Tony Stewart Chases Third Championship

November 4, 2011

- See all 763 of my articles

No Comments

I don’t often write about NASCAR for The Soap Boxers, but I do follow the sport, mostly due to the fact that many people in my office follow it.

My favorite driver is NASCAR’s bad boy, Tony Stewart.  While much ink has been given to the fact that Jimmie Johnson is unlikely to win a six consecutive title, it’s important to note that Stewart – buoyed by three wins in the seven Chase races so far – is just eight points behind Carl Edwards.  A surge by Smoke would give him his third career NASCAR title.  Only eight NASCAR drivers have won at least three titles – Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt Sr. with 7, Johnson with 5, Jeffy Gordon with 4, and Lee Petty, David Pearson, Cale Yarborough, and Darrell Waltrip with 3.  Stewart also won an IRL title in the 1997.

A Stewart title would also serve as a nice bookend, as he was the last driver other than Johnson to win a title (in 2005).  He would also become the first driver-owner to win a title since the late Alan Kulwicki in 1992.  Admittedly, this is a bit of an apples and oranges comparison.  Most driver-owners struggle to pay the bills.  Stewart was offered half ownership of Haas Racing (now Stewart Haas Racing) in exchange for joining as a driver and lending his expertise to the operation.  Overnight, the team got a boost in credibility.  Even so, this team had an uphill climb competing against the likes of Hendrick Motorsports.

While you may not like Stewart – many don’t – it’s hard to argue that he doesn’t love his sport.  While he does make good money racing, I’m sure he would do it for free.  Don’t believe me?  Then explain why Stewart spends his spare time racing on dirt tracks across the country – popping up to make random appearances.  Clearly, this isn’t the most profitable use of his time – but he just loves racing.

Stewart also own his own race track in Eldora, Ohio (and also co-owns two tracks in Kentucky and Illinois).  The Eldora track is home to Tony’s annual charity event, Prelude to the Dream, which to date has raise more than $4 million for charities such as the Victory Junction Gang Camp.  Tony also has a foundation (the Tony Stewart Foundation) which raises and donates money to sick children, injured race card drivers, and the protection of animals.

As you can see, while Tony has a bad boy reputation on the track, he clearly has a big heart off the track.

Just three races (Texas, Phoenix, and Homestead) remain in the season.  I expect an exciting finish to a season that got off to an interesting start (with rookie Trevor Bayne capturing the Daytona 500).  Good luck, Tony!

Amazon, Sports, Chili, and Bruised Shins

February 24, 2011

- See all 763 of my articles


No one thing is grabbing my interest today, so I’ll talk about a lot of stuff.

First of all, the shin is not broken.  The x-rays confirmed it.  Good news, although a deep bone bruise isn’t much fun, either.

A revised version of the Kindle edition of Mountains, Meadows, and Chasms has been released.  I fixed a few small issues that had crept into the book during the Amazon conversion process, and also added the cover art and a clickable table of contents.  I will likely be revising the cover art in the next few days, at which point I’m not going to make any more changes (unless someone finds a serious problem).  If you want to give it a test drive, try the absolutely free “send a sample” functionality.  You’ll get about 10% of the book, at no cost to you.  If you like it, you can buy later.  Buyers can also lend the book to their friends for 14 days, free of charge to the friend.

Don’t have a Kindle?  You can buy one on Amazon for as little as $139 (or as much as $379) or download the Kindle viewer for your Mac, PC, Droid, iPhone, iPad, Blackberry, or Windows 7 phone (download a viewer here).  Personally, I still prefer paper and ink to e-readers … but it’s pretty cool that you can download free Kindle version of classics.  I paid about $50 for my copy of the Riverside Shakespeare when I took English 370 back in the mid 90s (it will set you back almost $90 these days) – you can nab a Kindle version of the complete works of the bard for $2.99 (there are also free versions, but the $2.99 version has good reviews).  For fans of works that are in the public domain, e-readers could be great.  I’ll be covering the whole Kindle authoring experience in another place and time (on another site, in other words).  More details later.

Sadly, there won’t be a print edition at this point.  If I were to use Amazon’s print-on-demand service (CreateSpace), I’d have to set the price in the $15-$20 range (for a paperback) in order th make the same profit I make on the Kindle edition.  That seems too high for a new author.  if you want the non-Kindle format, you can buy it from my store in PDF format (also just $3.49).  You can probably print a copy for less than I’d have to charge for a print edition, if you really want the book on paper.

