Loose, But Fast Blog – Pocono Recap

Pocono

Nascar Xfinity Series

Pocono Green 250 Recycled by J.P. Mascaro & Sons

2018 marked the third annual running of the Pocono Green 250, the Xfinity Series lone trip to the mountains of eastern Pennsylvania. In each of the first two runnings of the event, a Cup Series regular has dropped down and won the race (Kyle Larson ’16, Brad Keselowski ’17). Despite using an aero package similar to the one run during the Monster Energy All-Star Race, the result was the same: a Cup regular taking home the checkered. Kyle Busch overcame a pit road speeding penalty during the Stage 1 break to lead 64 of the 100 laps run in route to his 92nd career Xfinity Series victory. The win is Busch’s 189th across NASCAR’s top three touring series.

Stage 1

Kyle Busch absolutely dominated. Busch passed pole sitter Cole Custer on lap 2 and never looked back. The modified aero package was designed to produce closer racing; however, the field could not hang with Kyle Busch once he got into clean air. The stage went caution free and Busch led the remaining 23 laps rather comfortably. Christopher Bell, Austin Cindric, Elliott Sadler, and Brandon Jones rounded out the top 5.

Stage 2

During the stage break, Kyle Busch and Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Christopher Bell were caught speeding on pit road and both were sent to the back of the lead lap. As a result of pit strategy, Cole Custer inherited the lead at the start of Stage 2. With Kyle Busch trapped back in traffic, Stage 2 provided the best racing of the day. Custer led most of the stage, but could not pull away as Kyle Busch had done in Stage 1.

With 1 lap to go, the battle for stage points created the most exciting part of the race. The top four cars lined up in tandems. Cole Custer had Justin Allgaier pushing him and Paul Menard had Team Penske teammate Austin Cindric pushing him. For two-thirds of the final lap, Custer and Menard ran door to door, but out of turn 3, Menard had enough momentum to clear Custer and take the stage victory. Custer, Allgaier, Cindric, and John Hunter Nemechek were the rest of the top 5. Kyle Busch rallied back to finish 6th in the stage.

Stage 3

Pit strategy was again a major player during the stage break. John Hunter Nemechek took the green flag in the lead but was quickly shuffled back. Kyle Busch started the stage in 12th and promptly moved forward on fresh tires. Two laps into the stage, Michael Annett got loose in the middle of turn 2 and slid up into Chase Briscoe and then the wall to bring out the caution. Both drivers’ days were over. With fuel mileage being close, most of the leaders decided to stay out.

The race restarted with 39 laps to go, but the field didn’t make it back to turn 2 without another caution coming out. Out of turn 1, four-wide racing, a bump from Elliott Sadler led to Justin Allgaier getting turned into the outside wall across the nose of Dylan Lupton. Allgaier then came down across the track and collected Christopher Bell. Both drivers had strong cars but were done for the day.

At the time of caution, Kyle Busch, who had restarted fourth, was ahead of teammate Brandon Jones for the lead. Little did we know that would be the winning moment. With 35 laps to go, Kyle Busch took the green flag on the restart. From that point, Kyle Busch was gone. Just like stage 1, Busch got into the clean air and couldn’t be caught. The race went green the rest of the way and Busch won by a margin of 2.852 seconds.

Top 10

  1. Kyle Busch (64 laps led)
  2. Chase Elliott
  3. Daniel Hemric
  4. Austin Cindric (1)
  5. Cole Custer (23)
  6. Elliott Sadler
  7. John Hunter Nemechek (4)
  8. Paul Menard (3)
  9. Tyler Reddick
  10. Ryan Truex

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series

Pocono 400

In 81 races at Pocono Raceway, only 22 drivers had earned multiple wins at NASCAR’s tricky triangle. Martin Truex Jr. added the 23rd name Sunday. After battling all day long with fellow championship favorites Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick, it was Truex Jr. who prevailed earning his 2nd win of 2018. The win also serves as the 17th of his career and 15th since joining Furniture Row Racing in 2014.

Stage 1

From the pole, Ryan Blaney edged Kevin Harvick around Turn 1 to take the early lead. Young Blaney held off Harvick, Busch, and Truex Jr. for several laps, but eventually was overtaken by Harvick on lap 11. Those were the only laps defending race winner, Blaney led all day. At lap 17, many teams began utilizing pit strategy to try and steal track position. However, Stage 1 went green the whole way and a clean stop by the number 4 Stewart-Hass Racing Busch Beer pit crew cycled the 5-time race winner in 2018 back into the lead. Once he regained the lead, Harvick set the pace for the next nine circuits around the triangle. However, Martin Truex Jr. reeled him in and assumed the lead with 6 to go in the stage. Truex Jr. would go on to win the stage and earn his 3rd stage victory of the season. 

Stage 2

A two-tire stop for Brad Keselowski resulted in the Team Penske Ford leading the field to green to begin Stage 2. Keselowski’s lead didn’t last long though, Kevin Harvick retook the lead going into to Turn 1 on the restart. The Busch Beer #4 Ford led the next 22 laps until pit strategy called for another cycle of green-flag pit stops. During the series of stops, Bubba Wallace led for four laps. After Wallace and tailer-Austin Dillon, made their pit stops, Harvick seized his position at the head of the field. Without contest, Harvick took the Stage 2 victory, his 7th stage win of the season.

Stage 3

Kevin Harvick led the whole field down pit road during the stage break and his team delivered by getting him back out in first. Harvick led the first 26 laps of the stage, but those would be the last of his race-high 89 laps led. However, on lap 126, Kyle Larson made contact with the lap-down machine of Derrike Cope to bring out the first non-stage ending caution of the day. The whole field decided to stop for tires during the caution and Kyle Busch’s #18 Joe Gibbs Racing team, as they had all day, produced the best stop and got their guy out first.

