Friday Grab Bag: $1 Billion for perfect March Madness bracket?

Every year you hear, usually third hand, about somebody who correctly picked all of the winners in the NCAA’s March Madness basketball tournament. A side note is that they won an office pool with maybe a few hundred dollars in it.

Well Warren Buffett is changing the stakes to the game, along with Berkshire Hathaway and Quicken Loans. They are offering an award of $1 billion for the person that correctly selects all 63 winners. You can ask for that in either $25 million a year over 40 years or a lump sum of $500 million. Such tough choices.

More Thursday night games from NFL
Remember those games that the NFL said it was not going to be playing on Thursday nights. Well the networks have all started bidding on the rights to broadcast the games that will start this upcoming September and the deal is expected to be for one season.

In the mix are CBS, Fox and NBC and the rumored amount is in the $400 million and is expected to be for eight games. However it appears that the deals are not exclusive but rather the NFL will also broadcast the same games on its NFL Network.

More NASCAR changes coming
NASCAR does not seem to want to leave good enough alone and is once again altering the rules that establish who wins the championship each season. The sport has been tinkering off and on with changes since it established the Chase for the Sprint Cup.

More teams seem to be the answer, at least according to NASCAR, which is trying to recapture its former broadcasting ratings glory. SportsOnEarth does a very nice job tearing down the proposal and pointing out how the sports executives seem bent on destroying the unique nature of the sport.

MLB Advanced Media honcho looks into the future
MLBAM has gotten a lot of news so far in this young year, deals streaming the new WWE online channel and a relationship with Sony that will leverage the MLBAM’s technical know-how for its back end technology.

Now its CEO Bob Bowman is talking about where he sees streaming video going and what impact the recent high profile deals will have on MLBAM

X Games have started
The prelude to the Winter Olympics has begun with ESPN’s annual X Games, hosted in Aspen, Colo. Just prior to the start of the Winter Olympics. However it looks like a few big names will not be seen at the events.

One is 13-time gold medal winner Shaun White, who said that he needed the time to prepare for the Sochi Games. The other is Red Bull, one of the top sponsors for the event. Monster Energy has replaced it and Forbes speculates that this could be the start of Monster establishing itself as a rival to Red Bull in the sports action market.

Sharp goes big in tablet spaceIf the current generation of tablets, now edging out to 13-inches, is too small to meet your needs then you might want to take a gander at the latest from Sharp, the RW-16G1, that boasts a 15.6 inch display.

The tablet runs Windows 8.1 operating system and is seen as a tool for those looking for a powerful tablet to replace a desktop or laptop computer. Among its features are 128GB storage, 3200 x 800 screen resolution and is powered by an Intel Core i5 processor with 4GB RAM.

‘Tweeter’ Keselowski Wins Sprint Cup Championship

I’ve got to admit, I had never really known who NASCAR driver Brad Keselowski was until he sent the tweet heard round the sports world last February. Turns out not only is the guy social-media savvy, he’s a pretty good driver too, capturing his first Sprint Cup title Sunday.

Though the Chase to the Championship was tense, Sunday’s finish was decided early when top contender Jimmy Johnson went basically out of the race with 40 laps to go. That pretty much allowed Kesolowski to coast to the overall win with a 15th-place finish, and after he was done of course the first thing he did was send off a tweet.

Since Daytona, we’ve been following Keselowski and I have to say he has made the sport more enjoyable for me during the season, with his quick post-race comments and regular humor. While NASCAR wisely embraced his Daytona fire-picture moment (and quickly sealed a deal with Twitter to help promote the sport even more), there seemed to be signs of a backlash with NASCAR’s recent $25K fine of Keselowski for tweeting. While some think the fine was more of a punishment for Keselowski’s profanity-laced response to the crashing and fighting at Phoenix, NASCAR should back off on the tweet-fines because the social media world will reject you as quickly as it followed you if you show even the smallest signs of “not getting it.” (MSR free marketing suggestion: Why not partner with GoPro and have automated cameras where the drivers and crews can send auto-tweets and video clips during races?)

Right now, Keselowski certainly gets it, from Twitter to the race track. Enjoy the title, No. 2 car.

(And a big race-fan thanks to senior editor Greg Quick for compiling the weekly Watching NASCAR posts!)

Watching NASCAR: Fight to the Finish in Miami

A change at the top with a week to go means good news for somebody, in this case Brad Keselowski, and bad news for someone, obviously Jimmie Johnson. Johnson’s drive for a sixth NASCAR Sprint Cup title hit a wall last weekend.

Wrecks abounded, some accidental and some intentional, and the result was that Johnson had a blown tire on the track forcing him into the pits at a moment when his top rival, Keselowski had just moved to the front of the pack. Keselowski could not maintain the top position, Kevin Harvick won the race in nice fashion after a pair of late restarts, but the sixth place finish was good enough for a move to the top spot and a 20 point lead. If he manages to finish 15th or above this week the title is his.

