Dan Wetzel

  • Joey Logano, out of a job at 22, Daytona 500 champ at 24

    Dan Wetzel at Yahoo Sports 3 days ago

    DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – They dubbed him "Sliced Bread" because he was, you know, supposed to be the greatest thing since …

    They predicted he'd be "one of the greatest that ever raced in NASCAR." He was 15 at the time Mark Martin said that. Teams waged a recruiting war for him, like he was a five-star college football recruit. Everyone counted down to his 18th birthday when he could finally run in the Sprint Cup Series and, by expectation, dominate the Sprint Cup Series. The marketing and promotional teams went with all of it. And then some.

    A kid's going to follow along with all of this, of course. The legends say I'm going to be a legend? Who doesn't want to be LeBron?

    Joey Logano was put on a path to be LeBron, seamlessly moving from high school kid to professional star. The only problem was Joey Logano wasn't LeBron.

    He was still young, still a kid, still a bit goofy and worse, it just doesn't always come as easy as everyone predicts. This isn't a team sport in the truest sense. There's never anywhere to hide. There are grown men, fighting for their careers, looking to run you into oblivion, if not bump you into a wall.

     

     

  • Kurt Busch case a product of the post-Ray Rice world in sports

    Dan Wetzel at Yahoo Sports 4 days ago

    DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Kurt Busch has never been arrested for allegedly assaulting his one-time girlfriend, Patricia Driscoll, on Sept. 26, 2014, inside his motorhome at Dover International Speedway.

    Kurt Busch has never been charged with that crime. Kurt Busch has never been convicted of that crime. Kurt Busch never settled the case, in part, because there is no case to settle. There have been no criminal or civil charges filed against him.

    What did happen was a commissioner of a family court in Delaware issued an order of protection on Monday to keep Busch away from Driscoll, followed by an explanation of the decision on Friday.

    That led to NASCAR suspending the driver immediately and indefinitely, including for Sunday's Daytona 500. Busch appealed twice and lost twice in a matter of six hours on Saturday. The 36-year-old's career, which features 25 Sprint Cup victories and one championship, might be done.

    Fair enough. A restraining order should always err on the side of caution, and reading Jones' extensive ruling, it's a reasonable conclusion. Busch certainly could've done it and keeping these two apart is definitely a good idea.

    That was pre-Ray Rice.

     

  • Long overdue Mayweather-Pacquiao fight will not save boxing

    Dan Wetzel at Yahoo Sports 6 days ago

    For years now, when blessed with a free moment, Freddie Roach would pull up video of Floyd Mayweather fights and look for weaknesses. He was devising a strategy just in case his fighter, Manny Pacquiao, actually one day got a shot at the unbeaten champ.

    Over and over, shoulder roll after shoulder roll, Roach, maybe more than any participant, promoter or fan, dreamed of the dream matchup.

    "It's a huge challenge for Manny, no question," Roach told Yahoo Sports' Kevin Iole. "But I think it's a fight that he can win."

    Now, or at least May 2, we'll find out.

    The mega-fight is signed and what will come in a 2½-month blitz of promotion will be big hype, big talk and big money. The bout promises to shatter all sorts of records, from total gate to pay-per-view purchases until both parties rake in more than $100 million each.

    What it won't do is "save" the sport or anything along that vein, even if that's what will almost certainly become a media narrative.

    Older white fans, obsessed with mainstream stick-and-ball sports, will always lament the lack of a compelling heavyweight division, but reality isn't changing.

  • NASCAR's next big thing in no hurry to be NASCAR's next big thing

    Dan Wetzel at Yahoo Sports 6 days ago

    DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – It wasn't much more than a year ago, the week before Christmas, 2013, back in the Elliott family shop in Dawsonville, Ga.

    NASCAR Hall of Famer Bill Elliott – Awesome Bill from Dawsonville – and his son Chase were working on a super late model that Chase had run in the Snowball Derby a couple weeks prior. They hoped to race it again in South Georgia in January.

    That was the plan for 18-year-old Chase. Sponsorship delays and business realities had caused everything to stall. Both Elliotts figured Chase's 2014 would consist of a hodgepodge of races, many of them minor. They figured maybe half a dozen, at best, in the Nationwide Series, the second highest level of NASCAR.

    It's not bad for a kid his age, but it's hard to gain any continuity or experience needed for long-term growth.

    Then a call came in for Bill. He took it, returned to the shop and told Chase in his typical, matter-of-fact style, that NAPA had agreed to return to racing as a major sponsor and Chase would now run a full season in the Nationwide (now the Xfinity) Series.

    Just like that.

    He's beyond the next big thing.

    How's he do it?

    "I have no idea how," Bill said.

  • Danica Patrick: 'I'm not positive enough'

    Dan Wetzel at Yahoo Sports 6 days ago

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    DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The two motor coaches sit side by side in the infield of Daytona International Speedway – Danica Patrick and Denny Hamlin, neighbors.

    "That's his bus," Patrick said, pointing out her kitchen window Friday morning, the day after Hamlin spun her out for the second consecutive day, requiring her and her team to stage a wild comeback in Thursday's Duel 150 to qualify for Sunday's Daytona 500.

    What followed was a nationally televised argument complete with lapel grabbing, raised voices and little common ground.

    "There were so many cameras around I had to make sure I didn't swear too much," Patrick said with a laugh some 12 hours later.

