Archive for the ‘auto racing’ Category

This will probably sound mean at first but I am really, really glad NASCAR star Jimmie Johnson had skin cancer surgery this week.

Of course, it isn’t that I wanted Johnson — or anybody else — to have a skin cancer situation. It is just that he is a very visible and well-respected public figure who can help awareness.

Johnson had surgery to remove basal cell carcinoma from his shoulder — and that type of skin cancer is something I know very, very well.

I’ve had too many basal cell carcinoma situations to count. My first experience was the scariest — the spot near my nose on the left side of the face required major surgery and the tumor was bigger than a quarter inside my face. Somewhere there is a Polaroid photo of the hole in my face before I was stitched back up.

Nobody I meet ever can tell this occurred without me pointing it out to them so my surgeon did a superb job. But it is hard to forget laying there and having your face cut open — it took 42 stitches to close me back up — and every time the doctor sensed I could feel it, there was another shot to the face.

A needle into the face.

Yeah, 3 1/2 hours of super, duper fun. Not.

I have had three others surgically removed and probably two dozen others frozen off with liquid nitrogen, which is negative 321 degrees. That is also the preferred way to be treated — a 10-second squirt and it freezes the area and the cancer falls off in less than two weeks.

Oh, another reason why I am glad Johnson was dealing with basal cell carcinoma — he didn’t hear the dreaded ‘M word.’

That would be melanoma. That’s the worst word you can hear when you are visiting the skin doctor and he or she identifies something suspicious.

Melanoma leads to things like chemotherapy and radiation and is a death sentence for some people. But basal cell carcinoma doesn’t spread, it is a local cancer and it doesn’t kill you.

Johnson learned the same thing I did during my first experience — if you have to get skin cancer, this is the type to get.

“Carcinoma doesn’t spread. It doesn’t go to the glands,” Johnson told reporters Friday at Pocono Raceway prior to this Sunday’s Pocono 400. “They just have to dig it out and you’re good to go. Once I understood that, my reaction to the ‘C’ word calmed down.”

Good time to mention to read this stellar story about Johnson’s experience — http://www.sportsxchange.com/tsxfiles/?page_id=211&max_colums=20&story_id=168468

Johnson grew up in the San Diego suburb of El Cajon and was often outside in the Southern California sun.

I can relate. When I was a kid you played outdoors all day and there was little talk about sunscreen. I went to hundreds of day-time sporting events while growing up to watch the Padres or Chargers play and I know I was unprotected most of the time.

The sun damage accumulates over time and I have to constantly be aware. I’m diligent and nearly always have sunscreen with me and I still regularly get a new spot or mole that needs to be checked.

There is better awareness this century and that is why I am glad somebody like Johnson can tell his personal skin cancer experience.

People listen to a legendary figure like himself — his Twitter post below from Monday has so far received 763 retweets and more than 2,700 likes.

“Wear sunblock kids. I’ve spent the morning on a table having Basal Cell Carcinoma cut out of my shoulder.”

That type of reaction doesn’t happen when I post about a new skin cancer. I don’t have that type of pull.

But Johnson does and that is why I wasn’t the least bit mad that he joined me as someone who deals with basal cell carcinoma. He is someone who can raise the awareness and I hope his experience leads to some people getting into the habit of applying sunscreen.

Welcome to the club, Jimmie. Hope you never hear the M word.

There is no way to look inside of the mind of Tony Stewart and know if there was true intent.

Nor is there anything that can be done to bring 20-year-old Kevin Ward Jr. back to life.

What happened at Canandaigua Motorsports Park on Saturday night can’t be undone and Stewart is going to be forever stained by the incident in which he struck Ward with his car and killed the young man.

You’d like to hope that Saturday’s incident wasn’t intentional but only Stewart truly knows. Because of his past – which includes many on-track examples of anger issues – there will always be doubt when it comes to Stewart’s intentions.

And a rich and famous NASCAR driver like Stewart has the influence and resources to sway any legal procedures. But he is powerless when it comes to public opinion.

This is one situation that isn’t going away anytime soon.

I watched the video of the incident – I will not post it here as I’m not one of those online entities begging for page views – and it certainly was stunning.

