Analyst Darrell Waltrip’s famous words to start each NASCAR race televised by Fox Sports will be heard Sunday, Feb. 26 when the green flag drops at 2 p.m. for the 59th Daytona 500. Here’s Waltrip at the start of last year’s race and following it are three of my favorite race, two of which I covered.
HARVICK NIPS MARTIN TO WIN 2007 DAYTONA 500
Popular driver Mark Martin, who never won the race, entered the 49th running on a limited-race deal and took the lead shortly before a lap-175 crash brought out a yellow. He was still leading when the crash was red-flagged for a crash to set up a green-white-checkered finish. Coming out of the fourth turn heading to the finish line, Martin was trying to hold off Kevin Harvick when a multi-car incident occurred behind their two cars. The rule at the time was to freeze the field at the point the time the yellow was thrown. If it had been at the time of the crash, there are some who believe Martin would have finished ahead of Harvick. But no yellow light appeared, Harvick passed Martin and finished .02 ahead to win the Daytona “505.”
FIGHT IN 1979 DAYTONA 500
The 21st running of the Great American Race is considered by many the most important race in NASCAR’s history. On the 200th and final lap, Cale Yarborough and Donnie Allison bumped into each other on the backstretch and then collected in the third turn of the tri-oval. That allowed Richard Petty to pass both and claim his sixth Daytona 500 victory. While Petty made his way to Victory Lane, Yarborough and Allison exited their cars and began fighting, and Allison’s brother Bobby pulled up and joined in the fray. As announcer Dick Berggren later said, “Nobody knew it then but that was the race that got everything going.”
“HELLO NEWMAN” WINS DAYTONA 500 IN 2008
The 50th running of the race had added interest for yours truly because it was won by 30-year-old Ryan Newman, a South Bend, Ind., native who grew up driving midgets and came the attention of well-known race-car owner Roger Penske, who I got to know while covering the Indianapolis 500 for the South Bend Tribune for more than 20 years. Newman, an engineering graduate from Purdue, tested Indy cars for Penske before settling on stock cars and earning the nickname “Rocket Man” for his ability to win poles. On the 200th lap, Newman got a push from his Penske Racing teammate Kurt Busch to pass Tony Stewart and Kyle Busch for his and Penske’s first Daytona 500 victory.
CUBS QUIETLY TELL SAMMY SOSA WHERE HE CAN BLOW HIS KISSES
Remember how Sammy Sosa followed every home run he hit for the Chicago Cubs with kisses to the television camera?
Sosa, who had back-to-back seasons of 66 and 63 homers in 1998 and ’99 and then 64 more in 2001, finished with 609 in his 18-year career, 545 of them during 13 years with the Cubs, and probably should be in the Hall of Fame except he played in the steroid era and was suspected of using performance-enhancing drugs.
In the most recent vote for enshrinement in Cooperstown, N.Y., Sosa appeared on 38 of the more than 400 ballots cast by members of the Baseball Writers Asssociation of America, just 8.6 percent when 75 percent or more is needed.
You’d think the Cubs, who last fall won their first World Series since 1908 and are favored again this season, would love to have this franchise face back – at their January Cubs Convention, to throw out a first pitch every now and then, to sing during the seventh-inning stretch … heck, to blow more kisses to the faithful at Clark & Addison.
The current owners, the Ricketts family, have welcomed back many ex-Cubs, several who left Chicago with baggage either they or previous regimes carried from relationships gone bad. And Sosa’s relationship with the Cubs didn’t end well in 2004. He played in Baltimore in 2005, sat out 2006 and then ended his career in 2007 in Texas.
All the Ricketts have hoped for is Sosa coming clean, admitting his past mistakes. Sosa, of course, has denied ever using PEDs. He reiterated as much in a blog posted by former Cubs front office employee Chuck Wasserstrom.
“First of all, I’m clean,” Sosa said. “They don’t have a case on me. I never failed a drug test. Never in my life.”
Well, that probably didn’t sit well with the Ricketts. Nor did this.
“It’s like Jesus Christ when he came to Jerusalem,” Sosa told Wasserstrom. “Everybody thought Jesus Christ was a witch (Sosa laughs) – and he was our savior. So if they talk (excrement deleted) about Jesus Christ, what about me? Are you kidding me?”
Kiss this, Sammy.
ROLL TIDE? EBB TIDE
On Jan. 9, 2017, Nick Saban’s top-ranked Alabama lost to No. 2 Clemson, 35-31, in the College Football Playoff National Championship Game at Tampa’s Raymond James Stadium.
Then on Sunday, the University of Alabama’s club hockey team dropped a 9-7 decision on its home rink at the Pelham Civic Center to the club team representing Life University of Marietta, Ga.
Wonder how all this is sitting with “The Bear.”
IN THE TRADITION OF “HILL STREET BLUES” …
1. NEVER PLAY DODGE BALL WITH A SOFTBALL PITCHER
2. FORGET FRANK, DEAN AND SAMMY … HERE’S THE NEW RAT PACK
3. SINCE WHEN DID THE CHISHOLM TRAIL RUN THROUGH QUEENS, N.Y.?
4. BUT THEN, THERE ONCE WAS A BULL LOOSE ON “EVERYBODY LOVES RAYMOND” …