There are various subjects to talk about in this blog edition. Unfortunately, I came back from Atlantic City empty handed. I played in the $300 + $50 No Limit Hold'Em Poker Tournament on Tuesday, June 22nd, and for seven hours the deck of cards was extremely cold to me. I managed to hold on to about 35th place out of the 191 that started, which I feel was very respectable considering the cards I was dealt and the very few maneuvers I was able to make with the cards I did have. Despite not cashing it was a very enjoyable experience. The only thing I'll have to do differently next time will be to change my mindset a little bit on how a play certain hands. After playing free tournaments and $100 and less cash tournaments for the past five years, I found out that playing a $300 tournament is a very different game. People respect your raises and I feel like I could have made a couple more maneuvers with some hands that I decided to fold, or not raise so much when I had a good hand. Would it have made the difference between making the final four tables and making it into the cash? Probably not, but you never know with the game of poker. It was definitely a learning experience and I left Atlantic City satisfied with how I played. I'll be saving up some money to head down there another time. Back home the game of poker has worked out well for me, making a profit in every game I played in during the last week. The Pennsylvania table games are opening for business during the month of July, but I'm trying to stay away for the moment, avoiding the crowds and saving a few bucks. I'm entered in a couple more invitational tournaments in the coming weeks, which offer some more prize packages including Atlantic City trips so we'll see how I do in them. One of them that I'm proud to say I've qualified for the third year in a row for is the Venue Leader Tournament. I qualified for this through a bar I play a free game at just about every week and I accumulated the most points for 2009. In the past couple years, this tournament has offered prizes to all the finishers at the final table and the winner has received a Borgata prize package valued at approximately $1,000.
Moving over to NASCAR News, I must say that I'm very discouraged with some of these things Brian France has to say about what they are considering for the chase. Elimination format? Jumbling race tracks around each year? Why would they want to do this? I can't stand when they start comparing racing to other sports, saying that an elimination format would be similar to College Basketball March Madness. No, it won't be. Competition in racing has NOTHING to do with other sports and should not be compared to them. Instead of trying to find a way to boost interest in the season finale, why not help the individual race tracks some more and focus on each individual race? The more they focus on the end of the season, the more the ratings and fan interest in races throughout the rest of the season will continue to decline. Shuffling or revolving dates around in the chase will not work either. NASCAR has set itself apart for being the unique sport to hold it's "Super Bowl" during the beginning of the year at the Daytona 500. Now, they're thinking about trying to revolve dates around like the NFL does for their season finale? It will not work and I don't know how they expect to generate increased interest in this besides on television. Sponsors have commitments to the current last race at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Many fans count on the race in their area to be in a certain specific date range each year so they can plan accordingly and purchase tickets. It's not the same as other sports. NASCAR fans don't have half the season as home games; at most they have two. A maneuver like this would price out several fans, which I assume would decrease the attendance at races even more.
Despite some of the questionable moves NASCAR is considering and the almost non-existent rookie battle in 2010, the next generation of possible NASCAR competitors looks very promising. Three sons of current NASCAR competitors have especially caught my eye over the last couple years: Chase Elliott, Ryan Blaney and Ross Kenseth. All three, while they most likely have more funding, media training and are getting an earlier start than many competitors, are proving with their performance on the short tracks that they are the drivers of the future while keeping a very level-headed and often times humble demeanor. The thing I like most about these three is the steady approach that their families are taking in moving them up the racing ladder.
- Most notably is Chase Elliott, son of 1988 NASCAR Winston Cup Series champion Bill Elliott. He has taken the Super Late Model world by storm with several wins in recent months. With support from Ford, Aaron's and Red Bull, just about any good driver should be running well in that equipment, but Chase isn't getting overly cocky about his performance and appears to be learning something every time he takes to the racetrack. And who better to have as a mentor than his dad Bill? His young age of 14 will allow him to continue to gain track time before he's able to move up to the next level at 16 and then to the top NASCAR levels if he's ready at age 18.
- Ryan Blaney may be the more underfunded of the three with his dad, NASCAR competitor and former USAC and World Of Outlaws champion Dave Blaney, providing support pretty much for the entire race team. However, he has definitely caught my eye as the one to watch for in the next few years. I had the chance to see Ryan for the first time in 2008 at Caraway Speedway in Asheboro, North Caroliona when he was making one of his first PASS South Super Late Model Series starts. He qualified about mid-pack, but kept his car in one piece and finished sixth. The next year I saw him race at Orange County Speedway and at one point he held a half lap lead. Unfortunately, he was involved in an altercation not of his own doing which led to a cut tire and an unfavorable finish. In 2010 he has been one of the drivers to beat in the PASS series, nearly lapping the field at the season opener in Dillon, South Carolina and winning once more to date. This is another example of a young driver who is taking his time to move up. He has spent nearly three years in super late models and him and his dad have even discussed some dirt track racing in the near future. By the time Ryan is ready to make the next step, he will already be a well-seasoned short track racer.
- Ross Kenseth is probably the one that I know the least about, but he is the son of 2003 NASCAR champion Matt Kenseth. In my opinion, he quietly came onto the stock car racing scene in 2007 when he began competing in the Big 8 Late Model Series, which I believe is a limited late model series in the Midwest that competes in some shorter distance races. He was fast qualifier that year in October at LaCrosse Fairgrounds Speedway in Wisconsin, and claimed two wins in 2008. In 2009, he won the series championship. Later that year, he gained some recognition when he qualified his super late model on the outside pole for the 2009 Snowball Derby. While being involved in a couple minor altercations, Ross brought his car home to a 12th place finish completing all 300 laps. Matt Kenseth finished last in his first Snowball Derby in 1995. In 2010, Ross has moved up to the ASA Midwest Tour and won for the first time in the second race of the season. In the tour's most recent race at Madison International Speedway in Wisconsin, he finished third to his father and Midwest short track legend Steve Carlson. Ross will run the balance of the series schedule and also has a few trips South planned, but I wouldn't be surprised to see him run one more season with the tour in 2011 while traveling a little bit more when he can before making the move to the next level.
My racing travels will take me next to Motordrome Speedway in Smithton, Pennsylvania to see the Super Cup Stock Car Series along with the track's local racing divisions on Friday, July 16. The Super Cup Stock Car Series was formed in late 2007 after escalating costs chased out some teams from the USAR Pro Cup Series. It's a very low cost and low profile racing series that I look forward to seeing for the first time. The current point leader is Todd Peck, who's uncle Tom Peck raced in the NASCAR Busch Series for many years. I once again will be capturing video footage and will upload it to my YouTube account. A couple weeks later I will be making an annual stop at the local Clyde Martin Memorial Speedway North of Lititz, PA to see some Micro Sprint races with some friends. I will not be taking any video or pictures as I've decided to just take in the racing for the evening.
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