NASCAR RUNS BACK TO BACK SHORT TRACKS

NASCAR 7NASCAR RUNS BACK TO BACK SHORT TRACKS

Short track racing is where NASCAR was born and bred.  They were dirt tracks back in those days and no one ever even dreamed that one day stock car racing would be run on mile and a half concrete tracks in front of hundreds of thousands of screaming race fans. It was just some local petrol heads fooling around.

Actually the hopped up cars were originally the product of what was known in the day as ‘moonshining’, running whiskey made in a homemade still from some remote location, usually in the mountains, down to a local distributor, or perhaps even to a particular bar or local restaurant.  Legends, and even movies, arose from that era of the American automobile.

These highly specialized delivery cars were often modified to double the original horsepower and held an exceptionally large hidden compartment in the rear for the booze, often delivered in thick gallon sized glass bottles.

Of course when these ‘good ole boys’ weren’t making a delivery run, they took to racing each other around the local roads.  But the local law enforcement officials soon took exception to all the high speed shenanigans and put an end to the road racing.  What to do?

Oval dirt race tracks, ranging from a quarter to a half mile in length, started popping up around the country, mostly in the southeast centering around Kentucky and Tennessee. Fans sat on top of their cars and brought picnic baskets and ice chests to the races.  Then someone built a grandstand; not much more than high school football bleachers at first, but my, how they grew.

Today the Bristol Motor Speedway is one of the most famous NASCAR short track venues, and also happens to be the third largest sports venue in America and the seventh largest on the planet!  The little half mile track now holds 162,000 fanatical race fans and has even been used as a football field on occasion.

NASCAR will run a night race at the Bristol Motor Speedway starting at 7:30 pm on Saturday evening the 17th of August just outside of Bristol, Tennessee when 40 monstrously powerful, specially built automobiles will take to the track and engage is some of the fastest, most action packed, stock car racing to be seen anywhere.

The track at Bristol is steeply banked and has an outside retaining wall resulting in some high speed racing and a considerable amount of ‘paint swapping’ as vehicles scrap and claw past on another so closely that, by the end of the race, no car is left with its original paint job.  This is called fun, at 185 miles an hour!

Of course sometimes the drivers get a little too close resulting in some kind of accident bringing out the caution flag and slowing the race until the mess can be cleared away and high speed racing can once again commence. The accidents can be spectacular. They are often frightening and sometimes fatal for a driver.

High speed race car driving is not without its risks.  Everyone knows that; especially the drivers themselves. In the past few years great strides have been made to improve driver safety and we have seen drivers walk away from horrific wrecks that would have had far worse results just ten years ago.

On September 1st NASCAR moves to Darlington, South Carolina for the other famous short track on the Monster Energy Cup Series at the Darlington Raceway, aka ‘The Lady in Black’ or ‘The Track Too Tough To Tame’ in yet another night race starting at 6 pm EST. Obviously from the nicknames, this is not an easy race track on which to compete.

From its humble beginnings on the back roads of Kentucky and Tennessee, the American Stock Car, aka NASCAR, is in its 71st season and is challenging even the NFL and MLB for being the most popular sport in America.

JUICED BASEBALLS?

take me out to the ball gameJUICED BASEBALLS?

Gimme a break!  If they were actually juiced, someone would have figured it out by now.  MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred probably had it close to right with the simple explanation that the manufactures of the baseballs down in Costa Rica at the Rawling’s factory had come up with a better way to center the hard rubber core of the baseball.

That central core is wrapped tightly in yarn and covered with the familiar sewn on leather cover that we all know and love to make up a baseball.  The covers are hand stitched in a process which has not changed for decades, only the core seems different these days.

High School science tells us that the better balanced an object is, the better it will fly; the further it will fly and the straighter it will fly. How would you juice a baseball anyway?

However, it is clear that something is different, and it could very well have something to do with a new generation of baseball players that are now exceeding their beloved baseball ancestors, which is not exactly a new phenomenon in sports.

But, that can’t be the whole answer. MLB is now on pace to break the old record for home runs of 1.26 per team, per game set back in 2017.  Back then as well people were yelling foul because so many balls were leaving the park that they thought the baseballs were juiced, and they were right.  Sort of.

A Baseball Prospectus writer named Rob Arthur found evidence that the baseballs in use then were of a different composition than those of the previous year, making home runs more likely to occur.  MLB was later to confirm the validity of Arthur’s claim a week into the season.  So this is nothing new.

