Can Ford Childress lead West Virginia to a bowl game in 2013?
With the departure of quarterback Geno Smith and receivers Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey, West Virginia is expected to be picked near the bottom of the Big 12 in 2013.
As expected under coach Dana Holgorsen, the Mountaineers should find a way to be solid on offense. However, the team doesn’t have much clarity in its quarterback race, and the defense was one of the worst in the nation last year.
Athlon Sports ranks the best Fighting Irish teams since the AP Poll debuted in 1934.
Notre Dame has experienced a sustained stretch of "lean" years since claiming its last national title in 1988, failing to compete on a national level for elite bowls or championships (at least until the 2012 season). That still doesn't take away from the one of the most storied histories in all of college football.
Which ACC newcomer will have more conference wins this year?
The ACC welcomes two new teams into the fold for 2013, as Syracuse and Pittsburgh join from the Big East.
Syracuse went 8-5 last season but has a new coach (Scott Shafer) and suffered some key personnel departures. Quarterback Ryan Nassib must be replaced, and the defensive has key holes to fill on the line and in the secondary with the departure of safety Shamarko Thomas.
Plenty about Matt Kenseth (left) and Jeff Burton below. (ASP, Inc.)
Kansas Speedway was the site for one of the weirdest races of the year in 2012. On a newly paved surface with an unfamiliar tire compound, the race offered drama (Jimmie Johnson crashing), comedy (Danica Patrick attempting to wreck Landon Cassill, but wrecking herself instead) and action (Matt Kenseth stormed to the front late in the race – there is more on this below – to scoop up the surprise win).
Statistically, one race is really, really tough for information-gleaning purposes, but we can try. There are a few hot drivers leaving Texas, one under-the-radar performer last year at Kansas and a driver with a lot to lose, desperate for a sound Sunday run.
56.29% Kyle Busch is the most efficient passer in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series with a 56.29 percent passing efficiency.
The winner in two of the last three Cup Series races is Busch, who also happens to be the most adept navigator through traffic in the new Gen-6 car. Ironically, Texas, the site of his most recent win, served as the only reliable race in which his pass efficiency was negative — 44.12 percent — but he started on the pole and averaged a 1.58-place running position en route to a fairly easy victory. Two of his three best single-race efficiencies, 56.25 percent at Fontana and 55.91 percent at Las Vegas this season came large intermediate tracks on which high horsepower matters, not totally unlike Kansas.
42.5% Martin Truex Jr. led his first laps of 2013 at Texas, pacing the field for 42.5 percent of the race (142 laps).
He didn’t get the victory, but it was a strong showing for Truex, who has had a forgettable season thus far, finishing 24th or worse in three out of seven races. He heads to Kansas Speedway this weekend with two consecutive runner-up finishes, coming on both old and new pavement iterations of the track. There’s a caveat to that, though…
10.09 He finished second, but Truex only averaged a 10.09-place running position in last fall’s race at Kansas.
Truex is going to receive a lot of attention this week as a win favorite and a fantasy pick, but is the hype to be believed? He wasn’t nearly as polished on the freshly paved Kansas surface as he was on the old track. That 10.09 was the sixth-highest average running spot in a race that was caution-filled and as jumbled as your run-of-the-mill restrictor plate race. He might very well be a contender for the win on Sunday, but he isn’t nearly the lock as many will suggest.
128 Last fall’s Kansas race winner, Matt Kenseth, didn’t take the lead until lap 128. He led 78 laps on way to earning his only non-restrictor plate win of 2012.
I don’t think anyone expected Kansas to be a 1.5-mile version of Darlington. There were 14 cautions for 66 laps, meaning 24.7 percent of the race was run under caution. Patience was key and Kenseth’s approach to the race proved brilliant. None of the drivers that led in the first 100 laps of that race finished in the top 15. It’s not a guarantee that this kind of craziness will repeat itself, but understand that early leaders clearly aren’t impervious to adversity on this fast, frantic track.
Jimmie Johnson led 44 laps until this happened. (ASP, Inc.)
44 In a race in which his crash was the highlight, Jimmie Johnson led 44 laps (16.5 percent) and looked like a potential race-win contender in last year’s fall race at Kansas.
Prior to the lap 137 accident, Johnson and the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports team looked awfully fast — and in fact, they were; they ranked third in average green-flag speed for the race — which meant one of the smartest teams in the garage area was one of the earliest adopters to the new Kansas pavement. No surprise there, huh?