Ward was upset after spinning into a wall due to contact with Stewart’s car. He was angry and apparently wanted to yell at and confront Stewart on his next pass around the track.

He ventured toward Stewart’s car and Stewart struck him with the right back of his car. It is a horrible sight to see and Ward went flying and his limp body lay prone on the track.

Medical personnel scurried out to assist Ward and you can immediately see their panic when they reach him. They instantly know it’s a very, very dire situation.

The angle of the video doesn’t provide enough of a view to tell if Stewart moved his car into Ward’s direction but there are witness accounts that claim Stewart pumped his throttle as he approached Ward.

So perhaps Stewart was trying to send Ward a message and merely scare him. You would like to think a veteran driver like Stewart wouldn’t care too much about some 20-year-old yelling at him but it’s that track record of his that provides people with such doubt.

Again, I can’t see inside Stewart’s head so who knows what he thought and felt in that exact moment.

I don’t doubt that he feels bad now – he rightfully withdrew from Sunday’s NASCAR race at nearby Watkins Glen – and is probably deeply affected by what happened.

Authorities are investigating the incident and the District Attorney’s office stated “there is no evidence to support criminal charges or intent at this time.”

Sheriff Philip Povero also said there are no charges pending but he also is requesting that eyewitnesses with video of the crash contact his office.

So we will wait on the authorities to see if charges are brought against Stewart. And we will wonder why Ward couldn’t have been a little less agitated and not put himself in such a situation.

When it comes down to it – there is only one person who can tell us what really happened.

That is Tony Stewart.

Do tell, Tony. Your reputation depends on it.

I’m thinking everybody could use a little “Dan Wheldon luck” in their lives.

Wheldon had the good fortune of being in second place as the Indianapolis 500 veered into the final turn of the race. That is typically a very helpless feeling for a race car driver because it means you’re going to have a really good view of somebody else taking the checkered flag.

But playing second fiddle on this Sunday resembled a sweet hoedown sound for Wheldon as the unthinkable really did happen on the final turn.

Rookie JR Hildebrand had the race in the bag and was just seconds away from winning when he crashed into the wall on the final turn. Instead of slowing down a couple miles per hour and taking the safe approach, Hildebrand elected to pass fellow rookie Charlie Kimball on the turn and lost control.

Hildebrand was able to ride the wall down the straightaway to cross the finish line in second place but Wheldon easily passed him to win his second career Indy 500 title at the famed Brickyard.

Wheldon is the 18th racer to win multiple Indy titles – the Englishman also won in 2005 – and had finished second the two previous years. But he was an unlikely winner this year in that he doesn’t have a full-time ride.

Bryan Herta Autosport made the wise choice to give Wheldon a one-race deal for the 100th anniversary Indy 500 race. Wheldon certainly shouldn’t have problems landing more racing assignments.

Wheldon was highly emotional after winning and it wasn’t solely due to the unbelievably good fortune. His mother was recently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease and Wheldon had partnered with the Alzheimer’s Association to promote awareness of the disease less than two weeks ago.

Got to say winning the race will draw a lot more attention to the issue than finishing second would have.

It will be very interesting to see how the 23-year-old Hildebrand deals with his last-lap blunder. Navigating the first 799 turns without issue means nothing when you fail to make the final one. His adrenaline was surely sky high and his heart was undoubtedly pounding as he realized how close he was to a monumental achievement.

All he needed was a bit more patience and I’m sure there will be racing experts pointing out that his inexperience played a part in the last-turn blunder. It will certainly be a great learning experience for the Northern California native and will provide a great storyline if he someday wins at Indy.

Some other thoughts on Indy:

• Dario Franchitti’s late fade meant we all lost the opportunity for some nice post-race Ashley Judd viewing. You could see ABC was doing its part with its camera angle in the post-race interview with Franchitti by making sure Judd was in the background.

• I’m proud of Danica Patrick. She didn’t annoy me all week and she ran a good race Sunday and even had the lead with under 20 laps to go. There are rumors she will become a full-time NASCAR driver next season so there is a possibility it was her last Indy 500. Predictably, Danica slipped in a “pretty green GoDaddy car” reference into her post-race interview.

