Friday, January 31, 2020

Is LSU Making a Historic Run in Football, Men's Basketball, and Baseball?

As the LSU basketball team continues to win games, I think it's possible that we could be in the middle of one of the greatest overall collective performances in football, men's basketball, and baseball by one college throughout one school year.

We all know by now about how dominant the LSU football team was in the fall, wrapping up a National Championship with a 42-25 win over Clemson in the championship game earlier this month and ending with a perfect 15-0 record, including wins over the preseason's top four teams (Clemson, Alabama, Georgia, Oklahoma) along the way.

And although no team has won national titles in all three sports in the same school year, the Florida Gators did secure national championships in both football and basketball in 2006-07, becoming the first team to win two of the three titles in one school year. (In fact, only Florida, Ohio State, California, and Michigan own titles in all three sports across different years.)

Now, I'm not predicting a March Madness crown for my Tigers, but I think they have as good of a shot as most other teams. The starting five can play with any other starting five out there; however, the bench depth is fairly limited, so I can see foul trouble (and/or poor officiating) throwing the team off of its game in a crucial postseason match.

Still, the team has won nine games in a row and has finally returned to the Top 25, currently sitting with a 6-seed, as predicted by ESPN, which could continue to rise throughout February.

Of course, there is also baseball, which begins in just three weeks. The Tigers are entering the season ranked around the Top 10-15 in national polls and always have a chance of competing in the NCAA Tournament, particularly if the team does well enough to grab a Super Regional spot in the spring.

So obviously, in order to compare the 2019-20 Tigers to Florida's great 2006-07 teams, LSU would need to win a title in basketball or baseball. But there are other numbers we could analyze, such as total wins.

In 2006-07, Florida's football team finished 13-1, while the basketball team went 35-5. Those 48 total wins are very impressive; on the other hand, the 2007 baseball Gators finished with a record of 29-30. If we count all wins equally, that's a total of 77 wins over the three sports.

This year's LSU Tiger teams have a good chance of topping that total. We know about the 15 wins in football. The basketball team is currently 16-4 (7-0 in SEC) and has two beatable opponents coming up next in Ole Miss and Vanderbilt. In fact, if we go ahead and predict six losses over the rest of the regular season (perhaps at Auburn, at Alabama, vs. Kentucky, at Florida, at Arkansas, +1 surprise?), the team would still enter SEC Tournament play at 21-10. Giving the team another two wins in SEC and/or postseason tournament play, 23 wins seems like a very safe estimate at this point. That total combined with football is 38.

Last year's LSU baseball team had a pretty average year for the Tigers, winning 40 games, finishing in the middle of the conference, and going 6-4 in the postseason, dropping both contests with Florida State in the Super Regional. The team's final ranking was around the Top 15 in the polls. In other words, this year's team is predicted to be about the same as, if not slightly better than, last year's team. (I personally think the roster is improved, key players will have more confidence, and the freshman class is absolutely loaded.)

So if the baseball team were to match last year's 40 wins, we could see a total of 78 or more total wins across the three sports, topping Florida's 2006-07 teams.

Again, I know a second National Championship makes this is an actual conversation. But as a Tigers fan (and a biased SEC supporter), I'm having fun watching it all unfold.

So am I missing anyone? Are there other schools out there who should be in the conversation?

Monday, January 27, 2020

Updated GBS Movie Ratings

Updated to add Benchwarmers 2.

3: The Dale Earnhardt Story (2004) - 3/10 (IMDB = 6.9)
Benchwarmers 2 (2019) - 3/10 (IMDB - 3.9)
Blue Chips (1994) - 7.5/10 (IMDB = 6.1)
Crackerjack (2013) - 1/10 (IMDB = 6.6)
Driven (2001) - 2.5/10 (IMDB = 4.6)
Fumbleheads (1997) - 1/10 (IMDB = 6.0)
Hockey Mom (2004) - 1/10 (IMDB = 5.2)
Kart Racer (2003) - 2/10 (IMDB = 5.8)
My Dad's a Soccer Mom (2014) - 1/10 (IMDB = 5.4)
Superdome (1978) - 3/10 (IMDB = 2.6)

Sunday, January 26, 2020

2020 Daytona 24 Hours - Final Summary and Blogathon Pick 'Em Final Standings

So, for all the promise of a slam bang finish, things kind of settled out in the last hour, and other than some pushing and shoving between the GTLM Porsches for 2nd and 3rd in class, there wasn't a whole lot of wheel to wheel stuff down the stretch. Bummer, because it was actually a pretty great race, right up to the end. Congrats to the Wayne Taylor Racing guys (and girls) on their overall win, and the DragonSpeed, RLL BMW and Paul Miller Racing teams on their respective class wins.

With all of that "reality racing" out of the way, let's get down to brass tacks with our "fantasy racing" stuff (you know, the stuff that matters). Here were our scores for the 24 Hour mark:

1st - #10 Konica Minolta Wayne Taylor Racing Cadillac DPi-V.R (Allen - 12 points)
2nd - #77 Mazda Team Joest Mazda DPi (Allen - 8 points)
3rd- #5 Mustang Sampling/JDC-Miller Motorsports Cadillac DPi (Andy - 4 points)

1st - #81 DragonSpeed ORECA LMP2 07 (Andy - 6 points)
2nd - #52 PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports ORECA LMP2 07 (Allen - 4 points)
3rd - #18 Era Motorsports ORECA LMP2 07 (Allen - 2 points)

1st - #24 BMW Team RLL BMW M8 GTE (Allen - 6 points)
2nd - #912 Porsche GT Team Porsche 911 RSR - 19 (Andy - 4 points)
3rd - #911 Porsche GT Team Porsche 911 RSR - 19 (Mike - 2 points)

1st - #48 Paul Miller Racing Lamborghini Huracan GT3 (Mike - 6 points)
2nd - #44 GRT Magnus Lamborghini Huracan GT3 (Allen - 4 points)
3rd - #88 WRT Speedstar Audi Sport Audi R8 LMS GT3 (Andy - 2 points)

The 24 Hour totals:
Allen - 36 points
Andy - 16 points
Mike - 8 points

And the grand totals:
Allen - 77 points
Andy - 43 points
Mike - 25 points

Holy cow, Allen beat Mike and my points totals combined this year. I think that's a Blogathon Pick 'Em first. Good job by him.

Well, that'll wrap up my Blogathon coverage for 2020. Thanks to the folks who stopped by this year and enjoyed some racing, some tennis and a truly terrible movie with us. Hope to see you all back here next year (or maybe sooner).

More Songs for a Rolex 24 Playlist

1. The Beach Boys - Spirit of America

2. Jan & Dean - Little Old Lady From Pasadena

3. Prince - Little Red Corvette

4. Groovie Ghoulies - The Bay Bridge Club

5. Tim Smooth - Used Car (NSFW!!)

Blogathon 2020: Limerick #5

One day when I'm rich and retire,
I'll buy lots of nice things to admire.
And then you might see me
With a lamborghini.
I just hope it won't catch on fire.

2020 Daytona 24 Hours - 22 Hour Update

With just two hours to go in the race, we've still got some great battles going on. The top-3 overall (two Caddys and a Mazda) are still on the lead lap, the top two in LMP2 are separated by just a lap, the top-5 in GTLM are covered by one lap (the #912 Porsche just passed the #24 BMW for the lead in the infield) and the top EIGHT in GTD are still in with a chance for the win. With breakfast at Speedgeek Palisades wrapped up, I'm going to settle in with the TV and timing & scoring and see where this goes for the next hour.


