Friday, March 21, 2014

Brewster the Rooster

Years ago, my good friend Wes and I became charter members of a small fly fishing club. There was quite a cross section of people among the membership and I got to know them all. There were professional people, doctors, bankers and such, along with shop keepers, farmers and builders. A few father and son teams strengthened their bonds by joining the club, spending time with each other, and there were others. We were known as the Kaweah Flyfishers and the club was affiliated with the Federation of Fly Fishermen. Several accomplished fishermen and fly tiers were counted among the membership and our club meetings usually featured guest speakers that discussed everything from the obvious fishing and tackle subjects to such things as stream conservation. There were fly tying seminars and the occasional film on fishing throughout the west. I learned a lot.

In the club’s second year we planned to hold an auction as a fundraiser. All the members were encouraged to seek donations of fishing and outdoors items from among the various community businesses where we lived or, if nothing else, we could donate our own gear that might be expendable, all for the good of the club.

It just so happened that the event’s planning coincided with the death of one of my dad’s good friends who was a lifelong fly fisher. He owned the local sporting goods store in my hometown when I was a boy and I’d known this man all my life. For years, he had been one of my dad’s fishing buddies. As far back as I could remember they and two other friends would take an annual two-week trip driving up to Northern California’s famed Steelhead rivers. They fly fished using stout tackle, testing their skills against those big silvery ocean going fighters. There were times when dad would take me with him after he got off work on hot late summer afternoons and we would go down to the sports shop so dad and his friend could plan for their next autumn fishing excursion. The shop was a wonderland to me. I’d go through aisle after aisle trying on baseball gloves and swinging the various bats. There were footballs and helmets and I could check out the basketballs or whatever else caught my eye while they talked and laughed sitting behind the sales counter.

After he passed away, the deceased man’s widow invited her husband’s old fishing buddies to stop by her home and go through the man’s vast fly tying supplies and take what they wanted, saying that it was her husband’s wish. Dad had taught me to fly fish and how to tie flies and knew I was very interested in the sport so he invited me to go with him to his friend’s house. I agreed to go along and can still recall the sad look on the old woman’s face as she invited us in and escorted us to the back of her small wood frame home where her husband’s fly tying room was located. When she opened the door, I was hit with the strong aroma of moth balls mixed with years of pipe smoke. His tying vise was still clamped on the small bench and one of those swing-arm, circular lights with a magnifying lens built in was positioned over the vise so the man could easily see his work. Every wall had several shelves attached and each had an array of Sir Walter Raleigh tobacco tins and old cigar boxes on them. They were each marked in black with what the contents were. The tins and boxes were filled with all kinds of feathers, furs, yarns, tying string, hooks and more. Knowing the value of what I was looking at, I almost felt embarrassed as dad and I were urged by the woman to rummage through things and take whatever we wanted. We took a few samples of the things we used to tie our favorite flies and thanked the lady. Driving away, both of us were quiet and I knew dad had been engulfed by the closeness of his own mortality.

It must have been a month later when dad called me to say that his friend’s widow wanted me to come back by and take what was left of her husband’s fly tying materials. All of his friends had come and gone and she was ready to toss out what was left if no one wanted it. She hoped I would take it. Again, I had that same embarrassed, uncomfortable feeling, but remembering the upcoming club auction, I knew that the man would be pleased that his fly tying materials would go to a good cause he certainly would have supported. I ended up loading a couple of large boxes filled with tobacco tins and smaller containers, each with various materials, into my pickup. I thanked the woman and was sure to tell her what the materials would be used for. She was happy they wouldn’t go to waste.

The evening of the auction came and as was our course, Wes and I traveled together. After entering what we had been able to garner as donations for the sale, we began looking over the other items that would soon be put on the block. We were both surprised to see down on the far end of one table a caged, live Dominique rooster. We both knew that the barred hackle feathers were used on several types of flies. Their use as wing material on the mosquito fly immediately came to mind. I recall both of us shaking our heads at the thought of a live rooster in the auction. If you purchased a complete Dominique hackle, it could be pretty expensive, but who would want to slaughter the full grown rooster to get it? Looking on through the other items available, we soon noticed that there were some really nice things to bid on. One member owned a fly fishing shop and had donated several new items. Another member owned a general sporting goods store and had brought in camp gear. There were specialty flies that members had tied, rod blanks, second hand reels, new fly lines and tapered leaders. It was obvious the auction was going to be a good fundraiser.

Shortly, the sale got underway and both Wes and I bid on and won a couple of needed items. The grand finale of the auction, I guess since it was the most unusual item, was the sale of the rooster. Wes looked over at me as the first bid call was made and no one was willing to offer.

“Bob, you’ve got that old chicken coop out behind your house. Why don’t you bid on the rooster?”

It was true, out behind the old farm house I rented west of town was a coop in a sad state of repair, but I had no desire to own that rooster and I sure couldn’t picture myself killing it for a few feathers. I just shook my head no while the auctioneer continued to plead for a bid. Wes couldn’t stand it.

“I’ll go halves with you. It’s for the good of the club.” He persisted.

Thinking about the club and knowing the cost wouldn’t be that steep when divided by two, I relented. Wes shot up his hand and sure enough, no one else bid. We were the proud owners of one full grown Dominique rooster.

