College Football Rankings 1-128

Before the attacks begin and the questions of my sanity, take a second to realize how I devise my own personal rankings. And also, take a second to realize, they mean absolutely nothing, and the only purpose they serve is to spark debate. Well, that and in December just see what kind of feel I had on the season back at the one third mark.

To begin with, this is not a ranking of who has the best resume, from the worst. A 5-0 team may very well be behind a two loss team in the same conference. A team who has but one victory may be above someone who has only lost once. On the flip side, a team who is 5-0, and deemed not to have played anyone, isn’t necessarily penalized for the lack of a schedule. In other words, I only use what a team has done to aide in evaluating that team in a vacuum. I don’t rank them based simply on what they’ve accomplished, or not accomplished, this year. They’re ranked in order from who I think, on this date, is the best team in the country, to who I think is the worst.

This means there may be cases where a team is ranked behind a team they’ve already beaten. Upsets happen. That’s why they’re upsets. Being the better team two weeks ago, doesn’t mean that I think you’re the better team today.

I also don’t look at it in the, “on a neutral field, who will win?” manner either. These outcomes are often predicated on matchups, a team may be a bad matchup for someone I rank them above, but a good matchup for someone above them. So, I don’t play that card. On paper, in a vacuum, is team A better than team B? That’s what I ask myself. Who do I think is the better football team right now.

Obviously, there are cases where I’ll use head to head matchups if two teams are extremely close to one another, but they’re not the end-all-be-all tiebreaker. Season results, strength of schedule, what you’ve done against that schedule, injured players returning, injured players going forward, bad luck, suspensions, weather, there’s a whole litany of factors I take into consideration. But, “so and so beat so and so, there is no way you can have them below them”, isn’t going to spawn much discussion.

Based on the manner I do these rankings, they’re very, very subject to change. They’ll be quite fluid. Which is why I’m really looking forward to this upcoming weekend. Of course, my ego would like it if the results on Saturday reflected accuracy on my part today. But really, what fun would that be in college football?

1 Alabama
2 Oklahoma
3 Oregon
4 Auburn
5 Florida State
6 UCLA
7 Baylor
8 Ole Miss
9 Texas A&M
10 Michigan State
11 USC
12 Mississippi State
13 LSU
14 Kansas State
15 Ohio State
16 Arkansas
17 Georgia
18 Nebraska
19 Wisconsin
20 Stanford
21 Notre Dame
22 Marshall
23 West Virginia
24 BYU
25 Oklahoma State
26 North Carolina State
27 TCU
28 Clemson
29 Arizona State
30 Missouri
31 Maryland
32 South Carolina
33 East Carolina
34 Washington
35 Arizona
36 Iowa
37 Louisville
38 Virginia
39 Georgia Tech
40 Memphis
41 Virginia Tech
42 Tennessee
43 Iowa State
44 Texas Tech
45 North Carolina
46 Miami
47 Texas
48 Penn State
49 Rutgers
50 Oregon State
51 Florida
52 Duke
53 Utah
54 Nevada
55 Minnesota
56 Cincinnati
57 Georgia Southern
58 Washington State
59 Air Force
60 California
61 Northern Illinois
62 Boise State
63 Syracuse
64 Middle Tennessee State
65 Navy
66 Colorado State
67 Pittsburgh
68 Central Florida
69 Boston College
70 Wyoming
71 Temple
72 Illinois
73 Toledo
74 Kentucky
75 Western Kentucky
76 ULM
77 Akron
78 Houston
79 Colorado
80 Arkansas State
81 San Diego State
82 Bowling Green
83 Michigan
84 Indiana
85 Florida Atlantic
86 UTEP
87 Hawaii
88 UTSA
89 Utah State
90 South Florida
91 Northwestern
92 Fresno State
93 Texas State
94 Ohio
95 Kansas
96 Louisiana Tech
97 Old Dominion
98 Central Michigan
99 North Texas
100 San Jose State
101 Ball State
102 Louisiana
103 UAB
104 Tulsa
105 Purdue
106 Vanderbilt
107 Wake Forest
108 Western Michigan
109 New Mexico
110 Tulane
111 Rice
112 South Alabama
113 Troy
114 Connecticut
115 Florida International
116 Southern Miss
117 UNLV
118 Massachusetts
119 Idaho
120 New Mexico State
121 Kent State
122 Army
123 Buffalo
124 Appalachian State
125 Miami Ohio
126 Georgia State
127 SMU
128 Eastern Michigan

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Games You’re Probably Not Going to Watch but Should

Middle Tennessee State (2-2, 1-0) at Old Dominion (3-1, 1-0) – I know, I know, why on earth would anyone watch this? Well, it could be a very entertaining football game, for starters, Old Dominion can score, and, it may have a massive impact on the race in Conference USA. Marshall is by far the class of the East division, however, their two closest challengers are the Monarchs and the Blue Raiders. Middle Tennessee’s two losses came against Minnesota and Memphis in games where they played competitively, but we just beaten by deeper, more talented football teams. Old Dominion’s lone defeat was a very competitive loss to an N.C. State team that’s looking to send shock waves around the country Saturday. The Monarchs are in their first “official” year of FBS play, having gone 8-5 during their transition season a year ago. They brought back 44 lettermen and 17 starters, and it’s shown through the first four weeks of the season. A victory tonight goes a long way to putting them in prime position to grab a postseason birth. Oh, and they get Marshall next Saturday, at home in Norfolk.

 

Vanderbilt (1-3, 0-2) at Kentucky (2-1, 0-1) – After their narrow overtime loss on the road to Florida, Kentucky fans were trying to convince everyone that the program under Mark Stoops is taking leaps in the right direction. Wait, actually those were Florida fans who were trying to convince you the close victory wasn’t reflective of the fact that they still stink, but that Kentucky is now an East contender. Either way, Kentucky could win their third win of the season, which is something they haven’t done in either of the past two years, and garner much needed confidence before getting into the meat of the schedule. Vanderbilt is showing us either, a) why James Franklin left, or b) how irreplaceable he was. Regardless, if Florida fans, err, Kentucky fans, want us to believe the Wildcats program is improving, they need to handle their business at home against a really, really bad Vanderbilt team.

