Fab 5: Jason’s Auto Club 400 Picks

March 22, 2014 Leave a comment

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Photo Credit: stevelyon

A year ago this weekend I had the good fortune of attending the Auto Club 400 with the Editor-In-Chief of this very website. I had lived in Cali’ close to three years but had yet to take the 90 minute drive from San Diego to Fontana. It turned out to be the best race I’ve ever seen in person, and really opened my eyes to a pretty vibrant west coast racing culture.

It’s no secret that the sport has been dominated of late by El Cajon, CA native Jimmie Johnson. And still in my mind, California’s racing fans had yet to yield the respect I handed over easily to southerners, as well as those I came in to contact with in my native New England. But my experience in Fontana was perfect. The parking was ample and FREE. The tickets were under $40. The beer was easily snuck in. (Although it took two tries because who knew you had to sneak in beers to a NASCAR race?) And the cars were FAST. Seriously, I’ve been to many races at Loudon, but they don’t touch the speeds found in Fontana for obvious reasons.

I even have video evidence I took myself:

Combine all this was some genuinely passionate fans and what looked to me a near-sellout and Fontana is as legit a NASCAR experience as I’ve ever been able to enjoy.

Alas, I spend this weekend back in New England and, while I’m excited to be living again closer to home, when the green flag drops tomorrow I’ll be watching from the couch envious of the sun-soaked Cali’ fans in the stands.

On to this week’s Fab 5, i.e. my top 5 picks for this weekend’s Auto Club 400…

5.) Kasey Kahne

Kasey Kahne’s average finish for his career at Auto Club Speedway is just 14th, but that does include one win (2005) and 10 top 10’s. (Stats courtesy of Racing-Reference.info, as are the stats below.) Kahne’s inconsistency has marred his time with Hendrick to this point, but he’s been competitive each of the last two weeks and he loves the intermediate tracks. Look for the 5 to compete near the front most of the day, and crossing the checkered’s with his fifth career top-5 finish.

4.) Dale Earnhardt, Jr.

Junior came back down to Earth last week, but it had to happen eventually. Unfortunately for the 88 team, Fontana is a track where the driver has struggled at historically. An average finish of 19th in 21 starts, Earnhardt has no wins and five DNFs on his resume when racing in SoCal. So why the prediction that Junior will net just his sixth top-5 in 22 tries this weekend?

Well, because despite last week’s struggles at Bristol, Junior’s confidence is still high and his team still has that laser focus which kept him in the top-2 the first three weeks of the season. Look for a nice bounce back to top-5 form for the 88 this weekend.

3.) Joey Logano

Joseph was involved in multiple scrums in last year’s Auto Club 400, include the memorable last turn incidence that ended his day and, ultimately, Denny Hamlin’s title chances after a hard lick into the interior wall, courtesy of the 22. Logano thrives on the intermediate tracks, and while he’s yet to reach Victory Lane in 2014, the Pennzoil car – and Penske overall – has been very competitive early on. Don’t be shocked if Logano breaks through and locks up his spot in the Chase with a great run this weekend.

2.) Matt Kenseth

How fun was it to see Kenseth threading through the pack with a pretty-severely damaged car at Bristol last week? Most racing fans (including yours truly) consider Kenseth a Super-speedway racer, but the truth is he can win anywhere, be it short track, road course or the intermediates like Fontana.

This track – and the pace it generally produces – is one in which Kenseth thrives in. Long green flag runs will play to the 20’s advantage, and I’d be shocked if Matty Ice isn’t running near the front when this one hits the final stretch. The dude averages a top-10 finish at Fontana and has won here three times. I’m not going out on a limb with this one.

1.) Jimmie Johnson

It’s only a matter of time before JJ and Co. snap out of it, and what better place to do so than the 6-time Champion’s home track? Johnson’s average finish in his career at Fontant is 5.7 and he’s won in SoCal five times. It would make sense for 6-time to make it an even 6 W’s at Fontana, wouldn’t it?

Honorable Mentions: Kyle Bush (defending champion), Carl Edwards (great on intermediates), Paul Menard (sneaky-good on these tracks and he’s off to a hot start), Ricky Steinhouse, Jr. (showed he’s on the cusp of reaching Victory Lane last weekend in Bristol) and Denny Hamlin (what better way to avenge last year’s fiasco in the final turn?).

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Men’s basketball earns fourth seed

Originally published March, 2008

Original link: Men’s basketball earns fourth seed

The men’s basketball team secured the fourth seed in the upcoming America East tournament on Sunday with an 89-58 rout of the Maine Black Bears.

