published Tuesday, February 28th, 2012

5 at 10: Robert Griffin III, NBA and the completion of the Daytona 500

Emergency personnel walk with Juan Pablo Montoya, of Colombia, to an ambulance after his car struck a jet dryer during a caution period in the NASCAR Daytona 500  auto race at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Fla., Monday, Feb. 27, 2012. The fuel in the dryer began burning. (AP Photo/Rob Sweeten)
Emergency personnel walk with Juan Pablo Montoya, of Colombia, to an ambulance after his car struck a jet dryer during a caution period in the NASCAR Daytona 500 auto race at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Fla., Monday, Feb. 27, 2012. The fuel in the dryer began burning. (AP Photo/Rob Sweeten)

Ricky Bobby Memorial Challenge (more on that below) and we still have a spot open for Friday's mailbag.

From the "Talk Too Much studios," let's go.

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    Matt Kenseth celebrates after winning the NASCAR Daytona 500 Sprint Cup series auto race at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Fla., Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2012. (AP Photo/Chris Graythen)

Finally have a Daytona winner

Sweet buckets of 200 gallons of jet fuel, Matt Kenseth finally took the checkered flag at Daytona early Tuesday morning after delays of rain and fire. All that was missing was a herd of locust — and rest assured if runner-up Dale Earnhardt Jr. could have passed Kenseth on the green-white-checkered finish there would have a stampede of some sort.

Kenseth, though, was simply too tough. He and teammate Greg Biffle were in complete command for the final 40 laps. For one of the first times in recent memory, the finish to the Daytona 500 was not the memorable part. Not after Juan Pablo Montoya lost control of his car and crashed into one of the jet trucks, instantly sending into flames and combusting almost 200 gallons of jet fuel. It was a sight to behold, even if for some reason Fox did not have a very good camera view of it. (If you're going to spend eight figures covering an athletic event, how in the world do you have too many analysts and too few cameras? MAybe they should put that stupid gopher in charge.)

After Montoya said hello to his little friend in the jet truck, NASCAR took two hours drying and cleaning the track. And rightly so. Heck, whoever waited this long — the fiery crash happened around 10 p.m. Monday, roughly 32 hours after the race was originally supposed to start — certainly had no beefs.

And those who waited it out watched as Kenseth, who had the best Ford, which proved to be the best car all week, held off Junior.

Other thoughts from NASCAR:

— Hey, we have said from the start that we are not anti-Danica Patrick. And we're not. We said we were against the NASCAR power brokers swing a deal to guarantee her a spot in the 500. Let's look at the facts. She took Dave Blaney's spot (Blaney wound up getting in the old-fashioned way and qualifying, and was leading the race when Montoya pulled his Malachi Crunch move). She wrecked in the Twin 125s. She wrecked in the Nationwide. She wrecked in the 500. Whether she was caught in a bad spot or not is debatable (she was Monday night as she actually did a nice job getting out with as little damage as she did and finished 38th). What's not debatable however is that it was a smashing debut to say the least for Ms. Patrick.

— After the jet truck fire, how strange did it look with all the drivers out of there cars, mixing and mingling on the back stretch. Heck, a group of rednecks, a fire and some power cars... all they needed was some Willie Nelson, some Natty Light and a few girls and that could have been a scene out of the 5-at-10's high school career. (Side question: There's Bud and Bud Light; there's Miller and Miller Lite; there's even Milwaukee's Best and Milwaukee's Best Light. How come there's only Natural Light? There's no Natural as best we can tell. Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?)

— That said, with all the "NASCAR" insiders, why did take a freakish, NASCAR-on-jet truck crash to find out these drivers keep their ball caps on their stick shifts. What else is in there? Some CDs (or 8-tracks for Bill Elliott)? Some snacks?

— The Fords looked good, as did Dale Jr. And if you had Jimmie Johnson finishing 42nd, well, go directly to Kanku's and buy some lottery tickets.

