Tuesday, November 30, 2010

NFL Playoffs 101

An FVP reader asked about playoff seeding today. He was trying to figure out the playoff possibilities based on the outcome of this Monday's Patriots/Jets tilt. If we were in Foxboro, we'd be spouting the company line of "we're really focused on the Jets" and "we are only looking at this one week at a time, there's a lot of football left, blah blah blah"

But we aren't in Foxboro, are we?

The Jets/Pats game has everything to do with the seeding of the playoffs in the AFC, as of right now. That last phrase is the truth. As of right now. There is a great deal of football left, and many playoff scenarios will play out between now and the post season.

Here are the basics: each of the division winners are seeded based on records, with various tie breaker rules that we aren't going to get into right now. The wildcard teams are the two remaining non-division winners with the best records. Seeds one and two get a first round bye, seeds three and four will play five and six, respectively. The division winners host the wildcard teams. This is true in both conferences. Seed one plays the lowest remaining seed in the second round, at home. Seed two would play the other wildcard winner, at home as well. The highest remaining seed would host the championship game after the divisional or second round.

So, as of right now, the Pats are a five seed, and would go to Jacksonville for the first round. The Jets would stay at home, with a bye, and then host the lowest remaining seed in week two of the playoffs. If the Pats win Monday night, then the teams would exchange seeds, but there's still a ton of football left.

After the Patriots, the Jets finish out with Dolphins, Steelers, Bears and Bills. The Pats have Bears, Packers, Bills and Dolphins on their remaining schedule. Neither team has an easy road ahead, but this Monday night's game gives the winner a leg up in the conference.

As of right now. 

FVP All-Star: Two For Tuesday

Twins, Basil, Twins! As the calender here turns to December, here's something to keep you warm. This is Ale and Marie, two more of the Brazilian Swimsuit models from our friend Jeremiah Thompson. Ale and Marie are part of Jeremiah's Girl of Brazil Swimsuit calendar. You can join up with them on facebook, or order the 2011 calendar here. Kinda makes you wanna head to the beaches of Brazil, yes? Si.

Belichick: Jets represent "a big challenge for us Monday night."

Bill Belichick
You may have heard, the New York Jets come to Gillette Stadium Monday night to take on the New England Patriots in a battle for first place. Head Coach Bill Belichick and the the coaching staff of the Pats have their biggest challenge of the year in the 9-2 Jets. The winner of the Monday night battle has the inside track to the AFC East title and a first round bye. As usual, The Hoodie is only focused on the game, and none of the other ancillary noise that accompanies this Pats/Jets games.

"The Jets are really an impressive team to watch. It’s easy to see why they have the best record in the league." Belichick stated Monday. "They do a great job at everything. Their return game is good. Their kicking and coverage teams are good. Offensively, they can run it; they can throw it. They’ve got big-play receivers, production out of the tight ends, [LaDanian] Tomlinson is the leading receiver, a lot of production out of the backs. They’re doing a good job with the offensive line, mixing some personnel groups in there. They give you a lot to get ready for, and of course defensively, they’re a good coverage team, good pressure team, strong against the run, good situational team."

Belichick paid Jets head coach Rex Ryan some respect as well. "Rex [Ryan] has done a really good job of putting that team together. They’re obviously well coached. They’re solid in every phases of the game and in the games where they have had to make plays at the end of the game, whether it’s to get the ball back or score or whatever they’ve had to do, they’ve done it. So they’re really doing a good job in clutch situations playing good situational football. They have strengths in every area of the game. It’s a very solid football team and a big challenge for us Monday night, so we’ve got a lot of work to do, but we’re always looking forward to the matchup with the Jets."

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - NOVEMBER 21: Head coach Rex Ryan of the New York Jets looks on against the Houston Texans on November 21, 2010 at the New Meadowlands Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Rex Ryan
Belichick was asked if there was a common thread to the Jets performance in late game situations. The Hoodie answered "...the common thread is that [Mark] Sanchez has made plays. He's used different receivers. He's used his tight ends and backs. And of course, [Santonio] Holmes, Braylon Edwards, those guys have come through for him, too. [Jerricho] Cotchery had a huge catch in the Cleveland game. He’s used all of his receivers and defensively, when they’ve got to get the ball back, they’re going to be more aggressive. They’re going to get up close to the line of scrimmage and put more pressure on the offense. I don’t think that’s any secret. They’ve done a good job of all those things and also in the kicking game, whether it’s making the kick or getting themselves field position in the kicking game like in the punt return against Cleveland [in] getting the ball into good field position to set up, finally, the winning score. Again, they’re a solid team and they’ve made those plays in all points in the game, but the ones that really stand out are the ones they’ve made at the end of games which have won [games] for them."

Patriots linebackers coach Matt Patricia also addressed the challenges of the machups. Specifically, Patricia talks about the linebackers and Dustin Keller and the rest of the Jets tight ends. "I think all the Jets players – offensively, they have a great squad of talent and ability – not just Dustin Keller. He’s certainly a great player. The receivers, the running back position and obviously the quarterback and offensive line, I think all of it presents different challenges for us as a team that we’re going to have to go back and look at and try to focus on and see what we need to do better and how we can do that better. That’s what we’re really trying to do, is get better each week"

Patricia elaborated about inside linebacker play "The hard thing for an inside linebacker is that anytime you’re in a situation where the run game can be at you and be on you very fast and very quick, and where you have a situation with a very dangerous receiver who can get down the field and get open… So, I think that’s the hardest situation for an inside linebacker. That’s one of the reasons it is such a difficult position, because you are in the direct line of the run game, but also critically and crucially involved in the passing game."

The great thing about this particular game versus the Jets: it's all about the game. The border war junk that has overshadowed this series in the past is really irrelevant. This is a big December game that gives the winner the inside track to the AFC championship.

Monday night can't get here fast enough.

Photo Credit: Belichick; Steve Pouliot Images for fanviewpoint.com

Monday, November 29, 2010

FVP Monday Night All Star : Patriots Cheerleaders

In light of the big Pats/Jets game next Monday, tonight's FVP All-Star are the Patriots Cheerleaders. The lovely ladies will be sure to have you pumped and ready for the big game next week. Let the hype begin.
New England Patriots cheerleaders dance during a break in the game against the Indianapolis Colts at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts on November 21, 2010. The Patriots defeated the Colts 31-28.  UPI/Matthew Healey Photo via Newscom

New England Patriots cheerleaders line up before the game against the Indianapolis Colts at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts on November 21, 2010. The Patriots defeated the Colts 31-28.  UPI/Matthew Healey Photo via Newscom
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Photo Credit: Alyssa and Siobahn; Steve Pouliot Images for fanviewpoint.com

IndyCar Driver Sarah Fisher Announces Retirement

INDIANAPOLIS - MAY 23: Sarah Fisher drives the #67 Sarah Fisher Racing Dallara Honda during morning practice on Bump Day for the IZOD IndyCar Series 94th running of the Indianapolis 500 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on May 23, 2010 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images)IndyCar driver Sarah Fisher announced her retirement today at the age of 30. Fisher opted for retirement in order to focus more of her energy as team owner of Sarah Fisher Racing.  Fisher also announced that she'd hired Ed Carpenter to drive the #67 car for at least nine events in 2011.

