Thursday, December 22, 2011

A Look Back: The 2011 NASCAR Season

The 2011 NASCAR Season was one of the best seasons in recent memory.  There were multiple first-time winners, exciting racing, and it all culminated with a fantastic championship fight that came down to the final lap.  Here are my Top 5 NASCAR Stories from the 2011 Season:

5. Austin Dillon, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Win Championships
Austin Dillon and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. won the Camping World and Nationwide Series Championships, respectively.  Stenhouse won a championship that was highly contested throughout the season.  Austin Dillon was an early-season favorite to win the championship, and the battle came down to the final race, where he was able to defeat Johnny Sauter to win the title.  With young drivers like Dillon and Stenhouse, the future of NASCAR seems to be in good hands.

Stenhouse and Dillon with their championship trophies (Photo courtesy Getty Images)
4. First-Time Winners
The 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series had five first-time winners this season.  The winning started as soon as the season began, with Trevor Bayne won the season-opening Daytona 500.  The next driver to get his first win was Regan Smith, who out-dueled Carl Edwards to win the legendary Southern 500.  When the Sprint Cup Series returned to Daytona in July, David Ragan became the third driver to win his first career race.  Paul Menard won the Brickyard 400 at the famous Indianapolis Motor Speedway.  And two weeks later, Marcos Ambrose finally won his first Sprint Cup Series race at Watkins Glen.  Hopefully next season, we will see more drivers take their first trips to Victory Lane.

Trevor Bayne celebrates winning the Daytona 500.  Bayne was among five first-time winners (Photo courtesy REUTERS)
 3. Trevor Bayne Wins the Daytona 500
Trevor Bayne helped to push drivers such as Jeff Gordon and Carl Edwards all through Speedweeks; but, when the White Flag flew, Trevor Bayne found himself leading the field. Bayne, who raced for Jack Roush in the Nationwide Series, was on loan from Roush to the Wood Brothers, who made their return to Victory Lane in the biggest way possible.  Trevor Bayne also won his first Nationwide race, and seems to be on track to be one of NASCAR's future starts.

2. Brad Keselowski's Breakout Season
Brad Keselowski had won one Sprint Cup Series race prior to the 2011 season, and had shown flashes of what the future might hold.  But I don't think anyone expected Keselowski to have the breakout year that he would have in 2011.  First, Keselowski won a fuel mileage race in Kansas.  He then won at Pocono in August, following a broken ankle the week prior.  Three weeks later, he won again at Bristol, and was able to work his way into the Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship.  He finished off his solid season with a fifth place finish in the championship standings.  Only time will tell if this is the way that Keselowski will be every year, but I wouldn't be surprised if we see Brad Keselowski fighting for a Sprint Cup Championship in the future.

Brad Keselowski celebrates with his crew (Photo courtesy Getty Images)
1. Tony Stewart Wins the 2011 Sprint Cup Championship
Tony Stewart entered the Chase in ninth place, and had zero wins in the regular season.  Following a Chase performance that was legendary, Stewart would hoist the Sprint Cup Trophy for the third time.  Carl Edwards fought with Stewart for the championship, and would tie Stewart in the season standings; Stewart won the tie breaker on his five wins, as compared to Edwards' one.  Stewart also completed a bookend of Jimmie Johnson's amazing reign as Sprint Cup Champion; Stewart was the last person to win a Championship before Johnson's reign began in 2006.

Stewart won five times in the Chase, including Texas, en route to his third Sprint Cup Championship (Photo courtesy Getty Images)
 2011 was an amazing year for NASCAR from start to finish.  From Trevor Bayne's Daytona 500 victory to Stewart's Championship triumph, the season was filled with surprises.  Hopefully the 2012 season will provide just as much excitement as this past season.  Who's ready for Daytona?

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

A Look Back: Games of 2011

2011 is quickly coming to an end, and now is the time to look back at the games that came out during this past year.  This year was marked by many big games, such as Battlefield 3, Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, and Batman: Arkham Asylum.  While all of those games are great, none of them made it onto my list of the Top 5 games of 2011.  Here's the list:

5. NASCAR: Unleashed
NASCAR: Unleashed was Activision's second game with its newly-acquired NASCAR license, and they did not disappoint.  The arcade racer provided lots of fun throughout the whole game.  In my review, I gave it an 8.5/10.  This game is a must for any NASCAR fan.

Photo courtesy Activision
 4. L.A. Noire
L.A. Noire tells the story of the Los Angeles Police Department following World War II.  Rockstar Games revolutionized how a game was made, as they used real actors and 365-degree camera angles to show the emotions of the game characters.  Though the story does get boring at times, the player must be reminded at multiple points that they are playing a game and not watching an episode of CSI.