 

Western Michigan (2-1) at Virginia Tech (2-2) – The Hokies are a three touchdown favorite in this tilt, and I just can’t figure out why. The Virginia Tech team we saw against Ohio State was a mirage created by the false confidence instilled in the Hokies because Braxton Miller wasn’t playing, and the air let out of the balloon with Ohio State for the same reason. Western Michigan has made a remarkable turnaround on offense this season, after barely topping 17 ppg in 2013. Nine returning starters can do that, I suppose. The problem is their defense. The question is, can the Hokies do enough to exploit that to feel comfortable against the Broncos offense? I think Virginia Tech wins, but don’t be surprised if in the middle of the afternoon Saturday you see this score and kinda go, “ohhhh, might need to go check this one out”.

 

Maryland (3-1) at Indiana (2-1) – The Hoosiers seem to be eternally stuck on the “right there” ledge, so close to breaking through to becoming a respectable program capable of going to the post season every year. But every year they suffer some inexplicable loss that causes you to realize they aren’t there yet. This year it was Bowling Green. They of course followed that up by beating a ranked Missouri squad, simply to add to the frustration Indiana fans feel with head coach Kevin Wilson. If Indiana doesn’t make a bowl this season, they’ll be shopping for a coach this winter. Wilson knows this. He knows he needs to take care of business in his three very winnable home games left (Maryland, North Texas, and the finale against Purdue) to have any shot of accomplishing this. Most Indiana fans would’ve taken 2-1 after three games when the year started. But they’d have taken that with the expectations of being 5-1 heading to Iowa. For Maryland, they’ve been a pleasant surprise. Aside from West Virginia, who we know can score some points, the Terps defense has been solid, and has spear headed a 3-1 start that has the most optimistic of College Park residents talking about contending in their division. That may be a stretch, but getting a win on the road to start the Big Ten slate and being 4-1 would be huge.

 

#1 Florida State (3-0, 1-0) at N.C. State (4-0, 0-0) – Okay, you’ll probably watch this one, but many will watch casually. Be wary of this one, if you’re the ‘Noles. North Carolina State has a history of knocking of ranked Seminole teams in Carter-Finley Stadium, and this ‘Pack squad would like to continue the tradition. Florida State doesn’t look nearly as invincible as they did a season ago. A soft schedule has aided the ‘Packs 4-0 start, so the doubts are more than just whispers, but there are some talented playmakers on this offense, and Brissett can sling it. Do NOT sleep on this game.

 

North Carolina (2-1, 0-0) at Clemson (1-2, 0-1) – Despite the embarrassing showing last week against East Carolina, North Carolina still is in complete control of their destiny when it comes to accomplishing their primary goals. Win ten games, and win the Coastal division. Even with a loss to Clemson, they’d still be in complete control of that destiny. However, losing back to back games, especially the way they lost last week, would create a hurdle that will be tough for the team to overcome. Especially considering Virginia Tech, a trip to South Bend, a Georgia Tech team they’ve lost 14 of 16 to, and the back to back road games with Virginia and Miami all await. It may seem early to be desperation, but for the Tar Heels, the time is now. Of course, speaking of desperation, Clemson is 1-2, not a place they are accustomed to, considering they’ve found themselves ranked in the top ten by week six in each of the past three seasons. The bad news is the next three weeks may feature the toughest conference foes left on their schedule. The good news is they’re all at home. But with that, comes the bad news, slip up against any one of them and you’re at best 2-2 in the ACC, and at best 3-3 with three road conference games and South Carolina left. A loss Saturday puts them under immense pressure against N.C. State the following week. These are two ACC teams who absolutely must win this week.

 

Duke (4-0, 0-0) at Miami (2-2, 0-1) – Sticking with the ACC theme, what a way to get the Coastal started, huh? Carolina is playing Clemson in a huge game for them, Georgia Tech knocked off Virginia Tech on the road last week, and now, we get last year’s division champs trying to prove it was no fluke by going down to south Florida to take on a reeling Miami team. I was one at the beginning of the year that thought Duke was destined for a major decline after last year’s stirring 10-4 season. While against soft competition, Duke has given no impression that that’s the case. While many big name programs have struggled with inferior foes this year, Duke has taken care of business with three wins of 34 or more, and the other by 17. Miami, on the other hand, still hasn’t figured out how to stop a decent offense. That’s not a good thing with Duke coming to town, having scored at least 34 points in 11 of their last 15 games, and having topped 27 in 13 of their last 15. Miami already has an ACC loss, a home loss to a divisional foe would be extremely crippling. With Virginia Tech already having suffered a home loss to one of the division contenders, Duke, like North Carolina against Clemson, can join Georgia Tech and Virginia as the way, way too early favorites to win this division.

 

Memphis (2-1) at #10 Ole Miss (3-0) – Memphis narrowly missed out on what would’ve been one of the three biggest wins in school history with a close loss against a UCLA team who, you may have seen last night, is pretty dadgum good. Last week Memphis confidently took care of business against Middle Tennessee State and enters this battle with the rival Rebels feeling pretty good about themselves. And that’s going to be important, Memphis has lost five in a row in the series, and by an average of 24 points. The Rebels meanwhile have quietly eased their way into the top ten by easily laying waste to any team in their path. Boise State and Louisiana aren’t world beaters, but they were expected to put up a good fight. While the Broncos did for a while, the Rajun Cajuns were throttled from the get go by Ole Miss, and the Rebels would like to do the same to Memphis so they can put this one in their back pocket and get ready for next week. And why? Oh, that team from Tuscaloosa comes strolling in. And for that reason, don’t be shocked if Ole Miss doesn’t get caught looking ahead and finds themselves in a dog fight with Memphis, a Memphis team that will gain confidence the longer the score stays close.

 

 

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Reaction to Stewart Case Sad Commentary on Society

As the ruling from the grand jury was handed down yesterday and news spread through the country via social media, a very dark confirmation of what I already knew was hammered home. I pray to God that I, nor anyone I love, ever faces a jury of my “peers”.

The legal system is flawed. Everybody and their mother, white, black, brown, poor, rich, you name it, everybody knows that. Unfortunately these flaws extend well beyond the matter of police brutality, corrupt judges, and incompetent lawyers and prosecutors. These flaws lie directly in front of us. We, as citizens of this country, are the flaw.

We live in a world where people don’t care about facts. We live in a world where people think that because they have an opinion, and only because they have an opinion, their opinion is valid, and must be respected. We live in a world where people no longer use facts to form an opinion, rather they form an opinion and then filter through the facts, selecting only the ones that help validate their opinion.

