Ranking The Daytona 500s Of My Lifetime

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There’s really nothing like the Daytona 500.

So as we embark on the 60th Daytona 500 this Sunday, I decided to take a look at all the ones run in my lifetime. Fascinating enough, I actually have vivid memories of all but three of them. And that’s rather unfortunate, since one of those probably is going to rank pretty high on this list. 2018 will mark the 34th Daytona 500 of my lifetime, so how would I rank the three plus decades worth of Daytona 500s I have been alive for? Keep in mind, this isn’t based strictly on entertainment value, or the competitiveness of the race, it ranks on my level of enjoyment and the memories I personally have of the race, along with where it ranks in my personal lore. So while one race that’s vastly less competitive and enjoyable to watch from a neutral fan’s perspective might rank at the bottom for some, it might rank near the top for me dependent upon the characters at play.

34) 1997 Jeff Gordon- If I ever wish to be reminded why I didn’t like Jeff Gordon during his prime, I simply watch this race. This race was a simple incident in turn two away from probably being the easy choice for number one on this list. Instead it falls. I still claim that without that wreck giving Gordon the support of his teammates, Elliott wins his third Daytona 500. The hurt from this one getting away will never go away. But neither will the memory of watching Elliott mix it up again with the big dogs after the worst year of his career in 1996. Elliott leading that race, in control, with ten laps left….. was something I hadn’t experienced in years. The fact that it would be over seven more years though before Elliott would win another race, anywhere, well, that makes this one hurt more today than it hurt then. And it hurt real bad then. For Earnhardt, winding up wrecked off of turn two while battling for second place in the closing laps? Well, it was the second time in six years he experienced that.

33) 2017 Daytona 500 Kurt Busch- Well, it finally happened, another Daytona 500 that hurts my heart more than the 1992 race. And overall, right there with the 1997 race. And you know what, maybe more than both combined, thanks to the horrific timing of it. If you recall, just a few weeks earlier there was this little event called the Super Bowl, and in it my childhood team seemingly had a championship locked up and victory sealed. We know what happened next. But I’m keeping it just to the Daytona 500 itself, so it still is only the second least favorite I’ve watched, not quite as bad as 97 since the future is still bright for this Elliott.  So, fast forward a few weeks to the Daytona 500 and the second generation star in the making, Chase Elliott, was in control of the Daytona 500 over the race’s final 50 miles. The son of my favorite driver Bill Elliott (who if you keep reading you will see mentioned multiple times, including in the next race on this list counting down from my least enjoyable Daytona 500 to my favorite) was in position to score his first career win, and do it 30 years after his father last won the sport’s biggest race. The stage was set. And then? I still don’t want want to talk about it. Watch for yourself.

32) 1992 Davey Allison- What could have been one of the more exciting 500s of my lifetime, on lap 92 became the worst. A massive crash on the backstretch eliminated essentially all but one or two contenders, and left nobody to challenge Davey Allison. Among the contenders, Bill Elliott, who, if you don’t understand why that’s important, I wonder if you know me at all. Making it worse was that Elliott had spent the week establishing himself as pretty much the favorite, represented by the fact that he was the leader when the shenanigans took place. Also taken out in the crash were guys like Waltrip, Petty (making his final start in the Daytona 500), and Earnhardt. Ernie Irvan became the first thing in sports I ever felt anything close to actual hatred for. And this is where it was born, as my dislike from previous wrecks he’d caused turned to hate with this one.

31) 2003 Michael Waltrip- Rain shortened? Check. My favorite driver in contention then having problems and finishing well back in the pack? Check. Lack of drama and excitement late? Check. No thank you.

30) 2009 Matt Kenseth- Despite the fact that I was in attendance, seeing Matt Kenseth (who I don’t particularly dislike, he just doesn’t move the needle for me) win a rain shortened race that was constantly threatened by inclement weather just didn’t provide much for me. The only redeeming part was that Kyle Busch, who dominated the race, was swept up in a massive wreck triggered by Dale Earnhardt Jr, who was not on the same lap as the leaders.

29) 1995 Sterling Marlin- Despite Bill Elliott beginning a new chapter by returning home to Dawsonville, this race lacked appeal for me, personally. Perhaps his cut tire that took a contending car out of contention had a lot to do with that. Then again, I say contending, I mean contending for second. Elliott himself told me at an autograph session later that week that, “we had enough for Earnhardt, but I don’t know about Marlin”. In other words, Sterling Marlin had them covered. For Earnhardt, it was just more of the same, coming up just short.

28) 1986 Geoff Bodine- The fuel mileage game is one may NASCAR fans turn their nose up, and with good reason. While the drama aspect is certainly there, there just seems to be something anti-climactic about watching a race get won on the basis of getting better gas mileage. However, when it comes to the Daytona 500, you’re there to win, any way possible. And that’s what Bodine did in handing Rick Hendrick his first of many Daytona 500 trophies. That the fuel game bit Dale Earnhardt, beginning what was an incredible streak of poor luck in the race, is about all the keeps this from being at the very bottom of the list.

27) 2006 Jimmie Johnson- My record for attending Daytona 500s is not so sterling, as yet another one was impacted by rain. While the race did see its conclusion, I suffered through a cold mist all afternoon and early evening long. Jimmie Johnson took the victory with Chad Knaus suspended, thanks in part to Casey Mears who went with his fellow Californian as opposed to his fellow Dodge driver late in the race, content to finish second rather than charge for the win. This has never sat well with me.

26) 2013 Jimmie Johnson- The Danica mania was pretty much the only enjoyable aspect of this parade fest that was won by five time champion Jimmie Johnson.