0.57 Jeff Burton has the second-worst crash frequency in the Cup Series, currently crashing 0.57 times per race.
That isn’t a good-look for the 45-year-old veteran, who has had an abysmal — and possibly, final — season in the No. 31 car for Richard Childress Racing, ranking 38th out of 38 drivers with a -0.143 Production in Equal Equipment Rating. He needs a decent Kansas finish in the worst of ways. Currently averaging a 24.3-place finish in races with new crew chief Luke Lambert atop the pit box, his early-season production can be aided with an above-average finish this weekend. He finished 28th in last fall’s race.
8.500 James Buescher earned a PEER of 8.500 across five soft intermediate track races in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series last year.
Buescher is the reigning Kansas winner, which makes sense considering the driver’s statistical fondness for the 1.5-mile non-quad-oval facilities. He won four out of those five races, claiming two at Kentucky and one at Chicagoland, in addition to the score at Kansas. He’s been quiet through three races in 2013, averaging a 13.7-place finish, so Saturday’s companion race to the Cup Series could help right his defense of the 2012 series championship.
Few things are TV gold. Animals doing people things, bad dancing or singing and old people doing crazy things are a few. Well, Converse capitalized on Larry Johnson’s famous nickname by dressing him up as an old lady and allowing him to dominate on the basketball court.
24. Aflac: Yoggi Berra
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Aflac Insurance combined two of the great characters of all-time when the great Yoggi Berra and the Aflac duck got together to make commercials. In his traditional Yoggi style, the old-timer delivers one-liner after one-liner while the duck quacks away. Berra's simple delivery and style make him one of the all-time great pitch-men. Pun intended.
23. Dick's Sporting Goods: Nike Baseball
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Dick's Sporting Goods partnered with Nike to sell performance cleats and apparel for baseball players. Ken Griffey Jr. — aka, Swingman — David Wright and others joined the party. However, Jimmy Rollins' commercial was the best of the bunch. He takes fastballs off the chest at close range and appears to love it. Rollins did a pretty good acting job in this one and it make the commercial.
22. Campbell's Chunky Soup
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The campaign started back in 1997 when Reggie White’s mom (played by an actress) snuck onto the field dressed as a cheerleader to make sure her boy had eaten a good pregame meal. The campaign helped Chunky double their revenue from 1997 to 2002 and featured NFL players like Jerome Bettis, Donovan McNabb, LaDanian Tomlinson and Demarcus Ware. and now Victor Cruz. It even spawned a Saturday Night Live parody (Chunky Soup Curse). After being suspended from 2008, the campaign returned this fall with Giants wide receiver as the new frontman.
21. Budweiser: True Leon
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Whether it’s Leon blaming his team for his four fumbles or telling Joe Buck he should stick with radio, Budweiser hit a home run with its “Leon” campaign. Talking in third person, telling Joe Buck he should stick with radio, complaining about a $30 million salary or coming out of the game because of a bruised psyche, Leon reminds us of what the consummate teammate looks like. My personal favorite? “It may even be your fault, Chuck.”
The writers for ESPN have long been some of the best in the business and the internal promotion for signature shows like College Gameday are amongst the best campaigns in the business. They incorporate mascots, coaches, historic traditions and more to get fans excited about their marquee Saturday morning preview show. Generally, they have centered around Lee Corso’s corkiness — e.g., eating a bowl of grass, trying to earn helmet stickers from Jimbo Fisher or belly-flopping off the high dive. What makes these great is the writing. Puddles the Duck wearing a Corso head, for example, or Nick Saban and Mack Brown playing jenga is downright hilarious (especially, when Saban throws the blocks at Chris Fowler).
19. ESPN: NBA Road Trip RV
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Much like College Gameday or This is Sportscenter campaigns, this is more of an internal market device than true ad campaign. But brilliant writing, big names stars and a road trip motif took the creativity of the Sportscenter campaign to specifically promote the NBA coverage on the four-letter network. The most recent of which (shown here) is one of the funniest.
18. NIKE: Most Valuable Puppets
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In a spin off of Lil Penny, LeBron James and Kobe Bryant saw their likenesses portrayed by trouble-making and often hilarious puppets. The two M.V. Puppets play a friendly game of one-on-one, LeBron goes nuts with some chalk or Kobe teaches LeBron about his unstoppable-ness. They also babysit the neighbor Lil Dez. “Hey, Lebron, you got over 20 triple-doubles, can I have one?” With more than a dozen hilarious puppets commercials, the MVPs lands on the top ten easily. And if it weren’t for Lil Penny being first, this campaign might be higher.