In the world of sports:

Bryce Harper says that he’s trying to make the Nationals team in Spring Training.  That’s a nice thought, but it’s not going to happen.  Even if the Nats thought the 18 year old was ready, they’re not going to start his free agent clock ticking yet – delaying a call-up until June would keep him under their control for another year.  I really doubt that he gets more than a token call-up this year, though. As good as Harper is, I’m sure there is a lot he needs to learn about the game, especially as he moves to a new defensive position (outfielder).

Fans of the St. Louis Cardinals are holding their breath for news about co-ace Adam Wainwright, who injured his elbow.  While nobody is yet saying that Wainwright is done for the year, GM John Mozeliak said “things do not look encouraging.”  Most often, you’re going to see a GM make a neutral statement when there is a degree of uncertainty about an injury – seeing a negative comments makes me very concerned.

Trevor Bayne won the Daytona 500 last weekend, while Tony Stewart won the Nationwide Series race.  Interesting, neither racer is the points leader.  A new NASCAR rule this year allows drivers to pick up points in just one series.  You can still win races (and money) in any series, but only contend for the title in one series.  The main reason for this was drivers from the top level Sprint Cup dropping down the Nationwide and winning titles.  Even with the change, you’re going to see the stars run Nationwide races – because it gives them more experience with live competition and allows them to gain familiarity with the track.  Cedar Rapids native Landon Cassill pushed Stewart to victory in the Nationwide race.  He finished 3rd in the race and is atop the points race.

In the world of food:

I’m in search of the best canned chili.  I love chili, but it has to be in a relatively thin band of the broad chili spectrum.  Surprisingly, Campbell’s Roadhouse Chili is pretty good (and, oddly, you can buy it on Amazon).  I’m planning to try about a dozen differnt types of chili in my quest to crown a king.

Spanning The Globe

February 22, 2011

- See all 177 of my articles

1 Comment

Nothing big in the world of sports for me to devote an entire article to this week, so I will touch on a number of topics as we “span the globe”

I am not a racing fan. Never have been, never will be. But when a rookie driver wins in just his 2nd Cup start and it is not just any win but a Daytona 500 win, that is pretty special. Almost as speical as his reaction to his crew on the radio as he crossed the finish line. “Are you serious?” Yes, we are serious and now you have seriously altered your career and future in the sport. Congratulations Trevor Bayne.

Carmelo Anthony gets marquee billing as he is traded to the Knicks. Horrible trade for the Knicks. While Melo is a go to guy, he is playing with Amare Stoudamaire who requires a point guard to get him the ball, (well I guess they did also get Chauncey Billups in the deal). Carmelo is a full time shooter, mid range jumper take it to the rack occasionally type of guy … sounds a lot like Amare. I guess the Nuggets are the real winner here as they would have lost him to Free Agency and now they at least get something to show for it.

Yani Tseng wins her third straight tournament on the LPGA tour and has firmly grabbed the #1 spot in the LPGA world golf rankings. She is young, playing well and appears to be poised to dominate in 2011 on the women’s tour.

The Accenture match play starts this week for the guys on the PGA tour. With no one playing dominant and the ever crafty guise of match play it is a wide open – anyone can win event. I filled out a GolfWeek entry pool, and my pick was Paul Casey, which coincidentally appears to be the pick of the golf writers for the USA Today.

Who is #1?
What a crazy week in College Basketball, Kansas, Texas, Ohio State and Pittsburgh all have a shot at being ranked #1 and all promptly go out and lose. Duke claims the top spot with exactly 2 wins over teams ranked in the top 25 on the year. This is called a paper tiger folks … Duke is over-rated and hopefully will see an early exit from the Tourney this year, but the lofty ranking will likely get them a #1 seed and the easiest road much as last year.

NBA All Star Game Weekend
This all star event has officially jumped the shark, or in this case a Kia Optima. The slam dunk competition needs to go “old school” and get rid of all the props and added features. How about just dunking…what a novel concept.

The game itself is almost as big of a joke as the NFL All Pro game. When is the last time a home town player did NOT win the MVP award? Seems like it happens every year. I bet Vegas had the Black Mamba at 2/5 to win the MVP before the game was played.