Photo courtesy Rockstar Games
 3. NASCAR: The Game 2011
NASCAR: The Game 2011 was the first licensed NASCAR racing game since 2009's NASCAR 09 and NASCAR Karts for the Wii.  The game did not disappoint.  While the game was plagued by glitches while racing online during the first few months of the game's availability, the developers quickly made patches to fix all the problems.  While the game is not perfect, it is a good start, and NASCAR: The Game 2012 promises to be even better.

Photo courtesy Activision
 2. Minecraft
This game is a little bit different than most.  At first glance, it seems like a very old game with dated graphics; once you begin playing, however, you understand that it is much more than meets the eye.  I started playing the game back in May as the school year was winding down.  It is a little like Legos for the computer, only there are monsters.  While you have the ability to fight the monsters and survive, I play on peaceful, which is a lot less stressful.  At only $26.95, this is the most affordable game on the list.  After playing, it will have you saying, "Just one more block, just one more block..."

Photo courtesy Mojang
 1. Portal 2
When I decide what my favorite games are, I look at how they affect me when I'm not playing.  I decided Red Dead Redemption was an amazing game whenever I began to dream about being in the Old West.  And every time I saw a bird, I thought I could just switch into Dead Eye mode and shoot it down.  So whenever I began to look at walls and figure out where I could place a portal, I realized that this game was one of the best games I've ever played.  The game stretches your brain with its mind-bending puzzles, and its hilarious dialogue will keep you laughing.  I never thought I'd fall in love with a game this much, but I have, and it's absolutely wonderful.

Photo courtesy Valve
 While I'm sure I've snubbed some games, these are the games that I've been playing this year.  Modern Warfare 3 and Little Big Planet 2 just missed the cut.  I'm sure I would have put Skylanders: Spyro's Adventure on this list as well, but I'm not getting that until Christmas.  Any of these five games would be a fantastic last-minute Christmas gift, but be warned: L.A. Noire is rated M due to its graphic images.  Also, Minecraft is only available online at  Hope you enjoyed this countdown, and happy gaming!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011


When NASCAR: Unleashed was first announced by Activision, I was a little excited, but also a little skeptical; the game was aimed at younger kids, and I was afraid that I would not have any fun.  After playing for only 20 minutes, I knew that I was completely wrong.  The game was released on November 1, 2011, but I am reviewing it so late because I wanted to complete the game and review every aspect of the game.  Today, I was able to get the PS3 Platinum Trophy for getting 100% game completion, so I feel like I can now fairly review the game.

Mark Martin races Kevin Harvick in NASCAR: Unleashed (Photo Courtesy Activision)
 When I got the game, I jumped right into the story mode, which is called the "Championship" mode.  I tried to go out and win every race, but after winning the first eight or nine races, I ran into some trouble.  The game is split up into three different tiers, with each tier becoming harder than the next.  Each race has a specific goal that has to be reached, like getting a Top 10 or Top 5 finish.  In fact, the only race that needs to be won is the final race, when you complete the entire Championship mode.

The quick race mode is also very enjoyable.  Racers have ability to jump right into a race "season" of 1-12 races, with 1-5 laps in each race.  The level of the other drivers can be set between easy, medium, or hard.  The tracks where you race can also be chosen, and you have the ability to make a custom schedule.  

Kyle Busch at Daytona, ferris wheel and all (Photo courtesy Activision)
Wondering if your favorite driver is in the game?  Well, there are only 15 real-life drivers in the game, along with three fantasy drivers.  Each driver has multiple paint schemes; these can be unlocked by earning experience points throughout your racing career.  The drivers available in the game are: Greg Biffle, Clint Bowyer, Jeff Burton, Kyle Busch, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Carl Edwards, Jeff Gordon, Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick, Jimmie Johnson, Matt Kenseth, Joey Logano, Mark Martin, Ryan Newman, and Tony Stewart.

There are also six NASCAR-sanctioned tracks in the game; Chicagoland Speedway, Daytona International Speedway, Homestead-Miami Speedway, Martinsville Speedway, and Talladega Superspeedway.  There is also the Unleashed Speedway, which is a circuit created for the game.  Each track offers at least two different courses, and some, like Martinsville, offer three.  The only track that is a true oval is one of the Daytona layouts.  This is the first track you race on in the game, and it is very easy to maneuver.  

Dale Earnhardt Jr. (Photo courtesy Activision)
 If you are a perfectionist (like myself), get ready for a long haul.  You have to get a gold trophy on every single track layout in the game's time trial mode.  This is somewhat tedious, and you won't get some of the tracks on the first run-through.  Eventually, though, even this doesn't prove too difficult, and the trophy/achievement should be yours.

One problem with this game is the lack of a multiplayer mode.  There is no online multiplayer to be found, and the only local multiplayer is between two people.  That's nothing new for a NASCAR game, but the game Split/Second has four-player local multiplayer.  Another problem with this game is that it gets hard so fast.  The game starts out easy enough, but it gets cripplingly hard very fast.  The difficulty level was very frustrating for me, so I'm not sure how younger kids will be able to handle it.