17. MLB The Show
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There have been years of excellent MLB The Show advertisements. Albert Pujols hitting anything back in 2006 comes to mind (even a hotdog). Every year, the video game makers take it to another level. But Playstation outdid even themselves when they showed what can happen to one city when you win a championship (even if it is just online).
Much like The Show, MLB 2K has been brilliant in its ability to use players in great ad campaigns. Years of Joe Mauer, Brian Wilson and Nelson Cruz have made this yearly campaign one of the best on television. The 2010 reel featured a "Pitchers vs. Hitters" theme with Andrew Bailey and Nelson Cruz delivering one of the best.
15. Mastercard: Peyton Manning
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Mastercard’s Priceless campaign was more than a sports idea when it began, but it launched into advertising immortality when Peyton Manning signed on as lead pitchman. “Cut that Meat” is one of the great lines in sports commercial history. The campaign was so successful that it morphed into Peyton’s Priceless Pep Talks, in which he, for example, urges minivan owners to “take that baby out and paint some flames on it.”
14. Nike: Lil' Penny
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“You guys remind me of my closet. I got one Penny and a bunch of loafers.” Chris Rock was brilliant as the voice of Lil’ Penny, a puppet lookalike of NIKE hoops star Penny Hardaway. In the locker room before games, on the couch with his boys, floating in the pool, dreaming about Tyra Banks or hosting his celebrity golf tournament (The Lil’ Penny Classic) with Michael Jordan are just a few situations L.P. finds himself.
13. McDonald's: H.O.R.S.E.
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Larry Bird is standing on an empty court in an empty gym dribbling a basketball when Michael Jordan walks in with a bag of McDonald’s. The two super stars then proceed to play horse — in dozens of ads and locations — for the Big Mac. The campaign debuted in 1993 and the original was remade in 2010.
12. Powerade: Very Real Power
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Unbelievable acts of human athletic accomplishment is what Powerade was going for when it combined all of its favorite sports into this entertaining campaign. Michael Vick throwing a football hundreds of yards or Lebron James dropping in 90-footers like lay-ups are just two examples of ingenious videography. It also involved tennies, surfing and other sports as well.
11. Reebok: Dan vs. Dave
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Heading into the 1992 Olympics, Reebok tried to keep up with brand competitor Nike by hyping Dan O'Brien and Dave Johnson as a "Clash of the Titans." Reebok had the world convinced that these two athletes were battling for "the title of world's greatest athlete." The $25 million campaign was one of the most memorable in the history of sports despite the monumental letdown in Barcelona that summer.
10. Go Daddy: Danica Patrick
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This campaign is an all-encompassing, free for all with arguably the most high profile race car driver of this era. Dale Earnhardt Jr is the sports most popular but Danica Patrick has turned into a marketing behemoth. She isn't powerful because of her driving talent, however, as she has yet to accomplish anything but one Indy Car win in 2008. But she is a pioneer for women in a man's sport and also happens to be incredibly sexy in a bikini. Years of commercials have been produced taking advantage her sex appeal.
9. Under Armour: We Must Protect This House
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The apparel business is saturated to the brim. Nike, adidas, Champion, Russell, Reebok, New Balance and more inundate fans with advertisements of all sizes, shapes and colors. As a football player at Maryland, Kevin Plank was frustrated with his options of “under garments” while on the field. He eventually fine-tuned the technology of Under Armour and broke through when an ad in ESPN The Magazine led to big sales figures. In 2003, the company’s first TV ad featured its signature “We Must Protect This House” tagline that has permeated locker rooms, football fields and ad campaigns for the better part of the last decade. Under Armour has not only been a massive success at the cash register, but it actually changed the athletes’ experience on the field.
8. NIKE: Stanley the NFL Ref
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In the mid-'90s, Nike hired Dennis Hopper (Easy Rider, Hoosiers) as its pitchman for its new football cleats. As a crazy referee named Stanley who is addicted to football, or as he calls it, “the ballet of bulldozers,” he proceeds to break into locker rooms, press boxes and practice fields to show the fans just how insane the game of football can be. He opines for Junior Seau’s footprint, a Christmas present from Deion Sanders, Hardy Nickerson’s nickname (which was El Dragon), Troy Aikman’s connection with Michael Irvin and warns us of “bad things, man” from Bruce Smith. The roles Hopper played in the mid-90s (Waterworld, Speed) likely helped him land the role of the whacky, strung-out referee.