Just last night I read someone say that Twitter is a place for, “Spouting s**t without having a clue but standing strongly behind your opinion.” Sadly that quote rings so ever true. People form completely ignorant, uninformed, uneducated opinions, and then, even in the face of cold hard fact refuting their opinion, stand “strongly behind” their views that have no actual footing. That’s beyond pathetic. I don’t think there’s a word to accurately articulate just how wrong, and irresponsible, and, again, I’m running out of words, how just plain sad and pitiful such an attitude is.

But unfortunately we live in a world where everybody gets a trophy, everybody gets a handout, and as such, we’re to treat these opinions with the same respect we treat those from individuals who have put a great deal of thought into theirs. Talk about a sad commentary on society.

But it goes beyond just that. Oh, it gets deeper, and uglier.

There are people who, to this day, think Tony Stewart should be charged with a crime. However, when asked what crime that should be, the varying answers reads like Michael Vick trying to explain Jon Gruden’s playbook.

There’s the fifteen year old girl crowd who is screaming, “Tony Stewart should be charged with something”. Only, when you ask them what you think he should be charged with, they respond with, “…….”, followed by a blank stare, followed by the chirping of crickets. When you ask again, this time they may find actual words to respond with, such as, “I don’t know, but, but, but, he needs to be charged with something”. You can almost see them stammering around stomping their feet in the ground with their hands on their hips.

You see people trying to find Stewart culpable, saying, he’s the cause of death. When you remind them that Kevin Ward walking down the track is the cause, they try to get cute and technical, and argue that the car Tony Stewart driving hitting Ward was the actual CAUSE of death. I even saw one person use the term “legally”. That’s funny, the official cause of death was “blunt force trauma to the head”. I’m sorry, I’m missing where Tony Stewart’s name is mentioned there. But yes, tell me more about how “legally” Stewart is the cause of death. Oh, I get it, we’re allowed to say Stewart’s car making contact with him is what caused the blunt trauma, but we can’t say Ward coming down the track is what caused Stewart’s car to him. Right. Don’t hold that man accountable for his actions.

Then there’s the crowd that thinks they’re a lawyer. They like to throw terms around like “involuntary manslaughter”, or “vehicular homicide”. You might even come across someone who tries to find a definition of involuntary manslaughter. They might even try to find one for involuntary vehicular manslaughter. Of course, we’ll just ignore the fact that they provide a generic definition, without actually paying attention to the laws of the particular state they want this charge to be handed down in.

Was Tony Stewart in a car? Did someone die? Was it involuntary? One could reasonably say yes to each of these things. Fortunately, most states require you to come with a wee bit more before convicting a man of such a crime. But don’t tell that to the 1.2 million Harvard Law graduates running around these streets.

Let’s also forget that in New York, it’s considered manslaughter in the second degree. But, hey, don’t tell all these lawyers that while they’re throwing around charges like, “involuntary vehicular homicide”. Yes, let’s charge Tony Stewart with a charge, that in the state of New York, doesn’t even exist. Brilliant.

But for the sake of argument, let’s pretend for a second that these future Johnny Cochrans actually knew what charge they were trying to suggest Stewart should have brought against him. So, they want to convict Tony Stewart of second degree vehicular manslaughter. Okay. Well prove it.

And no, “He was driving a car and even though it was involuntary, someone died”, doesn’t cut it. At least not in New York. Yeah, remember that tidbit, he state where this actually happened?

To be convicted of second degree vehicular manslaughter you must be found to have committed second degree manslaughter while operating a vehicle. Let’s concede he was operating a vehicle, we can all agree on that part of the story. So let’s shift our attention to what one must actually do to commit second degree manslaughter. Per the laws as they are written in the state of New York:

A person is guilty of manslaughter in the second degree when:
  1. He recklessly causes the death of another person; or
  2. He commits upon a female an abortional act which causes her death,
unless such abortional act is justifiable pursuant to subdivision three
of section 125.05; or
  3. He intentionally causes or aids another person to commit suicide.

I think it’s safe to rule out number two, and considering intent on Kevin Ward’s behalf would have to be proven to make number three applicable, we can rule that one out as well. So, we’ll focus on the first one, recklessly causing the death of another person.

This is where it gets messy. And this is where I start praying that nobody I care anything about ever faces a jury that includes these people on it.

Is one allowed to be of the opinion that Stewart acted recklessly, even if void of intent, and that’s what contributed to the death of Kevin Ward? Absolutely. Nobody is saying you can’t think that. Granted, the facts presented in this case (more on those later) make such an assumption an awful big leap, and requires a great deal of speculation, and an even more dangerous game of trying to assume the intentions of another person. But, at the end of the day, you’re allowed to have that opinion.

Of course, convictions aren’t supposed to be doled out on, “opinions”. Oh, right, that. That, “proof beyond a reasonable doubt” thing that gets in the way of people’s thirst for blood. Thinking Tony Stewart acted recklessly and proving it are two different things. This is where people’s inability to differentiate in fact and opinion comes back into play. Opinions are fine in discussions. Facts are necessary in court rooms.

There are no facts to state Stewart acted recklessly. In fact, there aren’t even facts to prove that he could have even done anything different to avoid what happened. But hey, don’t let facts get in the way of those opinions people. And for God’s sake, don’t you dare let those facts get in the way of you wanting a conviction for a man based on your assumptions and opinions, that, simply put, cannot, in any way, be proven.

Of course, in addition the 1.2 million lawyers now running around, there are an additional 1.2 million sprint car drivers as well.

“Of course he saw him”.

“He had plenty of time to react”.

“Why’d he hit the gas then, huh?”

“He didn’t know he was there, right, like his crew chief on the radio couldn’t tell him?”

I’ll admit, I was a part of this crowd at first too. I made these assumptions. I asked these questions. Then I waited for answers from people who had them.

The people who had them being experts at accident reconstruction, people who know as much about physics as Sheldon Cooper. The people who had the answers being people who have driven sprint cars. Better than that, people who were driving sprint cars that night, at that track, in those conditions. And even  better than that, people who were driving sprint cars that night, at that track, in those conditions, directly in front of, and directly behind Tony Stewart.

And yet there are people who the only time they’ve ever even seen a sprint car was the grainy video of the accident, that are saying such witnesses are unreliable. They’re questioning their testimony, while, being “strongly behind” their opinion that is based on………….. right, absolutely nothing.