Driving home that night with the caged bird in the back of my pickup, I was wondering what in the world possessed me to give in. Then I began thinking about what I’d have to do to get that old coop back in shape because the bird was going to have to live in it, I wouldn’t kill him.

The next day, after installing a couple of strategically placed replacement boards and wrapping a small roll of chicken wire around it, the coop was in passable shape. I guess it was a fair sized coop. It was eight foot wide, sixteen foot long and built onto the side of the equipment shed. Next, I had to go buy a big bag of chicken feed and placed some of that along with fresh water in the old galvanized metal troughs inside the coop and the rooster had a new home. At first he quietly scratched around on the dirt floor or roosted up on one of the coop’s perches. The bird seemed to be okay.

A few days later, at the crack of dawn, I was awakened from a sound sleep. What was that noise? I intently listened. There it was again and I realized it was that rooster! I hadn’t thought about that side of the equation. I got up and wandered out to the back porch. Off in the distance I caught the sound of a crowing rooster. No sooner did it quit than my rooster flapped his wings, stretched out his neck and crowed a loud response. I soon came to learn that this would be a daily early morning occurrence. I began thinking about the rooster’s co-owner not having the rare pleasure of hearing these early morning serenades…

Now I’d had dogs and cats most of my life, but never a chicken. One thing I knew though, I had to name the guy. After wondering about it for a while, the name struck me. This Dominique rooster would forever be known as Brewster. Brewster the Rooster!

It was a couple of months into our new found relationship when a farmer friend of mine who had years of experience with chickens told me I could probably leave the coop door open. The rooster had had enough time to become accustomed to his surroundings. He wouldn’t stray too far from his food and water and would find his way back to the coop to roost at night. I figured “what the heck”. It was a warm spring evening when I went out to check Brewster’s food and water situation. When done, I left the coop door wide open and sat a few feet away, resting on top of the picnic table, watching to see what he’d do. Brewster came down from his perch and cautiously stuck his head out the door, cocking it first one way and then the other. After a brief inspection, he must of felt safe as he picked his way out onto the lawn. I watched with interest as he worked his way around checking everything out. Just about dark he went back into the coop and got back up on his usual perch.

It wasn’t long before Brewster became master of the yard. Just as my friend had predicted, he stayed close to home. Summer came on, and I got in the habit of taking my dinner to the picnic table out back to eat where I could spend time watching Brewster. He got so used to me being out there that he’d hop up on the table just to see what was on the menu. I supposed that he must be pretty lonely as it got to where he’d even let me pet him. I know it sounds crazy, but I began to grow attached to that big black and white rooster.

Pulling in one day after work I was surprised to find barred feathers blowing across the dirt yard south of the house where I parked my rigs. Filled with dread, I came to a stop, jumped out and scanned the area. In the middle of the back lawn there was a dog that I’d never seen before. It was lying down and had Brewster pinned under its forelegs, mouthing him. My heart sunk at the sight of it. I was sure Brewster had been killed and all I could think was to kill that dog for what it had done. Remembering the 22 caliber rifle I kept just inside the back door, I slowly walked onto the back porch and unlocked the door. The dog didn’t run it just kept an eye on me while continuing to mouth what I figured was left of Brewster. I reached in, grabbed the rifle and cocked it, chambering a round. Stepping back out into the yard, I suddenly realized that the dog must have been shot at before because it jumped up and took off running with its tail tucked. I got off two shots before the dog was out of sight, missing with both. I was mad as hell and cursing my luck as I started to give chase when all of a sudden, Brewster, hardly a feather left on him, got up and sprinted right past me, disappearing around the corner of the house. I was still hot about the dog and ran after it, but it was too late. I ended up searching the rest of the evening for Brewster. He wasn’t in the yard so I crossed the road into the neighboring orange grove, looking everywhere. I couldn’t find him. I felt so downhearted and it was all over a rooster!

The next morning I woke early and listened for the then familiar crowing, but all was quiet. For the next few afternoons I’d come home from work and continue my search, but it was futile. I finally became resolved to the fact that the bird had probably died. Another dog, a fox, a coyote or any of a number of other critters that lived around the area must have gotten him.

It was about a week later when I was home at night watching television that I heard a strange noise. I didn’t pay too much attention the first time I heard it thinking the noise must have been made by the old house creaking as it cooled down from another hot summer day. Then I heard it again. My curiosity was up so I flipped on the front porch light and stepped outside. Everything appeared to be normal out front so I walked around to the south side of the house where my two rigs were parked. That’s when I clearly heard it. It was like a muffled squawk, something like the sound a bird might make. Filled with anticipation, I headed down the side of the house and there the squawk was again, only louder. Looking down at the side of the house I noticed the board that covered the man hole in the side of the brick foundation had fallen down. The crawl space below the house was open and the sound was coming from down there. I went and got my flashlight and peered under the house. Brewster stood back a ways, naked without his plumage and showing several red puncher wounds on his hide. I called to him, happy to find he was still among the living, but he stayed back. Seeing him without his feathers made me think he sure looked skinny. I went out to the coop, filled up his food and water troughs and took them to the crawl space opening, shoving them back a ways inside. The poor bird limped over and began feeding. He must have been under the house without food for well over a week. Everyday I kept his feed and water topped off, but Brewster refused to come out. He wouldn’t even come up to me. He’d been traumatized. I fed and watered him under the house the rest of the summer.