7. Reebok: Terry Tate, Office Linebacker
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Watching everyday people get pummeled by extraordinary athletes will always be advertising gold. But Reebok took it to another level when it debuted Terry Tate, Office Linebacker in Super Bowl XXXVII back in 2003. Bone-crushing form tackles have no business in the work place, but neither do empty coffee pots, long lunch breaks, incorrect cover sheets and ignoring recycling bins. Watching “the pain train” increase productivity by 47% at Felcher and Sons will never get old. Hiring an office linebacker was a highly unorthodox practice, but so was the ad campaign. Despite being wildly successful as entertainment, many believe Tate did little to raise awareness for the Reebok brand.
6. Gatorade: Be Like Mike
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Right after the Bulls and Michael Jordan won the 1991 NBA title, Gatorade launched an ad campaign with one of the most famous taglines in ad history. “Be Like Mike” became household and playground lingo instantly and has lasted well after the specific campaign expired.
5. NIKE: Freestyle Hoops
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One the coolest concepts in sports advertising history, the artistic, creative, street-savvy campaign featured upbeat music mixed with trick ball-handling skills and big name hoops stars. This collection of dance-basketball-hip-hop ads is one of the best all-around ideas Nike has ever had. How many kids on the playground tried bouncing a ball into their shirt and around their backs after this video? (I know I did.)
4. NFL Playoffs: Don Cheadle
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From 2002 to 2005, actor Don Cheadle (Hotel Rwanda, Ocean’s Eleven) starred in some of the most eloquent and dramatic advertisements to ever grace a television screen. His mastery of the dramatic delivery combined with excellent writing makes this series of spectacular ads one of the best campaigns ever created. The hair on the back of my neck still stands up watching these and the impact the playoffs can have on our lives. Because of the playoffs, the impossible is now possible, more is expected out of kids named Joe, roman numerals have a pulse, five seconds of your time makes you a better person and how one foot can change history:
3. Just For Men
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There is nothing better than two of the all-time greats as players and broadcasters combined with corny rhyming one-liners. Walt "Clyde" Frazier and Keith Hernandez were great players and are equally great pitch men and Just For Men took advantage. Not only does the product target an older audience more aware of the aging former athletes but the humorous campaign makes audiences of all ages fallout laughing.
2. ESPN: This Is SportsCenter
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There are simply too many too count. Eli and Peyton Manning touring the ESPN compound? Tiger Woods gallery trotting through the office? How about David Ortiz putting on a Yankee hat? What about Albert Pujols, the Machine? Drew Brees' Mardi Gras float? Alex Ovechkin as a Russian spy? John Clayton's pony tail? Phil Mickleson's advice for anchors? How about Jimmy Rollins in the control room? Lance Armstrong powering the ESPN complex? The list goes on and on and on with mascots, gold medals, anchors, athletes, coaches, the lunch room and even Richard Simmons. The Anchors-Big Buddy version is just one of the dozens of hilarious spots.
1. Nike: Bo Knows
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This campaign involved all sports including football, baseball, basketball and even hockey. But Bo Jackson and Nike’s “Bo Knows” campaign stemmed from his multiple sport prowess and career on both the diamond and gridiron. Every now and then a product, a pitch man and an era come together in perfect harmony and that is what happened when Nike was looking to promote its new cross training product. Who better than a cross-over athlete like Bo Jackson? The campaign blossomed into baseball cards, t-shirts, shoes and most importantly, a way of life on the field. This might be one of the greatest marketing/advertising campaigns in the history of capitalism.
The pecking order in the Pac-12 North is pretty clear. Oregon and Stanford should be the top two teams in the division, while Washington and Oregon State are likely battling for third place.
Washington had a disappointing 2012 season, as the Huskies had hopes of being a top-25 team. However, despite a much-improved defense, the offensive line struggled, and quarterback Keith Price was never able to get on track.
Teddy Bridgewater ranks as the No. 1 quarterback in the Big East for 2013.
With all of the teams coming and going in the Big East, the conference is clearly one in transition for 2013.
Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater is clearly the No. 1 quarterback in the Big East for 2013 and should be one of college football’s top 10 Heisman contenders. After Bridgewater, there’s a drop-off to the No. 2 option.
Through the Gears: Four things we learned at Texas Motor Speedway.
Kyle Busch wins in Texas. (ASP, Inc.)
It’s hard to believe that last year Kyle Busch went a whole season and won just once in NASCAR’s top three series: Sprint Cup, Nationwide, and Camping World Trucks. Why? Two months into 2013, he’s on pace to win 28 times across the board, lead over 2,000 laps in Cup and shatter any Nationwide Series record he hasn’t already.
But it’s the average start for Busch this season, on the Cup side, that’s making the biggest difference. Armed with a league-leading 5.4-place average start, his latest pole became the crucial difference in a tit-for-tat battle with Martin Truex Jr. at Texas. That first stall, a huge advantage on any stop, got him out first on the race’s final caution and made the last few minutes a coronation for a man who’s come full circle. It was at this 1.5-mile oval one and a half years ago when a wreck with Ron Hornaday Jr. in the Truck Series got Busch parked, left sponsor M&M’s questioning it’s commitment and left one of the sport’s most aggressive drivers at a crossroads with Joe Gibbs Racing.
Now? As we awaken this Monday morning, it’s Hornaday involved in the middle of a Truck Series mess, accused of deliberately wrecking another competitor while Busch is sitting on top of the NASCAR world. Funny how things come full circle, right?
Let’s go “Through the Gears” on what we learned from a weekend in Fort Worth …
FIRST GEAR: Texas + Gen-6 = Tough Sledding
You know when the biggest story of a race weekend is a sponsorship issue that is raised before the start of the event, you’ve got a problem. Texas, while giving us some decent racing back in the pack, was every bit the snoozer Fontana was not. The Gen-6 car, credited for improving racing at intermediates in 2013, seemed to take a time machine that morphed it back into the Car of Tomorrow. The second a driver claimed clean air, it was all she wrote, as Busch and Martin Truex Jr. combined to lead 313 of 334 laps. The aero advantage was so pronounced, Truex admitted afterwards that dropping back to second was too much to overcome.
“The race was over when we got beat out of the pits,” Truex said. “The bottom was so fast for a couple laps and I was really worried, honestly, that I was going to lose second because Carl (Edwards) was on the inside of me. I was just somehow able to run (turns) one and two wide open and get him cleared. Just the guy that gets clean air is hard to get. It’s hard to catch (them) in 10 laps.”
Others, like Greg Biffle, used dreaded race-killer terms like “track position” and “aero” Sunday night on SPEED’s Wind Tunnel when describing their struggles to move through the field. Even a flurry of cautions for what seemed like nothing — only three of the seven were caused by accidents — did nothing to tighten a field that, at the 450-mile mark, had only 15 cars on the lead lap. It’s the latest reminder that the Gen-6 is not an automatic miracle worker; week-to-week, there will be some tracks where improvement takes time.
Texas is certainly one of those, which is unfortunate, considering its grandstand capacity produces a six-figure crowd. Goodyear would be prudent to hold a test there before the fall event in the Chase, to come up with a tire that has more pronounced falloff, produces slower speeds and helps reduce aero dependency. Too many drivers were running the same speed, lap after lap, with little chance of being able to gain on anyone else. That produces the single-file parade witnessed Saturday night that hopefully, fans won’t be victim to much more.
Penalties may be forthcoming for Penske Racing. (ASP, Inc.)
SECOND GEAR: Will the book be thrown at Penske Racing?
The next sign you know the race was a snoozer: the biggest story everyone’s talking about after the race involves a driver yelling at NASCAR over an inspection issue. That’s what Brad Keselowski did, going off in front of a crowd of reporters after NASCAR confiscated rear-end housings from his No. 2 car and teammate Joey Logano’s No. 22 before the start of the race. The cars barely made it to the green flag – Logano actually started from the rear after being late – and will likely be assessed heavy penalties that will negate the hard-fought top-10 finishes both earned.
"There's so much stuff going on … you have no f------ idea what's going on,'' was Keselowski’s heavily-reported, signature quote to the reporting scrum. "And that's not your fault and that's not a slam on you. I could tell you there's nobody, no team in this garage with the integrity of the 2 team. And the way we've been treated over the last seven days is absolutely shameful.”