Joey Logano races beside Jimmie Johnson (Photo courtesy Activision)
 Overall, I was very happy with this game.  Though the difficulty was a little surprising at times, I never once thought the game was impossible.  Even my sister, who is terrible at racing games, thought the game was fun and wanted to play it over and over again.  I'd recommend this game to any of my friends, and a lot of them aren't racing fans.  If you're looking for something to get your kids for Christmas, this is a good choice.  NASCAR: Unleashed is available on the PlayStation 3, XBox 360, Nintendo Wii, and Nintendo 3DS Systems.

 RATING: 8.5/10

Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Holiday Season Is Upon Us

I hope everyone has enjoyed their Thanksgiving, and now the holiday season is in full swing.  If you are reading this, it's obvious that you have survived the crazy crowds of Black Friday.  Great job!  This deserves a nice holiday wallpaper!  How about one that I made, featuring the Sam Bass 2011 Holiday Cars??  Well, thanks to Sam Bass, Paint, and Photoshop, this idea has become a reality!  There are two wallpapers, one standard definition, and one widescreen.  Download one or both!  I hope you enjoy these wallpapers, and I hope everyone has a great holiday season!

1024x768 (Standard)
1600x900 (Widescreen)

Monday, November 21, 2011

Stewart Wins It All

Tony Stewart came into the Ford 400 trailing Carl Edwards by three points.  If Stewart won the race, he would win the championship, regardless of what Edwards did.  Carl Edwards and Bob Osbourne did everything they could possibly do; they led the most laps and had a dominant car.  But Stewart proved that the momentum he had could not be stopped.  Tony Stewart won the race, tied Edwards in the points, and won the championship via the tie-breaker (Stewart had 5 wins to Edwards' 1).

Tony Stewart celebrates with his crew (Photo courtesy Getty Images)
 Tony Stewart's race to a championship did not go as smoothly as he would have hoped.  After the first caution, the No. 14 team had to fix a hole that was punched in Stewart's grille.  Stewart went from the Top 10 to 38th on the restart.  "They're going to feel like s--t when we kick their a-- after this," Stewart said over the team radio.  He eventually worked his way back up through the pack, only to be put back in the pack again after a lug nut got stuck during a pit stop.  Stewart made risky moves on every restart, and was able to move through the pack quickly once again.  On the final restart, Stewart quickly dispatched Brad Keselowski and Kyle Busch to take the lead.  From then on, he drove away from Carl Edwards to win the race and championship.  Stewart's win was so remarkable because he passed 118 cars for position during the race.

Stewart goes 4-wide en route to the win (Photo courtesy Getty Images)
The race was delayed for over an hour for a short rain storm.  But that did not stop Carl Edwards' dominance.  Edwards lead 119 of the scheduled 267 laps en route to his runner-up finish.  Edwards was perfect all day, but he could not overcome Stewart's sheer determination.  But Edwards showed class after losing the title in the final race; "We led the most laps, and Tony still managed, you know, him and Darian, to do a good job with their strategy.  That's all I had at the end.  That's as hard as I can drive.  I told my wife, if I can't win this thing, I'll be the best loser NASCAR has ever had, so I'm going to try very hard to keep my head up and know that we'll go next year and be just as hard to beat next year and just as hard the year after that."

Carl Edwards congratulates Tony Stewart during the cool-down lap (Photo courtesy Getty Images)
Tony Stewart has now solidified himself as one of the great NASCAR drivers.  Only eight other drivers have won three or more championships; Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt (7), Jimmie Johnson (5), Jeff Gordon (4), and Lee Petty, David Pearson, Cale Yarborough, and Darrell Waltrip (3).  Stewart also became the first owner-driver to win a championship in the Sprint Cup Series since Alan Kulwicki did it in 1992. Tony Stewart is also the only person to win a Winston Cup, Nextel Cup, and Sprint Cup Series Trophy.

Tony Stewart and Carl Edwards were not the only Chase drivers in the race.  Matt Kenseth and Jeff Gordon finished their seasons strong, finishing fourth and fifth, respectively.  Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin were eighth and ninth, while Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Ryan Newman were 11th and 12th.  Brad Keselowski faded at the end of the race, and finished 20th.  Kyle Busch, who was leading the field coming to the final restart, finished 23rd.  Jimmie Johnson's Chase ended with a 32nd-place finish, solidifying the fact that his dynasty is over.  Kurt Busch lost his transmission early, and finished 34th.  Mark Martin, in his final race with Hendrick Motorsports, brought his Chevrolet home 24th.

A sign placed on Mark Martin's pit box from Hendrick Motorsports (Photo courtesy Kendra Jacobs)
The race was great, and the championship battle was even greater.  The race was filled with many "Game 7" moments.  Carl Edwards did all he could, but he could not defeat Stewart to win the championship.  The race ended the way it should have; the top two in points were the top two on the track.  The season is over, and Tony Stewart is our 2011 Sprint Cup Series Champion.  Tony Stewart's racing hero, A.J. Foyt, perhaps said it best - "He had to win it to win the championship.  I think Tony drove the best race of his life."