Home from work one day as autumn came on I found Brewster back on his perch in the old coop. His plumage, although not quite as grand as it had once been, was practically back to normal. He hadn’t come out, evidently too ashamed to be seen naked, until he was once again well dressed… He was still skittish, but eventually he allowed me to once again pet him.

I now knew that it was dangerous for him where I lived since I was rarely around to protect him. I decided the best thing I could do would be to find Brewster a new home. I looked for someone who had other chickens, but not just any chickens; they had to be free range, like I’d allowed Brewster to become. I worked as a field inspector for an agricultural supply company in those days so I was able to visit with a lot of farmers. Asking around, I soon found a suitable home for Brewster. He’d been through a lot and he deserved it.

It was a happy occasion the day I took him to his new home, setting him free and watching him mingle with his own kind. He would live out his life with a bunch of Rhode Island Reds. I hoped he wouldn’t mind too much being with those red chickens and he didn’t seem to be fazed by it. I’m sure he hadn’t heard what they say about redheads. I just hope he didn’t end up a poor old hen pecked rooster!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

The NFL: Who Needs a Good Quarterback in 2013?

Peyton Manning
Football fans all know how important it is to have a top quarterback on your team. Here's a rundown on several NFL teams that are or should be in the market for a high quality quarterback.

NFL teams that appear to be in dire need of a good quarterback...

1. Arizona Cardinals*
2. Buffalo Bills*
3. Jacksonville Jaguars
4. Kansas City Chiefs*
5. New York Jets
6. Philadelphia Eagles*

NFL teams which, in my opinion, could use a change at quarterback...

1. Cleveland Browns* - Age is the issue here. Weeden is older than either Aaron Rodgers or Alex Smith...
2. Dallas Cowboys - Same old story with Tony Romo. He performs well right up until crunch time...
3. Oakland Raiders - Even with a good supporting cast I just don't see Carson leading a team to the Super Bowl.

* Denotes teams with new head coaches for 2013.

So in my opinion there are 9 NFL teams right now that need a high quality QB or could use a change at the position. What's out there to fill those needs?

NFL teams which have what appears to be a good quality NFL quarterback they'd be willing to part with:

1. Miami Dolphins - Matt Moore may be a bridge to a future QB... (under contract)

2. New York Jets - Both Tim Tebow and Mark Sanchez could be available but don't bet on it... (Both are under contract)

3. San Francisco 49ers - Alex Smith (will be a free agent)

4. Seattle Seahawks - Matt Flynn (Under contract)

5. I would have included the Washington Redskins here (Kirk Cousins) but not after what happened to RG3.

That makes at least 5 QBs with quality NFL experience on the market this off-season.

Then there's the number of quarterbacks available in the 2013 college talent draft which appear to be of starter-type quality...

West Virginia's Geno Smith
1. Geno Smith - West Virginia. The top rated QB in this upcoming draft.

2. Matt Barkley - Southern California. Fell in the draft ratings but still considered starter quality.
3. Tyler Wilson - Arkansas. He has all the tools NFL scouts want to see.

I'm sure there's a sleeper or two out there some lucky team may pick up but those 3 are supposedly the crème de la crème!

So how do I think these quarterback questions will pan out? The following explanations are given in order of each team's 2013 draft selection position.

1. Andy Reid is the new head coach of the Kansas City Chiefs and by virtue of a terrible 2012 season they have the first pick in the draft. Andy's claim to fame being that he is great at developing young QB's. Based on this, I expect the Chiefs to use their pick and take the number one rated quarterback coming out of college, Geno Smith...

2. If I owned the Jacksonville Jaguars this would be a no-brainer... You know where I'm going here. I'd do whatever is reasonable to pick up Tim Tebow from the New York Jets (straight up trade for Blaine Gabbert? Chad Henne?) and order my head coach to either design an offense that features Tim's talents or go find another job. I'd then use the second pick in the 2013 NFL draft to shore up either the 30th ranked defense in the league or the 29th ranked offense... Tebow will put fans in the stands as well as giving the lowly Jags a fighting chance...

3. The Oakland Raiders probably still have a year or two of fair to good productivity coming out of Carson Palmer, but the writing's on the wall. This guy has seen much better days. I believe I'd go ahead and bite the bullet here and use the 3rd pick in the draft on Matt Barkley. I'd sit him down behind Palmer for a year or two and then see what we've got. Could be the start of a new Raider dynasty!

4. This is a good one...

If I controlled the Philadelphia Eagles I'd be out there right now shopping Michael Vick (and I assume they are), but who would want the oft-injured QB? That's why I didn't include the Eagles in the category concerning teams with a high quality QB they'd be willing to part with. One way or another Vick's done in Philly. Will a new head coach be willing to use the 4th pick in the upcoming draft on a QB thought to be a 2nd round pick at best? Here's where I'd be talking to my owner, Jeff Lurie, and the conversation would go something like this: "Let's go out and make Alex Smith an offer he can't refuse... The guy's a proven commodity capable of leading a team to the playoffs and winning once there..." Lurie would be a fool not to go along and they'd still have all their draft picks...

