for goodness sake, let the drivers DRIVE! I think they got this one right.

There is only one full time team at the Sprint Cup level driving Dodge cars this year and that is Roger Penske Racing. With three drivers in his stable he gets to have all the attention and (more importantly) money from the Dodge Motorsports folks. Hopefully their research and development programs will provide these cars and their teams some of the best that Dodge has to offer. Don’t forget, Kurt Busch finished fourth last year. One of only two Dodges in the top ten (Kasey Kahne finished tenth) and the first non-Chevy after the Hendricks juggernaut.

So for this year as a new proud owner of a 2010 Dodge Charger R/T I will be cheering the Penske teams to victory. Those drivers include the aforementioned Kurt Busch, Sam Hornish Jr, and Brad Keselowski.

Yes I will still cheer for Kasey Kahne and Jimmie Johnson. I am forever a fan of these two drivers!

See you at the track!

I wish!

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.

Defending a NASCAR Champion

Seems almost implausible that a reigning champion from any sport would need defending, but in NASCAR it seems that that is exactly what is needed when talking about Jimmie Johnson.

Why is that? Why do so many dislike JJ? Why do so many scoff at me when I say I am a fan of Number 48? Why do they say I’m a bandwagon jumper?

Is it because he wins so often? Is it that people don’t like consistency? Are they tired of seeing the same person (or team) win all the time?

Well I guess I need to defend myself as well. I’m not a bandwagon jumper. I’ve been a Jimmie fan from day one when he started his Sprint Cup career full time in 2002.

I remember his first win at his home track in Fontana. I remember his first sweep at Dover winning both races that same year becoming the first rookie to EVER sweep races at one track in a season.

He has NEVER been lower than fifth in the final points standing in 7 full seasons and is poised to be there again, if not win his fourth. He was also the first and only rookie to lead the points in 2002.

He has collected no less than 20 top tens each full season he has raced in, including this one. That’s over sixty percent of his 286 races to date. He has a total of 26 DNF’s, less than ten percent.

So why do so many dislike a driver of such high caliber? Is it because he keeps beating their drivers? Gets caught cheating once in awhile? Newsflash, pretty much every driver or team has cheated in one way or another. Has won three Championships in a row? And may win a fourth?

I just don’t understand. Sure I would like to see other drivers win. I am after all a Kasey Kahne and Martin Truex, Jr. fan too.

I’m sure there were folks back a few years ago that loathed Dale Sr. or Richard Petty or Cale Yarborough for their feats on the track. I just don’t understand why people can’t appreciate what is unfolding right in front of them.

Here’s what I think. Jimmie Johnson and the number 48 team is talented. I mean really talented. More so than a lot of other drivers and teams. There are a lot of talented guys and gals in racing. It just seems to me that Jimmie is at the top of his game.

And there isn’t many people up there next to him, and if that’s what’s bugging people, then that’s their loss.

Second race of the season…NASCAR season that is

Well what a week it has been in NASCAR. Who would have thought that the biggest race in NASCAR would have ended on the account of rain? Not taking anything away from Matt Kenseth who ended up winning, but this race should have been at the very least post-poned until Monday so that they could finish. Matt led hardly one lap before the caution came out for rain and then not long after, they called it. Oh well. Also did Dale Jr take out Vickers or was it just racing? You decide.

Now we are in California and the restrictor plates will be off for awhile and we will get to see some real racing. Hang on to your ballcaps folks! Let’s go racing! Go Kasey Kahne! Go Jimmie Johnson! Go Bobby Labonte! Go Martin Truex Jr!

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And in the other season that started this weekend, the Bassmasters Classic is still going through the final weigh-in out in Shreveport, LA. I will update you with the winner as it comes in but as it stands now Mike McClelland from Bella Vista, AR is in the lead with a weight of 52 pounds 1 ounce with a limit of 15 fish over the three day tournament.