25) 2010- Jamie McMurray- Delays for track issues pushed the finish of this one well into the night. A late charge by Dale Earnhardt Jr in an effort to steal the win from McMurray was pretty much it for excitement, aside from a lap one wreck that eliminated Jimmie Johnson and Danica Patrick, who was making her first start. Jamie McMurray being a likable guy, and a guy in major need of a career revival helped add a feel good aspect to an otherwise un-entertaining day and evening.

24) 1994- Sterling Marlin- Though it wasn’t quite the story of Michael Waltrip, Marlin’s victory in the 1994 Daytona 500 was an extremely long time coming. A career full of close calls and second place finishes, Marlin finally broke through, and I can’t think of anyone who wasn’t happy for him.

23) 2012 Matt Kenseth- NASCAR’s first foray into “Monday Night NASCAR”. The delay from Sunday afternoon to Monday night both took away from the event, and added to it. The Juan Pablo Montoya jet dryer incident and the thought that Dave Blaney might win the thing were the only things that made watching the Roush Fenway Show bearable.

22) 1996 Dale Jarrett- It was the Dale and Dale Show Part II. Unfortunately, this one carried much less excitement, much less drama, and was just a more boring version of the original, though it did mark the third time in four years that Earnhardt came across the finish line in second place.

21) 1989 Darrell Waltrip- Before there was Dale Earnhardt, when it came to legendary drivers being able to win everything under the sun in the sport except the Daytona 500, there was Darrell Waltrip. But in his 17th try, in car 17, starting in 17th place……. But aside from that, Ken Schrader absolutely owned the event. Aside from Earnhardt in 1990, no driver dominated the 500 and came up empty in a way like Schrader did in 1989. It could’ve been a win that would’ve completely altered his career.

20) 2018 Austin Dillon – I’ve never been a Dillon fan, so I already wasn’t excited about the prospects of him winning any race, but was even less thrilled at how this one was won. Much debate can be made about whether Aric Almirola got what he had coming for blocking, or not. Who you’re a fan of will dictate how you see that, though an argument can be made for both drivers. However, Bubba Wallace finishing second was a nice touch, so was the post race spat with newly minted NASCAR heel Denny Hamlin. Also, the race itself was pretty entertaining, though an unfortunate crash around the midway point triggered by Chase Elliott was a real mood killer for me personally. It took a while for me to get reinvested in the race after he eliminated himself, and several contenders with an over zealous move way too early in the race. That said, it was not nearly as bad as many others have been, or as bad as I expect 2019 to be.

19) 2008 Ryan Newman- Newman, like Kenseth, isn’t much of a needle mover in my book. In fact, if anything, I have a dislike for him. That said, the racing itself was quality and the finish was exciting. Watching teammates work together, even though I disliked them both, was fun. Tony Stewart further cemented his Dale Earnhardt type legacy (more on this later this week) at Daytona by contending, and even leading late, and yet again, failing to win.

18) 2015- Joey Logano- At this point I was still very anti team Logano, and that would only continue to grow as the year went on. The unfortunate part of this particular race was the great finish we got robbed of by a late caution. While not shown in the above video, before this particular yellow flew, they were three wide at the head of the field for the win in the final ten laps. It was going to be an incredible finish, and while the actual finish proved less dramatic, the anticipation of what seemed to be coming, and the show these guys put on keeps this from tumbling too far down the list for the simple sake of who won.

17) 2000 Dale Jarrett- This was quite possibly one of the least competitive Daytona 500s I’ve ever seen. So why in the world is it this high? Because having not won a race since 1994, Bill Elliott had won the Gatorade 125 the previous Thursday, the first time he’d won anything in 5 1/2 years. So my anticipation entering Sunday was the highest it had been in a long while. While Elliott failed to win, he finished 3rd, in what would be the last great run and finish by Elliott in his homegrown team from Dawsonville. Had Elliott, or even Johnny Benson, which would’ve gone down as an upset on the levels of Derrike Cope in 1990, been able to win, this snooze fest suddenly becomes one of the most memorable Daytona 500s I’ve ever seen. Of course, it ended with Jarrett snatching his third Harley J. Earl trophy.

16) 2002 Ward Burton- The Sterling Marlin tire tug will go down in infamy, though I’m not really sure why. Marlin knew he was going to have to pit to fix it regardless, so he didn’t really lose all that much. But the drama in the final few laps, and Ward Burton breaking through with a career making victory were also key elements to the first Daytona 500 ever held that didn’t include Richard Petty or Dale Earnhardt.

15) 1991 Ernie Irvan- As mentioned, my disdain for Ernie Irvan didn’t begin in 1992, it began in 1990, so by the time the 1991 Daytona 500 rolled around, I didn’t care for the guy. So while many ate up the underdog, rags to riches, just a year ago was wondering if his career was over, story, I didn’t. That said, the race had compelling story lines. Wallace and Waltrip involved in a late crash, setting the stage where Dale Earnhardt (shocker) had a chance to win the Daytona 500, and for what wouldn’t be the last time in his career, crashed in the final laps off of turn two while battling for 2nd place with guys named Allison and Petty.

14) 1990 Derrike Cope- Quite possibly, as it pertains to the on track racing and entertainment value, this one ranks at the absolute bottom. To say Dale Earnhardt had them absolutely covered is one of the biggest understatements I’ve ever made. And I’m not using hyperbole. He spent the entire weekend proving time and time again that his car was the baddest around, and nobody was in his zip code. But a late caution and ensuing pit stop by Earnhardt gave the field a chance, and while the first 499 miles were absolutely dreadful, what happened in the final mile facilitated one of the greatest upsets that we’ve ever seen…in any sport.