5. The Cleveland Browns are a team in total transition from the ownership on down. From all accounts, new owner Jimmy Haslam wants a winner on the field as soon as possible. Brandon Weeden showed fairly well in 2012 and there's a lot of young talent on this team but there are no guarantees with the Browns. Haslam might be favorable to bidding for Alex Smith's services but he still needs to fill his head coach and General Manager position so it's a little early to get a read on this team and who knows? Weeden may be deemed the man.

6. The Arizona Cardinals are perhaps the poorest managed team in the NFL and that is due to the people who own the Red Birds, the Bidwell family.

Ken Whisenhunt is fired...
While it's nice Arizona has a professional football team in their midst, it's too bad it has to be owned by the Bidwells, probably the tightest owners in the game. Due to injury, the Cardinals ran a virtual quarterback carousel in 2012 and ended up 32nd out of 32 teams on offense as a result. Perhaps the one QB they put some money into, Kevin Kolb, will survive the purge...
I'd say the Arizona Desert might be a good place for Matt Flynn to wind up, but I can't see the Seahawks trading him to a division rival... The Bidwells are currently searching to fill their head coach position too (something that happens every 4 to 5 years) so again it's a little early to predict what their plan is but let me tell you, whatever they end up doing you can bet it will be the cheapest way possible. Keep a stiff upper lip Arizona fans...

7. The Buffalo Bills just filled their head coaching job with a local favorite, Doug
Marrone who left the head coaching job at Syracuse University to take this one. The man is offensive minded and leans toward a pro-style offense but has proven flexible going with read-option and no-huddle offenses at Syracuse. A new coach may gravitate to a new, young QB out of college and I look for the Bills to select Tyler Wilson with the 8th pick in the draft if he's still available (see Cleveland and Arizona above). That move will effectively remove the top 3 collegiate QB's from consideration. On the other hand, Marrone's QB at Syracuse (Ryan Nassib) is in the upcoming draft and expected to be taken by the 3rd or 4th round... Buffalo needs help on an aging defense and maybe drafting high quality defensive help with the 8th pick and then picking up their QB of the future in a later round might prove appealing.

8. The virtual circus that is the New York Jets just seems to get crazier and crazier. How Rex Ryan survived the latest debacle is beyond me. Owner Woody Johnson kept Rex but got rid of his General Manager, and the Offensive Coordinator, while the Defensive Coordinator, Mike Pettine, left for the same job with Buffalo (What's that say about the Jets' situation?). I don't get it... With Rex still professing his "love" for Mark Sanchez it looks like the former USC QB will get another chance in the tumbler next fall. I fully expect to see Tim Tebow gone though. The team had better hire a therapist for Sanchez this offseason and get his head straight or they'll be in for another crushing season. Other than at QB the talent is on hand with this team... Despite all the injuries and crap, the Jets ranked a respectable 13th on offense and 11th on defense last season...

9. Finally, and I know this won't happen unless Tony Romo is physically unable to perform, 
I truly believe the Dallas Cowboys need to go a different direction at their QB position. Once again

we witnessed Tony at the end of another Dallas Cowboys' football season muttering to himself while sitting alone on the bench watching the seconds tick down. Team Owner/General Manager and media hog Jerry Jones had to stand up and express his conviction to stick with Tony Romo for the umpteenth time and then he went out and fired Rob Ryan, his Defensive Coordinator and Skip Peete, the Running Backs' coach. Isn't it about time to try someone new at QB? Yeah Tony's stats always look great and he's a nice guy, but Jerry, do you always want to be an also-ran? Maybe swing a deal for QB Matt Flynn and push Tony over the edge before next season starts... One other thing Jerry... Just shut up!

With one of the best classes of rookie QB's ever to come out of the college ranks in 2012 and with three teams making the playoffs under their direction, it's disappointing to see such a drop off in available collegiate QB talent this year and especially when you consider the number of teams that need QB help... How those teams fill their QB needs will be very interesting to behold...

Thursday, December 27, 2012

The 2012 World Series Champions

Here are some facts about the 2012 San Francisco Giants that led them to their second World Series Championship in three seasons:

Weathering bad luck - As if losing your All-Star head trip, ah, I mean bullpen closer (Brian Wilson, the bearded gnome) for virtually the whole season to an injury in April wasn't bad enough; the team lost their best hitter as well when Melky Cabrera tested positive for a banned substance and was forced into a 50 game suspension. This happened on August 15th with Melky leading the league in hitting (.346) and right after he had won the 2012 All-Star game's Most Valuable Player award. Suddenly the Giants' faithful were faced with fearing the worst for their team but rather than collapsing, the team came together and rallied. The Giants lost on the day they heard of Cabrera's suspension. This was just before they made a 5-1 road trip through San Diego and Los Angeles. That road trip vaulted them into first place to stay. "When we lost Melky, that's when we knew that the team was really good," All-Star winning pitcher Matt Cain said.