2020 Blogathon Pick 'Em - 18 Hour Standings

And here were our scores at the 18 Hour mark of the race:

1st - #10 Konica Minolta Wayne Taylor Racing Cadillac DPi-V.R (Allen - 6 points)
2nd - #5 Mustang Sampling/JDC-Miller Motorsports Cadillac DPi (Andy - 4 points)
3rd - #77 Mazda Team Joest Mazda DPi (Allen - 2 points)

1st - #81 DragonSpeed ORECA LMP2 07 (Andy - 3 points)
2nd - #52 PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports ORECA LMP2 07 (Allen - 2 points)
3rd - #18 Era Motorsports ORECA LMP2 07 (Allen - 1 point)

1st - #912 Porsche GT Team Porsche 911 RSR - 19 (Andy - 3 points)
2nd - #911 Porsche GT Team Porsche 911 RSR - 19 (Mike - 2 points)
3rd - #24 BMW Team RLL BMW M8 GTE (Allen - 1 point)

1st - #48 Paul Miller Racing Lamborghini Huracan GT3 (Mike - 3 points)
2nd - #88 WRT Speedstar Audi Sport Audi R8 LMS GT3 (Andy - 2 points)
3rd - #44 GRT Magnus Lamborghini Huracan GT3 (Allen - 1 point)

The 18 Hour totals:

Allen - 13 points
Andy - 12 points
Mike - 5 points

And the running total:

Allen - 41 points
Andy - 27 points
Mike - 17 points

Oof. Allen's built up quite a lead. BUT, with 12/8/4 points going to the overall podium and 6/4/2 points for each of the lesser classes, there are 60 points still available at the end here. With a tick under four hours to go, there are still four DPis on the lead lap, the two LMP2 leaders are on the same lap, the top FIVE GTLM cars are on the same la (covered by just under five seconds) and the top EIGHT GTD cars are covered by just two laps (with the top five or six on the same lap). This is still wide open.

2020 Blogathon Pick 'Em - 12 Hour Standings

Here were our scores at the 12 Hour mark of the race:

1st - #5 Mustang Sampling/JDC-Miller Motorsports Cadillac DPi (Andy - 6 points)
2nd - #10 Konica Minolta Wayne Taylor Racing Cadillac DPi-V.R (Allen - 4 points)
3rd - #77 Mazda Team Joest Mazda DPi (Allen - 2 points)

1st - #52 PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports ORECA LMP2 07 (Allen - 3 points)
2nd - #81 DragonSpeed ORECA LMP2 07 (Andy - 2 points)
3rd - #18 Era Motorsports ORECA LMP2 07 (Allen - 1 point)

1st - #24 BMW Team RLL BMW M8 GTE (Allen - 3 points)
2nd - #912 Porsche GT Team Porsche 911 RSR - 19 (Andy - 2 points)
3rd - #911 Porsche GT Team Porsche 911 RSR - 19 (Mike - 1 point)

1st - #48 Paul Miller Racing Lamborghini Huracan GT3 (Mike - 3 points)
2nd - #88 WRT Speedstar Audi Sport Audi R8 LMS GT3 (Andy - 2 points)
3rd - #44 GRT Magnus Lamborghini Huracan GT3 (Allen - 1 point)

The 12 Hour totals:

Allen - 14 points
Andy - 12 points
Mike - 4 points

And the running total:

Allen - 28 points
Andy - 15 points
Mike - 12 points

Stay tuned for the 18 Hour standings shortly.

Good Morning From Daytona!

Or, probably, the more accurate greeting should be "Good Morning at Daytona", seeing as how I'm not there or anything. Anyway, sorry for the silence from me since the end of Benchwarmers 2, but last night was my first opportunity to get more than 6.5 hours of sleep in two full weeks. Sometimes you just gotta grab the sleep when you can.

I turned on the TV this morning just in time for a great Sam Posey-narrated piece about Ken Miles (you know, the guy Christian Bale played in "Ford v. Ferrari"), followed by a GOOD OL' CARBEQUE when the #11 Grasser/GEAR Lambo driven by Christina Nielsen caught fire on the back straight, causing her to slam on the brakes on the east banking (after making a trip to Daytona last fall and doing the track tour, I now know which end of the track is east and which is west, so I'm probably going to hit everybody over the head with that knowledge forever now) and the safety crew to come out to put out the blaze under the engine cover after the on board fire extinguisher apparently wouldn't work. Yikes. Scary stuff. With that breather, we now get a chance to reset and see that three of the four classes have multiple cars on the lead lap and the fourth (it probably goes without saying that it's LMP2) actually only has a lap between the top two cars, so that one's up for grabs, too. Oh, and my #7 Penske Acura DPi has recovered back up to 10th overall, so at least it's not an ARFLpocalypse for me to start the year.

Hang in here a little bit for the 12- and 18-Hour Pick 'Em scores as we restart (both the race and Blogathon) here. It should be a fun last 4 1/2 hours!

Krygios-Nadal Matchup Has Some Drama

Although I'm upset that we didn't get the men's final in the Australian Open during blogathon this year, I did wake up early yesterday and caught a great 4.5-hour match where Nick Krygios outlasted Karen Khachanov, setting up a contest against Rafael Nadal. (I should note that I wasn't necessarily pulling for either player, although Khachanov did look like he was about to ride his skateboard to a Blink 182 show.) What I didn't know is that there is some drama between Krygios and Nadal, so that makes the next match even more exciting.

To put it into terms that I (and maybe some of you) understand, Krygios is something of the Liam Gallagher of tennis, meaning his attitude probably hurts himself more than anyone else, and if you have anything of a sense of humor, most of his antics can be laughed off as anywhere from childish to mildly entertaining. (I watched a YouTube video, OK?)

They talked about how he mocked Nadal's serve before the yesterday's match and how he once served underhanded against him, which I assume, like biting his thumb at him, is an insult to him if he bears it. (Sorry for the Shakespeare.) But the part I thought was interesting was when I heard that Krygios once HIT Nadal with the ball on purpose. I thought that was crazy, since normally the players are trying to hit the ball as far away from the other player as possible. I thought, if he purposely tried to hit him with the ball, he was actually doing him a favor by not making him chase the ball, right?

Now, what I didn't know was that Nadal was actually playing close to the net at the time, so he had very little time to react, and the ball was fired at him at 120 mph. That being said, I know sometimes in basketball, it's the best move to bounce the ball off the other player. He didn't hit Nadal in the face with the ball. In fact, he went a lot lower. (Maybe check out the movie we watched last night for more info on that topic.)

Either way, I'm going to try to tune in, or I'll least catch the highlights to see if any shenanigans happen. In the end, I'm all for having a guy who makes things fun yet is also a really good player.

Blogathon 2020: Limerick #4

Conway tried not to be passed,
But the 10 car went by with a blast,
And I don't think it's right.
If they must drive all night,
Then should they be going so fast?

Blogathon 2020: Limerick #3

I guess Benchwarmers wasn't so bad
If you think of the actors it had.
There was Lovitz, Munro,
That girl Crystal Lowe,
And Chris Klein as a recent law grad.

Saturday, January 25, 2020

Blogathon 2020: Limerick #2

D'you know Jonathan Bomarito?
I swear, he once stole my burrito!
I was blessing my spread
When he took it and fled!
Then he vanished and went incognito.

GBS at the Movies - The Benchwarmers 2: Breaking Balls

To watch with us, you can load the film on Netflix. At exactly 9:00 EST, press play. Feel free to comment here with any thoughts.