 

13) 2004 Dale Earnhardt Jr- So I’m one for three on the weather when it comes to attending the Daytona 500, and even this one started out cold and rainy. But the skies cleared, just enough so Dale Earnhardt could smile down on his son as he scored his first career Daytona 500 victory. I wonder if part of Earnhardt also smiled at the man who his son passed for the win, Tony Stewart, as Stewart saw the first of what has become multiple late race opportunities for victory slip away. The race itself however saw the field incredibly spread out with limited action. But the Earnhardt/Stewart story line playing out helped atone for that. So did being there for my very first Daytona 500.

12) 1987 Bill Elliott- While not as dominant as he was in 1985, in 1987 Elliott set the qualifying record at Daytona, traveling around at over 210 mph and led over half the race en route to his second Daytona triumph in three years. The show itself was nothing special, Elliott just outran everyone, as he was apt to do in those days. But to hear Elliott tell it later, the excitement was completely inside the car. At the speeds they were traveling, Elliott would later tell people that he was out of control all race long. That sounds fun, between 200 and 210 mph and completely out of control. But you’d never know it watching him run.

11) 2014 Dale Earnhardt Jr- The race itself was delayed it seemed, forever, but once it got going, racing against the threat of rain, the drivers put on a whale of a show. The pure elation in Junior following his victory was alone enough to make anyone smile.

10) 1988 Bobby Allison- Perhaps this was what Dale Earnhardt envisioned would one day happen with him and Dale Jr…father against son for the Daytona 500, and the father still showing that even over the age of 50, he’s still got it. Had we known then, what we know now, about the absolute tragedy this family would go on to endure (Bobby suffering a life threatening, brain damaging accident just months later at Pocono, Davey’s younger brother Clifford dying in a crash at Michigan 4 years after that, and Davey dying in a helicopter crash just a year later) this moment would have been treasured even more. As it stands, it’s one of the greatest stories in Daytona 500 history, and the lore was only enhanced with the tragedies that befell the famed “Alabama Gang”. This race is actually the first racing memory I have, but not for the father/son finish, but the horrific accident that Richard Petty endured that had many fearing the sport had lost its greatest driver ever in its greatest race. Unfortunately, that fear would of course come true 13 years later.

9) 2007 Kevin Harvick- Had Mark Martin held on, this would move up the list. It’s not that I’m bothered that Harvick won, I love it, but this was one Mark wanted, needed even. The disappointment at losing by a few feet couldn’t have been more evident for a guy who was such the sentimental pick in seeking his first Daytona 500 victory. After watching Tony Stewart and Kurt Busch stink up the show before the two tangled and changed the outcome of the race, this was a snoozer. But once those two tangled, business picked up, in a big way. It was a mixed emotions kinda household, my cousin was a die-hard Harvick fan, so we were happy for Harvick, and for him. But we wanted the old guy to finally win one. But there was no denying how spectacular the finish was.

8) 1998 Dale Earnhardt- The 1998 Daytona 500 itself was not a good race. I know NASCAR fans will hate me for this, but it wasn’t. Dale Earnhardt flat dominated it, which, also made it similar to many previous 500s, though, Earnhardt dominated this one even more than most before. He equaled his 1993 laps led total for the second most laps led in a Daytona 500 in his career. What keeps this race from the bottom is the obvious. Unlike those others he dominated, this time, in his 20th try, having led in 17 of his previous 19, he actually won the thing. That’s what keeps this otherwise relatively boring show from bringing up the rear. The receiving-line on pit road is still one of the greatest moments in sports history.

7) 2011 Trevor Bayne- The tandem racing was a polarizing aspect of the racing on the track, but there was no question the entertainment value it provided with the intensity in the final twenty laps. Unfortunately it created a lot of accidents. It also created one of the more memorable Daytona 500 losses by anyone in history, with David Ragan’s untimely error (that ultimately completely rerouted his career) paving the way for the most unlikely of winners in Trevor Bayne, making just his second career start. Seeing the famous Wood Brothers back in victory lane was pretty cool too. And oh yeah, Tony Stewart, another opportunity just missed.

6) 2016 Denny Hamlin- The thoughts of this one are all over the map. From Chase Elliott being on the pole and leading those first laps making this a Daytona 500 I’ll never forget to Elliott wrecking within 20 laps turning it one I don’t want to recall, this race ran the gauntlet of emotions. The Gibbs Toyotas stunk up the show most of the day, which worked out okay as I hosted a party at my house that day and most of the crowd was not NASCAR fans. The goal was to win a few over of course, but I figured the dull race hurt that. Fortunately, the amount of people there kept everyone entertained until the end. And then the race took over. One lap does not a race make, but in trying to get new fans, having the sport’s biggest event end like that certainly could only help get a few more eyeballs and create a little bit more bar talk.

*after Martinsville in the fall of 2017, I have to strongly reconsider where I place this on the pecking order, considering who won this race*

5) 1993 Dale Jarrett- Here you had it again, Dale Earnhardt in position to win the Daytona 500, a handful of laps to go, and then….. oh, you’ve heard this story before? The 1993 tale though added a little something extra with second generation driver Dale Jarrett marking his arrival on the scene, while his legendary father memorably called him home from the CBS booth.

 

4) 2001 Michael Waltrip- This was easily the hardest to rank, because in light of the tragic events in turn four, it’s hard to call this entertaining. But it’s easily the most memorable ever, and we can’t forget, the racing throughout was top notch. Michael Waltrip, he of over 400 starts without a win, breaking through to the delight of his brother and proving Dale Earnhardt right while watching Earnhardt choose not to be the aggressor for the first time in his career was something else. Personally, watching Bill Elliott begin his career revival by leading the field to the green from the pole in and of itself catapulted this event into the upper half. Throw in everything else surrounding this race, and it’s place among the top tier is understandable.