Excellent play - Buster Posey came back from a terrible season-ending ankle injury suffered in a home plate collision in May of 2011 with a lot of questions to be answered. Could the catcher's ankle hold up against the rigors of catching? Would Buster stand in with another base runner bearing down on him at the plate? Would his hitting suffer? Buster answered those and many other questions by having a career year as he became the first catcher to win the NL batting title and MVP award in 70 and 40 years, respectively!

As a team the Giants were the seventh since 1900 to reach the postseason despite hitting the fewest home runs in the big leagues. Without any "Big Boppers" the Giants made up for their lack of long balls by hitting .296 with runners in scoring position after the All-Star break. Another area of batting prowess that often goes unnoticed: San Francisco's 61 sacrifice flies topped the NL by a huge margin; St. Louis ranked second with 49.

More excellent play - The strength of this team was and will continue to be the starting pitching. The Giants' 5 man rotation (Madison Bumgarner, Matt Cain, Tim Lincecum, Brian Vogelsong and Barry Zito) consistently pitched late into the games making it possible for a patchwork bullpen to find a new identity without its All-Star closer. This is where former catcher Bruce Bochy really earned his keep. On top of posting 2012's 5th best NL team ERA in 2012, the Giants went 82-2 when leading after eight innings. This they accomplished without their All-Star closer and as two-time Cy Young award winner Tim Lincecum slumped to a 10-15 record! Bochy plugged Lincecum into the bullpen for the playoffs. Tim accepted his post-season role as a team player should and shined.

Two late July deals made by General Manager Brian Sabean solidified both the Giants' offense and defense. Second baseman Marco Scutaro was brought in from the Colorado Rockies. The 37 year old veteran brought his work ethic along with his willingness to play team ball with him and soon became like the Pied Piper as he led the Giants' younger ball players by example. He teamed up with rookie shortstop Brandon Crawford, rookie first baseman Brandon Belt and 26 year old Pablo Sandoval at third to form a solid defensive infield but Scutaro's real value came when he had a bat in his hands. Marco strongly influenced teammates as he frequently bunted to advance runners, hit to all fields and rarely swung and missed. In 120 combined games with Sadean's other late July acquisition, Hunter Pence who came to San Francisco by way of the Houston Astros, the Scutaro/Pence tandem drove in 89 runs. The added bonus in all of this was the speedy Pence immediately began running down fly balls in right field and pressuring opposing defenses when on the base paths. Brian Sabean's deals had turned to gold!

What was the glue that held it all together? Field Manager Bruce Bochy and although the 2012 Manager of the Year award went to someone else, I have to say Bruce truly earned the recognition given all the obstacles he had to manage this team through.

The Icing on the Cake came as the Giants made postseason history by winning six consecutive elimination games, including an unprecedented four on the road. After going down the first two games of the best of five Division Series at home against the Cincinnati Reds, the Giants scrambled and won the next three games, all on the road in Cincinnati to advance to the League Championship Series.

The defending World Series champion St. Louis Cardinals bolted to a 3-1 series edge and appeared set to advance before Barry Zito rose to the occasion and twirled some of the best pitching of his life going 7 2/3 innings in a 5-0 must win shutout victory in Game 5. That gutsy effort took the series back to San Francisco, where the Giants rose up and won the next two games by a combined score of 15-1. The team had made it to the Fall Classic!

In the Series they met the heavily favored Detroit Tigers who featured the top pitcher in the AL (Justin Verlander) along with Miguel Cabrera, MLB's first Triple Crown batting winner in 45 years and Cecil Fielder, their power hitting first baseman. Were the Giants in awe of this team from Detroit? Evidently, not in the least as they swept the American League Champion out of the Series in four games!


Tuesday, September 4, 2012

It's Richmond or Bust!

One last race to set the Chase field and it’s been like a game of “Hot Potato” while a small group of drivers vie for the 12th and final spot. Nobody wants it! Will someone win the spot by default?
Just one little bump...
Atlanta had a potential Chaser come right down to the wire only to have his chance at the gold ring ripped out of his grasp. Jeff Gordon has been left wondering if he’s become too soft in the latter part of his racing career after not going the “bump and run” route on eventual race winner Denny Hamlin. Hamlin’s win, preventing Gordon from getting to victory lane, worked to keep his teammate Kyle Busch in the final Chase position thanks to his point total. (see

Believe it or not, there are actually 6 other drivers besides Kyle who can wind up in the cherished final Chase position.

The least likely of this group to get in is Paul Menard and without going through all the necessary things that must happen I’ll just say it’s like a snowball’s chance… A win and some horrendous finishes by top drivers is all that can make Paul’s day a happy one…

Dinner at SB's house...
What the???
Poor Carl Edwards has enough on his plate just dealing with the 42 other drivers and teams he faces each week, but Beagle Voodoo is like the final straw. Going into Atlanta Carl was very optimistic with his chances to win on a track where his had past success. He told more than one interviewer he expected to win and assume the 12th Chase position. What happened? That darned Beagle played in and blew up Carl’s engine! Carl still has a long shot at the Chase but does anyone really want to bet on him? Somebody (Kristen? Sal? Gene? Phil?) needs to corner Cousin Carl, tell him what has been going on, give him the Speed Beagle’s phone number and tell him to formally apologize and not to allow this to continue! Like Paul Menard, Carl must win and have terrible finishes from drivers who don’t normally go that route in order to make the Chase.