"Being both an owner and a driver is both time consuming on both sides," said Fisher. "I really want to see this team move forward and to have one driver who does all the races - ovals and road courses. It's just very hard to do both."

HOMESTEAD, FL - FEBRUARY 24:  Driver Sarah Fisher poses for a portrait during the IRL IndyCar Series Spring Testing on February 24, 2009 at the Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. (Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images).Fisher's 25-year driving career includes 11 years as a competitor in the IZOD IndyCar Series with Walker Racing, Dreyer & Reinbold Racing, Kelley Racing and Sarah Fisher Racing, which she started Sarah Fisher Racing in 2008. Fisher, who was voted the IZOD IndyCar Series' most popular driver three times, has driven a part-time schedule the past three seasons. She had seven starts this year, increasing her career total to 74 since her debut in 1999 at Texas Motor Speedway.

A former competitor in USAC and World of Outlaws sprint cars, she won one pole, in 2002 at Kentucky Speedway, and was runner-up in the 2001 race at Homestead-Miami Speedway. In hiring Carpenter, she found a driver who fits the image she built her team around.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Fan Experience: New England Patriots @ Gillette Stadium

Here's a new feature at FVP: the fan experience. FVP will give you our interpretation of a full fan experience of different sports and concert events. We'll cover traffic, parking, atmosphere, concessions, stadium experience, on field product and any other aspects that will affect your attending the big game or big show. With ticket costs being so high, it's helps to have an idea of what to expect. Graded on a 1-10 scale, with 10 being perfect.

Getting in and out of Gillette is no easy task. U.S. Route 1 is the only main road serving the stadium. MBTA does offer Special Train service from South Station in Boston and from Providence Station in Providence, RI to Gillette Stadium for all home games of the New England Patriots. For obvious reasons this makes it difficult to tailgate if you are so inclined. Parking lots open four hours before game time, and it's a good idea to arrive early. Doing so will help you avoid traffic on the major highways feeding Route 1, I-495 and Rte128. Many folks opt to tailgate after the game as well, because getting out of the lots is brutal. Prepare yourself mentally for the traffic situation so you won't let it ruin your day. This is probably the worst part about attending a game in Foxboro. Grade : 2

Parking at Gillette Stadium is expensive. $40 for game days on the main lots. $50 for some of the private lots. Limos and Campers are more. The private lots are further away, and you could walk as much as two miles or more. The team owned lots on the opposite side of the street, especially lot 11, are only ok to get out of, and the walk is not a great deal shorter than the private lots. Further adding to the walk is the fact the lots are fenced in, which funnels the crowd through tunnels and choke points, especially after the game. You simply can't leave the stadium and walk to your car. While this does add a safety factor of traffic and crowd control, you'll definitely feel like cattle. For night games, the main lots are well lit. There is plenty of parking, according to the stadium website, over 16,500 parking spots. Marks off for expense. Grade : 5

Pre-Game Atmosphere
The Tailgating scene in Foxboro is very good. You'll find folks will grilles, fire pits(which are supposedly not allowed), Digital TV's, and various menus. It's not unusual to see multiple course meals being grilled/cooked even in the Limo lots. Folks are generally friendly to opposing fans in the lots, provided that the visiting fans act with humility. Alcohol is allowed, but only in the lots. Police presence is high, but they don't make a nuisance of themselves. The atmosphere in the lots is similar to the games, and the feeling is with ticket prices being so high, the folks attending tend to be on their best behavior. Overall, a good laid back scene, where fans enjoy a good meal or drink before a game. Grade : 8

There are plenty of concessionaires throughout the wide concourses of The Razor. Again, the stadiums site says "500 points of sale including 46 permanent concession stands and 60 portable food and beverage stands located throughout the concourses." The beer is not limited to major brewers, as local "micro brews" and margaritas can be found with a little effort. Food is available with a short walk from your seat, with little to no lines, except at halftime. Food and drink is a little on the pricey side, a pair of margaritas will set you back $20 with a $1 tip. Hawkers do come down the aisles offering major brewer beer, hot chocolate, and other food items, depending on season. Again, expensive, like everything else at Gillette. If you overlook the cost, then there's plenty to choose from. Plenty of souvenir stands as well. Grade : 7
Stadium Experience
The in game experience is outstanding. Many gates offer access to the stadium at three main entry points. The stadium is clean, even the bathrooms, at least until the game is underway. Concourses are wide and well lit. Plenty of bathrooms. 100 level seating is the lower level, and the seats are the most expensive. 200 level is mostly club level. The 300 level is the least expensive, but you'll need a Sherpa and binoculars. Audio/Visual experience is great, with two new HD screens in either endzone. Sound is loud and clear, music pumped in is mainly classic rock. The latest thing at Gillette is the effort to capture an experience similar to the "Sweet Caroline" phenomenon at Fenway. For two seasons now, stadium entertainment officials have pumped in the theme song to "Cheers", complete with karaoke style lyrics for the fans to follow along with. To the jaded season ticket holder, it feels forced. Same with the post touchdown song, "This Is Our House" by Bon Jovi. There has to be a better Bon Jovi stadium anthem out there. These are minor bitches to be sure. The fan base is knowledgeable, but a bit spoiled. It conjures up memories of the 49ers crowds of the late 80's and early 90's: spoiled by years of success. Pats fans are quite capable of ratcheting up the noise for a Colts or Steelers game, but when a lower level non-division opponent comes to town, it's surprisingly quiet. A note to visiting fans: don't be obnoxious and you'll be treated with respect. Grade : 8

On Field Product
The New England Patriots have been excellent in the Kraft Era. The Kraft family has taken what was the joke of the NFL and turned the team into the model franchise. 191 wins, 11 playoff seasons, 5 Super Bowls, and 3 Championships in the Kraft Era. Currently, The team is headed by THE marquee QB of the NFL and arguably the greatest coach of the modern free agent era. Score : 10

Patriot Place features shops, restaurants, cinemas and a live entertainment venue. The Hall at Patriot Place is a must for any self respecting Pats fan. CBS scene and Bass Pro Shops anchor the 1.3 million square ft shopping, dining and entertainment venue. The Pats Pro Shop offers everything you could think of in Patriots merch. It's a far cry from the days of Schaefer/Sullivan/Foxboro Stadium. Score : 9

In these tough economic times, it's difficult to overlook the cost of attending a game. Pats fans have no doubt literally paid for their teams success with the rising costs of going to a game in Foxboro. If you can look beyond the cost, then the experience of a Patriots home game is an outstanding event. Score : 8

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Tom Brady Nearly Perfect For Pats, Alphonso Smith For Lions No So Much

DETROIT - NOVEMBER 25: Tom Brady  of the New England Patriots drops back to pass during the game against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field on November 25, 2010 in Detroit, Michigan. New England defeated Detroit 45-24. (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)
Brady looks downfield vs. Detroit
Tom Brady led the New England Patriots to 35 second half points as the Pats cruised past the Lions, 45-24. Brady was 21-27 for 341 yards and four touchdowns as New England moved to 9-2. To say Lions cornerback Alphonso Smith had a bad day is an understatement. He is the poster child for this week's burned CB's, as he looked bad on numerous plays today.