3) 2005 Jeff Gordon- You want to see the biggest stars in the sport do battle for the biggest prize? Just watch the final few laps of this Daytona 500, and watch as the man who was the best of the bunch at the time found a way to get it done. As mentioned earlier, Tony Stewart had begun to cement a Dale Earnhardt type legacy at Daytona, and the 2005 version helped contribute to that. Stewart again found himself in position to win, and again, failed to do so. It really doesn’t get much better than this.

2) 1999 Jeff Gordon- The only way to top 2005 was to do the same thing, with the biggest names in the business, but this time, add some sort of mythological symbolism to the story. I give you 1999. Earnhardt vs Gordon. Just like Magic to Michael in the 1991 NBA Finals, this was Gordon seizing the throne. “Gutsiest move I ever saw man”, would be a very fitting way to describe the move Jeff Gordon made to take the lead in the waning laps. But his work wasn’t done, he still had to hold of Earnhardt the rest of the way, and the kid showed who really was the the king of the mountain. While the on track show overall was perhaps better in 2005, this transcending moment along with the move Jeff Gordon made elevates this a wee bit higher.

1) 1985 Bill Elliott- Remember when I mentioned this was about my personal enjoyment and memory of the race, and personal feelings about its significance? Well this is where it gets personal. The whipping Elliott put on the field in 1985 is only joined in its own special zip code outside of this world by what Earnhardt did in 1990, though the superiority of Elliott’s car was greater than that of Earnhardt’s. The difference of course was Elliott held on to win. A restart with a lap to go seemed to give hope to the other drivers, though I think they all knew better. The quickness with which Elliott raced away to the lead was evidence of how dominant this car was in 1985. Truth be told, when it came to superspeedways, the Elliotts dominated them in a way few teams have ever dominated American sports.

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Paul Johnson the Conman

I’ve seen a lot of people defending Paul Johnson in the last 24 hours, and it’s kinda mind-boggling, to be honest. It’s amazing what he’s managed to convince people of at Tech, and how much they’ve eaten it up. It reminds me of something else going in our society today, but I just can’t put my finger on it.
 
In any event, Paul Johnson was not the worst thing to happen to Georgia Tech, I will never say that. And at the time, he was necessary and helped the program. But talk about milking that cow for all it’s worth and then some? Johnson’s time at Tech should have been much shorter lived.
 
Johnson is a great play caller and game coach, and can do more with less than most coaches in America, I’ll give him that. The problem was that his “less” he was working with kept becoming less, and less, and less, resulting in the “more” he could do with it becoming less and less acceptable. The floor dropped and the ceiling came with it.
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That face when you’ve convinced the people you’ve dragged through the mud that you’re the only person capable of getting them out of it.

 
By letting Johnson stick around all this time, he tarnished what could have been a decent to really good legacy at Tech. Because once you get past the first two years Johnson had with Chan Gailey’s player’s, it’s a pretty ugly picture.
 
And by ugly I mean, the ugliest, sans Bill Lewis (To be honest, his final few years are not THAT far removed from what Lewis did) period of Georgia Tech football since the end of the Pepper Rodgers era and beginning of Bill Curry. 24-24, keep that number in mind. Because that is his record over his final four years at Georgia Tech. And it includes zero division titles, and as many losing seasons (2) as it does bowl invites.
 
Finally, it appears the administration woke up and realized what was going on. Technically, Johnson “retired”, but I’m not buying that, and you shouldn’t either. Though, then again, people have been buying a lot of Johnson’s drivel over the years, so I shouldn’t be surprised that they take this at face value.
 
Johnson’s words and description of this retirement tell me that was asked to retire so that they didn’t have to fire him. I think the 1-4 start to this season doomed him, and the only two things that could save him were to back into a Coastal division title, or beating Georgia.
 
Once neither happened, and it became clear that Tech wouldn’t have to compete in a coaching market where USC and Auburn were vacant positions that would create a large domino effect, everyone in place knew what to do. Including Johnson.
 
See, the thing is, you’re supposed to leave a program in better shape than you find it. Paul Johnson has unquestionably failed at this. And failed rather miserably, if you ask me.
 
When Johnson arrived, NFL talent was on this roster. Was it as abundant as, say, at Georgia? Of course not. But it was there. Calvin Johnson had just left, Morgan Burnett, Derrick Morgan, Bey Bey Thomas, and Jonathan Dwyer were rising sophomores. The team was putting defensive players into the league, such as Dawan Landry, Vance Walker and Michael Johnson, among others, even if not as high draft picks.
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I thought you couldn’t get NFL talent at Georgia Tech?

 
Where’s that talent now?
 
Oh, sure, Paul Johnson will bitch and moan and tell you that he can’t get that kind of talent because he doesn’t have the resources, and the facilities stink, and the academics are too hard, blah blah blah.
 
Ya know what? These things held true before he arrived on campus. But Paul Johnson has an ego. A very, VERY large ego (also similar to that other thing in society I mentioned at the beginning) that needs to be stroked and needs to find others to blame when things don’t go great.
 
Johnson thinks he doesn’t need 4 and 5-star players. Hell, he hardly thinks he needs 3-star players. He made sure people knew this too. That’s how confident in his system he was, and in his ability to coach players up.
 
So why should school administration put an impetus on things to help recruiting? They hired the coach that doesn’t need it.
 
Only, come to find out, he actually did. And then he complained that he didn’t have it. And he made Tech fans and others nationally believe that he was a miracle worker at Tech. He was coaching at a place that would be desolate without him. He was a savior at a school where getting talent wasn’t possible, so only someone like him, running an offense like his, could him get them on a somewhat more level playing field with the rest of the ACC, and that team in Athens.
 
Never mind that Johnson has lost 4 out of 5 games to Duke. You know, Duke of high academic standard and a low football budget. Speaking of Duke, remember that number I told you to keep in mind? That 24-24 record over his final four years?
 