Note: I saw Benchwarmers when it first came out. All I remember is Napoleon Dynamite, David Spade, and Rob Schneider being grown ass men playing against little league kids, I guess to get back at all the people who bullied them? I don't know, man. I assume it really doesn't matter.

Starting soon!


And we're off!


Y'all, it took about 43 seconds for a baseball team name-related dirty joke! This is gonna be SOLID!


And a minute later, a fastball to the BALLS! This movie is going break new ground in baseball humor!


Oh Chris Klein. Poor guy. I feel like life has really hit HIM in the nuts and he's failing to realize the irony of this whole situation.


Holy moly. I guess the subtitle of BREAKING BALLS should've been a hint, but it's impossible to tell you how many balls/nuts jokes we've had in the first six minutes!


Iris Fletcher has seen better days herself. My man Chris Klein got hit in the balls really hard, but what's HER excuse?


Oh and this guy Lochlyn Munro. We've seen him in... movies... that I can't remember. But I'm sure of it!


Oh, they didn't really hire him to be a lawyer. They just wanted his baseball skills. Uh... we're stealing movie plots from King of Queens episodes now??


Hey guys. Do you get the metaphor? When life screws you, it's like getting hit in the nuts.


AND... Lovitz is back. Great.


OK, full disclosure, I'm going through about 200 movies for the Munro guy, and I don't know any of them.


Guys... the only thing worse than all the balls/nuts jokes is when they try to talk like lawyers. And that's the only two choices we have here!


By the time we meet the players on the softball team, we've all been kicked in the nuts. Thanks God there are only five of them.


This first game reminds me of the time we signed up to play softball intramurals in college. We showed up for our first game, and our opponents were... the FOOTBALL team. The Conference USA champion football team with like seven future NFL players. I'm out there playing shortstop at night with one eye, and these guys were hitting the ball into the woods, which I'm pretty sure weren't even part of our campus.


This judge. "All right... what do we have here...?" That's what we're ALL wondering, buddy.


How pathetic is it when you're watching a movie and thinking that a simple Napoleon Dynamite cameo would improve it by 1000 percent?


This love interest/intern/clerk/whatever is really struggling with the whole... acting thing.


So. Much. Ball. Talk.


Dead Man on Campus! That's where I know Munro from! 1998, represent! (Plus a killer soundtrack with Goldfinger, Self, Supergrass, Blur, and others!)


OK, the dirt kicking scene was mildly entertaining.


Oh God. Lovitz is telling the story of the first movie. Like it's Friday the 13th or something.


RE: SpeedGeek's comment about this team not winning a game in 20 years... THIS team has poor man's Serrano AND Crystal Lowe, who has gone from cheesy skin flicks to cheesy horror movies to cheesy Hallmark Christmas movies to... THIS.


OK, when he hits the light pole, and it just fizzes... that was good too.


RE: SpeedGeek's comment about teenage boys writing this movie... I once did a Toys for Tots drive with teenage boys, challenging each of them to bring in two toys. They started to bring in two balls each. Footballs, soccer balls, etc. Every day, it was, "I got TWO BALLS for you!" "Hey, here's my TWO BALLS!" "How many BALLS you got so far?" "How many BALLS you think we can bring?"


The dude going in to pinch run on his motor scooter seems... illegal.


In my mind, the dude who plays Jack is actually the little kid from Pet Sematary, Full House, and Kindergarten Cop. Come and get it, fun boys!


More references to the first film. Let it go, guys!


My favorite lyrics in that song he was singing was when he went: "I gotta pee! I gotta pee! I gotta pee!"


This intern/clerk girl just makes her own hours, coming and going as she please, like a ghost in the night.


How long until Klein finally suits up and plays?? There are only 17 minutes left.


I must admit, I thought Lovitz would be a lot worse here, but he's fine enough I guess. Still, the ONLY character that is actually watchable is his daughter. I'd watch a Part 3 if it's about her killing zombies and stuff.


We've had worse music in other movies for sure, but this music is still really awful.


And here comes KLEIN with the bat! In the last 10 minutes. I bet he gets hit in the balls!


Man, the old brawl on the field during the live ball move.


I just want to note that the kid in the movie and the Kindergarten Cop kid have the same last name (Hughes). Maybe they're related. I called it.


Well, that's it! We made it through another one! It wasn't as bad as others, I admit. I'll give it a 2.5 or a 3 out of 10. Thanks to anyone who watched with us! If you missed it, feel free to watch it on your own and read our comments as you go! See you next time...

2020 Speedgeek's Blogathon Beer #2 / Bad Sports Movie Beer

From our friends at Nothing's Left Brewing:


DEEZ NUTS (Chocolate/Peanut Butter Stout). And now, I'm officially ready for a (likely) terrible sports movie. Let's roll it.

2020 Blogathon Pick 'Em - 6 Hour Standings

Here are our scores for the first 6 Hours:

1st - #10 Wayne Taylor Cadillac DPi (Allen - 6 points)
2nd - #31 Whelen Racing Cadillac DPi (Mike - 4 points)
3rd - #6 Penske Acura DPi (Mike - 2 points)

1st - #52 PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports (Allen - 3 points)
2nd - #8 Tower Motorsports by Starworks (Allen - 2 points)
3rd - #81 DragonSpeed USA (Andy - 1 point)

1st - #24 RLL BMW M8 GTE (Allen - 3 points)
2nd - #912 Porsche GT Team Porsche 911 RSR - 19 (Andy - 2 points)
3rd - #911 Porsche GT Team Porsche 911 RSR - 19 (Mike - 1 point)

1st - #44 GRT Magnus Lamborghini Huracan GT3 (Allen - 3 points)
2nd - #63 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 488 GT3 (unpicked)
3rd - #48 Paul Miller Racing Lamborghini Huracan GT3 (Mike - 1)

Allen - 14 points
Mike - 8 points
Andy - 3 points

So, Allen's off to a great start. But a lot of racing left to go!

Speedgeek's Blogathon Beer #1

After spending a couple of the early hours doing stuff like "staying in the good graces of my family", I've been able to settle in and watch some of the race. I tuned in about 4 minutes after my Penske Acura #7 (my pick to win the race, one of my Pick 'Em game picks AND I grabbed both Helio Castroneves and Ricky Taylor in the All Racing Fantasy League draft today), got T-boned by the #55 Mazda at the bus stop chicane. Great. Good news: I have some good beer here. To wit:

So, we're settled in now, and looking an hour down the road to the Blogathon Bad Sports Movie (because the race is basically ruined for me, as far as my picks go). I'll work on the 6 Hour scores here, hopefully to be posted before the movie (because that's gonna command my full attention, especially since I'm not versed in the Benchwarmer Universe, as I missed Part 1). Good to be here!

Songs for a Rolex 24 Playlist

This is a series we started last year. For past playlist suggestions, click the "music" tag.

1. The Cars - Drive

2. Paul & Linda McCartney - Back Seat of My Car

3. The Beach Boys - Cherry Coupe

4. Better Than Ezra - Rolling

5. The Robinsons - Bogalusa

Blogathon 2020: Limerick #1

There once was a man named Chris Miller.
He had a female caterpillar.
His friend said that she
Was so cute! Could he see?
Chris said, "Yeah, just be sure you don't kill her."

Hey Blogathon 2020, Let's Party

Blogathon 2020 Schedule and Car Picks

We're back for another Blogathon! If you've been here over the last 12 years or so, you know what's up, and if you missed SpeedGeek's class previews, be sure to scroll down. I even (kind of ) helped him this year!