Champion (Photo courtesy Getty Images)

Sunday, November 20, 2011

2011 Nationwide Series Champion: Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

Coming into the race, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. had a 41-point lead over Elliot Sadler.  With a 37th place finish, Stenhouse would win the championship, regardless of what Sadler did.  On lap 30, when Scott Riggs was officially scored as "out" of the race, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. was declared the 2011 Nationwide Series Champion.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. celebrates winning the Nationwide Series Championship (Photo courtesy Getty Images)
 Stenhouse didn't need to worry about finishing in the back; he finished in second place.  2010 champ Brad Keselowski won the race, passing 2007 champion Carl Edwards on the final restart.  Edwards and Keselowski raced hard for the next few laps, but when Edwards got into the back of Keselowski, it opened the door for Stenhouse to finish off his championship-winning season with a runner-up finish.

Carl Edwards congratulates teammate Ricky Stenhouse Jr. on winning the championship (Photo courtesy Getty Images)
 Last year, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. was almost out of a ride at Roush-Fenway Racing.  But Jack Roush stuck by him, and he came back to become the Rookie of the Year for the Nationwide Series last year.  This year, he was able to sweep the races at Iowa, winning his first and second career Nationwide Series wins.

I picked Elliot Sadler to win the championship at the beginning of the year, and he was almost able to do it.  But Ricky Stenhouse was able to overcome the legend of a sophomore slump (much like Austin Dillon) to become the 2011 Nationwide Champion.  Ricky Stenhouse Jr. solidified himself today as a champion NASCAR driver.  One day, we may be talking about Stenhouse becoming the NASCAR Sprint Cup Champion.
Champion (Photo courtesy Getty Images)

Saturday, November 19, 2011

2011 Camping World Truck Series Champion: Austin Dillon

The checkered flag has fallen at Homestead Miami Speedway in the Ford 200, and the champion has been crowned.  Austin Dillon came into the race with a 20 point lead, and all Dillon had to do was finish 16th or better.  Johnny Sauter, who was second in the points and trailed Dillon coming into the finale, did all he could do to make up points on Austin Dillon; he led the most laps and won the race.  But it still wasn't enough to overcome Dillon's 10th place finish, and Dillon won the championship by 6 points over Sauter.  Dillon, the grandson of car owner Richard Childress, is the first driver to win a championship in the No. 3 car since Dale Earnhardt Jr. won the Nationwide championship in 1999.

Austin Dillon celebrates his first Camping World Truck Series Champion (Photo courtesy Getty Images)
 His championship hopes were almost dashed with a restart with about 33 laps to go.  Dillon started second, but quickly dropped to 15th.  As he was racing mid-pack, the rain began to fall.  And, with 15 laps to go, the race was halted, and it was never resumed.  Presumably, Dale Earnhardt sent some rain down from the skies to help the 3 car return to the champion's podium.

Photo courtesy Getty Images
 Austin Dillon had a magical year in the Truck Series.  He had 10 Top 5's and 16 Top 10's behind his 2 wins, which were at Nashville and Chicagoland.  He started on Pole five times, and found himself running at the finish 23 out of 25 times.  He was able to win the championship with an average finish of 9.3. 

I said at the beginning of the season that Austin Dillon would win the championship.  He showed promise last year, and this year proved that there was no sophomore slump.  Next year, Austin Dillon will move up to the Nationwide Series and drive the No. 3 Advocare Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing.  I wouldn't be surprised if we are reporting Austin Dillon winning a Nationwide Series Championship in two or three years.

Champion (Photo courtesy Getty Images)

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Edwards vs. Stewart

Carl Edwards leads Tony Stewart by three points heading into the season finale at Homestead.  This has been the tightest Chase in NASCAR history; part of this has been due to the change made at the beginning of the season to make the point system more simple.  Looking back on that decision, NASCAR may have cost Tony Stewart his third Sprint Cup Championship.  Under the old point standings, Stewart would be up by 9 points over Carl Edwards.  Carl Edwards would have picked up 1440 points during the Chase, while Stewart would have picked up 1449.

Stewart and Edwards race at Phoenix (Photo courtesy Getty Images)
 With the new point system, NASCAR wanted to focus more on winning.  But in fact, the opposite has taken place; it rewards consistency and punishes bad finishes.  So it is ironic that Carl Edwards is up by three points; those three points come from Edwards' win in the regular season.  That win came in Las Vegas, where Stewart dominated before Edwards won.