And they want to convict a man over this. Again, please keep them off any jury anyone I know is ever tried by.

To prove Tony Stewart acted recklessly, you must first prove Tony Stewart even saw him there. That alone is next to impossible. Secondly, you must prove he saw him there in time to either a) avoid him, or b) choose to do something out of the ordinary that would be deemed reckless that resulted in the loss of a life.

A D.A. in New York couldn’t even convince a grand jury there was even a CHANCE such proof could be found. But don’t tell that to all the Harvardites. They have their opinion based solely on a grainy video that they saw, with no working knowledge of the conditions in the car, the visibility, or even how a sprint car operates. Like, did you know, for a sprint car to turn left, the direction Stewart needed to turn to avoid this kid running at him, you have to, wait for this part…… hit the gas. As I mentioned, I was a part of this crowd myself. The revving of the engine seemed damning to me. But I let people who know far more about these things than I explain things, and when they did, I listened. And my tune changed.

We’re going to just look over the whole issue of it being determined that Stewart never wrecked Ward in the first place, that Stewart basically had zero way of knowing Ward even had wrecked, or that, with that understanding, and the testimony of other drivers as to the visibility that night, Stewart had no more than 1.5 seconds from the time he saw Ward to the point of impact to make any decisions. Because at this point, that just seems like piling on a bit.

So, the, “Look at Tony Stewart’s past” crowd, they too have lost their leg to stand on. Does Tony Stewart have a history of showcasing a short temper? Absolutely. Except, if Stewart and Ward’s cars never even made contact, as Stewart was passing Kevin Ward, exactly what was Stewart even mad about? Again, carry on with the narrative you want to tell, and continue forth ignoring important bits of information that nullify your argument. You’re right though, Tony Stewart was mad because he passed a car. Because that’s all we can know he knew of Kevin Ward. That he passed him.

The only “facts” that anyone actually has are that Kevin Ward was impaired by marijuana. This alone, is a reprehensible act, and if anyone involved that night did anything recklessly, it’s the man who drove a racecar while impaired. He risked the lives of every safety worker and every other driver out there that night. The only other “fact” we have is that Kevin Ward came down the track to approach Tony Stewart’s moving racecar. An act so egregious that rules were put in place across the country, to the highest level of motorsports in this country, because of the recklessness of the actions of Kevin Ward. If Kevin Ward doesn’t get out of that car and walk down the track, none of this happens. And that, that you can prove beyond a reasonable doubt.

But it makes perfect sense that Ward’s parents are still suggesting attention should be focused on the actions of Stewart, though, we don’t know what “actions” they’re actually referring to, while nobody should be focusing on the actions of their son, whose actions were pretty cut and dry. With Ward’s parents, there’s still the grieving parent aspect to it, so maybe, just maybe, there’s some understanding there. That said, you’re still accountable for the words that come out of your mouth. All the time. But I guess with the way they don’t think Kevin Ward should be held accountable, they probably don’t think they should either. What’s disheartening though is the number of people without the grieving parent card at their disposal who are still making excuses for Ward, and casting blame on Stewart. Again, no accountability in this coddled, weak, society.

If you think Tony Stewart acted recklessly, or in the least, didn’t do enough to avoid this accident, that’s fine. You’re absolutely entitled to think that. But if you think, that in light of the evidence and testimony that was provided, that you can prove this beyond any reasonable doubt, then you are, and I have zero issue saying this, an idiot. It’s a shame that someone’s life may one day be placed in your hands, on the grounds that you one day learn the difference in opinions and facts.

It’s a messed up scary world indeed.


			

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Don’t Have to Wait on Legal Process to Punish Pro Athletes

I appreciate what Adrian Peterson said. That said, he should not be in uniform this week. Or any week, until he’s had his day in court. Same thing with Greg Hardy, who, actually, HAD his day in court, and same with Ray McDonald. The league needs to suspends these players, with pay, until the legal process plays out.

Suspending them with pay does a couple things across a broad spectrum that make it better than these random indefinite suspensions handed about by commissioner Roger Goodell, and better than letting them continue to play.

For starters, it sends the message that has somehow got lost again, that to play in the NFL, you are held to a higher standard. You can’t put yourself in a position to face such charges.Charges that stem among the most violent, and most despicable in our society are serious matters. If you’re actually being charged with domestic violence, or child abuse, or rape, or anything within that framework, then you’ve put yourself in a really bad situation that jeopardizes your career, and puts your team at risk. No court system is going to come after a high profile athlete with access to high profile attorneys without some decent evidence, the scrutiny and backlash of doing so would undermine political and law careers all over the place. So if there are charges, if there’s smoke, then you don’t get to play until we know there’s no fire, and/or know the extent of the fire.

Suspending the players with pay would likely deter their lawyers from pushing back, and pushing back court dates to maximize their client’s appeal to prospective employers, or their current one. And, by still paying them, if they’re found innocent, you haven’t created an issue where you denied them their money for something the courts say they didn’t do. You avoid grievances and other sticky matters for the NFLPA and NFL to have to dance around.

You also open the door to negotiations with the courts and the NFL. You suddenly are in a hurry to resolve this, because you want back on the football field. So maybe you take a plea, maybe the league outlines a specific plan for you to follow to come back to the league, and you reach an agreement with both the league and the courts, and you get the situation settled in a timely fashion. After all, if you really want to play the game you love, and want to help your team, wouldn’t you want to expedite the process? I guess the issue with this sort of punishment and reaction is you’ll see which guys really only care about that check.

Once the courts have ruled, you can extend the punishment, you can fine them a couple game checks or some other amount, or add to the suspensions. Or, you can consider it time served and chalk it up that way and the whole thing is over.

Don’t think it’s fair they can’t play till then? Too effing bad. Regular people, especially the ones targeted most frequently by law enforcement, get these charges, and they sit, and they sit, and they sit, in jail. They can sit in jail for months waiting on the legal process to play out. And of course, this is because those with the money, and the attorneys, get expedited cases, and preferential treatment.

So other members of society will sit for months waiting to go in front of a judge over a suspended license violation, then be told all they need to do is a pay a fine. Or that their sentence is approximately one fourth the time they spent in jail, but the judge is gracious enough to grant them time served. Never mind the weeks or months spent in jail. Never mind the job lost. Never mind the eviction and repossessions. And yet we’re shocked when they’re back in jail in a few weeks, on more serious charges.