Keselowski’s anger certainly trails back to Martinsville, where a poor official’s call that he pitted outside the box (questionable at best) cost the No. 2 team a better finish. In that race, the team clawed back to sixth and pulled off a ninth at Texas despite being a lap down for much of the race’s second half. But those results represent the way this team has had to fight from virtually the drop of the green at Daytona. Think about it: Keselowski starts his year meeting with NASCAR’s top brass after a controversial interview with USA Today. He then tears his car into pieces, during the 500, only to somehow claw back to fourth. Some reception for the defending champion, right?
Those small obstacles, whether luck or speed-related each week, make Keselowski’s second-place standing in points, along with a Cup Series best six top-10 results, that much more impressive. But feeling like you’re a step behind, as many of the Ford drivers have felt this season, can take its toll and that adds up to some of the anger we saw released Saturday night. What’s next? Expect a lot of comparisons to Hendrick’s Daytona penalties, from 2012 in the coming days which were mostly revoked on appeal; chances are, come Wednesday we’ll see that type of process unfold again with high-level fines and multi-race suspensions for both Penske Racing crew chiefs.
It wouldn’t have surprised me to see Keselowski get fined for his post-race comments (considering the Brian France reaction to Denny Hamlin’s public criticism of the Gen-6 car in March), but inexplicably, France noted in a Monday interview with FOX Business that no fines would be levied. NASCAR vice president and CCO Brett Jewkes reiterated the sanctioning body’s stance on Twitter.
THIRD GEAR: Keeping confidence high
That’s the running theme at several race shops after Texas left several teams wondering what might have been. Martin Truex Jr. was on top of that list; similar to Kansas a year ago, he had the car to beat only to wind up in second place. It’s now six years since the Michael Waltrip Racing veteran has won a Sprint Cup race (Dover, 2007) a drought that’s left him understandably at wit’s end.
“Shoulda, woulda, coulda,” he said. “It just hurts when you give them away.”
The pill is tougher to swallow this time considering Truex is in a difficult spot with the Chase. Already, he’s got more finishes of 36th or worse (two) than he had all of last season. Considering big-name talent resides outside the top 10, Truex has to be thinking “Wild Card,” and the next few weeks he’ll have a car that’s capable. Can he replicate his run at Kansas last April? Or will frustration lead to failure?
The same can be said for two Hendrick drivers: Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jeff Gordon. Earnhardt, falling victim to a battery problem, had his second straight difficult week. Suddenly, he’s sixth in points, 35 behind the top spot and within striking distance of falling out. With only 47 laps led in one event, it’s not like the No. 88 has been running up front — and HMS has had its problems on intermediates. Gordon knows that all too well; he broke a suspension at Texas running third. Bad luck has him a disappointing 15th in points and battling other stars like Tony Stewart, Matt Kenseth and Ryan Newman to climb back up.
“I’m pretty upset,” said Gordon, who watched a top-5 finish go up in smoke. “This team has worked so hard to claw ourselves back.”
The answer now is to keep clawing harder for both; there’s no more mulligans left on the schedule to place a “mental breakdown.”
FOURTH GEAR: Kyle’s tough road ahead
Third in the standings, 18 points behind Johnson, sits Kyle Busch, who one could argue has actually been the better driver in 2013. Between more laps led, 435 – 430, and better finishes on intermediates — the tracks that make up half the Chase — you’d have to think the No. 18 has the edge. But what’s frustrating about the latest cycle of dominance is it all means nothing under NASCAR’s playoff system. With a well-documented set of Chase failures dating back to a dominant eight-win season in 2008, it all means nothing if Busch can’t get it done in the last 10 weeks.
Will things be different in 2013? There’s still five months for fans to wait to find out. Not the best supporting argument for NASCAR’s current point system …
Bobby Labonte’s night got cut short early once the driver asked out with a stomach virus. But comedy ensued when the selected sub, Mike Bliss, was still running his No. 19 car on the track. C’Mon, JTG … with all the young drivers out there in Nationwide and Trucks you couldn’t pay for one of them to be on standby? It didn’t matter in the end, as engine issues left them in the garage 42nd. … A rumored sale of Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing comes at a bad time for Jamie McMurray. Sixteenth at Texas, he’s in the best shape since winning three major Cup races in 2010 and could be an outside Chase contender. But any type of sale will be a distraction that should dash those hopes.