Anyway, once again, we'll be here for 24+ hours, watching sports, screening an AWFUL movie, eating terrible food, and writing nonsense poems about it all. Life got busier for us this year, so we may all be a little more limited than usual, and we're limited our annual Pick 'Em Challenge to only cars this year, but we'll be here from start to finish doing something or other.

This year's awful sports movie is Benchwarmers 2: Breaking Balls. The film is available on Netflix for those who would like to follow along live with us. We'll load the movie and instantly pause it, and we'll press "play" at exactly 9:00 p.m. Feel free to watch along with us and comment on the live-blog post.

In addition to the Rolex 24, the Australian Open, and X Games coverage, the college basketball schedule once again features the Big 12/SEC Challenge, so there will be a bunch of great basketball games to watch throughout Blogathon.

First, here are the results of our Rolex 24 Car Draft. We'll update points every 6 hours or so.

Me - 6, 31, 55 | 911, 62 | 11, 86, 9, 48, 16 | 38

Andy - 7, 5 | 912, 3, 4, 25 | 57, 74, 88, 12 | 81

Allen - 10, 77, 85 | 24 | 44, 14, 19, 47 | 52, 8, 18 

Below are highlights of the live events available to watch during the weekend. All times are Eastern.

Saturday, January 25

1:30 p.m.

Rolex 24 at Daytona (NBC)

2:00 p.m.

St. John's at Depaul (FS1)

2:30 p.m.

Rolex 24 at Daytona (NBCSN)

4:00 p.m.


6:00 p.m.

Rolex 24 moves to NBC Sports App
Kansas St. at Alabama (ESPN2)
Tulane at East Carolina (ESPNU)

8:00 p.m.

NHL All-Star Game (NBC)
UCF at Wichita St. (ESPNU)
Futbol: Tigres UANL vs. Atlas (UNI)

9:00 p.m.

Grab Bag Sports at the Movies - Benchwarmers 2: Breaking Balls (available on Netflix)
Australian Open (ESPN)
Washington at Colorado (FS1)
Boxing: Garcia-Redkach (Showtime)

10:00 p.m.

X Games Aspen (ESPN)
Washington St. at Utah (ESPNU)
Futbol: Leon vs. Pachuca

11:00 p.m.

Rolex 24 (NBCSN)

Sunday, January 26

3:00 a.m.

Rolex 24 moves to NBC Sports App
Australian Open (ESPN)

6:00 a.m.

Rolex 24 (NBCSN)

9:30 a.m.

Bundesliga Soccer: Werder Bremen vs. TSG 1899 Hoffenheim (FS1)

12:00 p.m.

Rolex 24 (NBC)
Bundesliga Soccer: Bayer Leverkusen vs. Fortuna Dusseldorf (FS1)
Serie A Soccer: AS Roma vs. Lazio

1:00 p.m.

Maryland at Indiana (CBS)
Futbol: UNAM vs. Monterrey

2:00 p.m.

X Games Aspen (ESPN2)

3:00 p.m.

Michigan St. at Minnesota (FOX)

Friday, January 24, 2020

2020 Daytona 24 Hours - GTD Class Preview

We have made it to our last class preview for the 2020 Daytona 24 Hours: the GTD class. Yeah, this has settled into my "least interesting class (to me)" several times over the last 4-5 years, but with more than double the car count of the next highest class, and with fully NINE manufacturers involved, you can bet your bottom dollar that we'll have something interesting to watch in this class, all the way down to the wire. So, how are they going to stack up after 24 hours?

18th Place - Black Swan Racing Porsche 911 GT3 R

These guys are just scrambling to get into the race, after writing their car off in practice and having to get a new car from rivals Wright Racing. If they make it off the grid and make some laps at speed on Saturday afternoon, that'll effectively be a "win" for them, at this point.

17th Place - Heart of Racing Team Aston Martin Vantage GT3

A brand new car, with a team that just started running it. A relatively straightforward pick for what's essentially "first team out".

16th Place - #47 Precision Performance Motorsports Lamborghini Huracan GT3

A team that added two of the drivers from the scratched Rick Ware Racing LMP2 car earlier this week (so, essentially, at the last second), and not a single driver above a Silver rating in the lineup.

15th Place - #44 GRT Magnus Lamborghini Huracan GT3

My favorite team on the GTD grid, but it seems like something always bites them. Throw in that this is a new car to all of the team's drivers, and it feels like this could be a problem filled 24 hours...

14th Place - #12 AIM Vasser Sullivan Lexus RC-F GT3

Maybe it's because I'm basically throwing together my previews at the last second this year, having barely even looked at practice and qualifying results, but it feels like things are stacked against me this year. And, maybe because I'm projecting, it feels like things may be stacked against my favorite teams. Sorry, guys.

13th Place - #74 Riley Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT3

I'll call this "The Curse of the Ghost of Scott Tucker", which will befall the two cars that are being driven in part by Ben Keating.

12th Place - #96 Turner Motorsport BMW M6 GT3

I think that Bill Auberlen (a loooooonnnnngggtime Speedgeek favorite, dating back to my early days of watching IMSA in the early '90s, back before he hooked up with BMW and was driving Mazdas for his family's team) will win a record breaking 61st career IMSA race (hi to Scott Pruett's family at home), but I don't think it'll be Daytona.

11th Place - #98 Aston Martin Racing Aston Martin Vantage GT3

Of the two Astons in the race, this is the "pro" car, with Platinum rated factory driver Pedro Lamy. However, a brand new car to IMSA and Daytona. Not likely.

10th Place - #19 GEAR Racing Powered by GRT Grasser Lamborghini Huracan GT3

The two full time drivers (Katherine Legge and Christina Nielsen) both have plenty of experience here, but the other two drivers (Silver rated Tatiana Calderon and Rahel Frey) don't. Maybe not a great recipe to be sitting in the top-5 come Sunday afternoon, but I'll be rooting for them all the same.

9th Place - #14 AIM Vasser Sullivan Lexus RC-F GT3

Or, as most folks will know this car this weekend, "the car that Kyle Busch is in". I think this car will run in the top-5 in the 4-6 Hour bracket of the race, only to hit troubles with another car or damaged bodywork from somebody going off course...but it won't be Kyle that does it. In any case, I don't see them winning.

8th Place - #88 WRT Speedstar Audi Sport Audi R8 LMS GT3

The lone remaining Audi in the field will probably find tough sledding on pace, but will probably still finish all but of a couple laps and wind up right in the middle of the pack. You know, where the Audis mostly spent all of 2019.

7th Place - #63 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 488 GT3

More often than not, I feel like this team hits some sort of calamity. 24 hours is a long time to avoid calamities...

6th Place - #16 Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R

A new-ish team to IMSA will have a great run, but will wind up just shy of the top-5. Bummer. I like Pat Long.

5th Place - #57 Heinricher Racing w/MSR Curb-Agajanian Acura NSX GT3

It'd be crazy if both of the MSR Acuras contended for the win, right? I definitely think that one of them will be in the "winning camera shot", but I do think the other one will either be on the tail end of the lead lap or just a lap behind. I'm picking this one to be the one that's just behind at the end. Don't ask me why.

4th Place - #48 Paul Miller Racing Lamborghini Huracan GT3

The Lambos are almost always really, really quick at Daytona. I don't think this year will be any different, but I do think there'll be just one on the podium. And this one will JUST miss the podium.

3rd Place - #9 Pfaff Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R

At the beginning of last season, a good number of us (or maybe it was just me) knew this car as "the Canadian Porsche that's wearing lumberjack clothes". Then, they ran up front a bunch at the end of the year. Now, they can wrap the car however they want, and we've gotta take them seriously. Which is good, because I like it when cars with amusing paint schemes run up front.

