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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Thursday, October 20, 2011

Chase Check-Up

We are halfway in the 2011 Chase for the Sprint Cup.  In the first 5 races, we've seen the standings shaken up on more than one occasion.  With two "wild card" tracks still ahead, we still aren't sure who could raise the Sprint Cup trophy at Homestead.  The standings look a lot different than many NASCAR Insiders thought they would at this point in the season.  Here's a breakdown of the standings:

1.) Carl Edwards - The points leader looks poised to win his first Championship.  Roush Fenway Racing is strong on the downforce tracks.  If he can make it through Talladega and Martinsville, he could find himself headed to his first Sprint Cup Championship.

Carl Edwards after his win at Las Vegas (Photo courtesy
 2.) Kevin Harvick (-5) - Kevin Harvick works hard.  That is why he is second in the standings.  Richard Childress Racing has not had the speed this year that they had last year.  But Harvick is good at Talladega and Martinsville, and is a threat to win both of those races.  It will be hard to stop Harvick if he gets on a roll coming down the stretch.

3.) Matt Kenseth (-7) - Following his win at Charlotte, Kenseth is poised to win his second career championship.  He is in the same boat as Edwards; his cars are fast, but he needs to make it through Talladega and Martinsville unscathed.  If he can do that, he could be a favorite to win the championship.

4.) Kyle Busch (-18) - Kyle Busch has yet to win a race in the Chase.  But after a slow start, he has finished strongly in the last few races.  But he will need a win to win the championship, regardless of what happens at Talladega and Martinsville.  But, at only 18 points out, Kyle Busch is still in the hunt for the Championship.

5.) Tony Stewart (-24) - After winning the first two races of the Chase, Tony Stewart stumbled at Dover.  But he has remained surprisingly strong in the Chase, and finds himself within striking distance.  If any of the drivers in front of him have trouble at Talladega or Martinsville, he could capitalize on their misfortune.  If it all works in Stewart's favor, he could be hoisting his 3rd Sprint Cup trophy at Homestead.

6.) Brad Keselowski (-25) - Brad Keselowski was strong when the Chase started, but he stumbled at Charlotte.  He could easily find his step again and win one or two more races before the season is over.  But he, like Stewart, will need some help getting back into contention.

7.) Kurt Busch (-27) - Kurt Busch is difficult to figure out.  Some weeks he is good, others he is not.  This inconsistency is the exact reason why he will not win the championship this year.  I would not be surprised to see Kurt Busch win another race before the season is over, but his inconsistent finishes will prove too much to overcome.

8.) Jimmie Johnson (-35) - Jimmie Johnson finds himself in unfamiliar territory.  He is down by 35 points with only 5 races remaining.  Johnson should never be counted out, but I don't think Five-Time will become Six-Time this year.  The streak is over, and we will see our first new champion since Tony Stewart in 2005.

Johnson's Championship hopes were put in jeopardy after his wreck at Charlotte (photo courtesy Getty Images)
 9.) Dale Earnhardt Jr. (-60) - NASCAR's Most Popular Driver will once again not win the championship.  At 60 points out of first, Earnhardt Jr. has not shown the speed this year that could help him get out of this hole.  Even a win at Talladega will do little to help his cause.  Junior Nation will be left waiting until next year.

10.) Ryan Newman (-61) - Ryan Newman has always been hit or miss in the Chase, and this year he's missed.  Inconsistency has plagued the Stewart-Haas driver, and this has proven too much for Newman to overcome.

11.) Jeff Gordon (-66) - Jeff Gordon was an early favorite to win the championship this year.  Many believed that Gordon would win his 5th Sprint Cup Title.  But after bad finishes have plagued his Chase run, his Drive for Five seems to be over.  A 66 point deficit is too much to overcome, and Gordon fans will have to wait until next year, when the Drive for Five begins at Daytona.

12.) Denny Hamlin (-86) - What can you say about Denny Hamlin.  After a disappointing regular season, Hamlin's bad luck has continued into the Chase.  At 86 points out, Hamlin's championship hopes are already dashed.  For Hamlin's sake, hopefully his bad luck will end in 2012.

The Chase is halfway done, and there are 4 or 5 drivers who still have a legitimate shot to win the championship.  But with Talladega and Martinsville as the next two races on the schedule, anything can happen.  Following those two tracks, the Cup Series will roll into Texas, and the Roush Fenway cars should be strong there.  Phoenix could be another wild card race, due to the fact that the track has been recently paved.  Then the Chase will conclude at Homestead.  After 5 races are down, I'm going to pick Carl Edwards to win the championship this year.  No matter who you're rooting for, the Chase will be fun to watch all the way down to Homestead, where someone will hoist the Sprint Cup Trophy.