Martin Truex took the restart in 4th but used his position to move into the 2nd position with leader Kyle Busch in his sights. Busch led the next nine laps, then the caution came out for debris. While Kyle Busch and most of the field elected to pit during the caution, Truex, Harvick and Kyle Larson did not. The field took the next restart with 17 to go with Truex as the leader. Three laps later Alex Bowman and four-time Pocono winner, Denny Hamlin, tangled coming out of Turn 1 to bring out another caution. None of the leaders pitted. The field took the green flag with 10 to go, but Erik Jones was turned coming across the line to immediately bring out another caution. Again, none of the leaders chose to pit. 

The field took the final restart of the day with 7 laps remaining. By this point, the race was clearly between Busch, Harvick, Truex, and Larson who were the best four all day. Larson fought best he could to get in front of Truex, but the #78 was too good getting down into Turn 1. Truex took advantage of the clean air and was able to cruise to victory. Larson took home second, followed by Kyle Busch, Harvick, and Keselowski to round out the top 5. 

Top 10

  1. Martin Truex Jr. (31 laps led)
  2. Kyle Larson 
  3. Kyle Busch (13)
  4. Kevin Harvick (89)
  5. Brad Keselowski (10)
  6. Ryan Blaney (11)
  7. Aric Almirola 
  8. Jimmie Johnson (2)
  9. Joey Logano 
  10. Chase Elliott 

Loose, But Fast Blog: Post Coke 600 Power Rankings

NC Sports Report: Carolina’s Send 10 to NCAA Baseball Tournament

North and South Carolina Combine to Send 10 Teams to NCAA Baseball Tournament

The 2018 NCAA Baseball Tournament, as always, will feature a 64 team field that begins regional play this Friday. Lucky for us, 10 of the 64 teams are in our backyard. See whos heading where here.

Tournament Specs 

  • The overall field is set by 33 conference champions and 31 at-large bids. 
  • Regionals are hosted by the top 16 seeds and feature a round-robin, double elimination tournament to advance to the super regional. 
  • Super Regionals are a best of three-game series with the eight winners advancing to the College World Series
  • Then the remaining eight teams will play a double-elimination tournament until a winner is determined. 
  • TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, Nebraska is the site of the College World Series.
  • Regional Play: June 1st-4th
  • Super Regionals: June 8th-11th
  • College World Series: June 16th-27th

Top Overall Seeds

  1. Florida (SEC)
  2. Stanford (Pac-12)
  3. Oregon St. (Pac-12)
  4. Ole Miss (SEC)
  5. Arkansas (SEC)
  6. North Carolina (ACC)
  7. Florida St. (ACC)
  8. Georgia (SEC)
  9. Texas Tech (Big 12)
  10. Clemson (ACC)
  11. Stenson (A-Sun)
  12. East Carolina (AAC)
  13. Texas (Big 12)
  14. Minnesota (B10)
  15. Coastal Carolina (Sun Belt)
  16. North Carolina St. (ACC)

North Carolina Teams Hosting Regionals

North Carolina is sending seven teams to the NCAA Baseball Tournament. Three are hosting regionals.

#6 North Carolina Tar Heels

  • Overall: 38-18
  • Atlantic Coast Conference: 22-8
  • At-large Bid
  • 31st Tournament Appearance
  • Head Coach
    • Mike Fox (17th Season)
  • Teams in Regional
    • #2 Purdue (B10)
    • #3 Houston  (AAC)
    • #4 North Carolina A&T (MEAC)

#12 East Carolina Pirates

  • Overall: 43-16
  • American Athletic Conference: 14-10
  • Automatic Bid (AAC Tourney Winner)
  • 29th Tournament Appearance
  • Head Coach
    • Cliff Godwin (3rd Season)
  • Teams in Regional
    • #2 South Carolina (SEC)
    • #3 Ohio St. (B10)
    • #4 North Carolina-Wilmington (CAA)

#16 North Carolina State Wolfpack

  • Overall: 40-16
  • Atlantic Coast Conference: 19-11
  • At-Large Bid
  • 30th Tournament Appearance
  • Head Coach
    • Elliott Avent (20th Season)
  • Teams in Regional
    • #2 Auburn (SEC)
    • #3 Northeastern (CAA) 
    • #4 Army (Patriot)

Other NC Teams in the Field

Duke Blue Devils

 

  • #2 Seed Athens Regional
  • Overall: 39-14
  • Atlantic Coast Conference: 18-11
  • At-Large Bid
  • 7th Tournament Appearance
  • Head Coach:
    • Chris Pollard (5th Season)
  • Teams in Regional 
    • #1 Georgia (SEC)
    • #3 Troy (Sun Belt)
    • #4 Campbell (Big South)

Campbell Camels

  • #4 Seed Athens Regional
  • Overall: 35-24
  • Big South: 21-6
  • Automatic Bid
  • 3rd Tournament Appearance
  • Head Coach
    • Justin Haire (2nd Season)
  • Teams in Regional
    • #1 Georgia (SEC)
    • #2 Duke (ACC)
    • #3 Troy (Sun Belt)

North Carolina A&T Aggies

  • #4 Seed Chapel Hill Regional
  • Overall: 32-23
  • Mid-Eastern Atlantic: 16-8
  • Automatic Bid
  • 2nd Tournament Appearance
  • Head Coach
    • Ben Hall (4th Season)
  • Teams in Regional
    • #1 North Carolina (ACC)
    • #2 Purdue (B10)
    • #3 Houston (AAC)

North Carolina-Wilmington Seahawks

  • #4 Seed Greenville Regional
  • Overall: 37-21
  • Colonial Athletic: 14-9
  • Automatic Bid
  • 9th Tournament Appearance
  • Head Coach
    • Mark Scalf (26th Season)
  • Teams in Regional
    • #1 East Carolina (AAC)
    • #2 South Carolina (SEC)
    • #3 Ohio St. (B10)

South Carolina Teams Hosting Regionals

South Carolina is sending three teams to the NCAA Tournament. Two are hosting regionals.

