Sunday, March 12, 2006

So much to say, so little time to say it

I realize as I write this late on Sunday evening that I should have written this much sooner. Where does the time go? Yes, I can blame procrastination to an extent, but, at the same time, most of the events on which I was thinking of writing happened mostly later today. I guess the easiest thing to do is record a few of them now and come to back to expound upon them later (if at all). More "insight" entries will come later after the first one was entered late Thursday ... not sure if anyone has seen that one yet anyway.

My fiancee has been sick with the flu and/or other possible illness since Thursday. This has been a big bummer to me since we were hoping to get our wedding invitations done this weekend. Actually, we probably should have sent them at the beginning of March (procrastination at work again), but almost everybody in the family who should know the date already does. Anyway, the illness is obviously more of a "bummer" to her than to me, but I realize I don't do much on my own without her ... I realize at times like these that I would rather be in her company than not. Something just feels like it is missing when we don't spend time together. I guess I should hope she feels the same way when we are apart -- I guess it must be love.

The sports world was busy this weekend. This seemed to occupy most of my attention, particularly the NASCAR events on Saturday and Sunday. It looked like it would be the Matt Kenseth show on both days, only to have him come up empty in both races. In the Busch race, Kenseth lost out to a more dominant Kasey Kahne, who raced remarkably well in his #9 Dodge. In the Cup race, Kenseth led the most laps before relinquishing the lead in the final turn of the last lap to the victor, Jimmie Johnson. Johnson led that lap (his only lap led) and took the checkered flag by less than a carlength. He also defended his 2005 win at Las Vegas by winning this year's race, becoming only the third repeat champion at the track that opened in 1998. The only other repeat winners: Jeff Burton (in his Roush Racing days) and, today's runner-up, Matt Kenseth (a current Roush racer). Speaking of Jack Roush's camp, today was another successful run for the team, as Kenseth, Mark Martin, and Greg Biffle all notched top ten finishes. The day was not so good for team newcomer Jamie McMurray (23rd) and teammate Carl Edwards (26th). The most disappointing day clearly belonged to Ryan Newman, finishing dead last (43rd) after starting in the 11th spot. The culprit of his poor finish: a blown tire on his Dodge after only 88 laps of the 270 for the race.

All in all, this has been a roller coaster ride for multiple Cup teams, with the dominant figures being the top two finishers from today (Johnson and Kenseth) being the only winners of races so far. Kenseth is a past champion with noted consistency from his 2004 championship, and Johnson has demonstrated clear racing dominance with multiple wins in every season since his 2002 debut (the winningest driver in that time). The more surprising names in the top ten at this early stage at Kasey Kahne (3rd), with notable consistency so far after a very inconsistent sophomore season in 2005, and Casey Mears (4th), who might just be figuring out how to drive stock cars after nearly losing his ride after the past few seasons of lackluster performance. Mears proved he was coming into his own after a series of strong top ten performances late last season and has carried that momentum over so far. Which drivers have had very disappointing starts? Well, that depends on your perspective on what a driver should be doing at this point. Hopes were high that Bobby Labonte would turn things around at Petty Enterprises, but he is languishing back in the 36th spot at this point with disappointing races so far. Greg Biffle would be much better than his 25th spot if not for his blown engine in the second race at California, and the same is true for Tony Stewart at 19th due to his same failure at the same race. Kurt Busch is not clicking in the #2 ride so far, taking over for the legendary Rusty Wallace, but Busch's replacement over at Roush - Jamie McMurray - is not faring much better in the 20th spot.

Can you judge a team's likely season performance after only 3 races? No, not really, considering that Jeff Gordon was at the top of the points this time last year while Matt Kenseth was near the bottom after poor Daytona and California races. We know what happened after that -- Gordon missed the Chase and a chance at a 5th championship while Kenseth ultimately found his consistency in May and June to build momentum and made the Chase in August. Realistically, every team (okay, with a few non-competitive exceptions who shall remain nameless) can still make the Chase. The teams that are lower than 25th right now already have their share of work to do. The teams between 10th and 25th just need the consistency over the next few months to be in position to compete. The top 10 just need to do what has worked so far, but with the exception of the top few names, even these guys have their work cut out for them. It would be hard to believe that Jimmie Johnson and Matt Kenseth won't be in the Chase come early September, but most of us would have said the same about Jeff Gordon in 2005. I am skeptical about Kahne and Mears, but I would be pleasantly surprised to see two new names crack that elusive Chase.

I haven't even commented on today's NCAA basketball tournament selections, but I will say that a few selections were puzzling. How some lesser names without proven records got in (e.g. Air Force) while stronger teams did not (notably local powerhouse Cincinnati) is a headscratcher. I don't think that the teams that were "slighted," including UC, would have done much in the tourney anyway, but I do believe this year's champion will NOT be a #1 seed at this juncture. The #1's are Duke, Villanova, UConn, and Memphis. Duke has proven vulnerable at times, and star JJ Reddick is the biggest question mark for their possible run to the finish. Villanova and UConn were dominant players in the toughest Big East conference this season, but neither won the conference tournament as upstart Syracuse was the surprising champ. Memphis just seems too inexperienced to be a champion, but I could be completely wrong in believing they will be the first #1 to fall. I think a #2 or #3 seed will be the ultimate champ, but I won't say which team yet. You'll have to read about that later...

I have written a lot more than I expected ... I guess NASCAR got me fired up. Time to sign off and get my Z's. Later all...

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