Consider that over that same time period Duke has won 26 games and will be playing in their third bowl game this year. Northwestern, in the much tougher Big 10, has won 35 games and is headed to a fourth straight bowl while also playing for a conference championship this year. Even Vanderbilt, yes, THAT Vanderbilt, in the rigorous SEC, has won 21 games and will also be making their second bowl appearance. And let’s not even get started with Stanford.
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A perfect summary of the Duke v Georgia Tech series over the past half decade. And that’s just unacceptable.

 
So miss me with the excuses. All of them. For God’s sake, Western Michigan and Kansas are bringing in better recruiting classes than Tech is at this point. Yes, Kansas, winners of six football games in four years, and Western Michigan, of the MAC conference.
 
But Paul Johnson has people convinced that he’s the only thing keeping Tech from complete irrelevance. No, he’s the thing pushing Tech closer and closer to it.
 
In the 11 years before Johnson got to Tech, Georgia Tech didn’t have a single losing season. In fact, they strung together 11 consecutive winning seasons, with five seasons of eight wins or more. This included a run of four consecutive eight win seasons. And over this stretch, they never won fewer than seven.
 
So when Johnson took over, the program was still relevant, still a winning program. And when he replaced the embattled Gailey he inherited a program with a lot of upside, and a lot of talent on the roster. In his first two years, blessed with the talent recruited to Tech by someone else, Johnson went 20-7, won the ACC, and finished both seasons ranked.
 
Since 2009? He’s gone 63-52, only actually won the Coastal once. (in a time when it’s arguably the worst division in major college football), only finished in the top 25 once, and had three losing seasons. For those scoring at home, that’s a winning percentage of .548. For comparison’s sake, Gailey’s career winning percentage at Tech was .579.
 
After that fateful 2009 season (the last in which he had the NFL bound trio of Burnett, Morgan, and Thomas) Johnson only managed to put back to back winning seasons together just once, and never again put together back to back eight win seasons. And that little nugget about not winning fewer than seven games in a season for over a decade? Well over those nine years Johnson’s teams managed to fail to hit that mark three times. And they needed a 14th game one season to avoid doing it a fourth.
 
Let’s get back to that 24-24 record over his final four years. Do you know what Gailey’s record was over his final four years was? 30-20, with four bowl appearances, a Coastal division title, and no losing seasons.
 
But there are people who believe losing Johnson is a bad thing? The sheep really do love themselves some kool-aid. Gailey was winning more and recruiting better when he, and at this point deservedly so, got the boot. Tech fans everywhere were screaming for his termination.
 
And yet Paul Johnson has managed to finesse his way into having people believe that someone who is doing a worse job, and not just slightly, it’s demonstrably worse, is a savior.
 
What’s amazing is that with how well Johnson has conned his way into the hearts and minds of the Tech administration and Tech fans is that he couldn’t con a few more good football players to come play on The Flats.

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Dirtiest Moves in NASCAR

In light of Denny Hamlin pulling one of the dirtiest moves I can recall in my 30 years of watching NASCAR and hearing some people say, “that’s just racin'” I decided to compile a list of moves that compare similarly to what Denny pulled on Sunday night.

Wrecking the leader is not “racing”. Not when it’s intentional without any intent to actually try to race. Moving the leader? Wrecking him accidentally by driving too hard in an attempt to win? Those are acceptable. Frustrating for the driver and fans of the driver on the short end of that stick, but acceptable.

Flat out driving through someone, or hooking them after they go by you? That’s not racing. That’s, as Harry Hogge once called it, “low-down, shit-ass racin'”.

A mistake made while going for the win, which I still believe is what happened with Kyle Busch and Dale Earnhardt Jr at Richmond, doesn’t put you on this list. Granted, I’m the only judge here and you’re welcome to disagree, but intent is a major factor here. If it looked like the driver had at least some intent, or even hope, of trying to make the pass without there being an accident, it doesn’t qualify. But if it looks like you made up your mind that the guy in front of you was going to wind up sideways off your bumper, then that’s not racing to me, and that qualifies your move as dirty. Cutting off a driver or coming down on a guy who has already stuck his nose under you, even if he probably shouldn’t have, also doesn’t count.

Some have tried to argue such tactics are common place, but going through race after race for roughly the past 1,000 races or so, finding a time where the leader was deliberately taken out in the final 25 miles or so of an event is difficult. It doesn’t happen often. At all. So I decided to point the times that I can recall it occurring over the past 30 years or so at the Cup level, listed in order of egregiousness.

In many of these you will see some blocking, and some contact perhaps even initiated by the ultimate victim. But as mentioned earlier, there’s a big difference in beating and banging, and bumping and trading paint than in just wrecking someone. Moving someone out of the way and taking a win away while costing them a few spots at most is one thing. Taking a guy from a potential win to a 25th place finish because you ruined his entire race is something entirely different. And that’s the key here, did the guy who previously possessed the lead still finish near the top of the leaderboard? If so, that moment doesn’t make this list. It’s the ones who had their entire race ruined by a dirty move that make it here.

So here we go, the dirtiest, most blatant occurrences of someone deliberately taking the leader out, usually in an effort to win for one’s self, though notably at the top of the list is an act of vengeance.

1- 2015 Matt Kenseth wrecks Joey Logano at Martinsville

2- 1986 Dale Earnhardt wrecks Darrell Waltrip at Richmond

3- 1989 Rusty Wallace wrecks Darrell Waltrip in The Winston

4- 1998 Rusty Wallace wrecks Jeff Gordon at Richmond

5- 2017 Denny Hamlin wrecks Chase Elliott at Martinsville

6- 1999 Dale Earnhardt wrecks Terry Labonte at Bristol

7- 2015 Joey Logano wrecks Matt Kenseth at Kansas

8- 2005 Brian Vickers wrecks Mike Bliss to win Nextel Open

9- 2006 Jeff Gordon wrecks Matt Kenseth at Chicago

 

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2017 College Football Conference Predictions

Let me preface this by first stating this strictly takes into account the quality of team and does not factor in a couple of other key components that make a difference.