Points leader Edwards speaks in the Media Center at Phoenix (Photo courtesy Getty Images)
 As is always the case when it comes down to the final race, there are numerous Chase scenarios.  Here are a list of scenarios that may help you better understand what each driver has to do to win the title (Chase scenarios provided by
  •  If Edwards finishes ahead of Stewart, Edwards wins the championship
  • If Stewart wins the race, he wins the championship
  • If Stewart ties Edwards, Stewart wins the championship
  • If Edwards leads a lap, Stewart needs to finish four spots ahead of him if Stewart doesn't lead a lap
  • If Edwards leads the most laps, Stewart needs to finish five spots ahead of him if Stewart doesn't lead a lap
  • If Stewart leads a lap, he needs to finish two spots ahead of Edwards if Edwards doesn't lead a lap
  • If Stewart leads the most laps, he needs to finish one spot ahead of Edwards if Edwards doesn't lead a lap
  • If both Stewart and Edwards lead a lap, Stewart needs to finish three spots ahead of Edwards
  • If both Stewart and Edwards lead the most laps, Stewart needs to finish three spots ahead of Edwards
  • If Stewart leads the most laps and Edwards leads a lap, Stewart needs to finish two spots ahead of Edwards
  • If neither Edwards or Stewart lead a lap, Stewart must finish three spots ahead of Edwards
I'm really excited about the final race of the season.  The Sprint Cup Championship could possibly come down to the final lap at Homestead, and the race is going to be exciting!  I'm going to pick Carl Edwards to win the championship.  He's always on his game at Homestead, and I don't think Tony Stewart will be able to overcome Edwards and his fabulous Homestead performances. 

The title fight is down to Edwards and Stewart (Photo courtesy Getty Images)

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Kahne Snaps Losing Streak

Kasey Kahne won at Phoenix International Raceway, snapping an 81-race winless streak.  Kahne was not a factor during most of the race, but after solid pit strategy by crew chief Kenny Francis, he found himself in the lead with 14 laps to go.  Kahne has come on strong late in the season, and has been a threat to win on multiple occasions.  Kahne will be leaving Red Bull Racing at the end of the season to join Hendrick Motorsports, and he has said that he wanted to win before his time a Red Bull was up.  This was most likely Red Bull's last win in NASCAR, as the team is pulling out of the sport at season's end.

Kasey Kahne broke an 81-race winless streak with his win at PIR (Photo courtesy Getty Images)
 Points leader Carl Edwards came into the day with a three-point lead over Tony Stewart.  After his second place finish, Edwards is still three points ahead of Stewart.  Stewart, who led 160 laps, finished third.  Jeff Burton and Ryan Newman rounded out the Top 5.  A.J. Allmendinger finished sixth, after his pit crew was swapped out midway during the race with David Ragan's.  Positions 7-10 were held by David Reutimann, Marcos Ambrose, Paul Menard, and Clint Bowyer.

Carl Edwards races Tony Stewart.  They are 1-2 in the standings (Photo courtesy Getty Images)
 Chase drivers Denny Hamlin, Jimmie Johnson, Brad Keselowski, and Kevin Harvick finished 12th, 14th, 18th, and 19th, respectively.  Kurt Busch finished 22nd, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. was 24th.  Jeff Gordon lost his brakes early, and limped home to a 32nd place finish.  Matt Kenseth was blatantly wrecked by Brian Vickers, and finished 34th.  Kyle Busch's horrendous week continued during the race.  He blew an engine on lap 188, and finished 36th.

Carl Edwards, left, and Tony Stewart in the PIR Media Center (Photo courtesy Getty Images)
 The points picture did not change at all after Phoenix.  Because Tony Stewart led the most laps, he and Carl Edwards stayed just three points apart.  Now, Edwards and Stewart are the only drivers who are mathematically eligible to win the Championship.  Here are the unofficial points, courtesy of

Following the Kobalt Tools 500, the Championship picture is tight heading into Homestead.  There is only one more race to crown our Champion, and Carl Edwards and Tony Stewart are going to take it down to the last lap in the Ford 400.  Edwards won at Homestead last year, and I'm going to pick him to win the title this year.  But only after the checkered flag falls will we know who will be Champion.  The last race of the season is upon us, and you couldn't ask for a better championship battle.  Tune in next week, when Carl Edwards or Tony Stewart will hoist the Sprint Cup Trophy.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Stewart Bats .500

Tony Stewart won his fourth race out of the eight Chase races.  Stewart led 173 of the 334 laps at Texas Motor Speedway, and came even closer to his 3rd Sprint Cup Championship.  Carl Edwards finished second at Texas, and was able to hold on to his point lead.  Edwards is three points ahead of Stewart with two races to go in the Chase.
Tony Stewart stands in Victory Lane for the fourth time in the 2011 Chase (Photo courtesy Getty Images)
 Chase drivers Matt Kenseth (4th), Jeff Gordon (6th), and Dale Earnhardt Jr. (7th) also finished in the Top 10.  Kevin Harvick and Jimmie Johnson finished 13th and 14th, respectively.  Ryan Newman was 16th, and Denny Hamlin was 20th.  The Penske Racing cars did not run well at Texas; Brad Keselowski finished 24th, and Kurt Busch finished 30th.

