NASCAR is in Atlanta this weekend, and things are off to a bad start

USA Today reports:

Travis Kvapil’s car for this weekend’s Sprint Cup Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway was stolen from outside Team Xtreme’s hotel early Friday morning, police said.

The rest of the story, including some truly enlightening comments from the Morrow Police Department, is available here.

Staff at ALDLAND’s Atlanta office are circulating the below picture of Kvapil’s vehicle, last seen at Daytona International Speedway last week, where Reed Sorenson drove it to a thirty-second-place finish at the Daytona 500.

Welcome to Atlanta, Travis. Next time maybe use the hotel valet service, and whatever you do, don’t blame Winter Storm Tupac.

UPDATE: Kvapil and Team Xtreme have withdrawn from this weekend’s race, promising to return for next week’s race at Las Vegas.

On the Road Again: A study of NHL rink variation

One of the important background dimensions to comparative baseball statistics is known as “park adjustments,” a set of corrective factors applied to account for the physical differences (e.g., outfield wall depth) between each park. Among American sports today, only Major League Baseball and NASCAR (and golf, I suppose) permit such structural variation between the competitive arenas themselves.

Professional hockey used to be in that group too. More than merely adjusting, adding, and subtracting lines on the ice to affect the flow of play, as the NHL continues to do (cf. the NBA three-point line), the rinks themselves used to be different sizes. League rules mandate a uniform rink size, but so-called “small rinks” persisted in the NHL as late as the 1980s and 1990s in Boston, Chicago, and Buffalo.

While hockey does not face the structural differences present in baseball, there still is a need to apply rink-by-rink statistical adjustments. That’s because the compiling of basic hockey statistics (e.g., shots, hits, turnovers) requires statisticians to make judgment calls to a more significant degree than in a discrete-event sport like baseball.

By way of limited background, the NHL collects basic gameplay statistics through a computer system known as the Real Time Scoring System (RTSS). A benefit of RTSS is that it aggregates and organizes data for analysis by teams, players, and fans. A vulnerability of RTSS is the subjectivity alluded to above that comes when human scorers track a fluid, dynamic sport like hockey.

While others have noted certain biases among the RTSS scorers at different rinks, a paper by Michael Schuckers and Brian Macdonald published earlier this month analyzes those discrepancies across a spread of core statistics and proposes a “Rink Effects” model that aims to do for subjective rink-to-rink differences in hockey scoring what park adjustments do for structural differences between baseball parks.    Continue reading

Tony Stewart and Our Need to Know (via Sports On Earth)

tonystewartWe have become a culture that is obsessed with knowing. Our age, with the technology we have at our disposal, is supposed to be different than the ones that came before. There is a sense that all the mysteries of the past can be solved, that gaps in our knowledge are the result of insufficient resources and incurious, casual minds. If there’s anything the information age has brought us, it is the implicit understanding that information, because it is everywhere, can thus tell us everything.

This is the single organizing principle of our age: The sense that there is an inalienable truth, and that we can find it. DNA evidence. Targeted micro-marketing. Cognitive profiling. Data journalism. Instant replay. An undocumented incident that might have been dismissed as folklore or happenstance in the past is pored over for clues now. A meteor appears out of nowhere? Dozens of Russians have dashboard cameras to document it. A plane falls from the sky and lands in the Hudson River? Photos of it are loaded to Twitter before 95 percent of the country even knows what Twitter is. A couple doesn’t give a foul ball to kid who wants it and they’re excoriated on the Today show the next day. Not knowing is not acceptable. We can access our collective power to find out what happened, and why.

And a nightmarish accident happens on a dirt racetrack on Saturday night. A man — a boy, really — dies. Someone captures it with a cellphone. This has to provide us answers. This has to give us some truth. This has to give us some justice. … Read More

(via Sports On Earth)

Elegy of a race car driver: The good times, hard life, and shocking death of Dick Trickle (via SB Nation)

Sometime after 10:30 on a Thursday morning in May, after he’d had his cup of coffee, Dick Trickle snuck out of the house. His wife didn’t see him go. He eased his 20-year-old Ford pickup out on the road and headed toward Boger City, N.C., 10 minutes away. He drove down Highway 150, a two-lane road that cuts through farm fields and stands of trees and humble country homes that dot the Piedmont west of Charlotte, just outside the reach of its suburban sprawl. Trickle pulled into a graveyard across the street from a Citgo station. He drove around to the back. It was sunny. The wind blew gently from the west. Just after noon, he dialed 911. The dispatcher asked for his address.

“Uh, the Forest Lawn, uh, Cemetery on 150,” he said, his voice calm. The dispatcher asked for his name. He didn’t give it.

“On the backside of it, on the back by a ‘93 pickup, there’s gonna be a dead body,” he said.

“OK,” the woman said, deadpan.

“Suicide,” he said. “Suicide.”

“Are you there?”

“I’m the one.”

“OK, listen to me, sir, listen to me.”

“Yes, it’ll be 150, Forest Lawn Cemetery, in the back by a Ford pickup.”