With the win, the Cats will take on the fifth ranked Binghamton Bearcats this Saturday at the America East tournament in Vestal, N.Y. Tip-off for the game is set for 2:30 p.m.

The victory also allowed the team’s three seniors, Kyle Cieplicki, Chad Powlovich and Timothy McCrory to go out on top in what was likely their final game at Patrick Gymnasium.

The three seniors are the last players remaining on the team from the “Tom Brennan” era, which was highlighted by the Cats’ 2005 upset of Syracuse in the NCAA tournament.

“I am really happy for our seniors that they went out playing their best,” head coach Mike Lonergan said. “We now have a week to prepare and get healthy, and hopefully carry over some of our excellent play from today into the conference tournament.”

The Catamounts, led by junior Mike Trimboli’s 24 points, started off hot by opening up a 19-6 lead just 7:15 into the game.

Shooting over 50 percent from beyond the arc (10-19) certainly helped their cause, as the Cats led by scores of 49-30 and 61-33 on the way to their 31-point triumph.

Sophomore Marqus Blakely added his 15th double-double of the year, chipping in 13 points and 12 rebounds. The Catamounts’ bench also made a big impact in the effort, outscoring the Maine bench 31-13.

Freshman Sean McNally of Maine led the Black Bears with 16 points.

The UVM win was a far cry from Thursday’s 68-65 loss against the struggling University of New Hampshire Wildcats.

The Cats blew a sevenpoint lead with ten minutes to go when the Wildcats went on a 14-1 run in just over four minutes.

UVM responded in the waning moments when Colin Macintosh’s three-pointer cut the UNH lead to two. However, with 2.2 seconds left the Cats could not get a shot-attempt off. The loss eliminated UVM from any hope of gaining the coveted second-seed in the tournament.

However, after regaining their momentum against Maine, UVM will hope their late-season surge will carry over into the match-up against Binghamton. UVM swept the season series against Binghamton.

UVM to cut baseball, softball after 2009 season

Originally published Feb. 2009

Original link: UVM to cut baseball, softball after 2009 season

n a press conference earlier today, UVM associate Vice President and Director of Athletics, Dr. Robert Corran, announced that both the school’s baseball and softball programs would be discontinued after their respective 2009 seasons.

“As part of The University management effort, we have decided to discontinue varsity baseball and softball effective the end of the current season,” Corran said.

Corran cited a $1.1 million dollar gap in revenues versus expenses for the athletic department’s 2009-2010 budget.

A release from the athletic communications department stated that the athletic department will see a 6.5% budget cut for the upcoming year, which is why the decision to cut baseball and softball was made.

“This was an exceptionally difficult decision to make knowing the history and tradition of these programs, and the impact that it will have on the staff and student athletes involved,” Corran said.

“It became more and more clear that we could not close a $1.1 million dollar budget gap using across the board measures without seriously jeopardizing the quality of all of our programs,” Corran said. “Thus the decision to discontinue baseball and softball.”

When asked what other programs were considered in cuts, Corran said that skiing, field hockey, cross country, track and field and swimming were all potentially on the chopping block.

However, according to Corran and the release provided by athletic communications, because baseball and softball had a high expense-to-revenue ratio and taking into account Title IX and facility issues, they were the logical sports to cut in terms of the 2009-2010 budget.

“This decision in no way reflects any discontent or dissatisfaction with either of these programs,” Corran said, also noting that the school and national economic crisis is “bigger than us.”

No players or coaches were available for contact.

US Open hits Stratton: Snowboarding’s best fly over Southern Vermont

Originally published March, 2008

Original Link: US Open hits Stratton

Snowboarding’s elite riders took over Stratton Mountain Resort last week for the Burton US Open.

The event, the last stop in the Burton Global Open Series, began on March 17 with preliminary qualifiers and concluded with the men’s Halfpipe competition on Sunday.

Final events took place over the weeked. On Saturday, with temperatures approaching 40 degrees and not a cloud in the sky, fans labored up the hill to line the edge of the halfpipe.

With a go big or go home attitude, the competition was fierce, with amazing runs from riders like Kevin Pierce who was hot on the heels of first place winner Shaun White.

White was the big winner of the weekend, taking first in both the halfpipe and slopestyle competitions, adding to his extensive trophy case.

On the women’s side, Tora Bright of Australia took first place in the women’s Halpipe finals for the second year in a row. Kelly Clark gave Bright a run for her money and finished a close second.

In the SlopeStyle competition, Kjersti Oestgaard Buaas of Norway earned first-place honors, with Jamie Anderson finishing second.

