Smoke won the Ford 400 at Homestead Miami Speedway, the final race of the season to claim his the Championship of his career. He quite literately had to win that race since he ended the season tied with Carl Edwards who finished second. Despite winning the race, Smoke only won the Championship on the tie-breaker. He had the most wins in 2011, 5. All of them in the Chase. After winning the first two Chase races at Chicago and Loudon, his team went into the shitter ((or, the loo, for those of you Shropshire Lads reading this in Church Stretton)). At Dover, Kansas and Charlotte, the results were horrible. So horrible, in fact, that at Charlotte, he told his crew chief Darien Grubb that Grubb was done at the end of the season…that the results in the pits, the car prep were not acceptable. The following week at Talladega, Stewart got a decent 7th place finish. But then the team somehow kicked into high gear ((any and all puns not intended)). With his lame duck crew chief Darien Grubb leading the charge, Smoke went on to win 3 of the final 4 races. And the Championship.
I did not watch the festivities and from Las Vegas Friday night. It’s oddly disconcerting on some level to see these guys in 3 piece suits instead of firesuits. And while Stewart was the life of the party and so on, clever rejoinders and sparkling repartee and all that dross, the only words, the only talking that really matters are the ones that took place on the track. Not taking anything away from Jimmie Johnson, but I’m glad he did not win a 6th. NASCAR was getting boring, to be honest with the same guy, no matter how great, winning it all the time. Jimmie Johnson is a great and cool guys and all that, and it’s unfair to say it, but he’s boring as hell for some reason.
Smoke, however, is never boring, for any reason. And he made the Chase interesting for a change and gave us the most thrilling finish in recent memory. And the fact that he beat The Carl to win made it all that more sweet. Still, you wonder how he did it. He came into the Chase after Richmond in 9th place, with no wins and only 3 top 5 finishes all season. He barely made the Chase to be honest. And despite winning the first two Chase races, the performance slid back to it’s season-long level of semi-mediocrity ((by Smoke’ standards, of course….quite a few teams out there would KILL their Grandma for that level of mediocity)). So did he and Grubb do it? With Smoke and mirrors?? ((http://youtu.be/_Rav9ijyyZk)).
In any case, it was a great NASCAR season, and for the first time in years I’m actually looking forward to next year. I will say that firing Darien Grubb, who really and truly got Smoke the Championship, tarnishes my enthusiasm a bit for Smoke’s win. But the decision was made earlier on, and somehow, I missed that meeting. No doubt I was checking the results of that thrilling League 2 match between Torquay United and Gillingham when it was announced that Grubb would be gone at the end of the season. Gillingham, by the way marched down to the Plainmoor Ground and pounded the hometown lads 2-5. So, I guess I can let that one go. Grubb will wind up in a good place, and maybe for him, even a better place.
Manchester United 2 Benfica 2
Aston Villa 0 Manchester United 1
Oh hell….let’s just get this out of the way right now. It’s only the first week of December and ‘though Sir Alex would never admit it, it’s already squeeky bum time over at Old Trafford. No double or triple or quadruple for Man U THIS season. They got boosted, at HOME from the Carling Cup by those formidable Championship stalwarts, Crystal Palace ((http://youtu.be/_Rav9ijyyZk)). They drew at home to Benfica, and now must at the very least draw at Basel to qualify for the Champions League knockout rounds. If Basel wins, it very likely is all over for Man U…..well they can console themselves by beating Stoke when they drop down to Europa League. Benfica’s final tilt is at home with Oţelul Galaţi, a (s)crappy squad from Romania, but I’m counting that as win for Benfica….any reasonable sporting lad would. So it comes down to Man U’s trip to Basel. Basel wins, and it all over. Basel wins Group C and will get a top seed, Benfica takes 2nd to move on, and Man U drops to Europa to duke it out the with Stoke City, and from the look of it, their noisy neighbors. It’s kind of like being the top NCAA team at the start of the season, and then winding up in the NIT. ((http://youtu.be/_Rav9ijyyZk)) Not that Man U was all that poised to win the Champions League this year. My fave to win it all is Bayern München and I’m sticking with that pick. ((obviously I want Chelsea to win it all, but….not bloody likely I’m afraid)).
As for the FA Cup, well….guess who Man U just drew this morning (here in the States) for the Third Round Proper Qualifying, which opens the weekend of January 7th and 8th 2012? Well-played ye sporting lads of Blanchardville and Ridgeway, Wisconsin!! You guessed correctly! Man U plays their noisy neighbors, who are not only the defending FA Cup Champions, but are also atop the Premier League table by a 5 point margin. ((http://youtu.be/_Rav9ijyyZk)) Man U fans worldwide, even those in Union Grove, Wisconsin are wondering, “Why couldn’t WE have drawn Oldham Athletic or Southend United like those farking Scousers did? Why couldn’t WE have drawn Portsmouth like Chelski did?” I’m quite sure it had absolutely nothing to do with the fact legendary Chelsea great Gianfranco Zola ((no relation to Emile Zola)) made the draw (along with ex-Everton midfielder Li Tie). So there ya go, one more less piece of hardware to worry about.