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Monday, October 17, 2011

Kenseth Wins, Johnson Loses

The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series raced at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Saturday for the only night race in the Chase.  The race came down to a 12 lap shootout between Matt Kenseth, Kyle Busch, and Carl Edwards.  Kyle Busch, who is always good on restarts, was no match for Kenseth, who pulled away for his 3rd win of the season.  The win vaulted Kenseth to 3rd in the point standings.  Kyle Busch picked up 4 spots after his runner-up finish, and is now 4th in points, 18 points behind Carl Edwards.  Edwards finished 3rd, and is still the Championship leader.
Matt Kenseth celebrates his 3rd win of 2011 (Photo courtesy Getty Images)
 The biggest Chase shakeup was not Kenseth's win, however.  On lap 316 of the 334 scheduled laps, Jimmie Johnson got loose underneath Ryan Newman.  His car swerved to the right, and headed straight for the Turn 2 wall.  The impact sent his rear tires off the ground, and Johnson seemed shaken when he got out of the car.  However, the wreck may have made a bigger impact on his Chase hopes.  Johnson now finds himself 8th in points, 35 points behind Carl Edwards.  At the halfway point, Johnson is the lowest he's ever been since 2004, the inaugural year for the Chase.
Johnson's car sits in the garage after a wreck at Charlotte (Photo courtesy Getty Images)
 Four other Chasers finished inside the Top 10; Kevin Harvick was 6th, Tony Stewart 8th, Denny Hamlin 9th, and Ryan Newman 10th.  Denny Hamlin's 9th place finish was his first Top 10 in the Chase.  Kurt Busch (13th), Brad Keselowski (16th), and Dale Earnhardt Jr. (19th) finished inside the Top 20.  Jeff Gordon was 21st.

Rick Hendrick was probably very happy to leave Charlotte.  The highest finishing Hendrick Motorsports car was Dale Earnhardt Jr.  Jeff Gordon finished a lap down, Jimmie Johnson finished 34th following his wreck, and Mark Martin finished 37th after a broken left front wheel hub.

Following the Bank of America 500, the Chase for the Sprint Cup point standings have been shaken up yet again.  This time, it seems Jimmie may have used his mulligan a little too early.  Jimmie finds himself down in the points with Talladega and Martinsville still to come.  Carl Edwards and Kevin Harvick are still 1-2 in the standings, separated by only 5 points.  Here are the points after Charlotte, courtesy of

The Chase has been shaken up, and it's about to get a little more dicey.  The Sprint Cup Series will pull into Talladega Superspeedway this weekend, where anything can happen.  After this race, we should see a better outlook of who will compete for the Championship.  If a driver can avoid a big wreck, they will move one step closer to hoisting the Sprint Cup Trophy.

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Sunday, October 16, 2011

Dan Wheldon 1978-2011

When the IZOD INDYCAR World Championships presented by Honda took the green flag this afternoon, many fans were expecting a great run to the finish.  Many wondered if Will Power would be able to get ahead of Dario Franchitti and win his first IZOD INDYCAR Championship, or if Franchitti would win his 3rd Consecutive title.  That was before a horrific crash on Lap 11.  A crash that would cause the race to be red flagged for over 2 hours.  A crash that would end the life of Dan Wheldon, a Champion and 2-Time Indianapolis 500 Winner.

As the race began, the drivers were making very dicey moves.  On lap 11, a wreck was triggered by this hard racing.  When all was said and done, 15 cars were involved in the wreck.  The race was red flagged at this point, as the track crews worked to clean the track.  All the drivers were taken to the infield care center, and JR Hildebrand, Pippa Mann, and Will Power were taken to University Hospital via an ambulance.  Power was later released, while Hildebrand and Mann were held overnight for evaluation. 

As the race broadcast went on, we were shown pictures of Wheldon's car, and eventually the helicopter taking off to take Wheldon to the University Hospital.  The worst sight was seeing a yellow tarp covering Wheldon's car.  The only other time I'd seen a tarp over a car was in 2001, when we lost Dale Earnhardt.

As the broadcast went on, the tone of the broadcasters got more somber.  We saw images of Danica Patrick crying on camera.  Eventually, officials called the drivers into a meeting to discuss what was going on.  After a red flag delay that lasted about 2 hours, we were told the news that we were dreading; Dan Wheldon had succumbed to injuries sustained in his wreck.  His friends and competitors decided to salute Wheldon by driving a 5 lap tribute.

May Dan Wheldon rest in peace.  My thoughts and prayers are with Wheldon's friends and family.  I'm not sure how to end a blog post like this, but I think Marty Reid of ABC ended today's broadcast the best he could do.  So I'll end this post with his quote.

"Many people ask me why I always sign off 'Till we meet again.'  Because goodbye is always so final.  Goodbye, Dan Wheldon."
-Marty Reid

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Champ is Here

This weekend, Jimmie Johnson reminded us why he's won the past 5 championships.  On his way to a victory in the Hollywood Casino 400, Johnson led 197 of the 272 laps run.  His Chase surge has continued, and Jimmie finds himself third in points, 4 points back of first place.  It wasn't all smooth sailing for Johnson though.  He had to hold off a hard-charging Kasey Kahne on the final restart.  After disposing of Kahne, Johnson had no problem winning career race No. 55.  He is now tied for 8th all-time with NASCAR Great and ESPN Analyst Rusty Wallace.