While White was able to take home both big-money prizes over the weekend, it was not enough for him to overtake Finland’s Peetu Piiroinen in the overall standings.

Bright’s win was enough for her to capture the overall women’s crown.

The US Open, the mother of all snowboarding competions, is now in its 26th year of existence, making it the longestrunning snowboard competition in the world.

Each winner took home a cool $100,000, making the Open the largest prize payout in snowboarding.

UVM cycling club’s triumph earns respect

Originally published April, 2008

Original link: UVM cycling club’s triumph earns respect

After their overall victory at the Boston Beanpot Classic three weekends ago, the UVM cycling club is once again on track to become a nationally ranked team, junior club member Jeffrey Caisse said.

“[The cycling club] had been nationally ranked in previous years,” Caisse said. “The team is progressing a lot and gaining more talented riders.” The club’s success culminated at the Boston Beanpot Classic, where – according to the Eastern Collegiate Cycling Conference Web site – UVM placed first, beating the likes of Boston University, Tufts and a number of other Northeastern cycling teams.

“The Boston Beanpot was a really big race,” Caisse said. Caisse, who has been a member of the club since he was a freshman, said he has seen the team’s success building up a lot over the last few years, in part thanks to the hard work of members who have since graduated.

“[The cycling club’s] success was set up by previous riders that graduated in 2006,” Caisse said.

“Now, we have a lot of riders doing really well and working together to help each other out.”

Caisse said most of the races are team races, making it necessary for riders to work together and in some cases to sacrifice their personal results in for that of the team’s.

The team-first strategy has been paying off. Caisse said the team has placed in the top five in their conference at the two previous meets before their victory in Boston.

The club wrapped up the season at the conference championship in Dartmouth this weekend.

“Coaches’ Corner” radio show to debut at Brennan’s

Originally published Sept., 2008

Original Link: “Coaches’ Corner” radio show to debut at Brennan’s

Beginning on Oct. 6, Catamount sports fans will have a chance to get closer to their favorite UVM coaches and athletes than ever before with the debut of the new radio show “Coaches’ Corner” at Brennan’s Pub.

The show, which will be hosted by new UVM hockey play-by-play announcer Chris Wojcik, will feature interviews with men’s hockey coach Kevin Sneddon and women’s basketball coach Sharon Dawley.

“Coaches’ Corner” will be taped on most Mondays from 6-7 p.m. throughout the first semester, and will air on WVMT-AM 620 on Wednesdays and Thursdays at 9:30 a.m.

“We are extremely excited to launch our new ‘Coaches’ Corner’ radio show at Brennan’s Pub,” Sneddon said.

Each week, Brennan’s Pub will feature food specials during the taping of the show along with trivia.

Also, for the first show, WVMT will be raffling off a ski package courtesy of the Ski Rack and UVM athletics will have a number of raffles as well as ticket and apparel giveaways.

Featured at Monday’s show will be former NHL player and 1993 UVM graduate Aaron Miller, who will be joining WVMT this year as an analyst. Miller will be signing autographs and some of his autographed merchandise will be raffled off during the first “Coaches’ Corner” taping.

“Coaches’ Corner” will give students in attendance a chance to ask the coaches questions, giving UVM sports fans more accessibility to their favorite teams.

Pfohl, MacDonald lead Lady Cats past Siena

Originally published March 6, 2009

Original Link: Pfohl, MacDonald lead Lady Cats past Siena

The women’s lacrosse team bounced back from a two-game skid to upend Siena at Moulton Winder Field on Wednesday, 19-14.

The Lady Cats were led by sophomore Megan MacDonald, who scored five goals and has started the 2009 campaign sizzling with 14 points already on the young season.

America East Rookie of the week, freshman Allison Pfohl, added four goals in the win for UVM. Pfohl is off to a torrid start to her career at UVM, with 14 points on 11 goals in just four games.

Despite giving up an early goal just 16 second in by Siena’s Lindsey Rosecrans, the Lady Cats settled down to take a 9-6 lead heading into the half from a buzzer-beating goal by MacDonald.

Siena would cut the deficit to one early on in the second half, but that was as close as they would get as UVM tallied seven unanswered goals to stretch the lead to 16-8.

Though Siena kept fighting, UVM’s underclassmen, along with senior Kristen Millar – who extended her consecutive games with a point streak to 51 – were too much to handle in a 19-14 decision.

The Lady Cats improve to 2-2 on the year as non-conference foe Siena falls to 1-1.

UVM will travel to Oregon this weekend to face off against the Ducks and will spend their spring break on the west coast with games against UC Davis and Cal to follow.

The team doesn’t return home until March 25 against BC.