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Sports Drama Where It is Supposed to Be

Sports Drama Where It is Supposed to Be

This week has seen plenty of ‘off-the-field’ sports drama and tragedy. Recognizing that is has been a horrible week in the sports world (especially in college sports), it is important to remember that we normally look to sports for entertainment and to escape from our concerns of everyday life.  If f you want that type of sports drama (the ‘on-the-field’ type), there’s no better place to look this weekend than the last NASCAR race of the year from Homestead, FL on Sunday. 

I know that there are a lot of choices for your sports drama – the Aggie football game, the Aggie Men’s and Women’s Basketball games, any number of NFL games – but for sheer excitement, I’m betting on the Homestead race.  You may not be a fan of stock car racing, but there are some interesting back stories that you may not know about.  The most obvious is the closest Championship points battle ever in NASCAR.  Only three points separate the top two contenders – Carl Edwards and Tony Stewart – and that difference is miniscule in a sport where there is one point separating each finishing position.  Thus, if Carl Edwards finishes three places behind Tony Stewart, he loses the Championship (Stewart own the tie-breaks).  In fact, the only scenario where Edwards is sure to win the Championship, is if he wins the race.  And given that he has only won one race (back in March) and Stewart has won four races in the last nine weeks certainly gives the edge to Stewart.

On top of this very close championship is the fact that this is the first time since 1992 that a driver that also owns his race team (Stewart) may win the Championship.  The last owner/driver to win the Championship was Alan Kulwicki who was tragically killed in a plane crash just a few months after winning his Championship.  The list of the drivers that have tried to make it as owners/drivers in stock-car racing is a who’s-who of racing history – Michael Waltrip, Robby Gordon, Lake Speed, Geoff Bodine, Brett Bodine, Darrell Waltrip, AJ Foyt to name a few -  all of whom have been lucky to win races, much less championships.

Another interesting backstory for this year’s last race is the fact that Jimmy Johnson is not in contention for the Championship.  Johnson won the championship for five years in a row starting in 2005 and this is the first time in six years that Johnson hasn’t been on top of the points at this time of the year.  That Championship streak is almost twice as long as the next closest championship streak.  While Johnson has been a great champion and the other teams certainly have had to raise their game to match Johnson’s team, it’s nice to have different characters battling for the championship.

It’ll also be fun to watch to see if the recent rise of ‘team orders’ within stock-car racing rears it’s ugly head.  Team orders is where a teammate is instructed to do things to intentionally help another driver win.  Team orders have been fairly regular in Formula 1 racing.  The first we’ve seen of team orders in stock car racing was during the most recent Talledega race where it was initially reported that Ford drivers were given strict orders not to help Chevrolet drivers in the draft.  This may be an interesting development because the Homestead track is one where you can get a slight drafting advantage down the straights, so it’ll be important who is behind you and if they are helping.  Will the drivers in Fords only stick with Edwards?  It’ll be interesting to see.

Lastly, don’t forget the guys on pit road.  The racing is so tight, that just one second lost on pit road can lead to five or more spots lost on the track.  And as I mentioned earlier, just three places will lose the Championship and millions of dollars for either competitor.  Would you want to be the pit crew athlete that drops a lug nut when trying to do an 11-second pit stop? Me neither.  We’ve been fortunate to work with the Stewart/Haas pit athletes for the past four years and there is tremendous pressure on these guys to change four tires and dump in 22 gallons of gas under 12 seconds over the three hours of the race.  Pit road is a pressure-cooker.  If you’d like to hear more about how this Championship scenario puts pressure on the pit crews, head on over to the Huffines Institute and listen to our podcast from last week with Adam Davis who is the Strength and Conditioning Coach for Stewart/Haas racing (and was a tire-changer pit athlete).

So, it’s shaping up to be a great sporting weekend.  Catch the Aggies on Saturday and Sunday, but don’t forget to tune to the race on Sunday afternoon.  It’s going to be a fun race!

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