And the beat goes on with the one-win drivers… If Joey Logano, Marcos Ambrose, Ryan Newman, Jeff Gordon or Kyle Busch win in Richmond they’re in… Simple, right?

Here’s the rundown on these five drivers’ results across the last 10 races at Richmond:

Driver------------------Wins---------------Top 5’s---------------Top 10’s-------------Average Finish

Kyle Busch--------------4---------------------7------------------------8-------------------------5.4
Jeff Gordon-------------0---------------------4------------------------7------------------------11.1
Ryan Newman---------0---------------------1------------------------5------------------------12.6
Marcos Ambrose------0---------------------1------------------------2------------------------16.1
Joey Logano------------0---------------------1------------------------1------------------------17.6

Here’s how these five drivers were ranked and performed in the previous four races in this series:

Driver------------------Rank--W G--Rank--Mich--Rank--Bristol--Rank—Atlanta—Ave. Finish

Kyle Busch--------------1-------7------1--------13-----1-------6--------2---------6-----------8
Ryan Newman---------2------11-----3---------28-----2------36-------3--------35---------27.5
Jeff Gordon-------------3------21-----2----------8-----3--------3-------1---------2----------8.5
Joey Logano------------4------32-----4---------31-----5-------8-------5---------18--------22.3
Marcos Ambrose------*-------1-----5-----------5-----4-------5-------4---------17---------7 (!)

*Marcos was winless going into Watkins Glen and not ranked but just look at who has out-performed the others in terms of average finish through this four race period leading up to Richmond.
It's not impossible...
Considering what has occurred over the course of the previous four races will any of the original group of four drivers step up? For the fourth time in the five races analyzed Kyle Busch stands most likely to win as the only driver to win at Richmond in the last 10 races and he’s done it four times! His average finish is less than half that of the next best driver… Jeff Gordon has to be characterized as the hottest driver in the group with a second and third place finish in Atlanta and Bristol respectively. Marcos fell off of his hot pace at Atlanta finishing seventeenth but he seems to perform well on short tracks. Then there’s Ryan Newman and Joey Logano who have  both been thrashing to get to this point. I’ll drag out what has become a broken record to this point in time and say it again… “Just win baby!” It will cure what ails any of these five.

Here are the current odds to win at Richmond next weekend among this group from : Kyle Busch 9/2, Jeff Gordon 8/1, Ryan Newman 50/1, Joey Logano 60/1 and Marcos Ambrose 100/1. If I had to bet right now I think I’d take the long odds and throw down on our Australian brother, Marcos Ambrose!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

A Hot Time In Hotlanta?

Who is going to burn Atlanta down?

Last week’s bombshell of a race at Bristol sure did bring out the best on the hostility front. Fan interest and viewership are up! Bruton must be smilin’ like the Cheshire Cat! (and so is race winner Denny Hamlin!)

So we march on to Atlanta once again with a group of drivers hoping to launch themselves into the glory of the Chase. There has been some shuffling among this group thanks to Bristol’s summer race on the revamped half mile concrete oval. Kyle Busch, on the strength of his 6th place finish and 38 points, coupled with Ryan Newman’s unfortunate wreck that sent his team home early with a 36th place finish and only 8 points, moved up to 13th place and into the lead for the final Chase opening. Although Kyle wasn’t credited with leading a single lap at Bristol, a track he has tamed many times, I’m thinkin’ he’s pleased with these results but the fact remains any of this group of six drivers with a shot at 12th place in the Chase can, just by virtue of a single win, either here in Atlanta or next week in Richmond, sew up the last seat at the dance.

Carl Edwards was oh so close to winning at Bristol after not stopping for fuel and tires on a caution with 85 laps to go. The strategy had him leading late in the race for 45 laps but alas (J) fresh tires and a splash was the way to go as Carl got passed then went dry. The 99 Ford team ended the night in 22nd place garnering only 23 points. Carl remains in 12th place without a win and a withering lead now only 5 points ahead of Kyle… Although I like them taking the risk late in the race and rolling the dice for another caution to pop up, the bottom line from this risky decision now equates to desperation time for the 99…

Jeff Gordon also elbowed his way past Newman to take over 14th place, 15 points behind JGR’s 18. Jeff, powered by his great HMS 24 team, put together a strong effort coming in 3rd at Bristol.

Now in 15th place, all is not lost for the SHR 39 even though Ryan Newman gave up a lot of ground on the point’s side at Bristol. All you Ryan Newman fans have to do is just revisit Al Davis’ favorite saying…

Marcos Ambrose also moved up with his 5th place Bristol finish adding 40 points to his total. Marcos is now in 16th place and really picking up the pace as we head into turn four. Suddenly he’s trailing Kyle Busch for the 12th place in the Chase by only 28 points! If he keeps the pressure on there’s no telling what might happen!

Joey Logano entered the Cup race at Bristol full of confidence after running off with the Nationwide win at Bristol race a day earlier and although he turned in a very good effort finishing in 8th place, he’s so far down on the point’s side that a win is all that will cure his ills. Joey continues to languish in 18th place not even within hailing distance of Paul Menard in 17th place.