Following Harvick across the finish line was Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch, then Kasey Kahne in forth followed by Ryan Newman. Johnson finished 32. There was some bad driving, questionable decisions on NASCARs part and the settling of past grievances all of which made for a day of interesting, if ugly racing.

You knew that tempers would be on edge last week but the fight between Jeff Gordon and Clint Boyer was amazing. Or rather between their pit crews. This came after Gordon intentionally hit Clint Boyer’s car late in the race last week, a move that cost Gordon 25 points and $100,000 and a rest of season probation (really?). It also eliminated any chance that Boyer could contend for the title. Not really clear how Gordon avoided a suspension, but he did.

With Boyer saying that he might retaliate this week, I am sure NASCAR will be keeping a close eye on him and this could turn out to be like hitting someone in the NFL, the second guy always seems to get the big fine. As an oddity to the race Keselowski was fined $25,000 for having an on-board computer in his car. You know, a cell phone.

This Week: Ford EcoBoost 400
All of the chickens will come home to roost this week at the Ford EcoBoost 400 at the Homestead-Miami Speedway. Drivers are still looking for bragging rights, enhance standing with existing or future teams and let’s not forget prize money. Also I would not be surprised if a few grudges are settled early in the race. Or late for that matter.

Broadcast: Nov. 18 at 2 pm ET on ESPN


Sprint Cup Standings

1) Brad Keselowski
2) Jimmie Jonson -20
3) Kasey Kahne -50
4) Clint Boyer -52
5) Denny Hamlin -62
6) Matt Kenseth -74
7) Greg Biffle -78
8 ) Kevin Harvick -86
9) Tony Stewart -87
10) Martin Truex Jr. -111
11) Jeff Gordon -115
12) Dale Earnhardt Jr. -160

Joey Logano once again proved that he is the man in Nationwide racing, winning last week to give him nine wins this season, Points leader Ricky Stenhouse Jr. is probably burning a candle in thanks that Logano did not get a full season in.

Stenhouse moved from a tie for the lead with Elliott Sadler to a commanding 20 point lead after a strong finish in the race and only needs a 16th place or better finish to repeat as the Nationwide champ. He finish third in the race with Brian Vickers finishing just in front of him and was followed by Kyle Busch and Kasey Kahne.

Sadler continued his run of misfortunes late in Nationwide races, this time causing a three car accident very late in the race that greatly harmed his chance to win the title this week. The accident sent him to the pits, from which he never returned.

This Week: ForEcoBoost 300
Broadcast: Nov. 17 4 pm ESPN 2

Nationwide Standings
1) Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
2) Elliott Sadler -20
3) Austin Dillon -25
4) Sam Hornish Jr. -107
5) Michael Annett -162

Watching NASCAR: Johnson, Keselowski to Duel in Phoenix

Two weeks ago Jimmie Johnson passed Brad Keselowski to move into the top position in the Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship and last week he passed him in a two lap shootout to remain the top dog in the Chase.

In what I am sure Johnson hopes is a portent for the last two races and Keselowski hopes does not, the two were side by side on a restart on lap 334 in the 335 lap race, and Johnson outsprinted Keselowski and then held on to win the race. The third restart in the last laps ensured that it would go one extra lap, but after the first half lap Johnson was in control and stayed there.

The two were very close the entire race, as witnessed by the side by side banging that occurred late in the race but others played a major role in the race, including the drives that continually caused all of the late restarts. Third place finisher Kyle Busch led for 80 laps and was followed by Matt Kenseth and Tony Stewart taking fifth.

This week: AdvoCare 500 at Phoenix International Raceway

The second to last race of the season and the point differential is only 7, but that can be a lot to make up. However a number of drivers such as Busch have been shining of late and I am sure that they would relish a spoiler role.

Broadcast: Nov. 11 at 2 pm ET on ESPN


Sprint Cup Standings
1) Jimmie Johnson
2) Brad Keselowski -7
3) Clint Boyer -36
4) Kasey Kahne -58
5) Matt Kenseth -72
6) Jeff Gordon -72
7) Denny Hamlin -73
8 ) Tony Stewart -80
9) Martin Truex Jr. -80
10) Greg Biffle -83
11) Kevin Harvick -101
Dale Earnhardt Jr. -151

The chase to win the Nationwide title got a great deal tighter as Elliott Sadler has company in the top spot as Ricky Stenhouse Jr. has tied him for the lead by managing a fourth place finish last week in what appeared to be a very badly handling car.

First let’s not forget that Kevin Harvick had a dominating performance at the track, leading 127 of the 200 laps to win the race. With just a few laps to go Sadler started to fade from his sixth position after a restart and ended up finishing 11th. The top five was filled out with Ryan Blaney in second, Kyle Busch in third and Denny Hamlin taking fifth.