So excuse me, I will not shed one tear, or cry foul one tiny bit because a football player is told he can’t play professional football until his legal matters are settled.

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Just Who is my Favorite Sports Team?

Someone asked me recently, of my favorite teams, which is actually my true favorite. My immediate answer was, “Chase Elliott”. But as I sit and think about this question, and how I’d answer if asked again, I think I might reconsider. As I thought, it got me thinking, just which teams ARE my favorite. Which teams would winning a championship mean more for me? And which ones is a championship so unfathomable that perhaps, it falls down the list simply because imagining it occurring is too far fetched for me to even attempt to wrap my arms around how I’d feel. So I’ve thought a lot about this, and I’ve come up with a list, in order, of the 25 things I’d most like to see occur in sports during my lifetime.

1. Atlanta Falcons win Super Bowl- I know I said Chase Elliott was my favorite team/driver, whatever you want to call it, and he is. However, I get to watch him 30 to 36 weekends a year. He’s also young, it’s his first year in major NASCAR racing. There’s going to be plenty of time for that.

The Atlanta Falcons however, are not young. The Falcons are nearing 50 years old, and still no championship. They were instilled as my favorite team growing up because they were my dad’s favorite team. It didn’t hurt that of the stick and ball sports, football is my favorite, and it’s not close. But not only that, the Atlanta Falcons are, besides the Elliotts, the only TRUE professional team based out of Georgia, and the only one based out of Atlanta, the Dream notwithstanding. Yes, the Braves and Hawks call Atlanta home now, but they didn’t originate here.

The Atlanta Falcons are Atlanta’s and Atlanta’s alone. We share no history (though at times, pawning some of this history off on another city wouldn’t exactly stink) with another city, no records, no uniforms, no logos, no anything. They’ve always been, the ATLANTA Falcons.

The day that this team brings a championship to Atlanta is one, that truthfully, I can’t even begin to describe the way I even think I’d feel. And I know what I’d ultimately actually feel would reach far, far beyond what I can conjure up in my mind.

2. Chase Elliott win a Sprint Cup Championship- As mentioned, Elliott is my “favorite”. If this question was posed 11 years ago, I would have put Bill Elliott winning a championship at 1, the Falcons winning a Super Bowl at 2. As much as I loved the Falcons as a kid, they didn’t compare to how much I loved “Awesome Bill”. And now that his son his here? I love the Falcons, but not like I root for this kid. The investment is deep. The history is deeper. The personal meaning, deeper than both together.

Through all the ups and downs of my relationship with my father, there is one constant. An Elliott in a racecar. There’s always an Elliott that we can come together over. Whether it was reminiscing about the good ole days of Bill’s hey day, or even his not so stellar moments, or it’s talking about the incredibly bright future of his son Chase, we will always have an Elliott. And for that, nothing can replace that. And that’s not saying the Falcons aren’t a “me and dad thing”, but it’s not close to our connection to the Elliotts, as I mentioned in a post nearly four full years ago.

So the day Chase Elliott hoists that championship trophy above his head, I’ll remember being there in 1988 at Atlanta International Raceway to watch his dad hoist one, and I hope, when it happens, I’m with my dad.

3. Georgia Tech College Football National Championship- This one is one I almost dropped lower, simply because of the improbability. Not to mention, I was alive for one of these, and despite being only five years old, I actually have vivid memories of Shawn Jones and William Bell running all through Nebraska’s defense in Orlando. However, it’s that improbability that ranks it so high on the list. Everyone knows I pull for Georgia when they don’t play Tech, and because I wasn’t alive for Georgia’s national title, and because there are so many other rabid SEC fans around here, I almost put them higher than Tech on this list. Then I thought, not only does a Tech title put it in the face of THOSE SEC fans, it does it to the Georgia fans I’ve heard nothing but ridicule from for almost the last quarter century. But alas, it’s not going to happen. But I can dream, right?

4. Georgia College Football National Championship- Like I mentioned above, I almost put this above Tech winning one, but it comes in a step below. I know some Tech fans may disown me for that thought, and some may even disown me for having them here, but that’s fine. I like all my home teams. When a team from Georgia plays a team from another state, I want the local boys to whip their ass. Every. Single. Time.

Beyond that though, I love Mark Richt. He’s everything right about college football and receives far, far, FAR more flak than he deserves. Whether it’s people incredulously going on about how he’s, “lost control of the program”, or the players, or to the even more asinine arguments about his lack of a national title, he receives unjust criticism.

The national title argument in particular irks me because it’s so stupid. Because the argument is so ignorant. I’m not here to get into details about that. But, if Richt could win one in Athens, it would shut those people up. And for that reason alone, them winning a national title makes the top four.

5. Chase Elliott Winning the Daytona 500- See above for the reasoning. The Daytona 500, in many ways, is almost the equivalent to a championship, so if Chase can pull that one off, it’s going to be one very, very special day.

6. Atlanta Braves World Series- Yes, we have one. And I was plenty old enough to enjoy and appreciate it. But not as much as I’d enjoy and appreciate it now. All the World Series losses as well that have added up over the years only add to the need for a championship. Hearing it from all these teams who over the past 25 years have made the playoffs, maybe 2 times, maybe three, or even five or six, but have two World Series rings, about how much greater an organization than the Braves they are (though currently employing Fredi Gonzalez gives these claims merit) gets old. A second trophy would shut them up.

7. Chase Elliott Nationwide Championship- It might seem high, seeing as how the Nationwide Series, or Xfinity Series, or whatever it will be next year, is basically the AAA minor leagues of NASCAR. However, unlike other minor leagues, they’re on major TV every week, they’re a multi million dollar sport, and, they’re the second most popular form of motorsports in America. So it’s not your typical minor league circuit. Throw in the fact that for Chase to win one, he’d have to do so at age 18 or 19…. It’d be pretty cool. Plus, with the way sports are around here in Georgia, it might be the closest we get to a championship in the next few years, well, until Chase goes and wins one at the Cup level.