#10 Clemson Tigers

  • Overall: 45-14
  • Atlantic Coast: 22-8
  • At-large Bid
  • 43rd Tournament Appearance
  • Head Coach
    • Monte Lee (3rd Season)
  • Teams in Regional
    • #2 Vanderbilt (SEC)
    • #3 St. John’s (Big East)
    • #4 Morehead St. (Ohio Valley)

#15 Coastal Carolina Chanticleers

  • Overall: 42-17
  • Sun Belt: 23-7
  • Automatic Bid
  • 15th Tournament Appearance
    • 2016 Champions
  • Head Coach
    • Gary Gilmore (23rd Season)
  • Teams in Regional
    • #2 UConn (AAC)
    • #3 Washington (Pac 12)
    • #4 LIU-Brooklyn (Northeast)

Other SC Teams in the Field

South Carolina Gamecocks

  • #2 Seed Greenville Regional
  • Overall: 33-24
  • Southeastern: 17-13
  • At-Large Bid
  • 32nd Tournament Appearance
    • 2010 & 2011 Champions
  • Head Coach
    • Mark Kingston (1st Season)
  • Teams in Regional
    • #1 East Carolina (AAC)
    • #3 Ohio St. (B10)
    • #4 North Carolina-Wilmington

 

All eyes are on Chapel Hill, Greenville, Clemson, Conway, Raleigh, and Athens this weekend. At best, the two states could combine for six teams in the Super Regionals. Furthermore, all 6 of those teams could potentially move on to the College World Series since none would have to play one another in the Super Regional. Let’s see how these regionals turnout first. Enjoy the games.

 

Loose, But Fast Blog: Post Coke 600 Power Rankings

Post Coke 600 Power Rankings

Another race in the books, another victory by either Kevin Harvick or Kyle Busch. Check out the Coke 600 Power Rankings here. Where does your favorite driver rank? Let us know what you think on Twitter @QuarterMasterNC and/or @QMS_Rongy.

20. Kasey Kahne – #95 Chevy

  • While not in “top-tier” equipment anymore, Kahne’s mentality has changed from trying to push his car to the brink to just bringing the thing home in one piece and take what you can get. It’s clear having Kahne in the car has opened up more sponsorship opportunities and LFR and the team gets a little bit better every week. At the Coke 600, the 3-time former winner of the race looked more competitive than he has all season. Kahne was even able to earn a few stage points by finishing 7th in Stage 3. Unfortunately, pit strategy in the final stage came back to bite the team and they wound up finishing 20th. 

19. Jamie McMurray – #1 Chevy

  • For the second time all season, McMurray actually looked competitive at the Coke 600. McMurray started 7th, but an early tire issue forced an unscheduled green-flag pitstop during Stage 1. However, the #1 McDonalds Chevy was able to gain the lap they lost back and work their way back up through the field. McMurray worked his way up as far a second but didn’t have enough to overcome the top dogs and brought home a 6th place finish. The top 10 moves McMurray up to 20th in the point standings. He sits only 65 points behind the playoff cutoff. 

18. Daniel Suarez – #19 Toyota

  • Speedy Danny Suarez is quickly becoming one of my favorites out of the young crop of drivers. Every week Suarez and his team get a little bit better. After finishing runner-up in the All-Star race, the #19 team found the 600 to be a bit of a struggle. During Stage 2, Suarez felt he had a tire coming apart and elected to pit, unscheduled. For the rest of the night, Suarez found out the key to the Coke 600, attrition. Though he battled an ill-handling racecar all evening, Suarez was able to take advantage of the wave-around twice to get back on the lead lap. Though he was eventually put back a lap down late by teammate Busch, Suarez still earned a 15th place finish. The momentum continues to swing upward for this team.

17. Paul Menard – #21 Ford

  • Paul Menard has been a pleasant surprise this season. He always seems to have his Wood Brothers Ford in top 15. Their only problem so far is putting together full races. Menard has already tied his total for the number of top 10s from each of the past two seasons (3), but he has also left a few on the table. Add the Coke 600 to the list. Though he still wound up 14th overall, the #21 was running 10th with 15 to go before his tires faded and he brushed the wall in turn 4 and lost a bit of ground. Keep an eye on Menard at Pocono. This same Wood Brothers team won this trip to Pocono last season with Ryan Blaney behind the wheel. Furthermore, Paul Menard’s one career Cup win came at Indianapolis, a track that requires a similar driving style as Pocono.

16. Alex Bowman – #88 Chevy

  • Despite Chevrolet’s lack of raw speed this season, Alex Bowman has managed to crack the top 10 four times this season, including this past weekend at Charlotte. The bow ties seemed to have more speed at the 600 than they have shown all season. If they continue to improve, Bowman should start contending for top 5s and find himself in the top 10 regularly. I look back to Bowman’s seasons with BK Racing and Tommy Baldwin Racing as the building blocks for his potential playoff run. At those stops, he learned how to bring the car home in one piece. Now that he’s in Hendrick equipment he’s turning that mentality into top 15s. Now he gets to go to work on learning how to improve on that. We’ve seen flashes. We’ll see if he can keep grinding. 

15. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. – #17 Ford

  • With Matt Kenseth essentially finishing around the same position as Trevor Bayne was in the #6, it shows a little bit about Stenhouse’s talent. We all know Stenhouse is in play for the top 10 at restrictor plate tracks and short tracks, but have shown promise at the mile and a half tracks in recent weeks. At Texas, RSJ ran well and led a few laps before a suspension issue left him finishing 25th. Three weeks ago at Kansas, the #17 brought home 11th and at the Coke 600, they cracked the top 10. Currently, Stenhouse holds the final playoff position with a 33 point pad over 17th place Paul Menard.

14. Erik Jones – #20 Toyota

  • After finishing fourth in the 2017 Coke 600 and then dominating practice all weekend, Erik Jones has to be one of the more disappointed drivers leaving Charlotte. Jones had good speed and finished the first three stages 10th, 10th, and 2nd, respectively, despite having to overcome two issues on pit road. Then the monster that is the 600 came to bite Jones in Stage 4. During green flag pit stops, Jones team received an uncontrolled tire penalty dooming the #20’s top 5 chances. Jones spent the last 40 laps a lap down and finished 19th. I expect a big bounce back from this team at Pocono. Last year, Jones finished 3rd and 8th in the two trips to Pocono with the #77 Furniture Row Team. 