Good news for Danica Patrick fans. She has signed to do two ads for GoDaddy that will run during the upcoming Superbowl. There had been some question if the company’s new advertising agency would retain her services.
This week: Great Clips 200 at the Phoenix International Raceway
Broadcast: Nov. 10 at 3:30 pm ET on ESPN

Nationwide Standings

1) Elliott Sadler
2) Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
3) Austin Dillon -21
4) Sam Hornish Jr. -95
5) Michael Annett -157

Watching NASCAR: Watch out Texas, Here They Come

There is something very familiar about this week’s standings in the Chase — Jimmie Johnson is back on top. However not by much as Brad Keselowski has shown that he is not going away as the two of them appear to be making the Cup Championship a two-man event.

The two have been close and Johnson winning last week in the Tums Fast Relief 500 managed to finally dislodge Keselowski from the top spot in the standings. All things considered Keselowski had a solid day, starting in the back of the pack and working his way to a brief stay at first before fading to a sixth place finish. Johnson ran a strong race and got bonus points for most laps led, among others. Kyle Busch took second followed by Kasey Kahne, Arix Almirola, and Clint Boyer. Dale Earnhardt Jr., back after missing two races due to a concussion, finished in 21st.

In other news it looks like Dodge may return to NASCAR. ESPN reported that Ralph Gilles, president and CEO of the SRT Brand and Chrysler Group LLC told the sports broadcaster that the manufacturer is looking to return and that it saw NASCAR as a very good investment. After its lone team, Penske, said that it was moving to Ford earlier this year Dodge announced it would depart NASCAR next year. Now it has to go hunting for a team.

This Week: The AAA Texas 500

Broadcast: Nov. 4 at 2 pm ET ESPN


Sprint Cup Standings
1) Jimmie Johnson
2) Brad Keselowski -2
3) Clint Boyer -26
4) Kasey Kahne -29
5) Denny Hamlin -49
6) Jeff Gordon -54
7) Martin Truex Jr. -63
8 ) Matt Kenseth –65
9) Greg Biffle -69
10) Tony Stewart -71
11) Kevin Harvick -88
12) Dale Earnhardt Jr. -140


No race last week.

This Week: O’Reilly Auto Parts Challenge at Texas Motor Speedway

: Nov. 3 at 7 pm ET ESPN

Nationwide Standings

1) Elliott Sadler
2) Ricky Stenhouse Jr. -6
3) Austin Dillon -26
4) Sam Hornish Jr. -98
5) Michael Annett -150

Watching NASCAR: Off to Martinsville

The flags were flying at Kansas Speedway, but not the ones that drivers want to see. Cautions abounded at the race as it was slowed by multiple accidents, the second time this season that a new track surface has been a major factor in a race’s results.

The new fast surface was a problem for eventual winner Matt Kenseth, who smashed into a wall early in the race and then managed to avoid hitting anyone else as he managed to guide his car to the checkered flag in a race that featured 14 cautions.

The one thing you can say about the wrecks that caused the cautions, they came in every shape and form, with some cars simply losing control and spinning out by themselves, just ask Greg Biffle, who fell five places in the standings after the race due to issues with the surface that led to him hitting the wall, hard.
Dancia Patrick once again one of the cars that was wrecked, but apparently it was due to her intentionally wrecking Landon Cassill. I wonder if she gets a bonus each time she makes the highlights destroying her car? The top five was filled out by Martin Truex Jr in second followed by Paul Menard, Kasey Kahne and Tony Stewart in fifth.

On a positive note it looks like Dale Earnhardt Jr. will be back behind the wheel at Martinsville this weekend. After suffering a second concussion in a few weeks at the huge crash three weeks ago in xxx he took two weeks off on doctor’s advice to recover from the accident. Considering the results from Kansas. I imagine he is glad that he missed two rather than one.

This Week: Tums Fast Relief 500
Fast turns around Martinsville Speedway’s half mile oval are in store for the drivers this weekend as the Chase heads into the final stretch.

Broadcast: Oct. 28 at 1 pm ET ESPN


Sprint Cup Standings
1) Brad Keselowski
2) Jimmie Johnson -7
3) Denny Hamlin -20
4) Clint Boyer -25
5) Kasey Kahne -30
6) Martin Truex Jr. -43
7) Tony Stewart -47
8 ) Jeff Gordon -51
9) Matt Kenseth -55
10) Kevin Harvick -59
11) Greg Biffle -62
12) Dale Earnhardt Jr. -122

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. had an amazing day last week at Kansas Speedway where against all odds he came from way back in the pack, first to just get on the lead lap and then, when it mattered most, to be in the lead to win the day. The win basically halved Elliott Sadler’s lead over second place Stenhouse, the defending Nationwide champion.The top five featured Austin Dillon in second, then Joey Logano followed by Elliott Sadler and Cole Whitt.

There is no doubt that a bit of luck was involved but it takes a good deal more than that to win a race, but it does help. After coming back from two laps down Stenhouse got the bit of luck all drivers hope for when the race leader Kyle Busch ran out of gas with the finish line in sight. You really cannot ask for more than that, can you?

There is no Nationwide race this weekend and we will see them next at Texas Motor Speedway.

Nationwide Standings
1) Elliott Sadler
2) Ricky Stenhouse Jr. -6
3) Austin Dillon -26
4) Sam Hornish Jr. -98
5) Michael Annett -150