“OK, sir, sir, let me get some help to you.”

Click.

Read More

(via SB Nation)

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Previously
Friday Roundup

Friday Roundup

  • R.I.P. Dick Trickle. He wasn’t Cole’s biological father, but it makes no difference, and he certainly wasn’t any kind of new school driver. As sure as rubbin’ is racin’, the hammer had to drop one final time for Trickle, but this isn’t how we expected it to happen. To the best of the Midwest:

Continue reading

In lieu of a Daytona 500 live blog, here’s a picture of Mark Martin and T.I.

Last year we brought you a live-blogging event of the first and biggest race of the NASCAR season, the Daytona 500. Resources and circumstances preclude similar coverage for this year’s big race, which certainly will be overshadowed by the disastrous crash that resulted in over a dozen fan injuries at the end of yesterday’s Nationwide race, however. Instead, we hope you’ll accept this photograph of pals Mark Martin and T.I. catching up this morning before the race.

We’ll be keeping an eye on developments at the track, so check back here and on twitter for updates.

Nascar’s Next Generation (via WSJ)

Nascar is a sport in need of a tuneup. Attendance has been slipping; viewership has been falling. But Sunday at the Daytona 500, America’s premier form of motor sports will be getting the overhaul it needs.

Daytona, the season’s kickoff extravaganza, marks the race-day debut of Nascar’s “Gen-6” Sprint Cup car, the series’s most innovative overhaul since 2007. … Read More

(via WSJ)

Richard Ben Cramer: A hero missed (via ESPN)

I did not want to work with Richard Ben Cramer.

OK, I did. I adored him as a writer and journalist. I’d devoured his works, from “Joe DiMaggio: The Hero’s Life” to “What Do You Think of Ted Williams Now?” to “What It Takes: The Way To The White House.” The latter had been assigned reading, widely considered one of the greatest political books of the 20th century. The other two I’d bought for permanent placement in my office bookcase.

So yes, of course, I wanted to work with the Pulitzer winner. I had dreamed of working with him on some project at some point in my career. I just didn’t want to work with him on this particular project at this particular time. This one was mine.

What an idiot I was. … Read More

(via ESPN)

New season Monday

Football is underway at all levels, which means that this weekly roundup/preview post is back.

College football’s second week portended less excitement than its opening week, and yet there seemed to be more surprising results this week than last. In particular, two teams with a lot of preseason promise took big hits on Saturday. The Wisconsin Badgers fell out of the Top 25 and fired their offensive line coach after a loss to Oregon State in which the traditional running power generated only thirty-five yards on the ground. Arkansas’ drop from the rankings was even more precipitous, as the Razorbacks lost to Louisiana-Monroe. Michigan, fresh off a no-show against Alabama, nearly lost their home-opener to Air Force, while Clemson nearly doubled up Ball State to stay undefeated, a status they’re likely to carry into their meeting with #5 Florida State in two weeks after facing in-state lightweight Furman this weekend. Michigan State also stayed undefeated with an easy win over Central Michigan, while Vanderbilt fell to 0-2 at Northwestern in a game I attended and more about which I will writehave written.

Robert Griffin III was the star of the NFL’s first Sunday of 2012, while Andrew Luck found himself grouped with more pedestrian rookie QB starters Brandon Weeden and Ryan Tannehill. The always-overhyped Jets turned in the surprise team performance of the day, a 48-28 win over Buffalo. The Lions, who have an official drum line, came from behind to beat the Rams in the last ten seconds of the game, and Peyton Manning returned to form in an ultimately convincing win over Pittsburgh.

Outside of the football world, Serena Williams gutted out a win at the U.S. Open, her fifteenth Grand Slam title, and Jeff Gordon announced that his “absurdly comical mustache” for the NASCAR Chase (i.e., playoffs), which begins this weekend in Chicago.

Juuuuuunnnior!

After four years and 143 races, Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s winning drought is over. It ended at the same track where he got his last win, in June of 2008: Michigan International Speedway. Once the rains cleared in Brooklyn, MI, Junior roared out to lead 95 of 200 laps and ran away from Tony Stewart and the rest of the field on the way to a comfortable victory, with speeds topping out at 212 mph along the long straightaway.

The 88 team has been having a good year. After 15 races, they have 11 top ten finishes, 8 of which were top fives, one of which was yesterday’s victory. This win has been a long time coming not only because it has been a long time since Junior’s won, but because he’s run pretty solidly during those four years, and particularly last year and this year, and he seems to have encountered more than his fair share of bad luck. The stretch, while probably longer than anyone would’ve liked it to be, did give Earnhardt the opportunity to show his critics that wasn’t going to lose due to being immature or a bad teammate. It’s been a long time since anybody could legitimately accuse him of being either. (And the persistent immaturity of the Busch brothers certainly provides a helpful foil.)

In the end, though, I feel pretty good saying that the reason Earnhardt Jr. finally broke through and made it back to victory lane was due to the black paint scheme on his Chevrolet yesterday.