• The way Wheldon won reminds me of how important it is to just stay on the track and keep grinding away during an auto race. Bertrand Baguette looked unstoppable late in the race but didn’t have enough fuel to make it and had to take a pit stop with just three laps left. Think about that – Baguette needed to drive just 7 1/2 more miles to win the race. Hildebrand was going to be the beneficiary of Baguette’s fuel shortage issues until his mishap opened the door for Wheldon.

• Never been inside Indianapolis Motor Speedway but was amazed during a visit to Indianapolis that the racetrack is in a residential area. You know that high grandstand you see during the race? There’s a residential street – Georgetown Road – right behind it. I can’t even fathom how much of a madhouse the area is on Indy 500 race day. (http://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&sugexp=lemsnc&xhr=t&q=indianapolis+motor+speedway&cp=19&rlz=1R2ADFA_enUS352&um=1&bav=on.2,or.r_gc.r_pw.&biw=1007&bih=465&wrapid=tlif130670358645710&ie=UTF-8&sa=N&tab=nl … apparently, you will have to do the zooming in of the racetrack on your own).

Wow – this sportswriter wrote what many sports journalists think. And it also is a good example of why online media is thriving and print journalism isn’t.

You can be edgy online and push the envelope to where some stuffy newsroom editor would go into convulsions if this type of article crossed his or her path on a newspaper copy desk.

The opinion of David Whitley, a national columnist for AOL Fanhouse, is summed up nicely by the title – “Erin Andrews and Danica Patrick Have Serious Issues.”

The article (http://motorsports.fanhouse.com/2010/05/27/erin-andrews-danica-patrick-have-serious-issues/?icid=main|compaq-laptop|dl8|link4|http%3A%2F%2Fmotorsports.fanhouse.com%2F2010%2F05%2F27%2Ferin-andrews-danica-patrick-have-serious-issues%2F) lambasts both Andrews and Patrick for having no substance in terms of their careers.

Andrews is a sports broadcaster for ESPN who is seemingly more interested in cashing in on her good looks than doing any probing journalism and we all know that Patrick is much more interested in making the cash register ring through endorsements than by winning auto races.

I don’t watch shows like “Dancing With the Stars” so I haven’t seen Andrews in any of the so-called revealing outfits that aren’t befitting of a serious journalist. I did run across a slew of suggestive photos of Patrick the other day while researching her career finishes at the Indianapolis 500. Let’s just say there are much more photos of her bending over race cars than driving in them.

Whitley’s point: Nobody takes either one of them seriously.

It’s an interesting read whether you agree with Whitley’s opinion or think he’s way off-base.

Dario Franchitti already had the best double-double going outside of the In-N-Out hamburger franchise. And his dandy achievements got even better on Sunday.

Franchitti won his second career Indianapolis 500 crown to go along with the immensely good fortune of being married to classy actress Ashley Judd.

A late wreck that sent Mike Conway to the hospital with a broken leg and brought the caution flag out may have saved the victory for Franchitti, who finished the race with just 1.6 gallons of fuel left in the tank.

Yeah, it’s clear the lyrics of the old Pat Benatar song “It’s a Tuff Life” don’t apply to Franchitti.

Even if the only racing he’d ever done involved Hot Wheels on a dining room floor, he’d be a success just living in the same residence of the highly popular Judd.

But two doses of celebratory milk at famed Victory Lane at Indy during one lifetime is no small feat.

Franchitti also won the rain-shortened 2007 Indy 500 and is only the 17th driver to win two or more times at the famous Brickyard.

Dan Wheldon finished second and Marco Andretti was third. Alex Lloyd placed fourth and Scott Dixon was fifth.

Three-time winner Helio Castroneves finished ninth as he fell short in equaling the record for most Indy 500 victories shared by A.J. Foyt, Rick Mears and Al Unser Sr.

Danica Patrick had a strong showing after a rough week that included her exhibiting whiny and classless behavior by blasting the car crew and mechanics following a poor qualifying run leading up to race.

Patrick finished a solid sixth for her fifth Top 10 finish at Indy in six career races.

The Memorial Day weekend means lots of things to lots of people, ranging from remembrance of national heroes to  kids overly happy to have a three-day weekend.