13. Chase Elliott – #9 Chevy

  • The pressure on Chase Elliott to win a race has to be frustrating to the 22-year old given Chevrolet’s struggles this year. Simply put, this season he hasn’t had the car to compete with any of the Fords or Toyotas this season. He’s taking a 10th place car and finishing right around there. Yet, he still has three top 3 finishes to show for and, as I mentioned with Alex Bowman, the Chevy’s looked more competitive at Charlotte than they have all season. Whereas Bowman is looking to go from borderline top 10 to a top 5 team, Chase Elliott is trying to break into Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr., Kevin Harvick territory. Once he wins one race, I think he’s going to start reeling them off. Right now, he’s tied with Stenhouse Jr. for the last two playoff spots, expect him to move up soon.

12. Ryan Blaney – #12 Ford

  • Bubba Wallace’s best friend has had a rough go of it as of late. A late tangle with Kyle Larson at Kansas and a failed engine at Charlotte has seen Ryan Blaney take home finishes of 37th and 38th of the past two points-paying events. The silver lining? Young Ryan Blaney ran up front and had a top 5 car in both races. Even better for Blaney? This weekend he returns to the scene of his first career win, this race last season at Pocono. YRB is solidly in the playoffs on points, but there’s no better way to get over a string of bad luck with a win. He should be a threat this week, for sure. 

11. Jimmie Johnson – #48 Chevy

  • See comments about Chase Elliott in reference to Chevy’s speed this season. Jimmie “7-time” Johnson still hasn’t led a lap this season, but his run in The 600 was very encouraging. Johnson and crew chief Chad Knaus have never gone this deep into the season without a win. Johnson said it best after finishing 5th in The Coke 600, “It feels good, but damn I want to win.” At the moment, the #48 Hendrick Motorsports Team sits 12th in points 31 ahead of the playoff cut off. By no stretch of the imagination do I think they will miss the playoffs, especially given their pedigree, but stranger things have happened. 

10. Aric Almirola – #10 Ford

  • Another solid 13th place finish for Aric Almirola at The Coke 600. After the race, he felt he and the team had left a little bit on the table, citing pit strategy and old tires. Still, not a terrible effort for a team that has been consistently in the top 15 week-in and week out. In fact, the #10 Stewart-Hass team has been so consistent that they are firmly rooted in the playoffs at this point. Currently, Almirola holds an 80 point advantage over Chase Elliott and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. With such a cushion, I won’t be surprised if Almirola and the team start taking more chances at stealing a win in the coming races.   

9. Clint Bowyer – #14 Ford

  • Bowyer and the boys had a frustrating night at Charlotte. Though they finished 12th, lost track position on old tires cost the #14 team a shot at a higher finish. Unlike teammate Aric Almirola, Bowyer already has a race win and is locked into the playoffs. Now it’s all about collecting as many playoff points as possible for Bowyer and crew chief Mike Bugarewicz.

8. Kurt Busch – #41 Ford

  • Contrary to his teammates, Bowyer and Almirola who felt they could’ve done better, Kurt Busch seemed pleased with his 8th place finish in The Coke 600. “We kind of just did everything as a top 10 team would do and I’m glad we put the Haas Automation Ford in eighth,” said Busch after the race. He ran a clean race and did what he had to do. He knew he wasn’t beating little brother, but he knew he was in top 10 equipment. He survived and that’s really all you have to do in The 600.

7. Kyle Larson – #42 Chevy

  • Young $$$ Larson had one of the fastest cars not driven by Kyle Busch Sunday night. I don’t think he was quite in the same area code as KB, but due to a spin late in Stage 3, Larson lost track position and never even got a shot. Since Bristol, Larson has been knocking on the door. Over that span, Larson only has one finish worse than 10th (Talladega, crash). If the speed the Chevy’s had at Charlotte carries on into the rest of the season, expect Larson to find victory lane sooner than later.  Keep an eye on Michigan in two weeks where three of Larson’s five career victories have come.

6. Brad Keselowski – #2 Ford

  • After Kyle Busch took himself out in the Xfinity race on Saturday, Brad K. pounced on the opportunity and held off Cole Custer for the win. Sunday night started off rocky for the former Cup champ. After electing to stay out on old tires after missing his pit stall late in stage 1. It was the wrong decision, as he was passed like a sitting duck on the restart. From that point, Keselowski struggled with track position and handling during the late-afternoon hours. However, once the sun went down and the lights came on, so did the #2 Penske Ford. During the back half of the race, Keselowski made his way back up to the front and finished 4th. 

5. Joey Logano – #22 Ford

  • Joey Logano and the #22 Penske guys didn’t have The 600 they were expecting. After sitting on the outside pole and leading the first five laps, Logano battled an ill-handling racecar all evening long. In Stage 2, Logano was caught up in the Jimmie Johnson spin and received some rear quarter panel damage. During damage repair, Logano lost a lap and never really recovered. His car never got dialed in and they crawled home 22nd.

4. Denny Hamlin – #11 Toyota

  • The Coke 600 saw the #11 of Denny Hamlin take home another top 5 run. Hamlin’s car wasn’t that far off from his teammate Busch, but couldn’t hang with the #18 everytime he got close on a restart. Hamlin has been close this season but still hasn’t been as good as the top 3. If there was ever a chance for Hamlin to breakthrough it’s at Pocono where Hamlin and the #11 have four career wins at the “Tricky Triangle.”

3. Martin Truex Jr. – #78 Toyota

  • With the last stage going green the whole way, we never got the chance to see what Truex Jr. had for KB on Sunday night. Truex was without a doubt the 2nd best car at Charlotte at the end of the race. The #78 Furniture Row team has been right behind Harvick and Busch all season long and this list is no different.

2. Kyle Busch – #18 Toyota

  • Absolute dominance. Kyle Busch destroyed the field at the Coke 600 thoroughly. He now has won a Cup race at every race track he’s competed out, the only driver in history to ever accomplish the feat. He also now has 188 victories across NASCAR’s three top touring series.