Stewart leads Edwards late in the AAA Texas 500 (Photo courtesy Getty Images)
 The big story of the weekend pertained to another Chase driver.  Kyle Busch was parked by NASCAR, after intentionally wrecking Ron Hornaday under caution in the Truck race Friday night.  Here is a link to the video:  Kyle Busch was parked for the rest of the Truck race Friday night, and Mike Helton announced on Saturday that Busch would not be racing in either the Nationwide or Cup events this weekend.  Denny Hamlin was in the car for Busch in the Nationwide Series, while Michael McDowell took the reigns of the 18 car in the Cup Series.  Busch was atop the pit box for the entire Cup event.

It has become a two-man race for the Sprint Cup Championship.  While Carl Edwards and Tony Stewart are only three points apart, the next closest Chaser, Kevin Harvick, is 33 points out of first.  After Texas, the Chase field has been cut to 9 drivers.  The bottom three drivers (Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch, Ryan Newman) are now mathematically eliminated.  Here are the point standings after Texas, courtesy of

There are now only two races left in the Chase for the Sprint Cup.  The Championship battle is shaping up to be a dogfight between Carl Edwards and Tony Stewart.  Next week, the Cup Series rolls into Phoenix, which has been repaved since the last time the Cup Series raced there.  I'm still going to pick Carl Edwards to win the championship, but it is hard to go against Stewart.  In fact, the last driver not named Jimmie Johnson to win the Sprint Cup Championship was Tony Stewart, way back in 2005.  Tune in to the Kobalt Tools 500 from Phoenix International Raceway next Sunday, where Carl Edwards or Tony Stewart will move closer to hoisting the Sprint Cup Trophy.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Danica Reveals her 2012 Cup Plans

This news may shock you, but Danica Patrick is coming to NASCAR.  Her full-time Nationwide plans have been known for awhile now, but no one was sure what races she'd race in when she got to the Cup Series.  Today, she revealed her plans for a part-time ride with Stewart-Haas Racing.  Below is a list of the Cup races "The Danica" will be racing in:

2/26 - Daytona
5/12 - Darlington
8/25 - Bristol
9/2 - Atlanta
9/16 - Chicago
9/30 - Dover
11/4 - Texas
11/11 - Phoenix

That's only eight races, but Patrick's plans are to run 10 races.  "We're keeping two dates open to see how the start of the season goes and make sure we can call an audible if we need to," said Stewart.  "If we see a place or Danica feels like there's a track that she struggled at, we have that flexibility to plug them in.  But we will run 10 full races with her."  Stewart has said that he wanted to pick difficult tracks for Patrick to race on, which would help her to prepare for a full-time Sprint Cup Series schedule in 2013.

Danica Patrick and Tony Stewart in front of the No. 10 Chevrolet (Photo courtesy Getty Images)
The other thing many were unsure of was what number Patrick would drive in the Cup Series.  The No. 7 is her number in the IZOD IndyCar Series and Nationwide Series, but it is currently taken by Robby Gordon.  Patrick decided on the No. 10, which was her car number growing up. 

The wait is almost over.  Danica Patrick is just mere months away from her Sprint Cup debut.  When the Sprint Cup Series rolls into Florida for the Daytona 500, Danica Patrick will be there, in her green No. 10 car, with the rest of the Cup Series regulars.

Martin to Drive 00 for Michael Waltrip Racing

The news has become official: Mark Martin will drive the 00 for Michael Waltrip Racing in 2012.  The news was leaked earlier in the week, but until now, the details of the deal hadn't been known.  The deal puts Martin in the No. 00 car for 25 races in 2012; 24 points races and the All-Star Race.  Martin will make his MWR debut in the 2012 Daytona 500.

From left to right: Ken Butler, Mark Martin, and Michael Waltrip (photo courtesy
 Aaron's will sponsor Mark Martin in all 25 of his races, and 5 more races for Michael Waltrip.  Waltrip will race in the Budweiser Shootout, the other 3 restrictor plate races, and the race at Kentucky.  The deal will have Martin in the car for 25 races not only in 2012, but also 2013.  Aaron's also has an option to return to the car in 2014, in which Mark Martin will be the driver once again. Mark Martin said he had other options, but they were all "wait and see."

Mark Martin will now be teammates with Martin Truex Jr. and Clint Bowyer, whom Martin calls "two of the brightest stars in NASCAR."  The contract talks did not take long.  The contract has been worked on the past three weeks, and it was signed on Wednesday.  One thing many Martin fans were hoping for will not happen; Mark Martin will not race in the Nationwide Series or Truck Series.  Many believed that he could drive a truck for Kyle Busch Motorsports.  "I've got plenty to do and get to do what I really love to do," says Martin.