The Patriots did not look good early, trailing at the half 17-10. Tom Brady came out in the second half on fire, going 10-13 and four touchdowns. Brady was especially spectacular in the fourth, going 5-5 with 2 touchdowns. The Franchise said after the game "I think once the speed of the game calmed down a little bit and we could get under control, we did a great job."

Perhaps the key play was a 79 yard TD pass to Deion Branch. At 5:27 left in the third, Brady and Branch teamed up for a long score that illustrated their great on field communication that was the hallmark of the Super Bowl runs. Branch was supposed to run an in, or a 6 on your route tree. Instead, he ran a go or 9, and Brady hit him wide open. Lions CB Alphonso Smith blew the coverage on the play and then was unable to tackle Branch in the open field. Branch made up for his lack of speed with some nice open field cuts, as he took the ball to the end zone for the tying score. This score seemed to take the life out of the Lions D, and the Pats had their way for the rest of the way.

Brady talked about the Branch TD after the game as well. "He (Branch) was supposed to run an in-cut and the guy(Smith) was sitting on it. He threw his hand up and I laid it out there for him. He made a great run after the catch. Certainly it's not how we drew it up, but it's just a great play by a great player."

Deion Branch
 Branch also made Smith look bad on his next score. Brady lined up in the shotgun at 13:51 of the fourth quarter, where he hit Branch for a 22 yard touchdown. Branch released out, then cut back in, faking Smith basically out of his jock. Smith was seen being berated by the Lions coaching staff, before being benched for the remainder of the game.

Smith's day started out bad as well. It was Smith who got run over on Ben-Jarvis Green Ellis' 15 yard touchdown run near the end of the first half. Smith's day will not likely have the folks at Canton sculpting a bust for him any time soon.

Other Notes:
  • Brady hit 7 receivers, including Wes Welker for a game high 8 catches. 
  • Devin McCourty continued to make a case for ROY, with two key INT's. McCourty had 82 yards of return yardage, as he made a case for him to be included in some sort of ball carrying aspect. Look for him to see some special teams work before the end of the year. 
  • LB Jerod Mayo led the team (again) in tackles, adding 8 more to his NFL leading total.
  • The Flying Elvii defense continued to struggle on third down, allowing Detroit to convert 50% of the time. 
  • With 4:00 left in the game, Brady ran his second QB sneak in as many plays. Brady was down, and the play was essentially over. Lions LB DeAndre Levy piled on Brady, leading with his elbow into Brady's right shoulder. The Lions got chippy, and were penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct on Louis Delmas on Law Firm's second TD of the game. On the extra point, the fighting continued, and the Lions were penalized again, this time on Levy and Suh. No one was talking about the play after, and the TV coverage didn't review the play. Sources tell FVP that Mankins was right in the middle of it, even though the "TV guys are dinks" on plays like that.
Now begins the hype; Jets week, dead ahead.

Photo Credit: Deion Branch / Steve Pouliot Images for fanviewpoint.com

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Devin McCourty Impresses Belichick As The Hoodie Discusses The Patriots Secondary

As the New England Patriots get ready to take on the Detroit Lions tomorrow, coach Bill Belichick talked about some of the young secondary players on the New England defense. Some of his comments show he likes what he sees.

Devin McCourty

The Hoodie spoke well of rookie Devin McCourty. "Devin’s really been a consistent player for us all year, from the first rookie mini-camp after the draft to all through the season. In the spring, spring workouts, training camp, preseason, he’s really the same guy every day: very alert, attentive, very professional. You wouldn’t know he’s a rookie; he acts and prepares like he’s been doing it for five or six years. He’s very attentive. He understands a lot of little things."

Belichick continued the praises of McCourty.  "When you give him a coaching point, he understands it doesn’t apply to everything [and] it may only apply to one, particular situation or one little thing. But when that comes up again, he’s usually on it. He’s made a lot of improvement. Josh [Boyer] has done a good job with him, of making him aware of things that could make him a better player. And [Devin’s] done a good job of working on those things and improving on them. We see him doing things now that he wasn’t doing in October. We [saw] him doing things in September that he wasn’t doing in August, and that’s really a great feeling to have as a coach, but I think it’s also great for him as a player. He can see how much he’s improved and his techniques have improved in man-to-man coverage, zone coverage, ball skills, reading the quarterback, tackling, leverage, all those things. He’s done a good job for us and he continues to work hard and get better. He’s a great kid to coach. I’m glad he’s on our team. [He] works hard at special teams. Whatever you ask him to do, he gives you his best every play and that’s worth a lot."

Belichick also spoke about Darius Butler, who has struggled at times in his second year with the Flying Elvii. "I think Darius did some good things.(In the Colts game) [It] wasn’t perfect, but he’s worked hard in practice and I think he’s improved on some things that maybe weren’t quite at the level that he would want them to be at earlier in the season. And those have been showing up better in practice. I thought he did some good things in the game. The key for him is to keep working hard, stay focused and pay attention to little details in the techniques and executing the defense. He has a lot of talent. He’s a smart kid, but it’s about being able to apply it on the field and take those coaching points [from] practice and the meetings and make those part of the execution on the field on Sundays, or Thursdays."

Patrick Chung as been a standout in the Patriot secondary so far this season. Belichick touched on Chung's play as well. "Patrick is versatile. He does a lot of things for us. He can play in the deep part of the field. He can play zone coverage, play man-to-man coverage, good blitzer. [He] plays in the kicking game, so he has a lot of skills that help us. [He’s] a smart kid, works hard. So, he’s got a lot going for him."

The Pats secondary will have to play well tomorrow versus Detroit. They have some excellent TE's, and an all-world WR in Calvin Johnson. All three of the mentioned deep backs will have to play well in order to keep the Lions at bay on Thanksgiving.