Jimmie Johnson celebrates his 2nd win of 2011 (Photo courtesy Getty Images)
 Chase hopeful Carl Edwards had a very eventful day.  After qualifying second, he began to fall back as soon as the green flag fell.  At one point, he found himself one lap down.  But by the end of the race, he was back up in the Top 10.  On the final lap, he and Kevin Harvick were racing hard for 5th place, which was the difference between first and second in points.  Carl Edwards now finds himself atop the points standings, one point ahead of Kevin Harvick.  Only two other Chase drivers finished inside the Top 10; Brad Keselowski was third and Matt Kenseth was fourth.

6 other Chasers finished from 11-20.  Kyle Busch (11th), Kurt Busch (13th), Dale Earnhardt Jr. (14th), Tony Stewart (15th), Denny Hamlin (16th), and Ryan Newman (18th) all finished inside the Top 20.  Jeff Gordon was the only Chase driver to actually run into some trouble during the race.  With about 2 laps to go, Gordon blew his engine, which led to a disappointing finish of 34th.  Gordon fell to 47 points back in the standings, and it now seems that the Drive for 5 is over for 2011.

Jeff Gordon's Chevrolet billows smoke after the engine lets go (Photo Courtesy Getty Images)
 After Kansas, the Chase was shaken up some more, with the Top 7 drivers all switching spots.  Kyle Busch, who many thought would challenge Johnson for the Championship, finds himself in 8th place, 20 points behind the leader.  If he is going to challenge for the title, he is going to have to win at least 1 race to get himself back in contention.  Following his win, Jimmie Johnson moved up to 3rd in points, and now finds himself only 4 points out of the top spot.  Here are the points following Kansas, courtesy of

Following this race, it seems Jimmie Johnson has returned to Championship form, and looks poised to win his 6th Consecutive Championship.  Kasey Kahne was strong at the end of the race, and I wouldn't be surprised if he wins a race before his time at Red Bull Racing is over.  Mark Martin finished 10th, after running strongly all weekend.  It would be nice to see Mark get one last victory before leaving Hendrick Motorsports.  He has not announced where he will be next year, but he will not be running full-time in the Cup Series.

Next weekend, the Cup Series rolls into Charlotte for the last Saturday Night race of the season.  Jimmie Johnson is always strong at Charlotte, and this time should be no different.  After Chase race 4 of 10, he seems to be back in championship form.  We'll see what will happen next week, and see who will come even closer to hoisting the Sprint Cup Trophy.

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Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Kurt Busch defeats his "Arch Nemesis"

Kurt Busch blew past Jimmie Johnson on the second-to-last restart to capture his 2nd win of the 2011 season.  After the race was dominated by Carl Edwards and Jimmie Johnson, Busch captured the victory on a late restart, then held off Johnson on the final restart to win the race.  After the win, Busch had this to say about beating Johnson, "to beat your arch nemesis, that's just icing on the cake."  Busch and Johnson have had a rivalry this season, with Busch stating he's "in Johnson's head."  Busch has even called Johnson a "5-Time Chump."  Edwards finished 3rd, a nice comeback after a pit road speeding penalty set him back with about 150 laps to go.

Kurt Busch wins his 2nd race of the season (Photo Courtesy Getty Images)
  Other Chase drivers who finished inside the Top 10 were Matt Kenseth, Kyle Busch, and Kevin Harvick.  Jeff Gordon was 12th, Denny Hamlin 18th, and Brad Keselowski finished 20th.  Bad finishes befell Ryan Newman, Dale Earnhardt Jr., and Tony Stewart.  The Stewart-Haas cars were never fast all day, and they ran outside the Top 20 for the majority of the race.  Dale Earnhardt Jr. ran much better than he finished.  After coming back from a broken sway bar arm at the beginning of the race, Earnhardt Jr. had to come in late to replace a loose wheel.  This set him back, and he never had time to recover.

Kurt Busch pulls away from his "arch nemesis," Jimmie Johnson (Photo Courtesy Getty Images)
  Following the race, the Chase seems to be heating up.  The top nine drivers are now separated by only 19 points.  Here are the point standings following Chase Race #3:

1. (+1) Kevin Harvick            --
2. (+2) Carl Edwards             --
3. (-2) Tony Stewart              -9
4. (+5) Kurt Busch                -9
5. (+5) Jimmie Johnson        -13
6. (-3) Brad Keselowski        -14
7. (--) Matt Kenseth              -14
8. (-2) Kyle Busch                -15
9. (-4) Jeff Gordon                 -19
10. (-2) Dale Earnhardt Jr.      -34
11. (--) Ryan Newman            -41
12. (--) Denny Hamlin            -68

Through 3 races, the Chase is still very tight.  The top nine drivers all have a legitimate shot to win the Championship.  It seems that Jimmie Johnson cannot be counted out of the Chase until he is mathematically eliminated.  With his 2nd place finish, he moved up 5 spots, to 5th in points.  Carl Edwards looked strong, and Kansas should be a good track for him.  Kevin Harvick finds himself back atop the standings following a quiet Top 10.  Tune in next week, as the Chase continues on in Kansas, where someone will move one step closer to raising the Sprint Cup Trophy.

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