As for the Ricky Bobby "If you ain't first, you're last" Challenge, here are the results (It was five points for the winning car, three points for last place, two points for the next closest pick to the winner and one point for the next closest pick to last):

5 — VolBacker (Matt Kenseth/Bobby Labonte)

3 — Racer X (Junior/ Robbie Gordon)

2 — Cowboy Joe (Junior/Danica), Tiger (Dale Jr./Joe Nemechek)

0 — Spy (Tony Stewart/????), McPell (Tony Stewart/David Stemme), OTWatcher (Jimmie Johnson/Danica Patrick), scole023 (Carl Edwards/Terry Labonte), ThatIDoKnow (Brad Keselowski/Trevor Bayne), Mrs. 5-at-10 (Tony Stewart/Landon Cassill), 5-at-10 (Kevin Harvick/Paul Menard... how about that Paul Menard pick, huh, he only finished sixth... OUCH-standing), DAWG747 (Carl Edwards/Landon Cassill), Sunday Money (Tony “Smoke” Stewart / Michael “Turn Left Early & Slowly into the Pits” Waltrip), Dr. B (Stewart/Elliott), Quake (Kyle Busch/Aric Amarola), Patrick Brown (Hamlin/Danica), Uch (Jimmie Johnson/Aric Amarola), Fan (Jimmie Johnson/Tony Raines), Fred (Jeff Gordon/Mikey Waltrip), Just Joe (Denny Hamlin/Regan Smith)

Good times all around, and we'll have at least one March Madness contest in the days ahead.

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    Alabama linebacker Dont'a Hightower runs a drill at the NFL football scouting combine in Indianapolis, Monday, Feb. 27, 2012. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

Don't you know it's all ball bearings nowadays

Don't know about you folks, but "Fletch" is a sneaky quotable movie. From one-liners to scene-stealers done to the end with Fletch in his undercover get-up and roller-skating down the beach.

The absurdity of Fletch skating on the beach in the flowing robe and fake beard of a Middle East religious man was as striking as Memphis defensive tackle Dontari Poe clocking a 4.98-second time in the 40-yard dash. Yes, Dontari Poe, who measured in at 6-foot-3-1/2 and 346 pounds.

Also, know this: unless you were a high school (or above) running back or quarterback or lettered in track in something other than distance races or field events, 4.98 is faster than you. You don't think it is, but it is. Trust us.

The two biggest lies in sports are 4.4 40s and 90-mph fastballs. Everyone thinks they have seen/competed against someone with each or both of those "magical" traits. In truth, you more than likely have never seen either below the college level.

So with the proliferation of the falsehood of 4.4, the trickle-down effect means everyone — fast or slow — thinks they can run a 4-something 40. You can't. It's OK, we almost certainly can't either. So for Poe to do it — and carry his 346 pounds and his 44 reps of 225 pounds in the bench press along with him — is dynamite. And it's worth its weight in gold. Seriously, Poe is now drawing comparisons to Baltimore Ravens All-Pro Haloti Ngata and likely moved into the first round Wednesday.

Other combine notes:

— Mississippi State's Fletcher Cox turned in the best 40 time for defensive tackles, running a 4.79 at 6-4 and 298 pounds. Cha-ching.

— South Carolina Melvin Ingram turned in a strong workout and looks to be locked into the first round and could be a top-10 pick.

— Of the linebackers, the names really popped: BC's Luke Kuechly, who clinched his high-first-round grade with a better than expected workout that included a 40 time in the 4.5s, Alabama's Dont'a Hightower, who ran a strong 4.68 despite weighing in at 265 pounds, and UNC's Zach Brown, who showed off the charts speed at 4.50 at 244 pounds.

— LSU defensive tackle Michael Brockers likely cost himself some coin, clocking a 5.36 40 time and only doing 19 reps on the bench. So did inside linebacker Vontaze Burfict, who did not crack a 5.0 40 and is kind of a pill. Surprisingly Alabama's Courtney Upshaw was underwhelming, causing some scouts to wonder if he's more suited to be a defensive end than an outside linebacker.