Photo Credit: Steve Pouliot Images for fanviewpoint.com

IndyCar Press Releases for Nov. 24

Tung samples IZOD IndyCar Series with FAZZT Race Team: Ho-Pin Tung had the chance to ride around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in a passenger car. He hopes his next visit is in an IZOD IndyCar Series car.
The 27-year-old Tung, who this season has been the reserve driver for Renault F1 and competed in GP2 with the Renault-affiliated DAMS team, made an overture to compete in the IZOD IndyCar Series with a two-day outing in the No. 88 FAZZT Race Team car at Sebring International Raceway On Nov. 20-21.
As a compatibility test, there was synergy between car and driver before the lunch break on the first day as times on the 1.67-mile circuit decreased with almost every five-lap stint (he posted 211 laps over the two days). Regular driver Alex Tagliani, team COO and general manager Rob Edwards and chief engineer Allen McDonald - each providing nuggets of input without being overbearing - were duly impressed with the technical adaptation and feedback.
As the initial step of the team's plans to expand into a multi-car program for its second IZOD IndyCar Series season, it also was positive. Luxembourg-based Gravity Sport Management has been secured to pursue commercial partnerships.
Tagliani, who recorded five top-10 finishes in the 17 races in the No. 77 car with primary sponsorship from Bowers & Wilkins, would welcome a complementary driver to expand the technical database and potentially improve on-track results.
"When you look at it from an organizational standpoint, we want to have a combination," said Tagliani, who noted that a third entry could materialize. "If commercially it makes sense and on the operation side it makes sense, then you're in a win-win situation. You have a guy to work with you and improve the speed of the car, but at the same time commercially it helps strengthen the future of the team.
"Ho-Pin is a likeable guy and fast. I think he would add a lot to the IndyCar Series and our team."
Starting in karting in the mid-90s, Tung has represented China in A1GP, competed in Formula Ford, Formula BMW Asia (2003 champion), German Formula 3 (2006 champion), GP2 Asia and the Superleague Formula in addition to GP2 (he finished 14th in the season finale Nov. 14 at Abu Dhabi with the Racing Engineering team).
"It's a very new thing for me and so many different things compared to Europe," said Tung, who was born in The Netherlands and carries a Chinese professional driver's license. "The tracks in the (IZOD IndyCar Series) are all very different and it requires quite a bit of adaptation. The car is just a racing car. It has four wheels and a steering wheel and you have to try to be as quick as you can. But I was impressed with how it handled and it was pleasant to drive.
"Being here in Sebring to get a small taste of an IndyCar is important. I have to take it step by step, and the first step is good. It would be interesting to see what it would be like to be running with other cars, but just as a foundation it's good."
Tung could be the first Chinese competitor in the IZOD IndyCar Series and in the Indianapolis 500 (in its centennial race). Bowers & Wilkins chairman Joe Atkins, whose audio equipment company has global sales breadth, said Tung could be "the Yao Ming of motorsports" to billions of Chinese.
"I can't overstate how much I think this can be a game-changing association for the league and everybody involved because China is the future in terms of consumer market," Atkins said. "It is where all western brands are very much focused for their future growth opportunity, and from an exposure perspective whether it's for the league itself, the league's sponsors, all of the people involved -- although they may not fully realize it yet -- if Ho-Pin can be successful in Indy racing the opportunity to build his profile in China is enormous.
"The ability to be associated with the first Chinese driver ever to compete in IndyCar and race in the Indy 500 is truly a unique and powerful opportunity."
Tung already has an extensive fan base and media following in China, and INDYCAR has been exploring racing in China in the near future.
"Motorsports is still relatively new in China, but it's developing rapidly," Tung said. "IndyCar is the highest single-seater series in the U.S., and with the Indy 500 being the biggest motorsports event in the world it's all things that attract Chinese people. It would be important for me to do well. We Chinese are very focused on performance, and I'm confident I could do a good job in IndyCar."

Drivers nominated for Auto Racing All-America team: The top six drivers in the IZOD IndyCar Series standings and Firestone Indy Lights champion J.K. Vernay are among the nominees for the 2010 Auto Racing All-America team.
Dario Franchitti, Will Power, Scott Dixon, Helio Castroneves, Ryan Briscoe and Tony Kanaan are all nominated in the open-wheel category, while Vernay is nominated in the at-large category.
More than 250 members of the American Auto Racing Writers and Broadcasters  vote to determine the top two drivers from each of eight categories the will be named to the first team. They will be honored at the 41st annual AARWBA banquet Jan. 9 in Indianapolis.
The winner of the Jerry Titus Award will also be announced at the banquet. The Titus Award honors the driver earning the most votes in the balloting regardless of category.

Kanaan, Barrichello seek another karting win: Longtime friends Tony Kanaan and Rubens Barrichello are teaming up again for the annual Granja Viana 500 go-kart race in their native Brazil on Nov. 27.
Kanaan, the 2004 IZOD IndyCar Series champion, and F1 standout Barrichello have teamed with various drivers to win eight of the previous 13 races. They will partner  with former IZOD IndyCar Series Rookie of the Year Felipe Giaffone in an attempt to win a record ninth time in the event, which caps off the racing season in Brazil.
IZOD IndyCar Series driver Vitor Meira is slated to drive a pair of karts in the endurance race. He's entered with Christian Fittipaldi and Nelson Piquet Jr. in one kart and with his A.J. Foyt Racing team manager Larry Foyt in another. Ana Beatriz is also entered in the race.

Clauson seeks to wrap up titles: Bryan Clauson hopes to lock up a pair of championships when the USAC national midget series competes in the 70th Turkey Night Grand Prix in Irwindale, Calif., on Nov. 25.
The 21-year-old from Noblesville, Ind., can claim the 2010 USAC Mopar National Midget championship and the the 2010 USAC National Championship. Clauson could be the first back-to-back race winner since Billy Boat won three in a row (1995-97).
Clauson leads Levi Jones of Olney, Ill., by five points entering the Turkey Night Grand Prix. The USAC National Drivers title carries a $40,000 first prize as well as a $300,000 Firestone Indy Lights scholarship program which will find the winner competing in all six oval-track Firestone Indy Lights races, including the Freedom 100 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway next May.
Clauson's best 25 finishes this year have included nine feature wins, nine second and seven thirds. Jones has a 2010 USAC-record 10 feature wins, six seconds, five thirds and four fourths.

Schmidt's charity, golfer win big at tourney: For the last five years, Firestone Indy Lights championship-winning team owner Sam Schmidt has hosted a golf tournament near his home in the Las Vegas area that serves as a fundraiser for the Sam Schmidt Paralysis Foundation.
More than 100 golfers, including Baseball Hall of Famer Rollie Fingers and Nashville recording artist Michelle Murray, gathered at The Golf Club at SouthShore on Lake Las Vegas in Henderson, Nev. earlier this month for this year's event.
And though the day was about raising more than $160,000 for the charity, one lucky golfer's hole-in-one scored him a Harley Davidson motorcycle.
Dr. Lynn Dayton of Orem, Utah saw the Red Hot Sunglow Harley Davidson "Street Bob" motorcycle donated by Don Andress of Las Vegas Harley Davidson on the 192-yard, par-3 10th tee and upon sitting on it, said, "I'm going to win this thing!" And then, he did.
Dayton, who could have opted for Fingers to hit his shot, rolled his shot into the hole for a his second-ever ace. It was the first hole-in-one in the history of the tournament.
"This year's tournament just raised the bar … thanks to Don Andress' generous donation of the Harley Davidson," said Schmidt, who claimed his third Firestone Indy Lights team championship earlier this year. "That hole in one was hard to top! The Foundation is very fortunate to have such wonderful friends who help support this event each year. The Golf Club at SouthShore did a great job, the weather was perfect, and we appreciate the generosity of our sponsors, golfers, and donors."

