Thursday, June 30, 2016

Larson Mistake Costly At Sonoma

Sonoma - The thunder of the cars revving up in the garage area at Sonoma Raceway was deafening. These powerful machines glistened in the morning sky. The car surfaces were dotted all over with the logos of the race team’s sponsors. Each crew member almost methodically moved around the garage and they seemed to have a role in the preparation of the NASCAR Sprint Cup car. Each man knew that it was his job to tweak, adjust or make something in that car exactly right.

It was still three hours before the green flag would start the Toyota/SaveMart 350, but these racing machines needed to be tuned to the smallest mark to negotiate what is perhaps one of the more tolling races annually for these cars. Sonoma Raceway is a road coarse with big changes in elevations, not the traditional ovals or tri-ovals these cars run much of the NASCAR season.

The engines revved for several minutes while a couple mechanics looked at read-outs on their laptops, plugged into the complicated wiring installed in these cars. One mechanic said they can see almost everything that moves internally in the car. 
The pit crew of Kyle Larson's #42 Target Chevy do their work
during a green flag stop. Larson was penalized on this
pit stop for speeding in the pits and cost him a likely
top five finish at the Toyota/SaveMart 350 Sunday.

The engines were then turned off and their crews, all wearing their matching team colors, pushed them into the pit area. Then the pageantry began; a rock band plays on a portable stage at the start/finish line, jets fly overhead in formation, drivers are introduced one at a time to cheers from fans from all over the sprawling grounds of Sonoma. Then it’s time for God Bless America and the National Anthem. A couple jets from the 114th Fighter Squadron at Kingsley Field in Oregon zoomed in about 500 feet over the track and rumbled the ground. Parachutists dragging flags and colored smoke bombs drop in.

Finally, after about an hour of all the hoopla, it was time for racing.

Drivers got into their cars and Sonoma State University president Ruben Arminana announced, “Drivers, start your engines.”

Crowds cheer, drivers flip their switches and the engines once again come to life. The roar was again deafening. If you didn’t have ear plugs, you had a headache when it was all over three hours later.

Then, in an entertaining race with no collisions and only six caution flags, mostly for debris on the track, there was a two-man dual. Retiring Sprint Cup driver Tony Stewart grabbed the lead coming out of a caution period with 22 laps remaining. He was hounded by Denny Hamlin the rest of the way. In fact, Hamlin grabbed the lead briefly on the final lap but in the final turn, a hairpin right turn that turns back towards the finish lane, Hamlin slid wide and Stewart took advantage and snuck the nose of his car inside and floored the accelerator to the checkered flag.

“I couldn’t believe as good as he was braking going into (turn) 11and I was shocked he missed the corner,” Stewart said. “I was shocked he left the door open like that. You can’t crack the door open with me on the last lap like that. I’ll take it.”

It was Stewart’s first win on NASCAR’s biggest circuit since June 2, 2013 and his 49th in 598 career NASCAR Sprint Cup races.

The other race teams quickly pushed their cars back to the garages while Stewart, his crew and sponsors and family celebrated in the Sunoco Winners’ Circle. The shiny surfaces of these racers of three hours earlier were, well, gone and dirty. They all needed a car wash, badly.

But really these machines weren’t going to see soap and water. They needed to go to the body shop first. Just about every one of them was dented in on both sides of the car. That’s because negotiating the 1.99 mile, 11-turn road coarse means you will bump and grind against your competitors throughout the 350 kilometer race.

Tires, some with large chunks in the surface, but all showing great wear, were removed. The cars were lifted into their elite 18-wheel haulers and in a matter of what seemed like a few minutes tools and equipment were all packed away. The crews stripped off their special one-piece suits, most drenched in perspiration and were tanking down cold water. Their next destination, Daytona Beach, Fla., was on most of their minds.

One driver very disappointed was Elk Grove’s Kyle Larson. He started fifth at the start and slowly moved his way up the ranks. His strategy was to pit early before anyone else and then recover when the others pitted. With 50 laps gone, Larson was in second place, chasing Hamlin. Once again, Larson came into the pits on a green flag. It looked like a quality pit stop, but right away NASCAR slapped him with a penalty for coming into the pit area at more than the prescribed 45 mph. He dropped back to 14th place and finished in 12th place.

“But I had fun, I’m excited.” he said.

Larson acted like he didn’t want to talk much, once again searching for his first win on the Sprint Cup circuit.

The fans, some 90,000 is what was estimated, all tried to leave, but the roads around the Raceway are just two-laned. Most folks were inching along Highways 121 and 37 for a couple hours trying to go home. Many people spend the weekend in their RV’s in a large field east of the Raceway. There had to be hundreds of them.