The schedule can make all the difference in the world. A team with 4th place talent in a division but who draws winnable home games, winnable road games against the other side, and doesn’t play the top teams from the other division can sneak in an win a division title above more talented teams.

Additionally, coaching is not heavily accounted for, nor are special teams, or the huge benefit of experience on the offensive line and at quarterback.

I might get around to taking a closer look at these things later. But for now, just based on the quality of teams, here are my conference predictions for 2017.

American Athletic

East

  1. South Florida
  2. Central Florida
  3. Temple
  4. Connecticutt
  5. Cincinnati
  6. East Carolina

West

  1. Memphis
  2. Houston
  3. Tulsa
  4. Navy
  5. SMU
  6. Tulane

This league could be incredibly competitive, as each division boasts three teams who could win it. In the end, the Bulls ability to play defense should prevail in getting them the conference title and a shot at being the Group of Five representative to a major bowl.

Atlantic Coast

Atlantic

  1. Florida State
  2. Clemson
  3. Louisville
  4. N.C. State
  5. Boston College
  6. Syracuse
  7. Wake Forest

Coastal

  1. Miami
  2. Virginia Tech
  3. Pittsburgh
  4. Georgia Tech
  5. North Carolina
  6. Duke
  7. Virginia

Florida State is the pick to beat Miami in the championship game, and while Miami is good, they aren’t on a level to compete with Florida State if the ‘Noles play their best. The competitive imbalance is extreme in the ACC, as even though I have Virginia Tech second in their division, they’re only about 6th best in the conference overall.

Big Ten

East

  1. Ohio State
  2. Penn State
  3. Michigan
  4. Indiana
  5. Maryland
  6. Michigan State
  7. Rutgers

West

  1. Wisconsin
  2. Northwestern
  3. Iowa
  4. Nebraska
  5. Minnesota
  6. Purdue
  7. Illinois

Another conference with horrible disparity between the two divisions. The top three teams in the conference all come from the East. Which is unfortunate for a team like Indiana. It should be noted that Iowa has added two graduate transfers over the summer, receiver Matt Quarrells (New Mexico) and running back James Butler (Nevada) to give a much needed boost to the offense. Keep an eye on them. But whoever wins the West is probably not beating whoever wins the East, which should be Ohio State.

Big 12

  1. Oklahoma
  2. TCU
  3. Texas
  4. Oklahoma State
  5. Kansas State
  6. West Virginia
  7. Baylor
  8. Iowa State
  9. Texas Tech
  10. Kansas

The national media seems so eager to just hand this conference title to Oklahoma, and I don’t think it’s nearly that easy. The difference between the best team and the 5th best team in this conference is closer than in any other conference besides Conference USA.

Conference USA

East

  1. Western Kentucky
  2. Middle Tennessee State
  3. Marshall
  4. Old Dominion
  5. Florida Atlantic
  6. Florida International
  7. Charlotte

West

  1. Louisiana Tech
  2. UT-San Antonio
  3. Southern Miss
  4. North Texas
  5. Rice
  6. UTEP
  7. UAB

While I think Louisiana Tech is the best team in the league, narrowly over Western Kentucky, I can make a case that the 2-5 all come from the East, and all could win that division. It’s not the sexiest league in the country, but there’s some good talent here, and should be plenty of exciting football.

MAC

East

  1. Ohio
  2. Miami
  3. Akron
  4. Bowling Green
  5. Buffalo
  6. Kent State

West

  1. Toldeo
  2. Western Michigan
  3. Eastern Michigan
  4. Northern Illinois
  5. Central Michgan
  6. Ball State

Toledo and Ohio are both pretty clear cut favorites, and the Rockets the odds on favorite to win the conference. To be quite honest, other than Miami’s reclamation last year and Terry Bowden trying to make Akron relevant, the league lacks for story lines. Eastern Michigan competing for the division title however would be a nice one to add to plot.

MWC

Mountain

  1. Colorado State
  2. Boise State
  3. Wyoming
  4. New Mexico
  5. Air Force
  6. Utah State

West

  1. San Diego State
  2. Hawaii
  3. Nevada
  4. UNLV
  5. Fresno State
  6. San Jose State

The top three teams in this league are all really good, and they go about it different ways. One (SDSU) rides their defense, another (CSU) the offense, and a third (BSU) is the more balanced of the three. Potential number one draft pick ,Wyoming quarterback, Josh Allen might just be good enough to add a fourth team to the mix. And Air Force never plays as bad as their talent looks at the season’s outset on paper. In the end, the fighting Mike Bobos give Colorado State a conference championship.

Pac 12

North

  1. Washington
  2. Stanford
  3. Oregon
  4. Washington State
  5. Cal
  6. Oregon State

South

  1. USC
  2. UCLA
  3. Colorado
  4. Utah
  5. Arizona State
  6. Arizona

Depth is not really something the Pac 12 appears to have a lot of. Washington and USC are overwhelming favorites to win their divisions and Stanford is the only team I think has any chance to wreck that part of the story. But in the race for the playoffs, a 1-loss USC or Washington needs a couple of those middle tier teams to elevate their game and make a national mark.