Image from gndpastandpresent.files.wordpress.com

Brady Listed As Questionable On Injury Report

The New England Patriots listed QB Tom Brady as "questionable" on today's injury report for the Thanksgiving Day game vs. the Detroit Lions. The Patriots have had a history of listing Brady on the injury report as "probable" for weeks on end, and this may be a natural progression of that status. Brady has not practiced all week with a right shoulder/foot injury. It makes sense that they change his status due to the mid week schedule of the game this week. We'll see if he plays or not. The wager here at FVP is he will. Here's the rest of the injury report:



Tom Brady QB Right Shoulder/Foot (DNP)
Stephen Neal G Shoulder (DNP)
Jarrad Page S Calf (LP)
Myron Pryor NT Back (LP)
Fred Taylor RB Toe (LP)
Jonathan Wilhite CB Hip (DNP)
Mike Wright DL Neck/Concussion (DNP)


Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Jimmie Johnson is still hungry : " I would love to get to 10 straight "

Johnson's impressive hardware haul
The 2010 NASCAR Sprint Cup Champion Jimmie Johnson talked about the immediate aftermath of his teams winning the championship, for an unprecedented fifth straight time. His comments today and Sunday show he's still grounded. He also sounded as though he would think a sixth championship would be a tall order. His crew chief Chad Knaus, on the other hand, sounded as though 2011 was already here.

You know, for me, I do feel satisfied." Johnson stated today. "But I have never set marks for myself that I wanted X amount of championships or wins and stuff like that. I mean, since I was kid, what's drawn me to racing is the feeling inside of me, the passion I have for the sport, the feeling I have while competing and doing what I do in a car, on a bike, whatever it's been. I guess someday when that goes away, I'll stop.
But I've always been a guy that when I focused on something and I commit to doing it, I'm going to give a hundred percent. As long as I'm in that car, I'm going to apply myself and do everything I can for the team and hopefully be competitive enough to win races and compete for championships. So I hope that answer works. But I don't have any major goals. If it all ended today, I would be extremely satisfied and proud of what I accomplished, but I still have that desire to work, do my job and compete."

Johnson was asked how far he wanted to go with his run. He did not sound as hungry as Tom Brady, when Brady refers to the "next championship" being his favorite. " I mean, I would love to get to 10 straight. I don't know how ridiculous that sounds. But, I mean, in your mind, shoot, I would love to do X, Y, and Z. The realistic side, there's no telling how long it's going to last and I think we are all shocked it's gone on this far. Being a realist, I don't know if it's going to last. I'm amazed that we've been able to do this for five years straight." Johnson said. "I want to believe, and I do feel in my heart, that we'll have a shot next year, but I don't know what those challenges are going to be, how competitive we'll be, what the competition's going to look like. It's really hard to look that far ahead. I feel like I have my best chances at Hendrick Motorsports, with Chad Knaus as my crew chief. If I can seam together seven in any shape or form to tie those two greats, I would be extremely honored. If I was ever able to surpass them, it would be out of this world."

On ranking the five championships, Johnson was a little more direct. "This one, I think this takes the lead. Just the circumstances, it's not that the other Chases weren't competitive. We were stronger I think in the previous two Chases, at least. Maybe all four. But this one, I'm just so proud, because there were times on Saturday nights when we would get together and discuss our race car after practice, and we would have some tough conversations, and just struggled to get what we needed."

Crew Chief Chad Knaus wrapped up their season succinctly. "This team won the race. You know, our team won. It wasn't Jimmie. It wasn't myself. It wasn't Mr. Hendrick. It wasn't Jeff Andrews and Jim Wall. It wasn't the guys in the chassis shop. It was all of us and collectively, we had to really buckle down to get this thing done. That's what that note was about. We won this. Our team won, and I'm really proud to be a part of that team."

It'll be a collective effort for the team to repeat an unbelievable sixth time. Knaus' leadership was evident, as he pointed out "The 2010 season ended two hours ago. And 2011 started two hours ago." He continued "We have started preparing at Hendrick Motorsports for next year and we are full force to make sure that we take a better product to the racetrack next year, and it's going to be so. So we are hard at it"

The #48 Lowes Chevy has to be considered a favorite already. They already have a name for the drive for the sixth championship: The Six Pack.

Jimmie Johnson, NASCAR Champion

Detroit Lions Tight Ends Tough To Match Up On According To Belichick

As the Patriots get ready for Thursday's game with the Detroit Lions, head coach Bill Belichick discussed the Lions tight ends. The Lions three ends, Tony Scheffler, Brandon Pettigrew, and Will Heller are used in similar manner that he Pats use their big pass receivers, Aaron Hernandez, Rob Gronkowski, and Alge Crumpler. Belichick spoke of the similarities this week.

Well they really have three tight ends with Scheffler, between Scheffler and Pettigrew and the big kid, 89, Heller. The way they use those three players, they have different packages and different ways they use them, different combinations. "Belichick continued "Sometime it’s Pettigrew and Heller. Sometimes it’s Pettigrew and Scheffler. Sometimes it’s one of the three, so, they mix it up."
GREEN BAY, WI - OCTOBER 03: Brandon Pettigrew  of the Detroit Lions runs after a catch against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field on October 3, 2010 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. The Packers defeated the Lions 28-26. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Detroit Lions tight end Brandon Pettigrew

The Hoodie added "Well, a lot of times Scheffler is split out. Not always, but a lot of times he’s split out. So sometimes he’s in more of a traditional tight end form location and sometimes he’s in more of a wide receiver location, whether it be the perimeter or the slot receiver. And sometimes, he even actually lines up in the back field. So finding him is a problem. He’s a very good receiver. He’s a tough guy to match up on. Pettigrew is a big kid. Good hands, but a big, physically, imposing kind of receiver – kind of like an Alge Crumpler type-of-guy – hard to match up on with his size and his overall catching skills. And then Heller is a very good blocker. He’s definitely a good force on the end of the line in terms of the running game."

It remains to be seen if Lions QB Shaun Hill can take advantage of the Patriots pass coverage unit with his tight ends. In Sunday's loss against Dallas, Hill hit his tight ends with nine passes, eight to Pettigrew and one to Scheffler. Brandon Pettigrew has been a favorite target of whoever is the Lions QB, hauling in 50 passes, with three TD's. His 50 receptions tie him for the lead in the NFL among ends. Tony Scheffler has caught 32 passes this season for the Lions. By comparison, Hernandez as 35 receptions, with 3 TD's. Gronkowski has been used mostly in the red zone, with 20 catches, six for scores. Figure the Detroit ends will be used in short yardage situations, almost as a running game substitute. Patriot Linebackers will have a big statistical day, stopping the Lion ends before they can move the first down markers. The Pats will take away one area of a teams offense, and given the Lions inability to generate a consistent running game, the Pats will likely look to take away the tight ends.

Be Thankful For The FVP Monday Night All Star

With Thanksgiving coming up this week, it's a time to reflect and be thankful.With that in mind, here's something to be thankful for: Rose, from The Girls Of Brazil Swimsuit Calender. Photographer Jeremiah Thompson is a man living the dream. In his own words "I had a dream. The same dream many men have had. I dreamed to be a professional swimsuit photographer" We all can be thankful he is, and we can be thankful he met the very beautiful Rose. We'll have much more of Jeremiah's work in the weeks to come. You can order his calender at he link above, and you can follow him and the ladies of Brazil on facebook. Be sure to tell him FVP sent ya!

What else is going on at FVP?