Their noisy neighbors are atop the Premier League by a 5 point margin. Can Man U o’ertake them and repeat as Premier League Champions? Yes they can. And no they won’t. My feeling is that Manchester City has this pretty well locked up, very much like Sebastien Vettel had the F1 Championship locked up for all intents and purposes at this point in the season. It will be just like F1 this season, with Man U (Fernando Alonso), Tottenham (Mark Webber), Chelsea (Lewis Hamilton), and Arsenal (Jensen Button) duking it out for the right to avoid qualifying for the Champions League group stage in grim Eastern European shit-holes. The astute observer in Bluemounds, Wisconsin will note that I did naught mention Newcastle. In spite of all of Mike Ashley’s fucktardary, the Magpies have started this season brightly, but I’m afraid they’ll be just on the outside looking on when all is said and done.
Chelsea 0 Liverpool 2
Bayer Leverkusen 2 Chelsea 1
What AVB is trying to accomplish at Chelsea so far this season, at least from a philosophical, strategic, and tactical standpoint, can only be described as vapourware. It sounded all good when the release was announced on the day he was hired, but 14 matches into the season, the product is still under development and no actual discernable product is in sight. I think I like what AVB is trying to, but I’m sure anymore quite what that is. He appears to havbe turned the first 14 games of the EPL into an extended pre-season. He keeps tinkering with the squad, the tactics m the strategy. He fiddles with it during matches and make substitutions that make, on the surface very little sense such as yesterday’s aubbing of Kalou for Juan Mata….I mean, what the fuck? And yet, all the while, he keeps the impression that there is some mad genius at work as the aformentioned Kalou netted Chelsea’s 2nd goal on a pass from Torres.
I’m really not sure with Chelsea what the hell is going on. I never know what to expect, other than a sudden explosion at any moment. Or an implosion as evidenced by the recent tilts with Liverpool and the Champions League tile with Bayer Leverkusen. There are starting lineups that make sense, yet what difference does it make since AVB will shake it up for the next match. The only consistency this season for Chelsea has been inconsistency. And that can’t possibly be a good thing. Yes they are 4th in table so far this season. Can Chelsea win the Premier League this season? Yes they can, and no they won’t. Not at this rate anyway.
AVB had got to settle on a starting lineup that makes sense and stick with it. I’m sorry to say it but the old heros need to ride the plywood….okay okay….Lamps and Drog Ba can watch the game from the comfy chairs. We need to be quicker and sharper. Torres, Sturridge and Mata up front. Romeu, Mireles, Ramires in the middle. Luiz, Ivanovic, Cole and Terry on the back line. That would make more sense, week in and week out. Chelsea needs to pick up some stout defenders during the January transfer window….Terry is great but not as great as he was. Luiz is not and never will be the next John Terry. We need to find a hard Czech bastard or two, or someone like Clay Matthews.
Meanwhile, wait ’til ya see Chelsea FC v14.02 that will be released this Tuesday at Stamford Bridge. It will be new, wild and different. And LOADED with new features and bug fixes!! Valencia has better bring their Action Gamemasters, or else!!
On Friday, December 2nd in Kiev, Ukraine, the Euro 2012 Group Stage Draw was held. ESPNNews broadcast it live here in the States. I missed watching the draw live, but sources close to my situation informed me that it went well, all decorum and dignity. No drunken brawls or any other sort of egregious mischief. I will have a lot to say about Euro 2012 as time marches brightly along.
But for now, thus:
Every international group stage competition has a Group of Death. In fact, when I checked the results of the draw the first thing I looked for was which group was the Group of Death. And for Euro 2012, Group B is the Group of Death. Group B is Netherlands, Germany, Denmark & Portugal. Good Lord!! Bloody Hell!! Not much else to say about that except for Jesus Fucking Christ!!
And of course, England. England is in Group D with Ukraine, Sweden, and The Fackin’ Frenchies!! I think despite themselves, England will pull this one off.
More thoughts on this as they occur. BELIEVE it!!
The inauguaral Big 10 Championship wasn’t everything you could have asked for. It went down to the wire. And when the dust settled, Wisconsin won. Ironically, they won the almost the same way MIchagan State beat them earlier in the season….on a Hail Mary pass (Russell Wilson to Tim Duckworth to 4 yard line) and a critical Special Teams mistake (xxx from MIcghan State ran into the punter). Wisconsin, who their 1st quarter 14 point dissaper in the 2nd quarter, took the game back in the 4th quarter and held on to win. It was a great game, and thrilling finish. And fair play to Michigan State. They played a hell of a game.
And with that, I’ll put away MY smoke and mirrors and grab a cold can of SCHLITZ. On Wisconsin!!