8. Georgia Tech Basketball National Title- They’ve been closer than any other team in this state over the past 15 years when it comes to winning a title, though, you could argue that the 2012 Georgia football team was pretty dadgum close as well. They actually have played for a championship in this century. Nobody else say can say that. So there’s that. But, while I love my Jackets, and am an ardent follower and supporter, basketball just isn’t there with football, NASCAR, and even baseball. Notice, I still haven’t gotten to the Hawks yet. Being a Georgia Tech fan however is hard. We’re outnumbered, and the good times are becoming fewer and farther between. Something to cheer about, period, would be nice. But if Tech is going to win something, while I’d pick baseball first, the odds are much, much better in happens on the hardwood than on the Flats.

9. Kasey Kahne Sprint Cup Championship- Kasey Kahne is here because of Bill Elliott. When Elliott retired following the 2003 season, Kasey Kahne was tabbed to be his replacement in the no. 9 car, and immediately, I became a fan. At this point, there was no sign of a future Elliott coming into the sport, so I had to find a new guy to pull for. That Kasey was a contender off the bat, with so many agonizingly close runner-up finishes (much like Elliott) in his rookie year, pulling for him became easy, and difficult at the same time. Kahne is a guy with a lot of talent, that’s yet to put it all together. Watching him will his way into the chase (NASCAR’s version of the playoffs) this year with a gutty drive at Atlanta was pretty cool. Watching him finally put everything together and win a championship would be downright awesome. For ten years I’ve been a Kahne fan, but he better hurry. Once Chase Elliott arrives on the Sprint Cup circuit, he’s no longer going to be my top dog. Maybe he can pull it off this year, who knows?

10. Atlanta Hawks NBA Championship- I probably dropped them below Georgia State simply because of how infuriated and frustrated I am with the mess this organization is right now. And it’s probably because it’s been such a frustrating and infuriating disaster for so long, that they have fallen so far. Nevertheless, they’re still my team.

11. Georgia Tech Baseball College World Series

12. Kasey Kahne Winning the Daytona 500

13. North Carolina Basketball National Championship

14. Georgia Southern Football Being Ranked

15. Georgia State Basketball Final Four

16. Georgia Basketball National Championship

17. Atlanta Dream WNBA Championship

18. Georgia Tech Basketball ACC Tournament Championship

19. Georgia State Football Conference Championship

20. Kennesaw State Basketball NCAA Tournament Bid

21. Kansas City Royals World Series

22. Detroit Lions Super Bowl

23. North Carolina Football National Championship

24. Buffalo Bills Super Bowl

25. Cleveland Browns Super Bowl

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Tony Stewart Wasn’t Disrespecting Kevin Ward, You “Experts” Are

Much as been made over Tony Stewart’s desire to race his car in Watkins Glen on Sunday afternoon, and understandably so. What’s not so easy to understand is why so much has been made by some regarding NASCAR’s decision to run the race as scheduled.

Regarding Stewart, I was very much in the corner of not allowing him on the racetrack on Sunday. Perhaps not for the foreseeable future. But that doesn’t mean I don’t fully understand why he wanted to be out there.

Tony Stewart’s desire to race the Sunday following the horrific incident in upstate New York did not stem from a lack of care or concern about Kevin Ward Jr and his family. It did not stem from an insensitivity to the matter at hand or the seriousness of what had just taken place. And while it played a factor, it did not even stem from the millions of dollars of sponsor money he’s made commitments to, the season long championship he and hundreds of his employees are striving to reach that would be completely undermined by his absence or even the fans who spent their hard earned money to come watch their favorite driver race.

No, it stemmed from the very same place Kevin Ward’s decision to confront Tony Stewart came from. He’s a racer. Period. That’s what they do. That’s all they do. That’s all they know. It’s what defines them. They get in the car, and they try to win. And nothing, and no one, can take that away from them.

Kevin Ward was angry with Tony Stewart because he felt wronged on the track. He felt something was taken from him, and he wanted to let the three time Sprint Cup Champion know how he felt. His competitive drive, the racer in him, is why he confronted Stewart.

It’s the racer in Stewart that propelled him to want to drive on Sunday.

Sure, the phrase, “Business as usual”, as uttered by Stewart-Haas competition director and long time Stewart friend Greg Zipadelli, may have come across as highly insensitive and inappropriate. And “Zippy”, as he’s known throughout the garage, probably regrets his word choice.

But if you could ask Kevin Ward if he was insulted by such a mind set, or comment, I would wager a lot of money he’d say no. It’s what racers do. Death is an unfortunate part of motorsports. It always has been, and despite monumental safety efforts to curtail the rate at which fatal injuries occur, it always will be.

It’s not to say racecar drivers ignore death, or become insensitive to it, but they learn they must know how to deal with it. It’s all around them. It awaits them at every corner.

There’s a line in Days of Thunder, “If you get a racecar driver to a funeral before he’s actually in one, you’ve made history”. While not technically accurate, it hits on the overall mindset of a racecar driver. As Harry Hogge says in the movie, “they don’t want to be reminded of what can happen to them in a racecar”.

When Dale Earnhardt died in 2001, the sport didn’t stop. His son didn’t stop. His team owner didn’t stop. They showed up the next week at the racetrack, “business as usual”. Of course, it wasn’t business as usual, we know that, and they knew that. But that’s the approach they had to take.

There have obviously been times where a team may take a week off following a death, such as Robert Yates in 1993 after Davey Allison was killed. But the following week, at Allison’s hometrack no less, there was a black no. 28 Havoline ford, piloted by someone else. Why? Because they’re racers, and that’s what they do.

What is the best way to honor a racer who has passed on? Get out there and race. Believe me, or believe any racer who’s ever lived instead, that’s indeed what they would want. To know that racing was put on hold on account of them would not sit well with any driver who’s ever sat foot in a racecar.

Beyond all of that, inside the racecar is home to a true racer. It’s the one place they can go to get away from everything else. It’s therapeutic, it’s their escape. So in a time of great turmoil, it only stands to reason Stewart would seek out the one place of refuge he’s known his whole life. The racecar.

As I mentioned earlier, I was fully against Stewart racing on Sunday, and am not sure how I feel about him racing going forward. But I knew he’d want to. And I wasn’t going to blame him for that.

At this point, this is where most likely NASCAR, and/or his sponsors stepped in and told Tony, in light of everything going on, getting in that racecar wasn’t the right thing to do. Were this still the 1970s and were NASCAR not under the unfortunate scrutiny of a national media that only pays attention when bad things happen, things would have likely been different. But that’s not the era we live in.