    This puzzled Patrick since she considers Hamlin one of her best friends on the circuit. Danica and her boyfriend, fellow driver Ricky Stenhouse Jr., regularly have dinner with him, golf with him, just hang out with him.

    It's all pretty funny and she understands that part. She shrugs. This is NASCAR after all. Doesn't something like this go down every week?

  • Drama finds Danica in nail-biter at Daytona

    Yahoo News 6 days ago

    DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – All that remained for Danica Patrick to qualify for Sunday's Daytona 500 was what should have been three simple laps.

    That's when she noticed Denny Hamlin in her rearview mirror. It was the same vision she saw in practice Wednesday just before Hamlin spun her out, wrecking her primary car and making a stressful qualifying process into perhaps, she said, the most nerve-racking race of her career.

    Now here he was again, her friend, her golfing buddy, her neighbor in the infield lot here at Daytona, only he was running close, closer, too close again to her rear bumper.

    Next thing she knew she was spinning around on Daytona International Speedway, clipping cars and slashing through the infield grass, the dream of running Sunday flashing before her eyes, the dread of failing her team, her fans and her sponsors racing through her mind.

     

  • At 57, Daytona International Speedway steps into the future

    Dan Wetzel at Yahoo Sports 7 days ago

    DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Joie Chitwood stands in the last row of his new grandstands, the ones running into Turn 1 of Daytona International Speedway. He surveys the scene in front of him, with sight lines stretching not just across the entire 2.5-mile track, but all the way to the beach where racing started around here.

    The president of International Speedway Corp. is standing 15 or so stories in the air and $400 million into a rehab of this one-of-a-kind venue, and it is, well, one damn fine perch to watch a race.

    "This is the top of the world in motorsports," Chitwood said, and it's certainly in the argument.

    Daytona has gotten a facelift, some of it – including 40,000 fresh grandstand seats, escalators and new, healthier concessions – will be ready for Sunday's Daytona 500. All the rest – including more luxury boxes, club level bars and a sleeker exterior – will be ready by next year.

    One of the great bucket-list/road-trip destinations just got even more enticing.

    It will welcome a six-figure crowd on Sunday from all 50 states and at least 43 countries, according to pre-race sales information.

    See photos of Daytona's makeover:

     

  • On the anniversary of his father's death, Dale Earnhardt Jr. smiles

    Yahoo News 7 days ago

    DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Dale Earnhardt Jr. was looking at his Twitter feed on Wednesday morning, as NASCAR fans passed on condolences and remembrances on the 14th anniversary of the death of his father. The tenor, all these years later, was still one of grief.

    The date of a father's death is emotional for anyone, yet it sort of compounds all around Dale Jr. When it comes he is always back here at Daytona, back at the site of the fatal crash, back where he can stare at the high-banked turn of the Speedway where the tragedy happened, back where he can hold news conferences in the same place NASCAR president Mike Helton solemnly announced, "We've lost Dale Earnhardt."

    How many have a job that requires you to roar, over and over, through the same spot their father died, that most haunting patch of stock car real estate?

    So yes, there is no avoiding it. For Dale Jr. there is never avoiding the memory of Dale Sr.

    Junior was thinking about it long before he checked his phone Wednesday morning. He just, in an instance, decided he wanted to make sure the day was seen from a different perspective than what was coming through his feed.

    By fans. By media. By everyone.

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  • Danica Patrick crashes with Michael Annett and Jeb Burton in 500 practice

    Dan Wetzel at From The Marbles 8 days ago

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    DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Danica Patrick still has some work to do to qualify for Sunday’s Daytona 500, a task that grew at least a little more difficult when she was caught up in a wreck here Wednesday during practice.

    Patrick will have to run a back-up car, from the rear of the pack in Thursday night’s Budweiser Duel races where anything but a top 15 finish would leave her in a precarious position.

    “We knew we’d have to run hard in the duels no matter what and that hasn’t changed … still have to,” Patrick said while standing outside the infield medical center here.

    The field for the 500 will mostly be set on Thursday. The front row of pole sitter Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson are in. The top 15 finishers in each of the duels (sans Gordon and/or Johnson) will be slotted into the next 30 spots. After that, four spots go to qualifying speeds across the week (Patrick isn’t likely there), then six spots based on total owner points and one for a past champion.

    Forty-three cars will race Sunday. 49 cars are entered and participating in Thursday's qualifying races.

    “I just know I have to race hard and that’s the end of it.”

  • Should Jameis Winston sweat? Don't believe hype on background checks spotting character at scouting combine

    Dan Wetzel at Yahoo Sports 9 days ago

    The NFL scouting combine begins this week and the activity that yields the least information compared to its hype isn't the 40-yard dash times of nose guards.

    It is team executives posturing about how diligently and effectively they are determining "character."

    Private investigators. Private interviews. Background checks. Psychologists. Blah, blah, blah.

    There is nothing the NFL likes to do more than brag on its self-importance, and no time does the league lay it on thicker than when claiming it is "doing their due diligence" on a prospect.

    You can't blame the teams for trying. While the likelihood of catching a clear warning sign of trouble is unlikely, if the guy bombs out, you want plausible deniability (especially with your owner) that you looked hard and were just fooled.

    You can blame the rest of us for believing this is anything more than public relations; the NFL's annual hope and pray effort because it's proven it has no ability to accurately predict character.

    A year ago it was Johnny Manziel, who was under the microscope over concerns of partying too much and lacking the proper mindset to be an NFL quarterback.

    No one knows anything.