SEC

West

  1. Alabama
  2. Auburn
  3. LSU
  4. Texas A&M
  5. Arkansas
  6. Ole Miss
  7. Mississippi State

East

  1. Florida
  2. Georgia
  3. South Carolina
  4. Tennessee
  5. Missouri
  6. Kentucky
  7. Vanderbilt

Of the top nine teams in the league, only three come from the East. Yeah, it could be that bad. The west is deeper, but I don’t think even with more depth they have anyone that can beat Alabama for the division. Auburn will give them a run for it, but the gap is too wide. And I honestly don’t think LSU is a viable threat to the Tide right now, but, without Les Miles there, who knows?

Sun Belt

  1. Appalachian State
  2. Troy
  3. Arkansas State
  4. Louisiana
  5. South Alabama
  6. New Mexico State
  7. Idaho
  8. Georgia State
  9. Louisiana-Monroe
  10. Georgia Southern
  11. Texas State
  12. Coastal Carolina

Troy picked a bad year to be really good, because I think Appalachian State is just simply on another level. Arkansas State will be a contender once again because of an outstanding defense, but after that, there doesn’t seem to be anyone capable of upsetting the hierarchy at the top of the conference. Appalachian State is the favorite, no doubt, but if they slip up, there are two capable teams behind them.

 

 

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Kyle Busch Won, And It’s A Good Thing

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Kyle Busch finally snapped a year-long winning streak, and it’s a good thing for NASCAR.

 

Kyle Busch is off the schneid and now securely into NASCAR’s playoffs for the 2017 season. And with that, NASCAR can breathe a sigh of relief.

The world knows my disdain for Kyle Busch runs deep, very deep. It’s up there with Amazon and the New Orleans Saints, and given the right day, it surpasses them both. I tweeted something out Saturday following the truck race that I perhaps could have worded a little better, but I still stand by. I wish he were no longer in the Cup Series.

His accident in 2015 would humble most people, make them appreciative of where they are and what they have. Kyle Busch is not most people. He briefly flirted with being a changed person during his comeback in 2015, so much so to the point I started to buy in. Well, that didn’t last long. If that can’t humble him, nothing will. For all the talent he has, which arguably is the most among anyone in the garage area, and up there among the most anyone has ever possessed, his attitude towards everyone else and disrespectful arrogance makes me wish he weren’t here. I wish that his wife Samantha had told him then that she didn’t want him to back in a car, and he never did. But that’s me personally.

That said, I’m really glad he won on Sunday. Because at the end of the day, he still is here. And he’s still as good as anyone out there. While the odds of missing the playoffs were long, Kyle Busch was not yet locked into the 2017 playoffs. And it would be a travesty and a farce if Busch were left on the outside looking in.

Today he sits a mere 15 points behind Kyle Larson for second place in the season standings. Even had he finished a mere second place on Sunday, he would still only be 20 points out of second. It’s not unreasonable to think that with Larson’s recent stretch of bad luck and Busch’s stage winning ways that he could eventually move all the way to second in the standings by the end of the night in Richmond, and do so without winning a race.

And if he did that, there would still be a possibility he could miss the playoffs. Just play along for a second, suppose Clint Bowyer wins at Pocono and then A.J. Allmendinger goes and wins at Watkins Glen next week. That’s 14 drivers locked in with a win, leaving two spots open. Yes, at that point Busch would have been in possession of one, but there would still be four races left before the playoffs begin and winless drivers like Matt Kenseth, Joey Logano, Jamie McMurray, Chase Elliott and Dale Earnhardt Jr out there, not to mention the ever improving rookies of Erik Jones and Daniel Suarez. Two of them winning among those final four races would certainly not be out of the question.

And if they did, then what? Kyle Busch, possibly second in the series points, possibly hundreds (he is currently 328 points ahead of Austin Dillon, the lowest ranked driver with a win set to make the playoffs) ahead of others who would be competing for a championship, would be running the final 10 races with no shot at the title.

Is that right? No.

I absolutely love the emphasis that’s been put on winning. I think it’s great. But I also think if you finish in the top 5 in points, that’s pretty great also. At some point, this is probably going to happen. We’re going to have 16 winners and one of them will not be someone who is a legitimate title contender and a strong car each and every week.

Kyle Busch wasn’t in a “slump”. A slump is when you don’t run very well every week. Kyle Busch was marred by a lot of bad luck. Yes, I like to call it karma, but I won’t call it a slump. Week in and week out, the 18 joins the 42 and the 78 as the fastest cars on the track. It would have been a major shame if Kyle Busch had been left out of the playoffs this year.

Thankfully, we don’t have to worry about that.

 

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The World is Mad at Danica Patrick and I Don’t Know Why (yes I do)

As you likely are aware of by now, Saturday night’s Monster Energy Cup Series race in Kansas was marred by a fiery crash that left driver Aric Almirola hospitalized overnight with a compression fracture in his back.

Oh yeah, Danica Patrick was also involved in the crash, though the vibe on social media suggests I shouldn’t bring that up or talk about it. Apparently it’s disrespectful to Almirola to discuss Danica’s awful luck/vicious collisions of late as well as her growing frustration. I suppose I should also avoid mentioning that Martin Truex Jr. won the event Saturday night. Oh, no, that’s ok to talk about, but Danica can’t be mentioned.

What happened to Almirola is awful and may very well combine with the points penalty incurred at Talladega be the final nail in the coffin to his playoff hopes. However, one can discuss other angles of this story and other storylines regarding this race without disrespecting Almirola. And if it were just about any other driver being focused on, hardly a gripe would be heard.

But it’s not just any other driver. It’s a woman. And while she is loved and adored by many, especially younger girls, she’s still very reviled by much of the traditional fan base. And the reason is simple; She’s a woman. Men hate her for being a woman in a “man’s sport” while women resent her for being both talented and attractive to boot. These are people with whom she’ll never win, and people waiting to pounce on anything they can find to criticize her and drag her through the mud.

Saturday night, in their mind, gave them such an opportunity.