2nd Place - #11 GRT Grasser Racing Team Lamborghini Huracan GT3

Like I said above, the Lambos always seem to like the high banks and long straights at Daytona. I just think that instead of the GTD defending champs, it's somebody else's year this year...

1st Place - #86 Meyer Shank Racing w/Curb-Agajanian Acura NSX GT3

This just feels like a "Mike Shank" kind of year. I think that Mike gets to match his IndyCar team going full time with a Rolex for winning this weekend.

OK, thanks for coming by for my class previews. We'll see everybody tomorrow for the race...and Blogathon!

Thursday, January 23, 2020

2020 Daytona 24 Hours - DPi Class Preview

CONTROVERSY! To date, I've always picked the top class as my "most interesting class (to me)", and so it's always come last in my class previews. UNTIL NOW. With the DPi class dwindling to just eight cars this year, a huge chunk of my attention will be elsewhere. Oh, sure, we'll all still watch the front of the pack, to see who wins overall, and with eight seriously quality cars involved, it should (SHOULD) be an excellent race, but if there are early unexpected issues with even as few as 3-4 cars, the overall could turn into a 2-3 car race by the time the sun comes up. With that, let's get to the preview.

8th Place - #85 JDC-Miller MotorSports Cadillac DPi

Nothing against the "Little Team That Could", but they effectively now find themselves the team with the least amount of prior success on the grid (basically by default, since the other two Cadillac teams have won championships, the Mazdas were the class of the field at several races last year and the Acuras are, well...Penskes). The #85 winds up caboose on the field, essentially because it's the only car on the grid with any drivers rated lower than Gold.

7th Place - #55 Mazda Team Joest Mazda DPi

The Mazdas turned a corner in the middle of 2019, finally winning their first race in DPi at the 6 Hours of The Glen, but then following that up by winning the next two races on the trot. But, as always, the final question mark surrounding the Mazdas is "can they make it work for 24 full hours?" Past experience would say "no", but races are not run on past experience. This said, the top handful of cars are all well proven for 24 hours, so the Mazdas would have to run hard and flawlessly for the entire distance to win. I don't see it.

6th Place - #77 Mazda Team Joest Mazda DPi

See above. (Note: this was written before the #77 had won the pole on Thursday afternoon, but that fact doesn't really change my opinion.

5th Place - #5 Mustang Sampling Racing/JDC-Miller MotorSports Cadillac DPi

The Mustang Sampling sponsorship and full time drivers Joao Barbosa and Sebastien Bourdais (along with endurance ringer Loic Duval) move from the Action Express Racing stable to the JDC-Miller garage. This team and the car are capable of winning, all the way around, but with only one prior win to their name in the top IMSA class, again, it's hard for me to see JDC-Miller toppling the top three teams.

4th Place -#10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R.

After a charmed run to win overall last year, where most of the last seven hours of the race took place under yellow or red flag conditions, thereby preventing several faster cars from possibly taking a run at them, it's hard for me to imagine the necessary cascade of factors all falling in their favor again. BUT, the presence of Scott Dixon in the driver lineup made me think twice about this pick. Still, the Taylor Racing guys tend to be a little "feast or famine" at Daytona, and this feels like a "famine-y" year.

3rd Place - #6 Acura Team Penske Acura DPi

For what might be the fastest overall driver lineup entered (defending IMSA Weathertech series champs Dane Cameron and Juan Pablo Montoya, plus defending Indy 500 winner Simon Pagenaud), my total guess here is that the is on the lead lap and even leads a bunch of the race up to about Hour 18, then drops 2-3 laps for something relatively innocuous, and never manages to get all of their laps back, winding up a dejected podium finisher. A "close but no cigar" effort.

2nd Place - #31 Whelen Engineering Racing Cadillac DPi

The team that's a single Mike Conway shy of an all-Portuguese speaking lineup, driving for the 15 time series champ Action Express Racing (or, at least it feels like they've won that many championships), they'll be hard to beat. BUT, one team will beat them...

#1st Place - #7 Acura Team Penske Acura DPi

Yeah, I know they crashed their car in qualifying today, but something tells me that we're looking at a "come from behind" sort of race, where the #7 starts at the back of the pack (which, mind you, is only eight cars, so it's not that far "behind"), works their way up into the top-3 or 4 by the 4 Hour mark, and then executes with no issues at all for the remainder of the race, being one of only two teams to make it to the end on the lead lap...and then too quick for the other car to catch them. Fascinating subplot: who drives the car for that final sprint to the finish? Ricky Taylor (solid and quick, his crash today notwithstanding)? Helio Castroneves (maybe a tick quicker on ultimate pace)? Or endurance ringer Alexander Rossi (possibly one of the fastest 4-5 racing drivers in America today)? In any case, I think the Penske guys take it this year.

And now, one class to go! Come on back tomorrow (or Saturday morning, because I can't promise I'll get it done tomorrow evening) for the final class preview: GTD!

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

2020 Daytona 24 Hours - GTLM Class Preview

So, we hit the LMP2 class earlier in the week, and Mike hit up the DPi class yesterday (which, really, should probably have been the end of the line for any GBS 24 Hours of Daytona class previews, because I think we all know that'll bear out to be the most accurate set of predictions ever seen on this website), now it's time to venture forth and proceed with my class previews. Next up: GTLM. It grabs the #3 spot for "most interesting class (to me)", for only one reason: car count. With the deletion of the Ganassi Ford GTs from the field, we're down to just seven GTLM cars. BUT, the good news is that this should still be a fantastically competitive class.

In seasons past, I've totally copped out and given all cars in this class an equal chance to win. But, with my new-for-2020 picks system, I can't do that unless I'm projecting that they finish in a seven-wide dead heat for the win. Even I am not the sort of maniac who'd do such a thing. So, let's get to it.

7th Place - #25 BMW Team RLL BMW M8 GTE

The effective defending champs of this race should be one of the favorites to win again, right? That's why I'M ZAGGING (when I should probably just "zig" and predict another podium) and predicting that they hit early trouble.

6th Place - #4 Corvette Racing Corvette C8.R

The only brand new cars in the class should be fast. But, unlike when the Corvettes went from the C5R to the C6R, and then the C6R to the C7R, the team could at least fall back on the throughline consistency of having the same front engine/rear drive layout. Now, with the engines behind the drivers, I can only imagine that there are a whole new set of headaches for the last remaining "American" GTLMs (in quotes, because the rest of the cars in class are run by American teams, just with cars from abroad). For sure, one of the cars will finish outside of the top-5, right?

5th Place - #62 Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 GTE

Yes, these guys were incredibly fast when they actually raced last year, finishing 2nd at Daytona and actually winning the GTLM class at the last race of the 2019 season at Petit Le Mans. But, something tells me that 2020 won't be quite such a charmed effort in IMSA for the Risi guys.

4th Place - #24 BMW Team RLL BMW M8 GTE

No other reason for picking the other BMW to finish off the podium than that I think the teams that are going to finish on the podium will essentially have a magical run.

3rd Place - #3 Corvette Racing Corvette C8.R

Yep, I totally picked one of the Corvettes to hit trouble but then the other one to run basically unscathed to the end, maybe with just a minor issue or two that'll knock them down to the bottom step of the podium. Really, the subplot of the brand new Corvettes is the story of the GTLM class for me this year.