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    Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant is shown during the second half of their NBA basketball game against the Portland Trail Blazers in Portland, Ore., Monday, Feb. 6, 2012. (AP Photo/Don Ryan)

NBA second half

The second half of the shortened NBA season starts tonight. Here is a 5-in-10 (top 5 in 10 words or less) by the 5-at-10 of predictions for the second half.

1. Durant is Da' man — Durant will win his third consecutive scoring title.

2. King James — LeBron will be MVP after a historical season, stat-wise

3. What's the next craze — Knicks point guard will be more Linvisible than Linsanity

4. Don't sleep on Kobe — The Lakers will charge because Bryant is game's best winner

5. Bulls market — Orlando deals Dwight Howard to Chicago

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    Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III warms up at the NFL football scouting combine in Indianapolis on Saturday, Feb. 25, 2012. (AP Photo/Dave Martin)

This and that

— Jason Varitek is reportedly going to retire this week. Wow, great career for a guy that was a S-T-U-D at Georgia Tech. In fact, we were in Ohama at the College World Series when Tech finish second to Oklahoma in 1994. Varitek, Nomar Garciaparra and Jay Payton were on that Tech team, and we saw Varitek hit a home run down the right-field line that ripped into the steel mesh net that is the fair pole down the line. The ball just stuck there it was amazing. (Side question: Why is it the foul pole? Shouldn't it be the fait pole? We agree.)

— The Rams have decided to deal the No. 2 overall pick. And, after Robert Griffin III's amazing showing Sunday at the combine, when they say "deal" the Rams mean extort. Or auction or even hold hostage the No. 2 pick to some team starving for a quarterback. St. Louis, you have Washington on line 2, and Cleveland is in the lobby.

— Ryan Howard is having his Achilles' re-examined. Hey, it's not like Howard's game is going to be drawing Vince Coleman comparison's anytime soon, but Achilles' injures are a tough deal. Is it us, but does it feel like Philadelphia is getting old? Anyone?

Today's question

The plus-one appears to have the support of even the most ardent BCS defenders, so a college football playoff appears imminent.

So it goes, we guess, and we're overjoyed with that decision, if AND ONLY IF, it does not de-value the college football regular season.

So what say you 5-at-10 land. Is the plus-one scenario the solution? Is it just the first step to an eight- or 12- or even a 16-team playoff?

Discuss, and if you have any thoughts to how the new system can have safe guards to protect the regular season, we'd love to hear those, too.

about Jay Greeson...

Jay was named the Sports Editor of the Times Free Press in 2003 and started with the newspaper in May 2002 as the Deputy Sports Editor. He was born and raised in Smyrna, Ga., and graduated from Auburn University before starting his newspaper career in 1997 with the Newnan (Ga.) Times Herald. Stops in Clayton and Henry counties in Georgia and two years as the Sports Editor of the Marietta (Ga.) Daily Journal preceded Jay’s ...

Comments do not represent the opinions of the Chattanooga Times Free Press, nor does it review every comment. Profanities, slurs and libelous remarks are prohibited. For more information you can view our Terms & Conditions and/or Ethics policy.
jharvey1984 said...

there is natural ice...but good lord its disgusting. oh and apparently they have cell phones in the cars for twittering during the race. i mean seriously, texting and driving is bad enough, but doing it at 200 mph with about an inch and a half between you and your neighbor. what kind of example is that for the Children. totally agree with you on the crappy angle of the explosion. the one they had that actually showed the impact looked like it was shot from a cell phone camera.

February 28, 2012 at 10:16 a.m.
jharvey1984 said...

as far as the question goes, you've got me sold on the plus one. if its a playoff, how do they choose whos in? bcs rankings? conference champs? then the team on the bubble will be the one whining. if your in based on your bcs rankings, then all the sec haters will be whining because you can still end up with two sec teams playing for it all.