Bring on Atlanta!

Here is a quick rundown on these 6 drivers and their experiences down in Peach Country by order of most successful to least over their last 10 races:

Driver------------------Wins---------------Top 5’s---------------Top 10’s-------------Average Finish
Jeff Gordon-------------1---------------------3------------------------7-------------------------8.1
Carl Edwards-----------1---------------------5------------------------7------------------------14.5
Kyle Busch--------------1---------------------3------------------------3------------------------16.9
Ryan Newman---------0---------------------0------------------------2------------------------19.6
Marcos Ambrose------0---------------------0------------------------1------------------------22.0
Joey Logano------------0---------------------0------------------------0------------------------26.7

This is the first track I’ve examined in this series of races leading up to the 2012 Sprint Cup Chase where Kyle Busch hasn’t had the best record going in. Is it any coincidence that Atlanta is yet another of Bruton Smith’s 1.5 mile cookie cutter tracks? And along those same lines, is it any wonder why Jeff Gordon does well here?

Will this be the race where one of this group of almost also-rans knocks it out of the park? Or will we have to march on to Richmond to finally set the Chase field…

My best case scenario? Have one of these drivers notch their second win at Atlanta, move on to Richmond, full of optimism as the heir apparent to the Chase and then have another driver with a higher point total knock them off the perch at the last possible moment! Now that would really get the juices flowing! It would certainly give us something to consider since I’m afraid the 10 race 2012 Chase will only seem anti-climactic after what happened last year.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Bristol Baby!

And then there were 3 races to go before the Chase field is set...
What’s interesting is that we still don’t have a single chaser assured of a place in the field with only 3 races to go. The top of the points standings keeps getting jostled about. Last week’s points leader (Jimmie Johnson) fell clear to 4th after losing his engine on a fast Michigan track just when it looked like the force (and the win) was with him… Greg Biffle was there to regain the points lead he had earlier in the season as he held off Brad Keselowski for the win. By the way, Bad Brad continues to look like the real deal as the Chase approaches. Too bad he and JJ appear to be friends. A Brad / JJ rivalry might really be something and somebody’s got to challenge the 48 team that otherwise looks poised to run away with it's 6th championship…

While the top of the points standings seems to keep getting rearranged each week the drivers who are still in the race for the 12th and final seat at the Chase table seem to be stuck with no one stepping up to claim the prize.

Last week’s analysis of drivers with the best chance to make the Chase pointed out that for the second week in a row Kyle Busch should have had the best finish based on historical statistics. Although Kyle had his struggles finishing in 13th place he actually was slightly better than his 13.8 place average finish at Michigan. He picked up 31 points and maintained 14th place overall in the points standings.
Just like Kyle, Ryan Newman entered and left Michigan without changing his position in the Chase remaining in 13th place overall with a Top 10 finish coming in 8th. Ryan did stretch his lead over Kyle by 15 points to 680 vs. 669 for Busch. As it stands right now Newman is in with one win and his point total...

Jeff Gordon had a tough outing in Michigan finishing 28th with in-race and engine problems ending up with a sore finger from pointing it at everyone else as if it wasn’t his problem… Jeff, man up! The 24 team slipped a place in the standings as Paul Mennard moved up into 15th . Jeff only picked up 16 points Sunday.

Marcos Ambrose, of the five one-win drivers with a shot to make the Chase, had the best finish at Michigan coming in 5th and picking up 39 points. Problem is Marcos remained in 17th place overall in the standings.

Finally Joey Logano remains in 18th place overall after having a dismal day at Michigan where he came in 31st only completing 132 laps of a possible 201 thanks to Juan Montoya. First, around mid-race, Joey and Juan were running side by side when Juan got loose and used the 20 car for his salvation. This move caused Joey to run up and smash into the wall. After another 50 racing laps passed the 20 was out of the garage and back on the track when Juan Pablo found the orange 20 once again forcing it into the wall a second time and again into the garage for heavy repair work. Joey was back out when the checkers flew only to scrape up 13 points. What did Joey do to you, Montoya???

If you think about it, all this talk about points is really fruitless. One of these guys needs to grab another win or Carl Edwards needs to do something he hasn't done since last season and defy Beagle voodoo by swiping a win and getting into the Chase by virtue of one win and more points than these other five drivers.

Who shines at Bristol? I think we all know the answer to that…

In his last 10 Cup starts in Thunder Valley Kyle Busch has 4 wins, 5 Top 5’s, 7 Top 10’s and an average finish of 8.7 but the way he’s been doing this season I’m going to say all bets are off at Bristol. The odds say he ought to win but will he?

Ryan Newman has the second best historical numbers at Bristol in his last 10 starts. Ryan has had 7 top 10 finishes and an average of 11.1 since 2007. In 21 Cup starts at Bristol in Ryan’s career his best finish was a 2nd place way back in 2004. Ryan, you need to get ‘r done!