Amid the big-picture stuff and the enjoyment factor (picnics, barbecues, etc.), it is also the weekend when the famed Indianapolis 500 auto race is held.

Which has come to mean one very annoying thing in recent years: Too much Danica Patrick jammed in our faces.

It might not seem so overbearing if she had ever won a race of consequence. But she’s in her sixth year now and she still is 500 times more hype than driver.

She’s 28 years old – dang, does that make you feel old? – so she’s no longer the little rookie girl driver that somehow broke into the old guys network. But she still acts like that immature rookie when things don’t go her way.

Spoiled brats eventually grow up, don’t they? (Yeah, maybe not).

Whinica – the name often fits her better than Danica – has been booed loudly at Indy this week after trashing her car – in essence, her team – after a poor qualifying run. She always has an excuse and it seems the racing fans at the hallowed track who adored her just a few years back are now joining the millions of others who are tired of the finger-pointing and the lack of accountability.

Danica’s never the problem with why she never wins. Just ask her.

The fact that Danica Patrick has never won the Indy 500 isn’t the problem in my eyes. There are hundreds of other top-of-the-line drivers who never won that race. Just being in six consecutive Indys – as Danica has – is a pretty solid accomplishment.

It’s an even bigger deal when you factor in how few women could even dream to compete at the level she has.

But you see the comments in recent days from Michael Andretti, her racing boss at Andretti Autosport, and you can see time is ticking on being a half-committed driver. Make or break time is coming soon.

Andretti publicly questioned her commitment to racing and before you ask ‘What took him so long to realize that?’ just imagine the pouty face that sprouted on Danica’s face when she found out about his remarks.

I’m sure you know that Danica doesn’t make much money from racing. She cashes in on endorsements – the prime reason why we’ll be stuck seeing her face over and over during every commercial break all race long. And the Andretti family surely didn’t sign her solely for her racing ability but for the publicity that comes with her being part of the race team with Marco Andretti and Tony Kanaan.

Perhaps now is time to remember what Danica often forgets: If there wasn’t auto racing, nobody would care that there is a Danica Patrick roaming this great nation.

If Danica was just another scowling, cranky-faced employee ringing up your purchases at your neighborhood Walgreens, she wouldn’t be posing for photo shoots by suggestively bending over race cars. If she was just another whiny, average-looking secretary who bad mouths her boss in Lubbock, Texas, she wouldn’t be pulling the zipper of her top down in godaddy.com commercials (I’m sure I just made Danica another $100 by mentioning godaddy.com here … oops, make it $200).

And if she was just another Perkins waitress in Florida – aw, scratch that one off the list. Thanks, Tiger Woods.

Danica has always been living under a different set of rules then all the other drivers. They all need to produce on the track to see the cash come rolling in.

I don’t recall seeing any Helio Castroneves commercials on Super Bowl Sunday, do you? Castroneves has won Indy three times, including his emotional victory in last year’s race.

Dario Franchitti has an Indy title on his resume and an even bigger accomplishment in that he married the lovable Ashley Judd. Even that double-double doesn’t make him an endorsement staple.

Now that I think of it, maybe it’s time for the male drives to insist on Title IX in motor sports.

If you want to see a woman win the Indy 500, I have a solution for you: Root for one of the other three women – veteran Sarah Fisher or youngsters Ana Beatriz and Simona De Silvestro.

Actually, perhaps that why Danica went into top Whinica mode after her poor qualifying run: She sees the two female rookies know how to handle a car a bit. Wouldn’t want one of them to finisher higher in Sunday’s race, now would she?

You do recall Danica’s catfight with female driver Milka Duno at a 2008 race, right? Yes, that’s the one where Duno stuffs the towel in Danica’s face.

But no matter how much her act wears thin, Danica is a brand name – one of the few athletes who are readily known by one name – and she will always have endorsement value when she gives up racing.

And judging by the Google search of her name that reveals endless amounts of suggestive photos, it looks like she’s preparing for a new career – cover girl of the “Candy-O” CD if The Cars ever make a remake of the album that included one of the most talked-about covers in music history. (http://image.betamonline.com/sdimages/disk17/153352.jpg)

Actually, judging from the look at Candy-O, Danica’s not fully qualified for the gig. Just as she’s not qualified to enter the winner’s circle at Indy.