February 28, 2012 at 10:26 a.m.
Salsa said...

You might be confused about NASCAR's business model. Danica Patrick is delivering what the sponsors are paying for. (Hint: it ain't race wins).

February 28, 2012 at 11:42 a.m.
Blueoval said...

Just when you think you've seen it all.....that was pretty wild and I'm surprised as well that Fox didn't have a better camera angle.

February 28, 2012 at 12:30 p.m.
Livn4life said...

The BIG Daytona/Ricky Bobby question for me today is...Does Montoya have a smokin' hot wife to go with his smokin' hot car and a smokin' hot track? HOOOOEEE, gotta love me NASCAR whatta way to start the season. As for the question 5atTen, I think it is but a stepping stone to something bigger by having a plus-1. When powers that be realize money that could be, it'll expand more.

February 28, 2012 at 2:05 p.m.
jgreeson said...

Jharvey —

Natural Ice... is that better or worse than Vanilla Ice? Discuss.

And it's got to be for the good of the kids. We believe that children are the future, text them well and let them tweet the way. (See what we did there?)

Concur on the BCS. Now, rather than No. 3 belly-aching, No. 5 is going to be shouting, "We was robbed."

Salsa —

Winder if Danica has to drive in high heels, too. Go Daddy.

Oval —

This is the biggest event on Fox, right? And they had what, 20 different talking heads with a mike and an opinion, and no one had anything better than a cell-phone video of the coolest crash in recent memory? Really? Somebody get Murdoch on the horn.

Livin(Large) —

We see what you did there with Senor Montoya, and we like it. Well-played indeed.

Agreed that this is just the first step of the playoff add-ons. It will be eight by 2020 and 16 by 2025.

— 5-at-10

February 28, 2012 at 2:44 p.m.
Stewwie said...

[Is the plus-one scenario the solution?]

No. It would be more of a quick-fix en route to eventual plans to expand to a larger playoff. The plus-one would be difficult to execute simply because (most years) it would be hard to pick 4 definitive semi-finalists for the title. Maybe make it a requirement that the participants be conference champions? If so, sorry Bama, if this were the model for this year. If being a conference champion is not a requirement, sorry Oregon for winning your conference and watching Stanford make it to the Big Dance instead.

I believe the best solution is to scrap the conference championship games and set a 16-team playoff. Seven automatic bids (six BCS conference champs and the highest-ranked non-BCS conference champ). Nine wild card spots to then fill. First-round losers will still play in a season-ending bowl game.

If scrapping the conference championship games is not an option on the table, and it probably won't be, then the plus-one will have to do for now...however it ends up being set up.

February 28, 2012 at 2:55 p.m.
BIspy4 said...

a smashing debut ... I see what you did there ... and I like it.

I shoulda picked TV viewers to finish last, or the race itself.

So where in the lexicon are we going to put "he pulled a Montoya" or "I went all Montoya on him"? And to explain what circumstances? Because, frankly, we got to.

February 28, 2012 at 2:56 p.m.
jgreeson said...

Ice-Cold Stew —

Concur about this being the first step in the plans.

And there will be some parameters put in place, but we doubt the SEC will sign off on the "have to be a conference champ to get in the plus-one," since every year No. 2 in the SEC is better than 99-percent of everyone else.

And we like your 16-team theory, but there is no way the conferences — or the TV networks — will give back the revenue of conference title games (especially as more conferences are becoming TV networks, too).

Spy —

We knew we could got on you. And yes, you would have earned bonus points for picking "fans" as your last-place entry.

Love the idea of pulling a Montoya.

Where we are right now, aren't the Montoya brothers — Juan Pablo and Tony "Scarface" — are to mayhem like the Aaron brothers are to homers? Or the Neikro brothers are to knuckle-balls?

— 5-at-10

February 28, 2012 at 3:05 p.m.
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