They sit outside the RV’s while others fight the traffic. They’ll go home Monday. They’ve made it a weekend in wine country watching the world’s best drivers.

See photos from the Toyota/SaveMart 350 on John’s facebook,

Thursday, June 09, 2016

Carlson A Surprise MLB First-Rounder

As Major League Baseball was ready to wrap up the end of the first round with a pair of selections by the St. Louis Cardinals a familiar name was announced by Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred: "With the 33rd pick in the first round of the Major League Baseball Draft, the St. Louis Cardinals select Dylan Carlson, outfielder, from Elk Grove High School, Elk Grove, California."

The 6-3, 220-pound all-around player for the Sac-Joaquin Section's Division I champions jumped out of the pile of prospects on the lists of baseball brass and into the opening round of MLB's 2016 Draft Thursday night. 
Dylan Carlson, drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals in the first round

The selection, the second of three first round picks by the Cardinals, took many of the experts by surprise because MLB.Com didn't even have Carlson rated in the top 200 prospects.

"It is a bit of a surprise," John Manuel of Baseball America said during the live telecast on Thursday. "He's a guy with a ton of intangibles. He may be the best make-up guy in the whole draft. It's a baseball family, his dad is a coach, a baseball program that has produced high draft picks like Rowdy Tellez and J.D. Davis. It's a well-regarded program. So, he grew up around that program, switch hits and last year at the Area Code Games he played first base, but this spring moved to the outfield. He's shown scouts average run times and will likely stay in the outfield, probably not center, likely left. He pitches as well and has arm strength, but what you are buying is a sweet swing and projectable power."

Other experts said the choice of Carlson was good for the Cardinals, but surprised he would be selected in the first round. They surmise it was because team officials think they can sign Carlson this summer.

Carlson, who drilled ten home runs this season for the Thundering Herd and batted .394, has signed a National Letter of Intent to play next season for Cal State - Fullerton. 

Harold Reynolds, a former Seattle Mariner infielder and MLB Network commentator loved the pick of Carlson.
"A switch-hitter, his dad is a coach, he's got great size, the things you look for," Reynolds said. "I love the fact he slipped under the radar."

Carlson is a four-year starter who was on Herd baseball teams that won three of the last four Section Division I championships. His father, Jeff, has been the Herd head varsity coach for 15 seasons and has won seven Section titles.

Manning Drafted 1st Round - Ninth Overall - By Tigers

Sheldon High School's multi-sport star Matt Manning has been selected in the first round by the Detroit Tigers, the ninth selection overall, of Major League Baseball's Draft.

Manning, a 6-6 right-handed pitcher who throws fastballs regularly at 92-95 mph, was 2-1 with a 1.91 ERA and struck out 77 batters in 40 1/3rds innings for the Huskies who finished second in the Delta League. He also batted .493 at the plate, leading the league in that category amongst regular starters.

Named this season as the Delta League's Most Valuable Player in basketball, Manning has signed a National Letter of Intent to play baseball and basketball at Loyola Marymount. But, with the potential of signing a pro baseball contract with a signing bonus that could be as high as a $3-$5 million, it's likely he'll pursue baseball professionally.

With that aside, Manning was being discussed thoroughly by baseball draft insiders as a real solid baseball prospect because of his ability to consistently throw a 92-95 mph fastball, plus his athleticism as shown this year not just on the mound, but at the plate. Tonight on MLB Network commentator Dan O'Dowd liked the choice.

"A well-above average fastball with a a ton of late life, secondary pitches are still developing," O'Dowd said. "He's one of these picks where you are going to have to slow his development time down a little. Taller guys take a little longer to get to the big leagues. That starts at there initial level and getting their foundation right."

If Manning does indeed sign, he will join his father, Rich, with a career in professional sports. The Atlanta Hawks of the NBA in 1993 drafted the elder Manning in the 2nd round, the 40th overall. He played eight seasons of professional basketball, including two years with the Vancouver Grizzlies and a year with the Clippers.

The younger Manning is the second Elk Grove resident drafted out of high school in the first round. In 2014 the Tigers took Derek Hill of Elk Grove H.S. 23rd overall. He's currently in High-A baseball in the Midwest League, playing centerfield. Laguna Creek's Casey Weathers was a first round draft choice of the Colorado Rockies in 2007, 8th overall, after his senior year at Vanderbilt University. He is now playing with Double-A Akron in the Cleveland organization.

The highest Sacramento-area player selected in the first round was Butch Edge of El Camino H.S., selected sixth overall in 1974.