Until next week, stay classy Austin Texas … and pass that bill that is going to allow anyone on a college campus to carry a concealed handgun. Remember folks, it is not a state … it is a Republic!

The Accidental NASCAR Fan

May 2, 2010

- See all 763 of my articles

No Comments

When I moved back to my home state of Iowa in 2002, I began work in an office full of complete strangers – always an awkward feeling.

I quickly became aware of the fact that NASCAR fever ran deep through the office. Some were more afflicted than others, but many paid at least some interest to the sport.

I personally had never paid much attention. I’d watch a handful of laps of the Daytona 500 and a few laps from other races during the season, but I was hardly a fan. I would have been hard pressed to name ten NASCAR drivers. I had a favorite driver – Tony Stewart – and knew a handful of other names. Heck, I didn’t even know what a “restrictor plate” was.

Things quickly changed. Before long, I was corralled into a NASCAR contest that several co-workers participated in. I enjoying competing with people – the fact that it was a sport that I knew virtually nothing about wasn’t particularly relevant. It also seemed like a good way to fit in.

Within months, my knowledge of NASCAR increased exponentially. I learned that a restrictor plate is a plate that restricts the flow of air into the carburetor to keep horsepower (and thus speed) down – and that this was done mainly to keep cars from becoming airborne at the super speedways in Talladega and Daytona.  The plate has holes to allow air to flow through – the smaller the holes, the less horsepower the engine will generate.

I also learned that although most NASCAR races involve just left turns, there are actually two road course – at Watkins Glen and Sonoma. Tony Stewart happens to be very good on road courses, so these races have quickly become favorite of mine. Not only do the courses contain left AND right turns, but drivers can get themselves into serious trouble by going off the course.

Even when it comes to the tracks that contain just left turns, there are substantial differences. Daytona and Talladega are 2.5 mile tracks where speeds can reach 200 mph. The track at Bristol, on the other hand, is just .533 miles. At Daytona and Talladega, it’s common to see drivers “draft” by forming a single file line with each car just inches from the one in from of them in order to reduce drag. Several cars lined up in formation can reduce drag enough to go zooming by a lead car that is running alone. At Bristol, it’s common to see the winning driver’s car with several dents in it – races at Bristol always feature lots of bumping and banging. There’s even a triangular course at Pocono (officially, it’s a “tri-oval”).

I also learned that there are different “grooves” in a track. Logically, it made sense to me that everyone would try to run as low on the track as possible, since this is the shortest distance. However, some drivers prefer to run high and others prefer to run low. Sometimes the way a car is handling will force a driver to run a particular line.

There’s also a lot of strategy in a race. Teams need to decide when to make pit stop and whether to change four tires, two tires, or just add fuel. When a caution flag comes out, teams need to decide whether to make a pit stop to improve the car’s performance (and/or add fuel) or stay on the track and improve their position.

The time of my conversion to a serious fan was also marked by a substantial change to how the champion is crowned. Until recently, the champion was simply the driver who accumulated the most points over the course of the season. Now, drivers need to be among the top 12 drivers with 10 races remaining in order to qualify for the Chase. Points of the top 10 drivers and reset before the Chase begins, with relatively small differentials. The drive who is in 12th can win the title if the put together a strong Chase.

I never intended to become a big fan of NASCAR, but I watch quite a few races now – especially when they don’t interfere with baseball. I even know what a “catch-can” is!

NASCAR and brand loyalty

February 14, 2009

- See all 763 of my articles

No Comments

In the expensive sport of NASCAR racing, team owners depend on sponsors. Sponsors pay millions of dollars to have their logos emblazoned on the side of cars. Many NASCAR fans are intensely loyal not only to their driver, but also to the brands he endorses.

I have been a fan of Tony Stewart for as long as I have been a fan of NASCAR. Unfortunately for Tony’s sponsors, I am anything but loyal to them.

Tony has driven three different makes of cars in Winston/Nextel/Sprint cup races – Pontiac, Chevy, and Toyota (winning championships in a Pontiac and Chevy). Every car I have ever owned has been a Ford.

Tony’s primary sponsor until this year was Home Depot. Home Depot is OK, but I live very close to a Menards and do most home improvement shopping there.

Tony is sponsored by Coke. Coke is my third favorite cola, behind Pepsi and RC.

This year, Tony’s primary sponsor will be Office Depot. Of course, I tend to shop at Staples …