1. A.J. Allmendinger is spending the first off week of the Sprint Cup season returning to his roots. A former two-time International Karting Federation Grand National champion, Allmendinger will take to Carolina Motorsports Park in Kershaw, S.C., where he'll climb into a go-kart and take on drivers nearly half his age.
America is obsessed with constructing its best athletes into larger-than-life figures, including NASCAR's King, Richard Petty, who is worshipped because of record-setting accomplishments. But make no mistake, celebrated sports figures like Petty, Brett Favre, Wayne Gretzky and Michael Jordan are humans, too, flawed and fighting a losing battle with age that can't be wished away by adoring fans. The refusal to surrender to Father Time often comes with a price: an ugly, depressing final chapter for not knowing when to walk away.
The changing of the guard in sports is a tricky animal to figure out. Very rarely is the evidence as obvious as Brett Favre's hobbling ankle in the NFL, a roaring giant reduced to rubble as old age and bad habits overwhelm him. Instead, the evidence can be as subtle as one innocuous victory over another, a minor piece of the puzzle that five years from now gets revisited as the turning point of a man's transition into superstardom.
Five races remain in this year's Chase for the Championship, but that's far from the only compelling storyline hitting NASCAR down the homestretch. Too often, the fight for the title obscures other, important changes that will shape the sport not just on the grid, but off the track in 2011. So let's examine five under-the-radar moves to watch as the season winds to a close:
Faced with the prospect of losing in a Texas court, former owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett Jr. withdrew the temporary restraining order that they had obtained from Texas Judge Jim Jordan and that had ostensibly blocked the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) from selling Liverpool FC to New England Sports Ventures (NESV). A substantive review of the order had been scheduled for Oct. 25; by withdrawing the order prior to a decision on its merits, Hicks and Gillett strategically avoid the prospect of a negative ruling and help to preserve possible legal claims against RBS and NESV.
MOORESVILLE, N.C. -- After a successful Labor Day weekend race at Atlanta Motor Speedway that drew perhaps the track's biggest crowd this decade, the pressure to make the Chase is increasing on one of the biggest names in NASCAR Sprint Cup racing.
MONTREAL -- Like Sisyphus, the Montreal Canadiens face a mythic uphill climb in their first-round series against the splendid Boston Bruins, who won 4-2 on Monday (RECAP | BOX) to take a three games-to-nothing lead in a series between rivals almost as old as Athens and Sparta.
A New Year always gets us looking ahead rather than behind -- and that's exciting, because NASCAR's return is suddenly close at hand. The start of Daytona Speedweeks is now less than one month away, which means it's time to put 2008 behind us while resolving to look ahead to the hype of a 61st season of NASCAR Sprint Cup competition.
With Bobby Labonte and Petty Enterprises officially parting ways as of Thursday morning, the move should prove a precursor to SI.com's report last week of a pending merger/absorption of Petty Enterprises into Gillett Evernham Motorsports.
SI.com has learned that Petty Enterprises two-car team will not return in 2009. The sole remaining organization from NASCAR's inaugural Cup season in 1949 will instead merge with fellow Dodge owner George Gillett. The No. 43 car once driven by "King" Richard in all but three of his 200 Sprint Cup victories will be added to the Gillett stable as a fourth car, while the No. 45 car once driven by second- and third-generation drivers Kyle and Adam Petty will cease to exist. Official word of the move is pending and could come as early as this evening.
More than any other team, Evernham was undone in 2007 by NASCAR's decision to go with a 16-race CoT schedule. They had to scramble to get a program up and running, which compromised the work on their regular cars. Lead driver Kasey Kahne, who won a series-best six races in '06, failed to win even one last year. To increase his team's resources, Ray Evernham sold a majority of his operation to Montreal Canadiens owner George Gillett Jr. But Evernham still oversees the racing side of the business, and the expectation this year is that he will put at least one car in the Chase.
When George Gillett, Jr. enters a sport, he's not going to waste any time making a big splash. The newest owner to enter NASCAR -- courtesy of a multimillion-dollar investment to purchase the majority of Ray Evernham's three-car team -- has taken only a month for him to make his presence felt.
Fans of the Budweiser car should slow down. No matter what you've heard, things likely won't be that much different for the 2008 season. That's because the handsome Kasey Kahne and his No. 9 Dodge are expected to be sponsored by Bud next year. Kahne has even been known to drink a Bud or two every now and then.
The Limey has winged its way across the pond to bring you news of the title race in the English Premier League, an American takeover at Liverpool and yet another installment in the debate on video replay.