2nd Place - #911 Porsche GT Team Porsche 911 RSR-19

The Porsches basically had their way with the GTLM class for the bulk of 2019, and with their cars winding up 1-2 in the last practice session of the Roar Before test, I think that semi-domination carries over to the race. Look for at least one Porsche to make the podium, and probably both.

1st Place - #912 Porsche GT Team Porsche 911 RSR-19

This Porsche gets the nod this year, because teamed up with endurance driver Mathieu Jaminet are the team's regular drivers Earl Bamber and Laurens Vanthoor. Or, BAMTHOR. The best bromance nickname in motorsports will always win out.

Halfway there! Join us later in the week for the last two class previews! Or don't (and probably be just as well informed)!

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

2020 Daytona 24 Hours - Mike's Super Serious Prototype Class Preview

Each year here at Grab Bag Sports, we all look forward to SpeedGeek previewing each class featured in the Rolex24. Honestly, it's usually the only way I know which cars are even competing. But this year, SpeedGeek is a little busy, so I decided to pitch in and help out for once! I took a look at the cars who will be competing in the Daytona Prototype international (or DPi) class, and figured... how hard could this be?

Below are my predictions for how the eight DPi cars will finish in this year's Rolex24.

8. No. 85 JDC-Miller MotorSports Cadillac DPi-V.R

I just don't see any way the #85 car competes this weekend. After spending most of the offseason on the cusp of landing a Doritos sponsorship that ultimately fell apart, the team's lone selling point now is the rumor that actor Tony Danza may be taking a turn at the wheel. Veteran Kirk Regis can only drive so many hours, guys.

7. No. 6 Acura Team Penske Acura ARX-05

The #6 car comes in sporting a new type of hubcaps that is supposed be the future of aerodynamics. But after blowing both hangshifts in last year's race, there isn't much hope for them in 2020. Scott Dixon did recently call rookie driver Chad Lipscomb "the next Tom Sneva," but we're not sure what that even means.

6. No. 77 Mazda Team Joest Mazda RT-24

Don't forget last year after three laps, the #77 looked like the car to beat. Unfortunately, the race has more than three laps. After having to visit the garage with a failed L-stick, it was a long 23 hours from there. As long as Corey "Coors" Light is logging hours behind the wheel, the team has a chance, but the other drivers (including Brett Riggs and Vince Fox) are just too inexperienced.

5. No. 55 Mazda Team Joest Mazda RT-24

The #55 did take the cup at Dothan last year, but otherwise it was a pretty average season. The team insists on running with the older model pithoscope, but it does at least help conserve fuel. Keep an eye on Reginald Reeves who scored three Top 3 finishes last year.

4. No. 7 Acura Team Penske Acura ARX-05

We're hoping that the controversy of "Bumpergate" is well behind the #7 car at this point. But it's hard to forget drivers Ty Ketchum and Rock Robertson going at each other in pit row during the 21st hour last year. Expect the #7 to finish in the middle of the pack again.

3. No. 31 Whelen Engineering Racing Cadillac DPi-V.R

Seriously, how many rugnuts can one car blow in 24 hours? For the #31 car, last year the answer was SIX. Yet Eric Descalso was behind the wheel in the 23rd hour with a chance to win when the water plug failed. Expect the team to compete again this year, especially after bringing veteran Steve "Big Mac" McCloskey on board for the 2020 race.

2. No. 10 Konica Minolta/Wayne Taylor Racing Cadillac DPi-V.R

The #10 team has all the speed in the world and will be beta testing a new steelrod belt in this year's Rolex24. Jake Keppinger looks to build upon his 2019 success, which included wins at Salisbury, Hickory, and Clearwater. Add rookie hotshot Gordon "K-Cup" Kellet, and you have a team that should compete for the victory.

1. No. 5 Mustang Sampling Racing/JDC-Miller MotorSports Cadillac DPi-V.R.

All things considered, however, my money is on the #5. Why? Well, let's see. Can you say "top speed vs. wind pressure per square mile" performance? If that wasn't enough, the team spent the offseason cutting down its brake timing rate (BTR), as well as its peripheral turn-independent speed (PTIS). With drivers Amy Montgomery, Chuck Franscioni, and Pete March taking turns at the wheel, it's hard to see this team losing this year.

Monday, January 20, 2020

2020 Daytona 24 Hours - LMP2 Class Preview

Hi, everybody! It's been about 51 weeks since I've posted anything here, so you all know what that means...time for our annual Blogathon! Mike, Wedge and I are still hammering out the various details of what we're going to be doing this year, but at the very least, I wanted to get up my patented "Speedgeek's Daytona 24 Hours Class Previews". As always, I'm doing them in order of least interesting class (to me) to most interesting class (to me). For this year, like last year, my "least interesting class" is the LMP2 class, although at least there are 50% cars this year (six) as there were last year (four). In the past, I've done odds for each car to win their class, but I'll be honest: that takes a lot of extra time to calculate out odds that make any sense, and I have even less time than usual this year. So, this will be a little different format, in the reverse order that I think the cars will finish. LMP2, here goes!

6th Place - #2 Rick Ware Racing Multimatic/Riley LMP2

OK, so this is totally cheating, because the team announced today that they're withdrawing from the race after a hard crash at the Roar Before test. So, chalk this one up as a lock.

5th Place - #18 Era Motorsport Oreca LMP2 07

This boils down to something very simple: new team. I'll be rooting for them, though, as driver Ryan Lewis is a Twitter legend and "Dinner With Racers" podcast all-timer.

4th Place - #38 Performance Tech Motorsports Oreca LMP2 07

This team has been here before and had success, but I can't rate them higher for one reason: three Bronze level drivers in the lineup. A podium would be a win for these guys, even in a class with five cars.

3rd Place - #52 PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports Oreca LMP2 07

Drivers Simon Trummer, Gabriel Aubry and Nick Boulle are all very experienced LMP2 drivers, but Ben Keating is not as experienced in a prototype...and he's splitting time between this car and his GTD Mercedes. Mind you, Keating won't do a ton of the heavy lifting here, but I think I see teams with a little more balance and maybe a little more top line speed in their lineups.

2nd Place - #8 Tower Motorsports by Starworks Oreca LMP2 07

 This team will ride with Gold rated Ryan Dalziel and Platinum rated Nicolas Lapierre down the stretch. Those two guys are good. Alas, I think they will ultimately lose out to...

1st Place - #81 DragonSpeed USA Oreca LMP2 07

...the defending LMP2 class champs. Of course, this isn't the car that won last year, but it's the one I did pick to win the class last year. They've since added young gun Harrison Newey and sportscar superstar Colin Braun to the normal lineup of Ben Hanley and Henrik Hedman, so I think this has to be the team to beat.

And with that, we've already gone through one class! See you back here later in the week for the other three classes (time permitting)!

Friday, August 23, 2019

Time for Motorsports to Advance On Its Catchfence Issue

So here we are again motorsports… yet again we’re back at it for, what most people don’t realize is, our decades long debate about the danger of motorsports, specifically cars getting into catchfencing above the walls, what a danger it poses and how we can or can’t fix this.

In case you haven’t noticed, the insanity definition applies here, everyone keeps talking about what they think is the problem, how they think it can be fixed, and then nothing really gets done, or tried; then another accident happens and we start all over.