Mark Martin and Michael Waltrip during the announcement (photo courtesy
 As a Markaholic, I am very happy to see Mark Martin continuing to race for the next two, possibly three, years.  Michael Waltrip Racing statistically has not been a great team, but they have gone through an entire facelift in their driver lineup.  I am optimistic that Mark Martin could possibly win a race in a car owned by Michael Waltrip.  I think this is the end of Martin Watch: 2012, for now.  The page will still be up, and continue to check back; I will be linking to stories there in the coming days.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Martin Watch: 2012

The silly season is about to get a little sillier.  Mark Martin, who is leaving Hendrick Motorsports at the end of the season to make room for Kasey Kahne, may have signed a deal.  It is being rumored that Martin will drive the 00 for Michael Waltrip Racing on a partial schedule.  These ideas were set off by tweets from NASCAR writers Jim Utter and Jenna Fryer.

@jim_utter: Hearing David Reutimann will not return to Michael Waltrip Racing next season and No. 00 may run partial schedule #NASCAR

@jennafryer: One more thing ... Mark Martin may have a deal done for a partial schedule in 2012.

@jennafryer: Yeah, put two and two together between my tweet and @jim_utter and you can see what might be happening with Mark Martin...

Could this be the car Mark Martin drives next year in the Sprint Cup Series? (Photo courtesy Getty Images)
These tweets are very surprising.  Many believed, including myself, that Mark Martin would be racing a full-time season in the Nationwide or Truck Series, or  split the ride with Danica Patrick at Stewart-Haas Racing.  MWR has a news conference scheduled for Friday, when they will announce their firm 2012 plans.

I'm not sure how I feel about this, but I'm sure Mark Martin will help bring MWR up a little bit.  MWR has already signed Clint Bowyer and 5 Hour Energy for a full season, and Martin Truex Jr. and NAPA will return for another year.  As of right now, there is no word on who Mark's sponsor could be.  I guess we'll just have to wait until Friday.  But if there is any news on this issue, there will be a blog about it.  Until an announcement is made, Martin Watch: 2012 will continue...

Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween everyone! I get really excited for two holidays: Halloween and Christmas.  I watch the September days pass as the calender gets closer to October 1st.  When that happens, I know it's time for one thing: scary movies.  I love horror movies, especially Slasher films.  So who needs candy when you can sit on the couch and put in a movie that will cause you to lose sleep until Christmas, where even the sugar plums dancing in your head are afraid of Freddy Krueger.  So here are some of my favorite movies for this wonderful Halloween season:

Halloween (1978)
This is the movie that started it all.  John Carpenter's low-budget horror flick started the craze of slasher movies that we still see to this day.  Without Michael Myers, we wouldn't have Freddy Krueger or Jason Voorhees. 

The Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954)
When it comes to the Universal Studios' monster movies from the 50s, I've always been partial to The Creature from the Black Lagoon.  Growing up, it was always my favorite of all the Universal monsters.  Followed up by two sequels, where they try to turn him into a person.  Yeah, that has good idea written all over it...

The Shining (1980)
Heeeeere's Johnny!!  There's no escaping some of the sights seen in this movie.  Even the trailer's messed up!  Jack Nicholson plays a hotel caretaker who slowly loses his mind.  This movie has twists abound, but that's expected from Stanley Kubrick.  Based on the novel by Stephen King.

Insidious (2011)
I have literally lost sleep over this movie.  Modern horror movies don't usually scare me, but the music in this movie makes you jump.  Sure, the demon looks like Darth Maul from Star Wars, but I still don't want him in my room.

Night of the Living Dead (1968)
The classic by George Romero started everything Zombie.  Without this movie, we wouldn't have Shaun of the Dead, The Walking Dead, or even Resident Evil!  Plus, George Romero is from Pittsburgh, which is my hometown.  You can't go wrong with this zombie classic.

Happy Halloween everyone, and good luck getting some sleep!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Smoke Rises After 3rd Chase Victory

Tony Stewart won his 3rd Chase race at Martinsville, while other drivers' Chase hopes went up in smoke.  Stewart led early in the Tums Fast Relief 500, but faded during the middle of the race.  Following a two-tire stop late, Stewart was back up front and in contention for the win.  With three laps to go, Stewart lined up on the outside of Jimmie Johnson on the final restart.  No one had passed Johnson on the high side all day, but Stewart was able to make the pass. "I don't think anybody has ever passed Jimmie Johnson on the outside," said Stewart.  "It was just determination."  That determination also helped move Stewart up to second in points.  After starting the day 19 points back of Carl Edwards, he now finds himself only 8 points out of first place.  After the race, Stewart called out Edwards.  "Carl Edwards had better be real worried.  That's all I've got to say.  He's not going to sleep for the next three weeks."

Tony Stewart passes Jimmie Johnson for his third win of the season (Photo courtesy Getty Images)
 The fact that Edwards is still the point leader is very remarkable.  At one point, he was in the 20s and a lap down.  But somehow, Edwards and Crew Chief Bob Osborne were able to make another remarkable rally in the Chase to finish 9th.  "That's a gift.  We did not deserve to finish ninth.  My guys stuck with it and we got very, very fortunate."