Since the Super Bowl ended with Drew Brees celebrating and Peyton Manning rushing toward the exits, I’ve heard several people bemoan that it will be a long seven months waiting for the 2010 NFL season to commence.

At first, that sounds silly. There’s a lot of stuff that will happen in the sports world between now and September. You would think there would be something that would interest them, wouldn’t you?

To fully drum that in, just think of the Sunday sports schedule. It includes one of the biggest auto races of the year in the Daytona 500, the NBA All-Star Game in that ridiculously big Cowboys Stadium and the Winter Olympics in Vancouver.

That’s a pretty good Sunday of events – the Pro Bowl would have been in the mix too if the NFL hadn’t moved the date of the game up two weeks – to where you’d think there would be something worth watching.

But guess what, I realized Saturday night that I’m not all that interested in watching any of the three events, either. Of course, I’ll be working most of the afternoon and have a deadline to meet – if you want to count the easy-to-me task of writing as work – but I’m still not all that intrigued.

I recognize and truly respect that NASCAR’s Daytona 500 is a major sporting event but cars driving around in circles have never resonated with me. Of course, I’ve never spent a single day of my life in the state of Alabama so I’ve never had to worry about some NASCAR fanatic hijacking me and forcing me to spend a day watching the good ol’ boys and singing Steely Dan’s “Deacon Blues” or Lynard Skynard’s “Sweet Home Alabama.”

Again, I respect how popular NASCAR is – especially in the South – but even one of the two biggest auto races of the year (the Indianapolis 500 being the other) isn’t must-watch TV for me. No Danica Patrick crash possibility, no interest to me.

The NBA All-Star Game used to be something I never missed – at one time, it was the best of the pro sports All-Star games – but it hasn’t carried the same luster it used to over the past several years. Even the Twitterverse outrage over David Lee originally being passed over for the All-Star team – he’s since been named to the East squad as an injury replacement for undeserving Allen Iverson – hasn’t swayed me to become interested.

I watched part of Texas playing North Carolina in Cowboys Stadium recently so I don’t even have the curiosity factor of wondering what a basketball game in the mammoth stadium looks like. Here’s a hint – the video scoreboard that hangs high above the floor is longer than the 94-foot basketball floor.

As for Sunday’s Winter Olympics schedule, I’ll peruse the schedule and see what’s on tap. I’m sure I’ll watch a portion of NBC’s coverage but I’m not planning my day wondering how the United States fared against China in the biathlon or who performed well in moguls skiing.

Ever thought about how the only time we ever hear the word “moguls” is during the Winter Olympics?

So I suppose I really do understand a little bit why there are some people who won’t get excited over the March Madness of the NCAA basketball tournament or April’s start of the major-league baseball season or June’s NBA Finals or tennis at Wimbledon. Those folks think the sports world will be in hibernation until the next NFL regular season kicks off.

I disagree, of course, but my viewing habits on Sunday won’t separate me from those who think a September Sunday night football game between the Houston Texans and Tennessee Titans is must-see TV.

When I think NASCAR, NBA All-Star Game and Winter Olympics on February, 14, 2010, there is only one thing that rattles my mind and it isn’t which lucky lady to go grab Valentine’s dinner with. Here’s where my heart is: How did we get to the point that Kevin Garnett is the elder statesmen in terms of which current NBA All-Star participant has played in the most NBA All-Star Games?

Garnett is playing in his 13th All-Star contest on Sunday. If that doesn’t stop you in your tracks, then you’re not into the NBA (fully understand that) or you are already dead (sorry I didn’t send flowers).

So, OK, I get it – those folks who think only the NFL matters? Cool. But what happens if there’s an NFL work stoppage when September of 2011 arrives?

Suddenly, those meaningless late-season baseball games between the Milwaukee Brewers and Pittsburgh Pirates will keep me in suspense. Even the San Diego Padres – you know they will be at least 20 games out when September arrives – will have to entertain me.

The more I think about it; perhaps I should catch some of Sunday’s Daytona 500. Seeing who grabs the checkered flag has got to be more entertaining than figuring out which NHL team Alex Ovechkin plays for.

Hey, is Richard Petty part of the Daytona 500 field?