We talk about what is at fault:

  • Bad drivers
  • Bad tracks
  • Bad safety standards
  • Bad car specs/technology
  • Motorsports itself

What can be done about it:

  • Get rid of oval tracks
  • Get rid of superspeedways
  • Invent clear plexi-walls strong enough to hold cars in
  • Invent post-less catch fencing
  • Close the cockpits
  • End open wheel racing outright
  • This is a 1 solution endgame
    • there is a limit to how many advancements can be done
  • Nothing can be done, people should just accept this is the way things will be
    • Catchfencing is working as intended

First let’s start by saying that Pocono is just the latest track to take the brunt of this debate.
The track itself, the layout does not cause what happened, in fact this most recent incident started on a straightaway. How Pocono goes about repairing or maintaining their catchfence might be a topic for another day, but not entirely irrelevant. Frankly I’d hate to see Pocono removed from schedules, as a parent who lives in the northeast it’s easily THE best track to go to for a race weekend with the family because it’s surrounded by indoor waterpark resorts and is generally a lovely area with good food to visit and within a reasonable driving distance, plus it’s a cool and unique track (not a cookie cutter D-oval).

Having listened to people debate this topic yet again, what I think comes so starkly here are a few points that it appears are not registering.

Much of the above problems and solutions are often built on one or more flawed logics:

  1. Assumptions that all motorsports accidents can be pinpointed to a similar common denominator/cause
    1. Don’t account for the vast variety of incidents we’ve seen
  2. No concept of Level of Effort or Level of Impact/Benefit
    1. Things aren’t tested or feasible either technologically or financially
  3. Operate under the false assumption that only a perfect solution is a viable solution, this is all or nothing, small progress is unacceptable
  4. This MUST be a complex issue and thus require a complex solution
    1. Something extraordinary must be done
  5. Failure to do much (if any) research

That last point is really the big one for me here because I feel like if people really stopped to look at some data points it could help drive a better conversation and also point out that a potential advancement/solution that could account for the majority of incidents may not only already exist, but it may have existed for over 20 years at a racetrack both used by IndyCar and NASCAR before.

Though my background is in the tech industry, I’ve worked in operations, procedures, training and fixing problems/solving puzzles for almost 2 decades now. My experience is that often times when there are continual problems that plague process/results, that its human education, motivation and change management that tends to be the largest contributor/component and I believe the same applies here. Everything above is easy to say and walk away, it takes time to solve a problem…

So let’s take the operational approach. To tackle any problem the first thing you have to do is define the problem and then collect historical data on it.


Define the problem scope: 

Many get stuck defining the problem, instead looking at what motivates drivers, causes them to be aggressive, causes cars to go airborne etc. and while much of that is tangible and related elements to the story, I don’t think they composite what is the problem that overarches those things.

If you use the broadest definition I think we can all agree that the thing that worries us so much and want something done about is this:

  • What happens when racecars get above a retaining wall: be it SAFER, Armco or concrete.  
    • Sub-problem now being, what happens when a racecar comes into contact with catch fencing and/or support poles.

Many tend to point at cars getting airborne as the only solvable problem, but I think we can all agree that basic physics says if objects are travelling at high speeds that when impacts are added to the equation, that upward deflection via Newton's 3rd law is a very real possibility and one that can’t be eliminated.

The real problem is how we have been dealing with this fact. There was a time when tracks had nothing above the wall and cars just exited the track, we’ve lost countless drivers and spectators due to that fact  (and this even still mind-bogglingly happens at some local levels) but these days most/if not all major league tracks have catch fencing installed, but catch fencing as many will often say “is performing as intended.” And you have to remember that catch fencing was invented to keep cars and car parts inside the track and nothing else; it was not designed to keep drivers safe, or to reduce impact Gs, simply to keep stuff in the track.

What is the data set?

There are actually a vast number of incidents in question where a racecar has gotten above a wall, this isn’t just an IndyCar issue, or oval issue, or superspeedway issue. I am sure I may have missed an accident in my research, let me know if I need to update but by my count:

Starting in 2000 with Geoff Bodine’s insane incident at Daytona, between the NASCAR and IndyCar sanctioning bodies, we’ve had a car during an accident get above the retaining wall 26 times (or 1.4 times a year). This is not a rare enough occurrence to call it a fluke, but also keep in mind 1500+ races took place from those sanctioning bodies in that time, this is not an epidemic that demands a draconian solution.

IndyCar sanctioning accounts for 17 (16 IndyCar, 1 Indy Lights) and NASCAR the other 9 (Cup 5, Trucks 3, 1 the mid level tier whatever we call it these days).

In those 26 accidents:

  • 23 were on ovals 
    • 18 of the 23 oval accidents happened on super speedways
  • 3 on permanent road courses 
  • 1 on a temporary street course

Within the track itself where on track did the accidents take place?

  • 15 within a turn
  • 2 in a short kink/dogleg
  • 6 on a D-oval’s front “straight”
  • 3 on straight

So eliminating ovals won’t solve everything, eliminating open-wheels doesn’t solve everything, and eliminating super speedways doesn’t quite solve everything… not to mention, are any of those solutions really feasible; are we really going to eliminate Indy, TMS, Daytona and Talledega from motorsports?

Some track’s must be more inherently dangerous than others right? Well yes and no. While some tracks account for more incidents, those 26 incidents span 14 different tracks:

Count of Incidents Above the Wall Since 2000:
5 - Daytona
5 - IMS
4 - Pocono
2 - TMS
1 - Homestead-Miami
1 - Gateway
1 - Las Vegas
1 - Houston Street Course
1 - Road America
1 - Talledega
1 - Watkins Glen
1 - Chicagoland
1 - Fontana
1 - Kentucky

So this moment is where I expect folks to point and say “See Superspeedways/ovals are clearly the issue,” and the data shows that tendency, but again keep in mind that’s 26 incidents over 1600+ races… Solving an issue that has impacted 1% of the races run in the last 19 years by eliminating 35% of the races doesn’t make sense. Not to mention it involves getting rid of 2 motorsports most iconic races/venues, it’s not exactly feasible. Especially when something else all these incidents have in common could allow for a better, cheaper advancement that allows fans and drivers who like that sort of racing to continue.

Different cars/series, different aero configurations, track shapes, temperatures… so what do the incidents all have in common? Every incident had cars travelling at fast speeds getting into accidents… and every incident had a 3-4 foot retaining wall. All but 1 had a catch fence installed on top of it…   The 1 incident that didn’t fit that bill was actually Kasey Kahne at Pocono in 2010 (pictured above) when there still wasn’t fencing or anything above the wall at all on the back stretch… but Pocono has a fence there now, so all the major tracks at present have a 3-4 foot wall with a catch fence on top… and that has been the norm for all major tracks on the schedules… except one to my knowledge...

Going back to catchfences, one of the most common phrases from track operators and officials is that catchfences operate as designed. The problem is that their purpose/design comes at an obvious cost of danger to the driver/car. One could even make a case that that catchfences actually DON’T work as fully intended as there are several incidents where the fence failed to keep all the pieces/parts of the car inside the track and many where the incident resulted in injury to spectators and workers. Now could they have been worse without a catch fence? Absolutely.  Catchfences are certainly better than nothing in so many regards.

But more to the point on the pros/cons of catchfences, the obvious con when reviewing the incidents is that catchfences make things drastically worse for a driver/car. In every single incident in the dataset, accidents got drastically worse for the driver once the car came into contact with the catch fence adding G-forces and additional impacts to the accident. So can that be improved upon, and can we even improve on the fact that catch fences don’t always do their job of keeping parts inside the track?


So what advancement am I proposing? Well I’m not taking credit at all because it’s not my idea, my “advancement” is to expand someone else’s advancement… something already done, just not replicated at any other tracks for some odd reason… and unlike many of the proposals brought up in debate, it DOES apply to 100% of the incidents.