Monday, November 22, 2010

Key Plays In Patriots D Force Manning Into 3 INT's

Peyton Manning came into Foxboro having thrown only 4 interceptions in the previous nine games. His three picks versus the New England Patriots prove to be the difference in Sunday's marquee game of the week. The young Patriots defense continues to grow, stepping up to make plays in a surprising effort thus far in the 2010 season.

Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning (L) is hit by New England Patriots linebacker Rob Ninkovich (C) and defensive end Mike Wright in the second quarter of their NFL football game in Foxborough, Massachusetts November 21, 2010.  REUTERS/Brian Snyder (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)The first interception came 10:11 in the first quarter. In that play, Blair White was lined up in the slot to Manning's right, opposite Pats safety Eugene Chung. Chung released White, who then slipped behind Patriot middle linebackers Gary Guyton and Jerod Mayo. Manning read the Patriot coverage, and looked to hit White before Safety Brandon Meriweather could pick up the coverage. Manning's throwing motion was impeded by pressure from Patriot D-lineman Mike Wright. Wright was able to get just enough penetration on Manning's left side, pushing G Kyle DeVan back just enough before C Jeff Saturday helped out on a double team. Manning was unable to step into the throw, and had to go high to avoid coverage from Mayo. The throw sailed, and Meriweather was in position to make the interception. The Flying Elvii converted the turn over, as Tom Brady hit Wes Welker for the game's first touchdown.

The second pick came with 0:18 left in the third quarter. Manning read the coverage as 2-deep, meaning the safeties would have deep coverage on deep routes by the receivers. Instead, the Pats were in a 4-deep coverage, which meant that the corners would go deep. Pierre Garcon read the coverage correctly, and broke is pattern off in a "3" or a 10 yard out. Manning expected Garcon to run a "9" or "10" both of which are deep "go" routes. (go deep!) If Manning had read the coverage correctly, Garcon would have been open of the 10 yard out. Instead, McCourty was all alone for his third pick-off of the season. Manning spoke about this play and the Patriots disguised coverage in his post game presser. "I made a poor decision on the one down the right sideline. Pierre ran the right route, and I kind of made the wrong read, wrong decision." Manning continued "Pierre did the right thing. New England was moving their coverages. They were really mixing them up and moving them around. I had a couple of misreads on the coverages, so it wasn’t anything on Pierre, that’s for sure. Pierre made a couple of big, huge plays during the second half." New England converted this interception into a field goal, which proved to be the difference in the game.
Manning vs Patriots

The final interception came at 0:33 left int he game. Manning was looking to throw to Pierre Garcon again, thinking that he had a mismatch in man to man coverage with McCourty. At the last second, as Manning released the ball, Pats rookie OLB Jermaine Cunningham was able to beat Ryan Diem outside. Cunningham's pressure forced Manning to throw awkwardly,  allowing Patriots safety James Sanders to make a nice athletic play on the ball. Said Manning "I certainly didn’t get everything on the throw that I wanted. We had the matchup that I wanted and I took a shot at the end zone and I just did not – I can’t tell [you] the reason – [but] I just did not get everything I wanted on the throw"

Photo Credit: small Manning photo: Steve Pouliot Images for fanviewpoint.com

Vikings Fire Brad Childress

Multiple reports are out that The Minnesota Vikings have fired head Coach Brad Childress. Defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier has been named interim head coach.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Busch Wins Nationwide Final, Goes For Second Triple Win

HOMESTEAD, FL - NOVEMBER 20: Kyle Busch, driver of the  Z-Line Designs Toyota, celebrates with the checkered flag after winning the NASCAR Nationwide Series Ford 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 20, 2010 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo by Todd Warshaw/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Busch celebrates his second win of the weekend
Kyle Busch pulled away from Kevin Harvick during a 23-lap run to the finish to win Saturday’s Ford 300 Nationwide Series season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Harvick ran second, followed by 2010 series champion Brad Keselowski, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Trevor Bayne.
With his 13th victory in 29 starts this season, Busch extended his single-season win record. The victory was his 43rd in the Nationwide Series, leaving him five behind all-time leader Mark Martin.
Danica Patrick qualified fifth, pitted early and led four laps—her first of the season—by staying out while others pitted under caution on Lap 24. Soon after a restart on Lap 28, however, she dropped back to 21st in the running order. She finished a career-best 19th in her 13th start in the series.
Keselowski was asked about clinching the Championship the week prior and how it effected the teams plans fr this week. " It feels really good. Obviously, for us that meant we could come here and just take a gamble to win, and we did that. We took a pretty large gamble to win there towards the end. It didn't quite pay off, but it felt good that we knew at the end of the day we didn't leave anything on the table, and for that I'm very proud. Throughout the year I think if you look at the way we've raced, we haven't raced in a championship mode for the most part. We've raced in a let's go for wins mode. We took gambles at tracks like Atlanta and so forth. Those were gambles to win the race. Probably lost some spots because of that, but we're all about doing what we can to win races. We kept that up and got even more aggressive with it here tonight"

Kyle Busch goes for his second triple win of the year, coming off his truck series win. He was asked if he had another win in him in tomorrow's Sprint Cup finale, "That would be really, really cool. I'm looking forward to tomorrow. I feel like we've got a good race car, the M & M's Camry was good. Did a nice job. We worked awful hard on changing a lot of things and seeing what we could learn. With the heat of tomorrow, it's going to be crazy. I feel like I do better at night than I do in the daytime. So with the daytime race tomorrow it will be a little hectic. We have to work as hard as we can to try to win the race, first of all. Then secondly we'll work towards trying to make sure we can do everything we can as a team to get Denny Hamlin a championship."

Friday, November 19, 2010

Patriots Work on Colts Speed, Quickness, and Tempo

As the New England Patriots get ready to face the Indianapolis Colts this weekend, Pats head coach Bill Belichick talked about how the team must prepare for the Colts tempo on offense, while dealing with their speed and quickness on defense. A difficult task for The Hoodie, given the amount of young players on the squad.

PITTSBURGH - NOVEMBER 14: Head coach Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots gives instructions against the Pittsburgh Steelers on November 14, 2010 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)
"It’s always hard to get ready for them." Belichick said today.  "They (Colts) do a lot of things; they give you a lot of different looks. I think our players have worked hard: [Brian] Hoyer running the scout team offense, and the offensive guys doing the no-huddles. They’ve done a good job. Defensively, we’re trying to simulate the speed and quickness and energy that they have on defense - the way they play with their stunts and their up-field pressure and so forth. Guys are really trying to give us a good look on that, but it’s different because it’s a lot different style than what we play."