Instead we live in an era where CBS writes articles creating implications that Tony Stewart has threatened to do what he did on Saturday night in years past. Never mind the fact that they completely took the phrase “run him over” out of context, they have no use for educating themselves on the topic at hand. They just choose to talk. Personally, I find that as prime an example of slander and libel, or whatever you call it, as can exist.

But that doesn’t matter. To the non race fan, they read that Stewart once said of Matt Kenseth, “I’m going to run him over every chance I get”, and now the non racing reader sees Tony Stewart as a violent man who was just waiting to kill someone. As a man who’d already threatened to do so. It doesn’t matter how far from the truth that is.

It doesn’t matter how they completely failed to put those words in context, or even explain what is actually meant when a driver says that. It’s of course ridiculously irresponsible journalism, but it doesn’t matter. The damage is done. The black eye is created. The image of Tony Stewart and perception by those outside of the racing community is now etched in stone.

The image of what NASCAR is, what auto racing is, and who racers are, is being permanently marred by a reprehensible and sickening lack of professionalism.

And that’s the box NASCAR found themselves in. The eyes of a world who doesn’t get it was on them, the eyes of a world completely ignorant to the nuances and culture of the sport. The eyes of a world who, despite utter ignorance, couldn’t wait to open their mouth and offer their “expert” opinion. In such a box, NASCAR did what was right, it wouldn’t let Tony Stewart run that race.

But of course, not even that’s enough. People continue to bash Tony Stewart for wanting to race. Some go so far as to bash NASCAR for running their race.

I guess next time a kid gets shot over a playground basketball game, then the NBA is going to be held responsible and should be required to not play any games the following day, no? Or the next time a drunken brawl breaks out in a summer softball game, Major League Baseball should take responsibility.

What happened on Saturday night involved a driver who competes in NASCAR. That’s the extent of NASCAR’s involvement. If we cancelled sporting events every time an athlete who competed in a premier sport was involved in something like this, we’d never finish a season.

Should the Patriots have cancelled their season a year ago when it was discovered one of their players was being charged with murder? Should the Ravens have to….. never mind, it’s the Ravens, they embrace that culture. But the point is clear.

If Tony Stewart were involved in a highway accident that killed someone, would we be screaming at NASCAR to “get control of the situation”, as Jim Gray has done. Of course, it is Jim Gray, about one of the most disgusting pieces of journalistic filth on the planet. Even still, the point remains, NASCAR had nothing to do with the incident that took place.

Yet here we are, “expert” after “expert” coming on TV just to get their face on the television and hear themselves talk, blaming NASCAR for something that happened 100% outside of their jurisdiction.

These people wanted NASCAR to cancel their race on Sunday. Forget the millions of dollars already poured into the event. Forget the thousands of fans who’d spent their hard earned money, some on treks across the country, to be there. Forget the people of the Finger Lakes region who rely so heavily on the money brought in during a NASCAR race weekend. Forget all of that. Let’s punish all of these people, let’s cancel this race, because of something that happened that had nothing to do with NASCAR.

The ONLY connection to NASCAR was that of Tony Stewart. And NASCAR did the right thing and kept Tony Stewart out of the race. Yet, to some, that’s still not enough. And that’s just absolutely preposterous.

I’m not here right now to debate who was at fault and to what extent. I’m not here to talk about what criminal charges could be brought, what should be brought and what type of civil action could be forthcoming. I’m here to tell the people who don’t know anything about NASCAR, or racing in general, to just shut-up.

“‘Tis better to be thought a fool than open your mouth and prove it”.

You won’t see me go on lengthy diatribes about politics. Why? Because I’m ignorant when it comes to politics. I stay out of such discussions, and if I’m in one, it’s only to ask questions and listen to answers.

But that doesn’t stop everyone and their mother from suddenly becoming an expert on the sport of auto racing, and offering up their worthless opinions like they have some sort of merit.

The culture of racing differs from that than any other sport. That’s just the way it is. You don’t have to understand it. You don’t have to like it. But you need to respect it. And when you don’t know anything about it, you need to shut up about it.

So many of you want to sit up on your high horse, on your self created pedestal and talk about about how all this disrespect to Kevin Ward, and to the family, blah blah.

I know it’s tragic that Kevin Ward isn’t here to speak for himself right now. But if he could, I’d be willing to bet an arm and a leg that he would say all of you people who are going on about how Tony Stewart was disrespectful to the family by wanting to race, and how NASCAR shouldn’t have run the race, and all of these uninformed opinions being thrown about trashing NASCAR and auto racing are doing far more to disrespect him and the sport he loves than anything Tony Stewart, Greg Zipadelli, or NASCAR have done in recent days.

So when asking who the real insensitive jerks are, and asking what the real problem is, some of you should look in the mirror.

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The Daytona 500, A Half Century of Heartbreak

They say that nobody remembers who finishes in second place. Whoever says that clearly doesn’t understand the history of the Daytona 500.

Not only do we often remember the drivers who lost the Daytona 500 in heartbreaking fashion, sometimes we remember these victims of soul crushing defeats more than the winner themselves. Take 1979, do you remember who won? I bet you recall who wrecked in turn three on the last lap though. Quick, who led them across the line in 1990? Need a second? Ok, who cut a tire while leading a mere mile from victory? Do you remember the man who won in 2007, or the man he beat to the stripe by agonizing inches?

While we celebrate and memorialize the triumphs, we also vividly recall devastating and gut wrenching shortcomings just as much, if not more.

What is considered by many to be one of the greatest triumphs in Daytona 500 history is not remembered for the race itself, which was rather pedestrian, but for the immense heartbreak the winner had endured in prior Daytona 500s.

So while many will spend the week lauding the victors in Daytona 500s past, let’s not forget the most agonizing defeats.

Beginning tomorrow I’ll count down the 10 who have suffered the biggest heartbreak at the hands of The Great American Race during the past 50 years. But to get things started, I’ll list some that just missed the list, including a look at a Daytona 500 that took the wind right out of the sails of not a driver, but rather we the fans. And no, not 2001, that one is discussed enough, besides, its tragedy wasn’t yet known at the time of the conclusion of the event.

Honorable Mentions

The Fans, 1992

Weather had never postponed the Daytona 500 until 2012, but that doesn’t mean it never left the fans holding the bag by denying the fans a true finish.