1. Kevin Harvick – #4 Ford

  • It was a tough call keeping Harvick in the top spot. Though he has 5 wins this season, he’s kind of adopted the “if you ain’t, first you’re last” mentality. Both winning streaks Harvick has owned this year have ended in finishes of 35th or worse. However, remember two things. Before Harvick cut a tire on lap 87, he had already moved from his starting spot of 39th into the top 5. He had a fast car. Furthermore, had he not failed pre-qualifying inspection he never would’ve had to come from the back in the first place. For now, Harvick stays at the top.

 


Listen to last week’s Pre-Coca Cola 600 power rankings here:

Loose, But Fast – Episode 1: Coca-Cola 600 Power Rankings

Twitter Update: The NBA is Rigged

The NBA is Rigged

The NBA is rigged and everyone knows it. However, no entity seems to know it better than our friends on social media. So instead of telling you that the NBA is rigged myself, I’ll let Twitter tell you.

While I could go deep into the history of accusations of rigging against the league, in honor of this past weekend’s events, I’ll just focus on the 2017-18 season.

We Knew it in October 2017

November: Lonzo For MVP? No? Rigged.

Skip Ahead: Eastern Conference Finals Game 3

Eastern Conference Finals Game 4

Reminder: This was only Game 4, people.

Some were aware of it and didn’t even care. Side: He’s a Rockets fan.

Western Conference Finals Game 4

After some late Golden State miscues, they were given 0.5 seconds on the clock and had a shot to tie the game.

Even Kevin Durant knows things are rigged:

Eastern Conference Finals Game 5

Series tied at two.

Mid-game thoughts:

Some were still WOKE.

Western Conference Finals Game 5

It wasn’t a just a dream, it was a vision.

Eastern Conference Finals Game 6

After the first quarter.

Even the hockey guy sees it.

Western Conference Finals Game 6

Eastern Conference Finals Game 7

Another Hockey Guy…

Cleveland wins the Eastern Conference Finals. LeBron James clinches his 8th straight Finals appearance. 

Western Conference Finals Game 7

Golden State wins the Western Conference Finals and advances to their 4th straight NBA finals.

The Aftermath: May 29th

Shun the non-believers (and it was 27 threes missed in a row btw.)

Another non-believer…

Big Picture

With the impending Warriors-Cavs IV, I wonder: which way will the NBA tilt the scales this time around? Could they be setting up a potential tie-breaking 5th series in 2019? How will the NBA’s rigging of The Finals effect LeBron James’ off-season plans? Stay glued to these folks Twitter feeds to find out. 

Loose, But Fast – Episode 1: Coca-Cola 600 Power Rankings

Rongy’s Coca-Cola 600 Power Rankings

Rongy gives his power rankings heading into this weekend’s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Hot off his All-Star victory and third straight win in as many events, it goes without saying, Kevin Harvick comes in at #1. However, the rest of the top 10 is open for debate. Check out my top 10 heading into the weekend here:

Coca-Cola 600

 

Following last weekend’s All-Star Race, where does your favorite driver rank? Let us know what you think on Twitter @QuarterMasterNC and @QMS_Rongy. Let’s discuss!

Next week will have a post-Coca-Cola 600 episode. Since we’re going to be there, it should make for a great show.

To find out what Loose, But Fast is all about, check out Episode 0 here:

Loose, But Fast – Episode 0

Loose, But Fast – Episode 0

Loose, But Fast

Check out Episode 0 of Loose, But Fast. Rongy provides a quick introduction to QuarterMaster Sports new podcast devoted strictly to NASCAR content. Without a doubt, the success of this podcast is solely dependent on its listeners. Don’t hesitate, engage us Twitter. We want to hear from you. You can find us @QuarterMasterNC or Rongy, personally, @QMS_Rongy. We want to hear your thoughts on drivers, tracks, the rules, the Xfinity and Truck Series, the schedule, and anything else you can think of relating to the sport. The direction of NASCAR is currently caught at a crossroads and we want to know what the fans want. New episodes are coming. First up, Rongy’s pre-Coke 600 Power Rankings.

Check out the Loose, But Fast Blog as well. Here are my thoughts leading up to and after the Monster Energy All-Star Race. 

Monster Energy All-Star Race Review

Kevin Harvick wins 3 out of 4 stages in route to his second career all-star race, his 6th win in 13 events this season. YOUNG Daniel Suarez impressed many with a great 2nd place finish. Joey Logano, Denny Hamlin, and Chase Elliott rounded out the Top 5. 

Loose, But Fast Blog: Monster Energy All-Star Race Review

Monster Energy All-Star Race Preview

Rongy previews the All-Star Race. Most notably, he previews the experimental aero package that was used for All-Star Weekend. He also gives his favorites for the race.

Loose, But Fast Blog: Monster Energy All-Star Race

Rongy’s Rankings: The Top 25 Players Left in the NBA Conference Finals

Ranking the Players Left in the NBA Conference Finals

We’re four games deep into the NBA Conference Finals. In the East, the Celtics and Cavaliers are tied at two as that series heads back to Boston for Game 5 on Wednesday. Out West, a tough fought Game 4 by the Houston Rockets have their series with the Warriors tied at two as well. That series heads back to Texas for Game 5 Thursday. Here’s my ranking of the top 25 players still playing in the NBA Conference Finals.

25. Jordan Clarkson

  • Despite not playing in Game 2 and only logging 4 minutes in Game 4, it’s hard to dismiss Clarkson from this list. Out of the three midseason Cavalier additions, Clarkson is most likely to impact the rest of the series. We all know what Clarkson is capable of given the opportunity.

24. George Hill

  • After joining the team late in the season, George Hill has logged solid minutes for the Cavs this postseason. His previous postseason experience is definitely a bonus. In four games, Hill is averaging 8.5 points per game in the Conference Finals.

23. Shaun Livingston

  • Since joining the Warriors four years ago, Livingston has been a solid force off the bench. These playoffs are no different. Livingston’s impact is felt more on the court than shows up on the stat sheet, but his 15 minutes per game are crucial to the Dub’s success. 