The tempo that Peyton Manning runs the Colts offense poses problems for the Pats young defense and their coaching staff. "That’s one of the real challenges of playing against the Colts." Belichick stated. "First of all, you don’t who they’re going to have on the field, but you know, whoever you put on the field, you might have to live with for 15 plays or until you can get a sub, so, that’s definitely a problem. But you don’t know for sure whether they’re going to be in two tight ends and two receivers or whether they’re going to be in three receivers and one tight end, because they mix back and forth with those groups. Sometimes they sub them in the game or sometimes they leave one group out there and if they feel they have good matchup against your defensive group - whatever that is - then they just leave it out there and they don’t let you substitute, or it’s hard to substitute, [not that] they don’t let you. But if it’s a long, incomplete pass or a run over on your sideline, [then] you can do that, but you don’t necessarily know when that’s coming. So, yeah, that’s definitely a challenge and that comes up a lot in the red area. You see them in the red area a lot of the times, they hurry to the line and the [other] team is in their dime defense on the one-yard line and it just doesn’t look very good. I’m sure that’s not what they want to be in. We’ve been there before where you have that kind of defense on the field in that field position and it’s not really what you want, but you can’t get anybody in there unless you take a timeout if you have them, depending on the situation. But, again, you hate to use your only timeouts just on the substitutions. It’s definitely a challenge. They do a real good job on that - probably as good as anybody in the league that we’ve faced - of preventing defenses from substituting on their [own] terms; you can only substitute when Indy wants to sub. They got Kansas City twice, maybe three times. [They] got Houston a couple times. They do a good job."

INDIANAPOLIS - NOVEMBER 04:  Robert Mathis #98 and Dwight Freeney #93 of the Indianapolis Colts react after Mathis sacked Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots in the third quarter of their game on November 4, 2007 at the RCA Dome in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Freeney and Mathis
Defensively, Indianapolis poses problems with their speed and quickness, notably with Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis. The Hoodie also addressed this today. "They’re a team that has a certain style of play and I think based on their record, they’ve been very successful. They turn the ball over a lot and put a lot of pressure on the quarterback. They give up some yards. Historically, they’ve been very good in the red area. Some games have been better than others, naturally, but they’re a good red area team. They don’t give up a lot of big plays for the most part. They hit the quarterback. They have real great team speed and quickness and they turn the ball over. Again, really, it comes down to winning the game and timing. The Cincinnati game is a great example. Cincinnati’s got the ball across midfield. [The Bengals] are down by six. They hold [Jermaine] Gresham up; they strip him [and] get the ball out. They run some time off the clock. They punt it down to him. [Robert] Mathis sacks [Carson] Palmer. [Dwight] Freeney sacks Palmer and the game’s over. So what don’t you like about that defense? They had to make three plays. They made three in a row. That’s the game. I’m not saying there aren’t other plays that are important, but that’s kind of what they do. We can find a lot of examples of that. But I think the big thing when you play them, you have to take advantage of whatever opportunities you get, which aren’t going to be unlimited. There will be some in the game. You’ve got to be able to take advantage of them. You’ve got to hit the deep balls when they’re there. You’ve got to stay out of long-yardage – you definitely don’t want to be in third-and-10s, third-and-12s, that kind of thing. That’s when the problems really increase. [You have to] not have those negative plays: penalties, false starts, offensive pass interference, holding, and all that. Those are all drive-stoppers."

The Patriots have done a reasonably good job game planning the Patriot offense to minimize the opposition pass rush this season. Look for the Pats offense to try to establish the run early. This will allow them to use play action effectively, where they should be able to take advantage of Aaron Hernandez' speed to neutralize the Colts defenders. The effectiveness of Rob Gronkwski in the red zone will make the Pats other weapons more effective as the offense gets closer to the goal line. Once they have a lead late, it'll be Law Firm and Woodhead, as the Pats try to keep Manning on the bench.

Defensively, New England will most likely keep the blitzing to a minimum. This would be a different approach than the Steelers game plan, where the Pats deployed exotic blitz packages against Rothlisberger. The better plan will be to try to fool Manning with coverages. Expect a big game out of McCourty, who will no doubt be matched against the #1 Colt receiver, either Collie or Wayne, depending on their injury status. Both are listed as questionable for Sunday.

The game will come down to whether or not the Pats young players will be ready to take on future Hall of Famer Manning and the Colt offense. Expect Belichick to have them coached up and ready to beat the Colts Sunday at Gillette.

Former NHL Coach Pat Burns Passes

Former NHL coach Pat Burns passed away today at the age of 58. Burns coached in Toronto, Montreal, New Jersey and Boston. He won the Stanley Cup with New Jersey in 2002. He compiled a record of 501-353-165 (.573) in 1,019 NHL games.

Boston Bruins President Cam Neely released the following statement:

Pat Burns smiles as he is introduced as the new head coach of the Boston Bruins in Boston in this May 21, 1997 file photo. The tough-talking Quebec cop who coached the New Jersey Devils to a Stanley Cup and became the only man to win NHL coach of the year honours with three different teams, died on Friday after a long battle with cancer. Burns was 58. REUTERS/Jim Bourg/Files (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT ICE HOCKEY OBITUARY)
Pat Burns
"On behalf of the Jacobs family and the entire Boston Bruins family, I would like to express our deep sorrow on the passing of Pat Burns. Pat was a great coach and more importantly a wonderful man. The Bruins are honored to have him as a part of our history. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the Burns family."

Burns coached 254 games behind the Bruins bench from May 21, 1997 to Oct. 25, 2000. He won the Jack Adams Trophy as the league’s top coach following the 1997-98 season, one of only three coaches in club history to earn that honor.

Unofficial Patriots 2012 Unis Are Butt Ugly

Officially, this artist rendering is NOT the 2012 New England Patriots uniform. NFL's Brian McCarthy tweeted @NFLprguy just to clarify, the artist renderings of NFL uniforms floating around ARE NOT from the league or Nike. stand down

Not sure how much of a relief that is. The images have gone viral, as has the speculation of the source. The feeling here at FVP is this was leaked to judge public perception of the experiment. Some of the unis are ok. Some, like the Pats, Redskins, Eagles, and Bengals are downright hideous. Check the Cardinals below. Yuck!

Obviously, Nike has to put their stamp on the league, because they are bigger than any sport on the planet. (tongue firmly planted in cheek) Certainly the league would not make a drastic change without some sort of market study, and the guess is that this is indeed that market survey. Unofficially, of course.

The question is who would buy this type of superhero get up to wear, other than as a costume. Head Coach Bill Belichick was shown the image by the media today, causing him to note "Oh great. Halloween costume? That was last month, right? "

Hamlin Speaks With Swagger As NASCAR's Top Three Talk About Homestead

NASCAR finishes the 2010 season this Sunday at Homestead Miami. The top three drivers, Denny Hamlin, Jimmie Johnson, and Kevin Harvick, are separated by 46 points. This is exactly the type of finish NASCAR officials no doubt hoped for when they came up with the new Chase format. The three top drivers discussed the Chase for the championship as the circuit heads into the final weekend.

Johnson, Hamlin, Harvick

Hamlin's lead is the slimmest of margins, in essentially a winner take all final race. Harvick and Johnson talked about chasing down point leader Hamlin. "For us it wouldn't be right if we weren't coming from behind. Seems like that's kind of the way our whole year has gone. We've always had to overcome something" said Kevin Harvick, who is currently third in points.