Proposed Advancement: Make walls higher 

Justin Wilson back in 2015 talked about this very idea with Fox Sports; his total vision was a bit more radical (included enclosing all the fans within the track) but it was, at heart, the same premise to raise the walls.

Sam Schmidt actually got into the idea of raising walls as well after Mikhail Aleshin and Robert Wicken’s incidents, and nothing really came of it… in fact his premise is more on track where I’m going to go:
“what I've asked for since then is that in the turns where there is no grandstand so no spectator sight-lines are affected, they should go double-high with the SAFER barrier.” 
"If you looked at a replay of Mikhail's accident, at Robbie's accident, and others - including NASCAR - another three feet of SAFER barrier would have contained the car within the track without this cheese-grater effect that catchfencing has."
"I don't know if that's a long-term fix, I don't know the level of investment required, but certainly on turns where spectator viewing isn't an issue, the oval tracks need to do something like that."

Felix Rosenqvist mentions the idea of taller walls just this last week after he was the most recent driver to come into contact with a catch fence:

But what is more interesting is that this idea, taller walls, isn’t even a hypothetical advancement, we can’t say its not feasible because its already been done before...

For those who may not know/remember, Twin Ring Motegi in Japan is dual track facility: a road course and an oval that run within each other. The 1.5 mile oval track first appeared on the major racing scene in 1998 starting in the CART schedule until 2002 and then moving to the IRL/merged IndyCar schedule from 2003 until 2010. It also hosted a NASCAR race in 1998, (actually the first race Dale Sr. and Dale Jr. raced in together).

IndyCar fans probably most remember Twin Ring Motegi for being unique in that it was egg-shaped (cue Jack Arute holding up an egg), meaning turns 1&2 were different turn angles/banking than 3&4. There is something else that differentiates turns 1&2 from 3&4 that was mostly unnoticed. Turns 1&2 have catchfencing but turns 3&4 do not.

What turns 3&4 have instead are massive tall gap-less steel walls “disguised” as advertising, meaning if a car were to get higher than the 3 foot SAFER barrier, the car would not get grabbed, caught and spun by a catch fence; instead would simply cross above SAFER barrier to another flat surface. Wilson actually mentioned Motegi when he was interviewed.

We can’t say a tall wall is hypothetical when a track that was used by the sanctioning bodies for 10+ years had it. What about feasibility? Can similar types of tall walls be implemented all over every inch of every track? No, but do we even need to do that? Reminder this is about making progress and the most impact to safety without impacting motorsports as we know it. The majority of accidents found where a car got above the 3’ walls at tracks happened within the turns.

In fact, many of the accidents actually took place in sections where there are no grandstands behind the fencing and in some cases (Ryan Briscoe @ Chicagoland 2005, Pablo Perez @ Homestead in 2007, and Mikhail Aleshin Fontana in 2014) billboard advertising is already behind the catchfence anyway; so this means nothing would be lost for sightlines/seating. If anything tracks could spin it as a way to get advertising dollars and help pay some of the cost.

But its not all perfect and easy, lets be clear, a Motegi style 20’ tall wall solution doesn’t solve everything, but it would solve the vast majority of spots where these incidents took place. On a minor side, there is a sacrifice in aesthetics or adding walls/advertising to a spot where there wasn’t anything previously.

But what do you do about the 4 turns at Indy, or some of the spots at TMS where adding a 20 foot tall wall would severely impair grandstand views or eliminate them altogether? This is where you go to analysis of each incident. Looking at each of the crashes in slow motion to pinpoint a very important detail. If a car got over the wall, how high was it when it initially got over the wall? Essentially how tall would a wall have needed to be to stop that car from being grabbed by the catch fence?

This is an important detail because in 100% of the accidents that involved a car getting into the catch fence, the catchfence every time made the accident worse for the car/driver, and in most case escalated the height. So we’re not asking how high did the highest point of the car ever get in course of the incident, but how high would a raised wall need to have been to prevent the interaction with fencing/poles from ever starting.

As an example, Robert Wickens 2008 crash at Pocono, the car actually initially makes impact with the SAFER barrier, then rises up and rides the wall for a few hundred feet until it finally gets caught in the catchfence and that’s when the car gets pulled up vertically due to the friction. If you replaced the first 3-6 feet of catchfence with a solid Motegi-style wall, or even just made the SAFER 3-4 feet taller, does that accident even escalate the same way it did?

Of the 26 times a car got over the wall, how high were they when they initially went over the wall?

  • 14 of them 0-3 feet above the wall
  • 8 of the 4-6 feet above
  • 3 of them 7+ feet above the wall

Now my measurements are not exact as I’m scaling based on video/object reference but it’s safe to say the mass majority of the incidents the car initially got over the wall within a 6’ range. The reality is that a Motegi 20’+ tall wall may not even be required.

Take Mike Conway’s famous incident at Indy, his car impacted within the 6’ height range above the wall, but more importantly the grandstands in that area don’t even start until 8’-10’ above the wall. Why is there even catch fence for those first 8 feet? Adding wall there would not impact anyone in the grandstand’s view…

So let’s say we just want to do taller walls in general, the height is determined by what the area can accommodate, where would taller walls be viable/effective? Would raising the wall be doable without majorly impacting/obstructing any grandstand viewing? Of the 26 accidents analyzed:

  • 16 of the accidents, the spot of the incident a taller wall is 100% doable, no issues, no grandstands behind the fence
  • For 4 of the accidents – It’s viable but the track may lose a small insignificant amount of seating/views, I’d argue the benefit far outweighs the loss, as in all cases its low level seats that are often empty anyhow.
  • For 1 incident not viable at all, but that was the Houston street course that doesn’t even exist anymore anyway
  • For 5 of the incidents it’s not as easily viable because we’re talking about Daytona and Talledega’s front D-shaped straight stretch, you may not be able to add 6 feet of wall, but would 3 more hurt that bad? But for arguments sake lets count those as a no.

This means that without changing the cars, the tracks, the drivers, or asking tracks/fans to sacrifice seating, you could have likely prevented 15-19 of those accidents from escalating due to eliminating catchfencing/poles playing a part. Really the question would by why not do it? Clearly drivers want added safety for themselves for when an accident does get out of bounds, they’ve never liked catchfencing and the danger it poses, what is there to lose to implement something another track has already done especially in the areas where no views get blocked.


So where do we go from here? 

I think the biggest and most important next step is to get people to talk about and acknowledge these facts and questions. For many of us, we’re not in a position within a racing body or working at tracks, but most of us are on social media, and at tracks and events where those people are. Ask track workers, track operators, drivers, team owners, engineers, series officials etc. what they think of taller walls, ask them what they think of the Twin Ring Motegi design in turns 3 & 4.

Ask people to look into this and don’t let people ignore that taller walls already exist, don’t let people think this is an extraordinary problem that requires an extraordinary, absolute or draconian solution. Advancements to fix some spots at tracks is better than fixing nothing. The more people talk about this idea the more pressure there is for those in the right positions to at least have to acknowledge the idea and hopefully work out its feasibility, much like the implementation of SAFER barriers in the early 2000s, you need one big domino/track to participate and then its likely that others will follow… put the pressure on for people to stop brushing this off.


Appendix: I anticipate some folks might want to see the list/data of the incidents, so I wanted to be sure to provide this. You can find video of just about all these incidents on YouTube if you'd like to double check my analysis on impact heights etc. but be forewarned, once you look up 1-2 of these on YouTube, its gonna think you like this sort of thing and start recommending all the most horrible crash videos people have uploaded. Alas here is the info I compiled:

Motorsports accidents above the wall 2000-2019