Never mind that she was turned head on into a wall at 200 mph, just a week after having the same thing happen to her at Talladega. Or that she’s now a fifth year into what’s become a visibly frustrating foray into stock car racing. Forget that she was finally putting together a solid weekend and seemed poised to compete for a top ten finish. We’ll also gloss over the sponsorship fiasco where a company in over their head backed out of their contract just weeks before the season began. Forget all these things and let’s all be aghast and infuriated that these things came to a head in her interview and she had the audacity to speak on them upon exiting the infield care center on Saturday night.

Apparently she’s a selfish (insert multiple words typically designated to degrade women) because the focus of her interview was, gasp! her.

Did Joey Logano express great concern over Almirola after being interviewed following the same incident? Sure, but it’s apples and oranges.

Logano isn’t staring a career crossroads in the face, he doesn’t have sponsor and thus job security issues, he’s still having fun at the racetrack, and he hasn’t been subjected to nasty hits with the regularity Danica has. There’s also one other small difference; Even though by an uncontrollable freak accident, Logano is who caused both Danica and Almirola to endure such savage impacts. That matters.

I guess the NASCAR community wants to pretend Danica is the only person who has ever spent the duration of an interview discussing themselves and not spending enough time expressing concern for an injured driver.

In 1996 at Talladega when Bill Elliott broke his leg on the backstretch I’m positive the focus of driver interviews after the race was on expressing concern for his well-being. Oh, wait….

Well certainly in 1991 at Talladega when Kyle Petty suffered a broken leg in a multi-car crash the driver’s interviews were all about concern for Petty and weren’t focused heavily on criticizing the cause of the incident. No? Wait,  so fan favorites like Rusty Wallace and Mark Martin are self-centered a**####s?

Okay, so then certainly when Neil Bonnett suffered life threatening injuries at Darlington in 1990 the drivers expressed concern for him in their interviews and they too weren’t focused on criticizing the cause of the crash and weren’t lamenting their race being ruined, right? Well ok, then for sure when Bonnett’s own best friend won the race he mentioned something, right? Huh… I guess they should have kicked Dale Earnhardt out of NASCAR and he should’ve been ashamed of himself.

Danica comes from open wheel racing where she’s been privy to witness some brutal on track fatalities. Almirola put his window net down to indicate he was conscious and alert. So let’s stop pretending he was fighting for his life and she callously ignored it.

Secondly to that point, how much did Danica even know in regards to what was happening with him? Beyond seeing the net down, when she and Logano got into the ambulance who knows what she knew regarding the extent of his condition?

Was she possibly told in the infield care center? Possibly, but we don’t know specifically what she got told. But i think it’s safe to think that whatever information was given to her she was not led to think he was in any sort of grave danger.

Beyond that, even if told of his situation, how much do we know even resonated with her? She herself was visibly shaken by the incredible impact with which she hit the wall. As documented earlier, that’s not the first time she’s taken a nasty hit, and was the second time in less than a week.

She spoke specifically of her own concern that eventually one of these nasty wrecks is going to end badly for her. This was clearly weighing heavily on her, and has been for some time. She has friends and loved ones she cares about and has a fear of them being hurt by something bad happening to her. That’s not selfish of her.

And when something as rare and as freakish in nature like a brake rotor exploding on the car beside her at the fastest point on the racetrack occurs, its human nature to ask, “Why me?”. The chances of a rotor exploding at Kansas are rare enough, so for that perfect storm of events to come together like that, it’s perfectly understandable for her to start wondering if someone is trying to tell her something.

This alone more than provides adequate explanation and justification for her demeanor after the race. When you factor in the frustrations from the performance issues and questions of how much longer she wants to do this, or can do this, you’ve got to sit on a pretty high horse to be so judgemental of her for how she handled that interview.

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Ten Years Gone 

The​ clock ticked almost in the same way it had for the past three weeks,

Agonizingly slow, as if it had something to say but instead chose not to speak.

But tonight there was a bit more urgency in each passing minute and each passing hour,

Because soon this thing that had a grip on him would finally lose it’s power.

Every lyric from every song hit like tons of bricks,

Haunting words having provided this death by a thousand pin pricks.

But tonight was time to land the very final blow,

And just as intended, not one other person seemed to know.

The wheels had been set in motion several days before,

He’d known for a while what this night would have in store.

He’d left his job simply saying he need some personal time,

And when asked if he was okay he looked at them and lied.

It was the same response he’d give to anyone who tried to ask,

All that was left was one last and final task.

Everything was set in place and the hour was drawing near,

Never again would anyone suffer due to his presence here.

The battle that he felt that he could no longer win,

The hurting of those he loved, all of that would soon end.

So up he turned the vodka and down his throat went some pills,

One more step and the world would be rid of all his ills.

The intoxicating fumes should have been a deterrent,

And no one has been able to figure out how they weren’t.

It was finished, now all that was left was to wait to die,

But he realized that something seemed to be awry.

The clock that had been in what seemed to be slow motion,

Had essentially stopped and time seemed to be frozen.

The death he awaited hadn’t yet arrived,

As minutes seemed like hours it resonated more and more that he hadn’t died.

Panic ran through his mind as he thought this should have been over quicker,

And new sensations began to overcome him as he felt sicker and sicker.

Sickness began to give way to pure physical pain,

And not just any pain,  the kind that leads you pleading for mercy in vain.

He convinced himself that he could tough it out till he breathed his last,

So he just waited for the end to come,  praying it would get there fast.

But that’s not the way that things would go that night,

There was only one thing he could do, so full of shame, and void of all his pride,

With the pain too intense and a fear of failure all too real he called out for help from another,

A cry he absolutely didn’t want to make, a cry to his mother.

As he saw her face while loaded onto a stretcher he processed what he’d done,

As it turns out, the battle had just begun.

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