This is the Morning Win. Nick Schwartz is filling in for Andy Nesbitt today.
With the UFC off until the end of the month, sports fans craving live action to watch have few other choices than to get into NASCAR. Fortunately, the racing schedule is now packed with the typical Sunday races along with new mid-week events, meaning there's never been a better time to get into watching cars go in circles at extreme speed.
NASCAR will stage a second consecutive Cup Series race at iconic Darlington Raceway on Wednesday night, weather permitting, part of a frenzied stretch of the revamped schedule that includes eight races in 29 days.
When you add in Xfinity and Truck Series races, there's a decent chance that there will be a NASCAR race going on whenever you turn on your TV over the next month.
What's the deal with NASCAR, anyway, and who should you root for? If you're a lapsed NASCAR fan or a complete newbie, we're here to help.
The basics you need to know:
For all its rules and regulations and draconian in-race penalties and season format redesigns, NASCAR is still a fairly simple sport for a casual observer. A field of cars begins a race, a set distance is run, the car that finishes first wins. There's obviously much more going on, but that's all you really need to know.
In recent years, each race has been subdivided into three "stages," which award points to top finishers. It remains to be seen how the NASCAR schedule will be altered for the rest of the year due to the coronavirus pandemic, but the schedule contains a regular season and a 10-race playoff round, which eventually produces a series champion with a winner-take-all race at the end of the year.
How to pick a favorite driver (the most important part):
A common refrain from traditional ball sports fans is that NASCAR is boring. It's just a bunch of cars making left turns repeatedly. Why would you want to watch that for several hours at a time?
Those critics obviously don't have a favorite driver! Picking a favorite and rooting for them throughout the race is absolutely central to any motorsports experience. As the excellent Formula 1 series on Netflix highlighted, racing is personality-driven, and you're missing out if you don't emotionally invest in a few drivers.
Here's a quick guide to finding your new favorite:
If you prefer Thanos to any of the Avengers, you should root for….Kyle Busch.
The defending Sprint Cup champion, Busch is NASCAR's most polarizing figure, but has seemingly embraced his role as the sport's greatest villain. When he's not winning races in the Cup Series, Busch can often be found destroying the competition in lower series, to the point where there's an active $100,000 bounty on him.
If you're still in 'Last Dance' mode, you should root for…Jimmie Johnson or Kevin Harvick.
Johnson has already established himself as one of the GOATs in NASCAR history with a record-tying seven titles, but he's retiring after the 2020 season. He's currently on the longest winless streak of his career, but if he can find victory lane again before calling it quits, it'll be an unforgettable moment. Harvick, meanwhile, just picked up his 50th career Cup Series win last Sunday. He currently has no plan to retire anytime soon, but at the age of 44, he's one of the oldest drivers in the field.
If you want your driver to be in contention to win every week, you should root for…Joey Logano, Martin Truex Jr., Denny Hamlin or Brad Keselowski.
All fan-favorites, you can't really go wrong with any of these drivers.
If you're only into NASCAR until MLB/NBA/NHL/NFL returns….
just pick the coolest looking car. You can check out all the paint schemes here.
Wednesday's Big Winner: Goalie cat
Goalie Cat (Photo: Screenshot)
While professional athletes have been chilling at home, Goalie Cat has been tirelessly training. The phenomenal feline, named "Meownuel Neuer" after the superstar German national team No. 1, simply can't be beat, even at close range. A supercut of Goalie Cat's ridiculous saves went viral with more than a million views on Twitter, and for good reason. All hail Goalie Cat.
Quick Hits: Horace Grant calls MJ a liar, Jordan's mysterious illness, Chad Johnson
– Former Bulls big man Horace Grant, who was traded away after the first three-peat, slammed "The Last Dance" and said Jordan lied throughout the series.
– Our Charles Curtis caught up with the man who says he delivered a pizza to MJ the night before the "Flu Game," and swears that his pizza isn't what got MJ sick.
– Former Bengals star Chad "Ochocinco" Johnson left another monster tip at a restaurant in Florida that just reopened.
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