The 1965, 2003 and 2009 versions were cut short due to rain, and each left fans feeling short changed with an incomplete, less than “true” finish. However, neither of those runnings featured the emptiness the ultimate fan heartbreak version contained.

The 1992 Daytona 500 promised to be one of the best in recent memory. Story lines flew in from everywhere. Bill Elliott, synonymous with Daytona success in the 80’s, was driving for the legendary Junior Johnson, his first foray out of the family shop in Dawsonville, Georgia. Second generation driver Davey Allison ended the previous season as one of the hottest drivers on the circuit and was poised to have the Allison name back at the top of the sport. Darrell Waltrip was returning to Daytona, site of two horrific accidents in the last year and a half. Then you had Washington Redskins coach Joe Gibbs making his debut in NASCAR with another second generation driver carrying a legendary name, Dale Jarrett. Dale Earnhardt, fresh off three straight narrow losses was STILL trying to win the Daytona 500, and there was the small matter of this being the final Daytona 500 start in the storied career of “The King” Richard Petty, he the winner of seven Daytona 500’s.

Unfortunately, all but one of these story lines was deemed irrelevant before halfway.

On lap 92, Elliott, having established himself as perhaps the strongest car in the field, was battling teammate and pole sitter Sterling Marlin for the lead in turns one and two when defending race champion Ernie Irvan dove beneath the two of them exiting turn two. The ill fated move only needed seconds to turn into a disaster. The three tangled and before the smoke cleared, just about anybody and everybody wound up with a wrecked racecar. Elliott, Irvan, Marlin, Waltrip, Jarrett, Petty, and Earnhardt were all among those involved. Additionally notable names like Rusty Wallace, Ken Schrader and Mark Martin also found their days ruined. Only a small handful of cars that had proven to be of any consequence survived the incident unscathed, and only two of them (Michael Waltrip and Morgan Sheppard) had any hope of being able to match up with the strongest survivor, Davey Allison.

Sheppard and Waltrip (who saw his chance at victory evaporate due to late engine failure) combined to lead 10 of the final 109 laps. Allison easily led the other 99 and had no trouble keeping Sheppard at bay down the stretch and across the line.

What promised to be one of the best Daytona 500’s, perhaps ever, quickly became a snooze fest with all the on track competition of a Formula 1 race for the final 250 miles.

Darrell Waltrip 1984

Much was made of it taking Waltrip 17 years to win the Daytona 500, and while the number of failed attempts for one of the ten greatest drivers ever was frustrating, the manner in which he lost pales in comparison to the nature of losses suffered by a couple of other multi-time series champions.

However, in 1984 Waltrip held the lead on the final lap, unfortunately the man who’d been trailing him for 38 laps was doing so according to plan. And that man was the guy who’d been fastest all week. Cale Yarborough executed the sling shot perfectly and before it was over Waltrip was relegated to third. Of all of his failed attempts to win, this was easily the closest he’d been to victory, more so than the bizarre 1979 runner-up performance.

David Pearson, 1975

With ten laps left, Pearson held a seemingly insurmountable lead of 5.2 seconds over Benny Parsons. When it was over Pearson found himself two laps down in fourth place.

With drafting assistance from Richard Petty, eight laps in arrears himself and eager to assist in the defeat of his arch rival, Parsons began cutting into the lead, and had it down to two seconds with three laps left.

Pearson, now under far more pressure than he expected was trying to navigate lap traffic, and doing so with much more urgency. The urgency resulted in Pearson tangling with Cale Yarborough sending the Wood Brothers owned Mercury sliding into the grass and Parsons into victory lane.

What would’ve happened had Petty pulled Parsons all the way to Pearson? We’ll never know. What we do know is Pearson never got the chance to fend off Parsons charge, only made possible itself thanks to a driver multiple laps behind.

Ken Schrader, 1989

All he did was win the pole, dominate the Busch Clash en route to victory, do the same thing in the Gatorade 125 Mile Qualifier on Thursday, and then lead 114 of the first 189 laps in the Daytona 500. Unfortunately that wasn’t enough. The aforementioned Waltrip, in his 17th try to win the 500, managed to stretch his fuel considerably longer than anyone else and “stole” the Daytona 500 from his Hendrick Motorsports teammate.

Buddy Baker, 1973

Richard Petty may have won the race, but there was no doubt who had the best car.

Despite a faster late race pit stop that appeared to have won the race for Petty, Baker showed the superiority in his Dodge while chasing Petty down at a rate that ensured he’d get to Petty’s back bumper before the end of the race.

Unfortunately his engine expired six laps from the finish, and despite leading a whopping 157 laps, Baker finished sixth.

Bobby Allison, 1981

Sometimes it is better to be lucky than good, as Petty found out in 1973 and 1974. And sometimes its better to be smart than fast.

Bobby Allison led for 117 laps from the pole, this after also winning his qualifier on Thursday. But when he made his final pit stop on lap 173 he took on right side tires, requiring a 17.4 second pit stop.

When Petty made his stop two laps later crew chief Dale Inman decided to forego fresh tires, opting only for gas only, resulting in a stop that was seven seconds quicker than his rival’s, creating a lead that Allison could never overcome.

Sterling Marlin, 2002

Short is the list of drivers who won the Daytona 500 more than twice, but if not for one of the most memorable boneheaded moves in sports history, it might be one longer.

While attempting to get underneath race leader Jeff Gordon on a late restart, Marlin came into contact with the four time champion, resulting in Gordon sliding thru the grass sideways and Marlin edging Ward Burton back to the line to get the caution, and presumably (pre GWC days) the win.

But instead of finishing under yellow, NASCAR opted to red flag the field to ensure a race to the checkered flag (a few losers of previous 500s wonder where this was in 1991 and 1997) under green flag conditions. Under the red flag, during which no work may be done on the racecar, Marlin became worried about the right front fender rubbing, and potentially cutting, the right front tire as a result of the contact with Gordon.

Marlin hopped out of his car on the back stretch and to the dismay of everyone, began tugging on the fender. Per NASCAR rules, Marlin was ordered to the rear of the field for the day’s final restart, ending his quest for a third Daytona 500 victory.

Would Marlin have pitted and lost track position regardless? Would the tire have held up for five miles? We don’t know the answer to either question.

And truthfully, most of us don’t even know that Ward Burton won the Daytona 500 that day, but we all know Sterling Marlin didn’t.

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