22. Marcus Morris

  • Marcus Morris is the Celtics’ goon but is quietly averaging 13 points and 5.8 rebounds per game in the Conference Finals. If Boston is going to win the series, Morris’ physicality will need to be felt.

21. J.R. Smith

  • We all know J.R. Smith is the ultimate microwave. Though he’s only averaging 6 points and 3 rebounds per game in the Conference Finals, it only takes one big three to go in to light Smith on fire. In Cleveland’s two losses, Smith did not make a 3 pointer. In the Cavs two wins, JR hit three 3’s in each game.

20. Kyle Korver

  • Korver’s defensive intensity in Game 4 may have been the difference in the outcome. The 37-year old was all over the court causing havoc for the Celtics, some of which are almost 20 years younger than Korver. KK is averaging 11 points and 3 rebounds per game in the Conference Finals.

19. Clint Capela

  • Capela has better stats in the Rockets two WCF losses than in the Rockets two wins. It most likely has everything to do with their opponent. Capela is still averaging close to a double-double with 9.5 points and 9.3 rebounds per game in the Conference Finals.

18. Marcus Smart

  • Marcus Smart is the spark off the C’s bench. He’s a defensive bulldog and one of the best full-court defenders in the league. In the Eastern Conference Finals, Smart is averaging 8.8 points, 6.5 assists, and 3.3 rebounds per game playing roughly 28 minutes per game.

17. Trevor Ariza

  • Ariza does a little bit of everything for the Rockets. In the Conference Finals, Ariza is averaging 10.5 points on 51.9% shooting to go with 3 rebounds, 2.3 assist, and a steal per game.

16. Andre Iguodala

  • The fifth member of the Hamptons 5 was absent from Game 4 with no soreness. His status for Thursday’s Game 5 is still up in the air. His inability to go in Game 4 definitely affected the Warriors rhythm and could be the reason Golden State couldn’t stop the Rockets late in the game. 

15. P.J. Tucker

  • In Houston’s two wins in the WCF, P.J. Tucker has been huge in one way or the other. In Game 2, Tucker poured in 22 points out of nowhere on 8 for 9 shooting from the field. Two games later, Tucker came up big on the glass, pulling down 16 boards. 

14. Tristan Thompson

  • I know. This seems high, but when you think about it, it’s not. When Tristan Thompson is involved, the Cavs usually play well. That was evident in Game 4 when he looked like the player we know he can be. He’s slightly under averaging a double-double (9.8/9.3) in the Conference Finals.

13. Terry Rozier

  • In Kyrie Irving’s absence, Scary Terry has been an unsung hero for the Celtics in the playoffs. Rozier is averaging 13.8 points, 5.8 assists, 5.3 rebounds in the Conference Finals. He’ll need to continue his big postseason if the C’s want to get past Cleveland.

12. Eric Gordon

  • Despite a rough 1 for 8 performance from three-point land in Game 4, Gordon still finished the evening with 14 points. Since his 27 point showing in Game 2, where he shot 6 for 9 behind the arc, EG has gone cold from downtown. On the road in games 3 and 4, Gordon combined for 3 of 16 from three-point. He’s going to need to find his stroke in Game 5 if the Rockets are going to take control of the series at home.

11. Jayson Tatum

  • JT had an awesome rookie season, but his game has risen to the next level in the playoffs. Tatum is scoring 15.5 per game on 47.8% shooting from the floor in the ECF. Not bad for a kid that was preparing for the combine this time last year.

10. Al Horford

  • After Gordon Hayward and Kyrie went down with injuries, the Celtics have turned to Horford for veteran leadership. Horford has delivered. Big Al is averaging 14.3 points and 7 rebounds per game in the ECF.

9. Kevin Love

  • Kevin Love is an enigma. Idk. He’s good, I just don’t like his fit with the Cavs. In the ECF games he’s contributed by scoring 17+, the Cavs lost. The two games the Cavs won, Love scored 13 and 9 points respectively. Love has been big on the boards throughout the series tallying 8-15-14-11 in the four games.

8. Jaylen Brown

  • A star has been born. JB is averaging 20.3 points per game in the ECF and has been the Celtics main scoring threat in the playoffs. Though Horford, Rozier, and Tatum have been outstanding this postseason, the C’s hopes ride with this kid and the genius of Brad Stevens.

7. Klay Thompson

  • Out of the Warriors Big 4, Klay has struggled the most in the Conference Finals. Aside from his 28 point output in Game 1, Klay combined for 31 in games 2-5. Furthermore, when Klay shoots better than 40% from the field in the WCF, the Warriors win. In the two games he shot below 40%, the Warriors lost.

6. Chris Paul

  • CP3 went for 27 in the Rockets Game 4 victory, including a 5 for 9 shooting clip from behind the three-point line. Houston will need more scoring like this from Paul the rest of the way if they hope to keep pace with the Warriors firepower. Harden can’t do it alone.

5. Draymond Green

  • Per usual, Draymond is up to his usual tactics. He’s annoying, yappy, and frustrating to his opponents on the court and I love it. On the stat sheet, he’s Mr. Everything for Golden State. In the WCF, Green is averaging 8 points, 11.3 rebounds, 7.3 assists, and 2 steals. 

4. Steph Curry

  • Chef Curry found his shot in Game 3 and went for 35 in the 40 point blowout. He then came back with 28 in the Game 4 loss. With every game, he looks closer to form. It could be at the perfect time, they’ll need a big performance from him if they want to survive the WCF.

3. James Harden

  • Harden vs. Curry is somewhat of a toss-up. Since Curry is still getting back into the groove following injury and Harden is playing at an All-World level, edge Harden. In the WCF, Harden is averaging 29.5 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 5.8 assists. 

2. Kevin Durant

  • KD is a walking 30 points a game. He had his worst performance of the Western Conference Finals in Game 4 where he shot 9-24 from the field for 27 points. I know, it’s weird to call a 27 point game a bad game, but I expect a much better game from Durant in Game 5. 