Edwards wasn't the only Chase driver to record a top ten.  Hendrick teammates Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon finished second and third, respectively.  Both had strong cars during the race, and it seemed like a done deal that Hendrick Motorsports would record its 200th Cup victory.  But neither were a match for Stewart when the race ended.  After a bad Talladega finish, Kevin Harvick finished fourth.  Denny Hamlin, who is always good at Martinsville, finished fifth.  Dale Earnhardt Jr., who came close to winning the first Martinsville race in April, finished seventh.  Ryan Newman, who spun early, came back to finish tenth.

Kurt Busch finished 14th, while fellow Penske teammate Brad Keselowski finished 17th.  Keselowski was headed to a top ten finish, but was spun by Denny Hamlin with three laps to go.  Kyle Busch and Matt Kenseth wrecked in Turn 3 on lap 464.  Busch finished 27th, Kenseth was 31st. 

This wreck, which included Kyle Busch (18), Mark Martin (5), and Matt Kenseth, killed Busch's championship hopes (Photo courtesy Getty Images)
 The wreck puts Kyle Busch 57 points out of first, which ruins his championship hopes.  After Kenseth wrecked, he dropped to fifth in points, and now finds himself 36 points out of first.  With three races remaining in the Chase, here is how the point standings look, courtesy of

Carl Edwards got lucky once again.  He somehow managed a good finish out of a bad day.  Jimmie Johnson was passed for the win with three laps to go, and showed why he won't win the championship this year.  Kyle Busch and Matt Kenseth both saw their championship hopes go up in smoke in the same accident.  The only driver who seems to be within striking distance of Carl Edwards is Tony Stewart.  Stewart may be on a roll again, and could find himself hoisting the Sprint Cup Trophy at season's end.  But there is only one way to find out who will win the championship.  So tune in next week, where the Sprint Cup Series will race at Texas, and one driver comes closer to hoisting the Sprint Cup Trophy.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Bowyer Wins Childress' 100th

Clint Bowyer, who is leaving Richard Childress Racing at the end of the season, has solidified himself in the RCR history books; he has won Childress' 100th race in the Sprint Cup Series.  Clint Bowyer has said that he wanted to win a race with RCR before he left for Michael Waltrip Racing, and he was able to do it Sunday at Talladega.  On the final restart, Bowyer and RCR teammate Jeff Burton took off from the rest of the field.  As other drivers were swapping positions to get with their partners, the tandem of Burton and Bowyer left the field in the dust.  Entering the trioval coming to the checkered flag, Bowyer jumped out from behind Burton to try for the win.  Some very un-teammate-like bumping and banging ensued as they raced toward the start-finish line, but Bowyer had enough speed to take the victory.  The win was Bowyer's 5th career victory, and possibly his last with Richard Childress Racing.

Clint Bowyer beats Jeff Burton to the line at Talladega (Photo courtesy Getty Images)
 This race was the real wildcard race in the Chase for the Sprint Cup.  Brad Keselowski, Tony Stewart, Denny Hamlin, Carl Edwards, and Matt Kenseth were the Chase drivers who finished inside the Top 20.  Denny Hamlin's eighth-place finish was particularly amazing.  At one point, Hamlin found himself a lap down after he was the only driver who did not have a drafting partner.  Eventually, after receiving the lucky dog, he was able to hook up with multiple drivers on his way to his good finish.

Talladega was not as kind to the other Chase drivers.  Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jimmie Johnson, and Jeff Gordon finished 26th, 27th, and 28th, respectively.  Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch were involved in a wreck, and finished 32nd and 33rd.  Kurt Busch had the same problems that befell his little brother, and wrecked on Lap 173; he would finish 36th.  Ryan Newman was also involved in a wreck, and finished 38th.

Juan Pablo Montoya makes contact with Kyle Busch after their wreck. (Photo courtesy Getty Images)
 When the series stops at Talladega, there is always talk of drivers who run well who don't run up front often.  Such was the case for Dave Blaney, who finished 3rd.  This was Tommy Baldwin Racing's first Top 10 in 87 races.  Michael Waltrip, in a rare Sprint Cup Series appearance, finished 9th. 

This race at Talladega shook up the Chase, just like everyone expected.  But one thing didn't change; Carl Edwards is still atop the Sprint Cup standings.  After the Good Sam Club 500, here are the point standings, courtesy of

This race had very interesting implications on the Chase for the Sprint Cup.  And next week promises to be no different.  The Cup Series will go from the biggest track to the smallest track, and race at Martinsville.  It would be very possible for a Chase driver to get into a wreck that wasn't their doing.  The Chase picture will become a bit more clear next week, when one driver comes a little closer to hoisting the Sprint Cup Trophy.

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