For the sake of comparison, Carl Edwards’ record at Bristol is very good. Cousin Carl in his last 10 starts has 2 wins, 3 Top 5’s, 5 Top 10’s and an average finish of 11.7. If Carl’s gonna do it, this just might be the place…

I wonder what Junior's thinking... No maybe not...
Poor Jeff Gordon…  He’d be all right if there weren’t any other cars on the track. Okay, enough of that. How’s Jeff done in his last 10 starts at Bristol? How about 3 Top 5’s and an average finish of 13.9? Not too shabby... In his career Jeff has 4 wins on the half mile concrete track but the last one was back in 2002. Did anyone else see Rusty Wallace’s take on Gordon this week? I don’t usually go along with much Rusty has to say but this time he nailed it. He talked about how involved most drivers are with their crews, a whole team working to win. Rusty claims Jeff isn’t that way anymore, kinda like he’s on cruise control while everyone else is thrashing for the win. If true, that says a lot…

Marcos needs to pay close attention to those immortal words spoken by the NFL’s Al Davis… “JUST WIN BABY!” Marcos, you listenin’?  Can you do that? I know it’s a tall order, man, especially at Bristol, but wouldn’t that be cool? In seven Cup starts at Bristol Marcos has a 3rd place finish in 2009 and a 10th place finish in last season’s August race. Couple that with an average finish of 18.14 and the indications are that there’s a chance and I guess that’s all you can ask for right now…

Joey Logano has not performed well in Thunder Valley at all. His best finish in seven Cup starts has been a 13th place in last season’s August race. Joey has an average finish of 24.4… What can I say? Once again, here is a driver who just needs to win and it will make everything else immaterial. Is it in you Joey?

Is there really special power in Beagle voodoo? Will Carl break the spell?

What about Kyle? Can he climb out of his funk?

 Will Ryan make our own famous Cord Rotz proud?

Can Jeff pull off another weather win?

What about Marcos? It looks like he’s finally getting comfortable on America’s ovals. Can he really pump up our Aussie fans?

Logano makes a good dark horse. Will he surprise us all?

Here comes Thunder Valley! Who wants it???

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Do Fords Really Consistently Win At Michigan?

Last week we were looking down a twisting road course trying to determine who might, based upon their historical accomplishments at Watkins Glen, improve their chances of making the 2012 Sprint Cup Chase. Of the four drivers with a single win at the time it appeared Kyle Busch should have held the edge going into the race. Although the outright win went to that interloper from Australia, Marcos Ambrose, here’s how the four drivers with a single win were expected to perform and how they actually did:

Kyle Busch, with 6 top 10 finishes in 7 races, 3 top 5’s and a win in 2008 on the Glen course was by far the best historical driver and he ended up placing 7th, which in combination with his lead laps netted the JGR #18 39 points.

Ryan Newman, in his last 10 starts at Watkins Glen put up the second best numbers with a top 5 and 3 top 10’s. Ryan just missed a top 10 finish coming in 11th and garnering 33 points.

Jeff Gordon had just 2 top 10 finishes in his last 10 starts on New York’s road course and although, like Kyle Busch, he had a genuine shot at a top 5 finish and possibly the win, Jeff was victimized by the oily track. After spinning out on the final lap he finished well down the line in 21st and only picked up 23 points for the 24 team’s effort.

Joey Logano was kind of a dark horse in this since we only had 3 starts in Sprint Cup racing to examine. His best finish was just last year when he came in 5th. Logano ended up having a bad day finishing 32nd and only picking up 12 points.

The analysis was really quite accurate based on the historical numbers these drivers have produced. So what was the bottom line coming out of one of the best races we’ve seen in a long time? Instead of the picture clearing up a little concerning who might end up grabbing the 12th and final position in the 2012 Chase, the picture has become even more muddled with yet another driver literally willing himself into the competition.  

Going into this week’s Cup race at Michigan International Speedway I’ll now take a look at 5 drivers and their historical numbers. Just remember if any of these 5 can rip off a win at MIS the odds go way way up that they’ll be in the Chase and we all know anything can happen if a driver gets hot late in the season…

In order of their points standings after 22 races-

Ryan Newman is 13th with 644 points (49 points out of 10th place). In his last 10 starts at Michigan Ryan has 1 top 5 and 2 top 10 finishes and his average finish has been 19.8.

Kyle Busch is now in 14th place with 638 points. In his last 10 starts Kyle has 1 win (Aug. 2011) and 3 top 5’s. Kyle’s average finish has been 13.8.

Jeff Gordon is 15th with 634 points. Jeff has 3 top 5 and 5 top 10 finishes in his last 10 starts at MIS. His average finish has been 15.1.

Marcos Ambrose comes in 17th with 600 points on the strength of last Sunday’s win. In his 8 starts at Michigan Marcos has accumulated 1 top 10 finish and that was a 9th place finish last June. His average finish has been 24.9.

Finally, Joey Logano is in 18th in the points standings through 22 races this season with 587 total points. In 7 Michigan Cup race appearances Joey has 2 top 10 finishes and his finishes have averaged 18.0.

Based on these numbers Kyle Busch should once again come out on top at Michigan followed by Jeff Gordon and Ryan Newman. Will another interloper show up? Will Carl Edwards come out of his winless funk and assert his claim to the Chase? Fords are supposed to do well on this track. (The way it stands right now all Carl needs is one win while staying in 12th )
With only Bristol, Atlanta and finally Richmond coming up after Michigan before the Chase field is set, who wants it?