1. LeBron James

  • Did you think it would be anyone else? LeBron is doing LeBron things again, essentially willing his team to victory. He’s dropping 40+ like its nothing. He’s still the best player on the planet, people.

Loose, But Fast Blog: Monster Energy All-Star Race Review

2018 Monster Energy All-Star Race Review

Experimental Aero Package/Restrictor Plate Thoughts

What a night. 38 lead exchanges, three-wide racing, and everyone had a shot at the $1 Million Dollar prize. The Monster Energy All-Star Race was without a doubt a hit. Kudos to NASCAR for trying something new and experimenting with a new aero package on one of their marquee evenings. While there will always be pushback from the “we want the old-NASCAR” crowd, Saturday Night’s race was definitely a step in the right direction for a sport some consider to be “dying.” NASCAR isn’t dying and isn’t going anywhere in the near future. However, a major reform of the sport could be on the table soon. Saturday’s All-Star Race could be the foot that opens the door on that conversation. 

For those who didn’t consider the 2018 All-Star Race a success, just look back a season ago. The 2017 All-Star Race was as boring of a race as any of the past few years. There were four lap-leaders in total and only three cautions (all for stage breaks). This year’s race provided twelve changes for lap-lead and the tighter racing produced eight cautions. Furthermore, Kevin Harvick’s margin of victory (0.325 seconds) was the closest in the All-Star Race since Harvick edged Jimmie Johnson by 0.141 seconds in the 2007 version of the event. The experimental aero package worked.

Make no mistakes about it. I don’t think that the success of the aero package on Saturday Night means that NASCAR should try and implement a similar aero package at other tracks a mile and a half or greater this season. They should absolutely look into it for select tracks in 2019 though. Prime targets include California, Michigan, Texas, and Kentucky, but that’s another discussion for another day.

Moments of the All-Star Race

My first moment of the race came at the end of Stage 3. During the first lap of a Green-White-Checkered finish, four-wide racing didn’t sort itself out resulting in Martin Truex Jr. pinching Ricky Stenhouse Jr. going into turn three. Truex Jr. went spinning and collected several others including both Busch brothers and Brad Keselowski. On the ensuing restart, Kevin Harvick slung himself around the outside of three cars between the start-finish line and the end of turn two. Then he overtook leader Daniel Suarez on the outside in turns three and four to take the stage victory.

The second moment of the race was Harvick’s pass for the win. After Joey Logano and Kyle Larson tangled through the tri-oval to bring out the caution with two to go, the field was back double-file for a Green-White-Checkered. On the restart, Suarez received a big push from teammate Denny Hamlin in turns one and two. By FS1’s aerial coverage the #19 looks like he’s clear of Harvick who restarted on the outside. However, instead of going up and blocking Harvick’s momentum, Suarez elected to not get run over by Harvick, who was being pushed by third-place Logano. Harvick clears Suarez and has smooth sailing to the checkered flag. 

All-Star Race Results Thoughts

Happy Harvick

Experimental aero package or not, Kevin Harvick and the #4 Stewart-Hass Racing Ford Team are ridiculously good this season. They’re taking Martin Truex Jr.’s dominance from a season ago to a whole new level. Five points race wins and an All-Star trophy within the first thirteen events of the season. We haven’t seen this type of dominance since Jeff Gordon set the series on fire in 1998. That season Gordon went on to win thirteen points races on his way to his third career Cup title. While the playoffs are the great equalizer in today’s NASCAR, I see no indication of why Harvick won’t be racing for the title at Homestead. 

Open Advancers

Aside from Harvick,  all the drivers who advanced from the Monster Energy Open were impressive. Alex Bowman and AJ Allmendinger used their experience from the earlier race to make hellacious runs through the pack in the first stage. Though Bowman’s night ended early after getting loose and hitting the outside wall, it was good to see the #88 continue to get better every week. Allmendinger hung around the 5-9 range most of the night and brought home a solid eighth-place finish for the #47 JTG Racing Team. Chase Elliott, who advanced to the All-Star Race via fan-vote, took his #9 Chevy home fifth.

Out of the four, I was most impressed with YOUNG Daniel Suarez and the #19 Joe Gibbs Racing Team. YDS ran up front all evening and was a legit contender for the victory. Personally, I wanted YDS to take the victory after my $$$ pick (Larson) was taken out. He finished second in three of the four stages and had Harvick cleared on the final restart. Had he slid up and thrown the block, the outcome may have been different. As Jeff Gordon put it in the FS1 booth, “It would’ve been risky, but I think he could’ve done it.” After Saturday Night’s run, I’m expecting a confidence boost for Suarez and his team heading into the next couple of weeks and wouldn’t be surprised if he is in contention during this weekend’s 600. 

Other Impressions

After both were caught up in wrecks throughout the race, I was by the resilience of Kyle Busch and Kasey Kahne’s teams both bringing home top ten finishes. Yes, it may have everything to do with having restrictor plates on the race cars, but damn, they still had to overcome major adversity to do it. 

My one disappointment from the All-Star race was Matt Kenseth and the whole #6 Roush Racing Team. After sitting on the pole, I was convinced Kenseth was going to at least be in contention at the end. Instead, they immediately fell back and were never a threat. Kenseth finished fourteenth in a field that had sixteen cars running at the end.

All in all, this was an excellent event. I certainly hope NASCAR uses this package for future All-Star Races. 

Loose, But Fast Blog: Monster Energy All-Star Race

Loose, But Fast Blog: Monster Energy All-Star Race

Preview

Tonight marks the 34th running of the Monster Energy All-Star Race. It’s the lone gathering of the season where points don’t matter and all eyes are on the $1 Million dollar prize. Over the years, the All-Star race has been used to experiment with new rules, new aero/tire packages, and other aspects of the racing product as a high-dollar testing ground. This year is no different. For the first time ever at Charlotte Motor Speedway, NASCAR will mandate that every car racing this evening must have a restrictor plate under the throttle body to reduce speeds. This is in hopes to induce closer racing and put on a better show for the fans.

After this morning’s final practice, ESPN’s Bob Pockrass pointed out the difference in final practice speeds from this year to last year. 

