Thursday, March 20, 2008

"Fairytale Finish?" Not Likely.

At, Kris Johnson posted a blog entry today entitled “Fairytale Finish at Cup Level? Forget About It.” In that piece, he compares NASCAR to the annual "March Madness" NCAA College Basketball tournament, which tips off today.

He complains that the NCAA has it all over NASCAR when it comes to underdogs having a chance to win. In his words, “If there's one thing that NASCAR lacks these days at its highest level, it's a true longshot making it into Victory Lane. What we settle for is the excitement and novelty of a driver winning for the first time, as Clint Bowyer did last September at New Hampshire. (But) when was the last time a true underdog sniffed a victory in a Cup race?”

I disagree with Kris’ contention that Bowyer’s New Hampshire win was not an upset. It was. But he’s right when he says that underfinanced teams win infrequently -- if at all -- at the uppermost level of NASCAR. It seems like every NCAA hoop season features at least one March Madness bracket-buster; a team that pulls off a shocker or two on its way to an ignominious exit in the Sweet 16. But you’ve got to go back a long, long way to find a true “underdog winner” of the NCAA tournament.

In my opinion, Johnson’s comparison between the NCAA and NASCAR misses the mark.

You see, every NASCAR race is an All-Star Race, something that absolutely cannot be said of every NCCA Tournament game. It’s much easier to get pumped-up for next weekend’s race at Martinsville Speedway than it is for the opening round NCAA East Regional matchup between #1 North Carolina and #16 Mount Mt. Mary’s. In my view, rooting for the Mountaineers to knock off the top-ranked Tar Heels is like pulling for John Andretti and the #34 Front Row Motorsports team to win at Martinsville.

You hope, you pray, but you don’t really expect.

Could Mount St, Mary's upset the top-ranked Heels and advance to the second round? Perhaps, just like Andretti could pull off a Top-10 finish at Martinsville. Neither team has a snowball’s chance of winning the championship when it’s all said and done, though. In my view, winning a single game in the NCAA tournament is akin to finishing in the Top-10 of a single NASCAR Sprint Cup race.

Actually winning that race is like cutting down the nets in the NCCA Finals; an impossible feat for anything less than an elite power. With all due respect to Kris Johnson, that’s where the real comparison lies.

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