Four time champ Jimmie Johnson has been the leader heading into NASCAR's final weekend in each of his championships. This time, he's in second, a fact he touched on. "It's different from what we've seen the last four years. Through my career, my Cup career as well, there's been five other years where I wasn't in this position, wasn't in the position of leading the points at the end. It's different of recent time, but it is what it is. In professional sports, things aren't always going to work out as you hope. I wish we were leading the points and had the pressure of defending a championship down here. But I'm making the most of where we are. It's not far from where we are to where Denny is. We're going to have to go out and have a great day on Sunday afternoon, take it from there, see what happens."

Denny Hamlin exudes confidence as he looks at his past finishes at Homestead, "I think for us, it's about going out and performing like we have every Homestead race I've ever ran. The two bad finishes I do have is my very first start at Homestead in 2005. I got caught up in someone else's wreck. The other was a fuel mileage race. Every other time we've been in the top three. I actually remember just about every year Kevin is right there with us at the end of the race. So I know he runs well there. So for me, just go out there and pretend that I got to win the race. That's all there is."

Hamlin touched on his frustrations at Phoenix. His team opted to pit for fuel, dropping the dominant #11 Fed Ex car from the lead to twelfth. "Yeah, I mean, it was frustrating for a little while. I got the bloody knuckles to prove it. It's just part of it. It's part of our sport. We're all going to have emotions on those kind of days. For me, when I said I was leaving Phoenix, I left Phoenix, it was over with, it was. It was completely over with. The only time I relived it is when I got home, I do my normal thing, always rewatch the races no matter what to learn as much as I can. Once that I was done, turned the TV off, it was done. I thought about it a little bit before I went to bed. When I woke up the next day, just kept myself busy." Hamiln continued "For me, I got a lot of encouraging text messages talking about, This is a great situation you're in. If you said going into the Chase you'd have the lead, would you take it? I would have definitely said yes. We've all had opportunities, all three of us had opportunities to break away from the pack at times. It seems like the other two constantly just make that tough and continue to put themselves in position to gain ground. It's fitting that we're in the situation, all three of us, with this one race to go."

Johnson indicated it may be wreckers or checkers for his #48 team. "Well, for us, I mean, we have nothing to lose. This guy does (referring to Hamlin). It's a much different perspective for us. I've been here in the past with even a big points lead and have been concerned about dropping the ball. When you're defending, your mind starts to change and you start to think about the 'what ifs'. When you're chasing, it's more about, What do I need to do? It's been a much more relaxed week for me, even though I'm down 15 points, that I've experienced before. Johnson finished "All the jokes aside, it's just about performing. We need to go out and have a great day."

Harvick spoke about the possibility if a last lap run to the checkered flag, and how he'd handle it "Yeah, you know, obviously you want to outrun the other team, and you want to do it as fair as you can. I think if it comes down to the end, I'll sleep fine. I'll do whatever I have to do." The other two touched on this subject as well. Hamlin: "I can't really say that I would change my driving style, championship on the line or not. Of course, you're going to be more aggressive in situations. But for me to say I would wreck a guy or turn a guy for a championship, I don't know how high I could hold that trophy." Johnson: "I'm not sure any of us can give you an answer. We'll go out and race and see what happens. I mean, it's tough for us to sit up here - I know you want to hear it - but for sure, if the 11 is in front of me, we're coming to the line, I'm going to dump his ass. You can't say. We're not thinking about those scenarios. It's about going out and racing as hard as you can."

You can bet NASCAR is hoping for a final three wide battle coming off turn four on the white flag lap, as the three contenders battle for the win. These final races generally aren't the made-in-Hollywood, go for broke, run the tires off the car to win the championship. What you can count on the fact the these three teams have been the best throughout the 2010 season, and they will give it their all, one last time.

Photo credit: Sam Greenwood/Getty Images for NASCAR

Lotus Joins IndyCar

From the IndyCar Press Release:

A third automobile manufacturer will join the IZOD IndyCar Series in 2012, as Lotus will build an engine and aero kit for the next-generation car in the series.

Takuma Sato's IndyCar alongside Lotus Automobiles.

This will be the first time Lotus has produced an engine for IndyCar competition. The addition of Lotus gives the IZOD IndyCar Series manufacturer representation from the U.S. (Chevrolet), Europe (Lotus) and Asia (Honda).

"Lotus is unique in the automotive world, no other car company has been more successful in such a wide variety of motorsports discipline, whether it is Le Mans, World Rally, Sportscars, F1 of course and IndyCar," said Dany Bahar, CEO of Group Lotus. "This year, we teamed up with KV Racing for IndyCar and we will significantly increase our participation next year. However in 2012 IndyCar competitors will have the exciting opportunity to choose an IndyCar with a Lotus engine and body kit, immediately become part of a legacy that is Lotus: one of the most innovative and successful sports and racing car brands in the world."

Lotus will release engine specifications at a later date.

"Lotus is a renowned name in racing, with a long association with some of the greatest names of motorsports," said Randy Bernard, CEO of INDYCAR. "We're honored Lotus has chosen to serve as an engine manufacturer for the first time with us.

"We are excited about the future of Indy car racing with the addition of Chevrolet and Lotus as well as the continued involvement of our longtime engine supplier Honda. The IZOD IndyCar Series has the fastest, most versatile cars and drivers in the world, and now we have engine competition to provide even more excitement for our fans."

Lotus, based in Norfolk, England, has competed in a variety of motorsports disciplines since the legendary Colin Chapman founded the company in 1952, including Indy car racing, Formula One and sports cars. Jim Clark drove a Lotus chassis to victory in the 1965 Indianapolis 500, and Lotus sponsored the KV Racing Technology car driven by rookie Takuma Sato in the 2010 IZOD IndyCar Series.

"The history and DNA of Lotus is all about extracting the most performance out of a car in return for maximum efficiency, and we are delighted to offer our engine and aero body kit to the 2012 IZOD IndyCar Series," said Claudio Berro, Director of Lotus Motorsport. "We will be using the knowledge gained from our extensive research into E85 biofuel and turbo-charged engines to ensure we extract the maximum performance.

"As you would expect from the company that pioneered aerodynamics in sports car and F1 racing over the years our aero body kit will also be a world class solution, So all in all, will the 2012 Lotus IndyCar will be as innovative and revolutionary as the Lotus Type 38 that won in 1965 and changed Indy forever? Maybe - we'll have to wait and see!"

The IZOD IndyCar Series announced in June that that its next generation of engines would be more powerful and efficient than the current formula - along with being relevant to the public and automobile industry.

The 2012 platform allows manufacturers to produce engines with a maximum of six cylinders. The engines will be turbo charged producing between 550 and 700 horsepower to suit the diverse set of tracks on which the IZOD IndyCar Series competes. All engines will run on E85 with additional details on the fuel platform to be announced at a later date.

The new engine strategy was based on a recommendation from the ICONIC (Innovative, Open-Wheel, New, Industry-Relevant, Cost-Effective) Advisory Committee, which was tasked with reviewing, researching and making a recommendation to the sanctioning body on the next generation IZOD IndyCar Series engine and chassis.

More great news for this series! To have a manufacturer from the US, Europe, and Asia is a great development for a series struggling for eyeballs.


Photo Credit:  Chris Jones for Indycar