For 2018 the home run rate dropped to 1.15 indicating a possible backlash effect for some reason.  Over all the home run rate has increased steadily since 2014 when it was just 0.86 per team, per game.  It went up to 1.01 in 2015 then to 1.16 in 2016 before jumping up to 1.26 for 2017.  That record will certainly fall before this MLB season is all over and done with.

At the same time, MLB is also on pace to set a new strikeout record which has stood since 2008.  How then are these two tied in?   One contributing factor is the tighter strike zone brought on in part by the umpires reluctance to be out done by the electronic strike zone now in popular use.

The other is that pitchers these days are throwing the ball harder and faster than ever before.  The faster a ball is going when it crosses the plate, the faster it will leave the bat if the correct angle of contact is made by the batter.

So now we are seeing three homer games by one or another team almost every day. Some even claim it’s due to global warming. Whatever.  Fans and players alike love home runs, that’s a fact easily proven every time somebody hits one. Just listen. Who cares how what’s happening today compares to what it was years ago.  If more home runs bring out more fans to the ball parks, so be it.

After all the fervor and speculation are over, no one really knows how it will turn out exactly with the future makeup of the baseball. Let’s do hope that they will continue to be handmade.  One thing we know, the sport of baseball will evolve and the fans will evolve and baseball will remain ‘The Great American Pastime’.

FEDEX CUP PLAYOFFS MOVE TO CHICAGO

fedex cup2FEDEX CUP PLAYOFFS MOVE TO CHICAGO

Round two of the 2019 FedEx Cup Championship will take place this weekend at the Medinah Country Club just outside of Chicago when the BMW Championship tees off featuring the 70 surviving golfers from the Northern Trust Tournament, just won by Patrick Reed last week.

2,000 FedEx Cup points are at stake in the four day event which is the second leg of this year’s FedEx Cup Championship.  That’s four times the points rewarded for winning a regular season PGA Tour event. Only the top 70 golfers in PGA points will be playing at the Medinah Country Club this week according to the new format.

In previous years, the FedEx Cup Championship was spread over 4 events with the first hosting 125 hopeful golfers.  Event number two started with 100 out of which the top 70 were able to move on to event number three.  The final, and most brutal, cut was down to the 30 players with the top number of FedEx Cup points after the first three events.

This year there will be only three events. Last weeks’ Northern Trust was the first in the FedEx Cup series for 2019 with the BMW Championship to follow and finally culminating in the Tour Championship at the East Lake Club near Atlanta, Georgia, where the rules get quite a bit more complicated.

The new rules for the 2019 Tour Championship definitely favor the top five of the 30 golfers entered in the event for some unexplained reason.  The number one golfer going into the Tour Championship will start at -10 strokes, ten under par.  Number two will start at 8 under par, number 3 at -6, number four at -4 and the player with the fifth highest number of FedEx Cup points will begin the tournament two under par.

The other 25 golfers in the event will have to be content starting at even par, like they always have before.  Several of the participants, like Harold Varner III and Abraham Ancer, will be more than happy just to be included in the final 30.

Varner moved from 102nd  in PGA points to  29th in the standings after tying for third place with Jon Rahm at the Liberty National, giving him an excellent chance to participate in the final event and compete for the hefty $15 million prize which goes to the final winner of the 2019 FedEx Cup.

Mexican golfer Abraham Ancer was another who made huge strides toward a FedEx Cup title by coming in second at the Northern Trust and moving up from 67th to 8th in the standings, not to mention picking up a check for a cool $999,000 in the process.

Patrick Reed, who won at the Liberty National event, was practically out of the FedEx Cup competition at number 50.  Reed is now the number 2 ranked golfer in FedEx points.

Even after a disappointing performance at The Northern Trust, young powerhouse Brooks Koepka is still on top of the FedEx points standings.  He will surely be among the top favorites for the upcoming BMW Championship in Chicago this weekend.

Last years’ Tour Championship winner was Tiger Woods, but Tiger will have a tough time even making it to the Tour Championship this year as he is currently 38th in FedEx Cup points. For the BMW Championship he will have to conjure up that Tiger who showed up at Augusta earlier this year and won the Masters; but I wouldn’t bet against that happening if I were you.

DELUXE SERVICE FROM HOST PPH

host logo   DELUXE SERVICE FROM HOST PPH

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