Though speeds were down roughly sixteen miles per hour from last season, 30 of the 38 cars to make a practice run were within three miles an hour from the top speed of 173.305 by Kyle Larson. From the abbreviated video seen from the from this morning’s untelevised practice, passing looks possible and racing should be intense and exciting. The most telling sign, the drivers seem eager to get going. 

Monster Energy Open

Tonight’s event will kick off around 6 PM (weather permitting) with the Monster Energy Open. This will be the race to get into the $$$ race. The Open will feature a 21 car lineup of all current Cup regulars who were not already eligible for the main event (2017 & 2018 race winners and former All-Star Race winners). Four drivers will advance from the 50 lap race, the stage winners from the first two 20 lap stages will automatically advance along with the winner of the final 10 lap shootout. The final spot will be decided by fan-vote. Since qualifying was rained out Friday, the starting grid for The Open was set by owners points.

Monster Energy All-Star Race

After The Open concludes, the main event is scheduled to begin at 8 PM.  This season’s All-Star Race will once again be broken into four stages. Stage 1 will be 30 laps, Stage 2 will end on lap 50,  and Stage 3 will end on lap 70. The Final Stage will be a 10-lap dash with a million dollars on the line. Unlike previous All-Star Races, this season there are no mandatory pit stops, eliminations, or random inversions of the field (my personal favorite). 

While The Open qualifying was rained out, qualifying for the All-Star Race was not. The All-Star field, save the four Open advancers, will start as follows:

2018 Monster Energy All-Star Race Starting Grid

Start # Driver Team Make  Eligibility
1 6 Matt Kenseth #DoYouKnowJack/Roush  Ford 2017 Race Win (ISM)/2004 ASR Win
2 17 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Fastenal/Roush  Ford 2017 Race Win (Talladega/Daytona)
3 14 Clint Bowyer SHR Fan Club/Stewart-Hass Ford 2018 Race Win (Martinsville)
4 4 Kevin Harvick Jimmy John’s/Stewart-Hass Ford 2017, 2018 Race Win (7x)/2007 ASR Win
5 78 Martin Truex Jr. 5 Hr. Energy-Bass Pro/Furniture Row Toyota 2017, 2018 Race Win (9x)
6 12 Ryan Blaney Hawk-Carlisle/Penske Ford 2017 Race Win (Pocono)
7 18 Kyle Busch M&M’s/Gibbs Toyota 2017, 2018 Race Win (8x)/2017 ASR Win
8 2 Brad Keselowski Discount Tire/Penske Ford 2017 Race Win (3x)
9 3 Austin Dillon Dow/Childress Chevrolet 2017, 2018 Race Win (Charlotte/Daytona)
10 22 Joey Logano Shell Pennzoil/Penske Ford 2018 Race Win (Talladega)/2016 ASR Win
11 48 Jimmie Johnson Lowe’s/Hendrick Chevrolet 2017 Race Win (3x)/ASR Win (03, 06, 12, 13)
12 1 Jamie McMurray Bass Pro Shops-Tracker/Ganassi Chevrolet 2014 ASR Win
13 31 Ryan Newman Caterpillar-Grainger/Childress Chevrolet 2017 Race Win (ISM)/2002 ASR Win
14 11 Denny Hamlin FedEx/Gibbs Toyota 2017 Race Win (2x)/2015 ASR Win
15 41 Kurt Busch Monster Energy/Stewart-Hass Ford 2017 Race Win (Daytona)/2010 ASR Win
16 42 Kyle Larson Credit One Bank/Ganassi Chevrolet 2017 Race Win (4x)
17 95 Kasey Kahne Dumont Jets/Leavine Family Racing Chevrolet 2017 Race Win (IMS)/2008 ASR Win
18 TBD by Monster Energy Open
19 TBD by Monster Energy Open
20 TBD by Monster Energy Open
21 TBD by Monster Energy Open Fan Vote

 


Predictions

Monster Energy Open

With a chance to advance to the Million Dollar Main Event, the Monster Energy Open usually provides awesome racing. With the addition of the restrictor plate, the action should get even tighter.  Here’s how I think things will shake down in The Open

Stage 1

Aric Almirola flexes the Stewart-Hass/Ford muscle. AA takes Stage 1 from the pole leading all 20 laps despite great, close racing in the pack.

Stage 2

With Almirola already in the Main Event, Stage 2 becomes a three-horse race between Eric Jones, Chase Elliott, and Daniel Suarez. Chase Elliott holds on to win, throwing a wrench into the fan vote. 

Stage 3

Everything is a mess, the field ends up wrecking once if not twice. Somehow, Paul Menard survives and advances. 

Fan Vote

With Chase Elliott winning Stage 2, the fan vote is up for grabs, most likely between Bubba Wallace, Alex Bowman, AJ Allmendinger, and dark-house Matt DiBenedetto. Bubba wins the vote and advances.

Advancing: Aric Almirola, Chase Elliott, Paul Menard, Bubba Wallace

Monster Energy All-Star Race

Stage 1

Everyone plays nice, Kevin Harvick battles Truex Jr. for the win, Harvick prevails.

Stage 2

Everyone plays nice again. Truex edges Harvick.

Stage 3 

Kyle Larson makes his presence felt but finishes 2nd to Truex.

Stage 4

In the final stage, insanity is everywhere. The field wrecks once, taking out a major contender or two. From third, Larson slingshots Clint Bowyer and Truex Jr. to take the checkered flag and $1 Million Dollar payday.

 


Final Thoughts

I have to applaud NASCAR for trying something different. At first, I was very skeptical of putting restrictor plates on cars at Charlotte. Now I can’t wait to see what tonight has in store. In all, I think tonight should be one of the most entertaining races of the season. Tune in to find out. I’m always down to get the conversation going, find me on Twitter at @QMS_Rongy. HAPPY ALL-STAR RACE DAY PEOPLE.

 

It’s been a while since I wrote about NASCAR. I’m back though, for good. Check out more from the Loose, But Fast Blog and Podcast in the future.

Truex Jr. Captures Monster Energy Cup

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