Sunday, September 21, 2008

Breaking Down The Chase For The Sprint Cup

Despite the fact that Kyle Busch, Carl Edwards, and Jimmie Johnson have won 18 of the first 26 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races in 2008, now that the Chase roster has been determined, 12 drivers set their sights on winning the 2008 Sprint Cup. Here are some interesting facts that you may or may not know about this year's Chase contenders.

*Jimmie Johnson & Matt Kenseth are the only two drivers to make the Chase since it's inception in 2004. Kenseth's top finish was a 2nd place effort in 2006. Johnson is going for his third straight Cup title in 2008, a feat that has only been accomplished once, when Cale Yarborough won three in a row from 1976-1978.

*Kyle Busch, Jimmie Johnson, and Carl Edwards certainly have momentum on their side. Starting with the July 5th Daytona race, they combined to win 9 straight events up through the final race before the Chase at Richmond on September 7th.

*All 12 drivers in the 2008 Chase for the Sprint Cup are Chase veterans. In addition to Johnson and Kenseth participating in all five years of the Chase, this is at least the second Chase for the Cup that the other 10 drivers have been a part of: Jeff Gordon & Tony Stewart (4 times), Jeff Burton, Kyle Busch, Carl Edwards, Dale Earnhardt Jr, Denny Hamlin, and Kevin Harvick (3 times), and Greg Biffle & Clint Bowyer (2 times).

*Four drivers in the 2008 Chase have yet to win a race in 2008: Jeff Gordon, Kevin Harvick, Matt Kenseth, and Tony Stewart. Entering the 2007 Chase they had a combined nine wins between them.

The Chase for the Sprint Cup has truly given NASCAR a "playoff" atmosphere. With a little luck, any one of these 12 drivers can step up and claim the title. There are a lot of interesting stories in this year's Chase. I don't have a favorite, but I would love to see a close race that gets decided in the final laps of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Bowl Me Over….

In terms of fitness and athletic prowess, one of the most popular sports in America—bowling—pales in comparison to the superhuman feats of the “ultramarathoners” referenced in Aaron’s recent blog below. However, I’m sure we bowlers have more fun (and less chafing!). As another bowling season starts up, it’s time to not just set records of mediocrity--and hopefully roll the elusive 200 game!--but to also bond with neighbors and friends seldom seen in the “off season.”

While pitchers of your favorite cold beverage are the usual backdrop to league night, the most common bond at the alley, a bond that runs thru the fabric of America, is sports. Sports are on the numerous TV monitors and big screens. Sports are also on the minds of bowlers of every size and shape. Bowlers often don the attire of their favorite team or school on bowling night—particularly if they’re on the big screen that evening.

From Saturday college football games to speculation on how the new rookies will impact their NFL teams to the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup to the MLB pennant races, it's easy to find that common ground. When the conversations with new acquaintances move towards “where do you work?” it’s fun to see most people light up when I tell them I market “trading cards and sports licensed diecast vehicles.” It’s a fun product line/hobby that people can relate to, and a hobby that helps feed a fan’s passion for sports and gets them a little closer to the athletes and teams they cheer on.

So head on out to the alley and strike up a conversation (sorry, couldn’t resist).


Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Athletes of another order

I’ve been mulling over in my mind what to write about this week and my thoughts go back to my most recent vacation. Some wouldn’t exactly call it a vacation but it is one of my favorite things to do. My dad and I went backpacking for 8 days in the Weminuche Wilderness of Colorado on the Continental Divide Trail. The CDT runs for nearly 100 miles through this wilderness area crossing only one remote dirt road near the end and stays above 10,500 feet in elevation the entire time. Physical fitness is a must as covering that kind of mileage in eight days at that elevation with a 40lb pack is no small task. Adding to the physical challenges are the mental aspects of putting one foot in front of the other and making that slow, steady progress. The scenery provided rewards at every turn and the ultimate reward was reaching our goal at the end.

While challenging for us, it’s a walk in the park compared to some of the seemingly super human accomplishments I’ve seen and read about recently. I’m not referring to Jeff Gordon or Carl Edwards roughing it for a few hours in triple degree heat during a Sprint Cup race. I’m talking about someone like Dean Karnazes otherwise known as The Ultramarathon Man ( Karnazes recently completed 50 marathons, in 50 consecutive days, in 50 states. Not impressed? How about running without stopping for about 80 hours and covering 350 miles in the process? Now we’re getting somewhere! The guy obviously has it together physically and mentally. It makes me wonder what exactly is the physical limit for running non stop above 350 miles.

Another name that comes to mind: Ed Viesturs ( Viesturs is a mountaineer of mountaineers. Among his many great mountaineering feats, he has climbed Everest six times and has topped out on all of the world’s 14 highest peaks (all above 8000 meters). Then you have the more recent and better known names like Lance Armstrong and Michael Phelps who are head-and-shoulders above their peers. And what about a name like “Flyin’ Brian” Robinson – first known person to hike the Appalachian, Pacific Crest, and Continental Divide Trails within a single calendar year logging 7,000+ miles in the process.

So you may not find these names on the ESPN top 100 athlete list, but from an endurance standpoint, they are most likely in better shape than most on that list and just about anyone we see playing a major sport on television these days. They are athletes of another order.