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NASCAR back in spotlight: Petty, Dale Jr., ... hmmmm!


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The buzz around NASCAR has been head-in-a-beehive loud lately.

Dale Earnhardt Jr., the circuit’s most popular driver seemingly every year, takes the checkered flag at Daytona to the sheer delight of jeans wearers everywhere.

Previously, NASCAR icon Richard Petty, for decades the industry’s most reliable public relations home-run hitter, steps out of character to inform us that Danica Patrick is a pretty face and, well, that’s pretty much the extent of it.

Something smells bad in the woodpile.

Or it could just be coincidence that two of the sport’s two biggest names not named Jimmie Johnson grab headlines two weeks apart.

Whatever the case, NASCAR, which never seems to go away in the first place, is just daring you not to notice it.

Personally, the proposed Petty-Danica race — which may or may not actually happen — would intrigue me more if it were on foot.

King Richard in his shades, button-down denim shirt and cowboy boots crouched into the starter’s block against Patrick in her racing suit.

”Sixty meters ... and ... go.”

Trademark hat is optional for Petty. However, if he loses it after 20 meters of huffing and puffing there’s no turning around to get it. Even the tiny Patrick (5-foot-2) with her small strides would pass him.

In all seriousness, Petty’s status within NASCAR remains the same. His remarks about Patrick likely lost him fans, but at the same time gained him some new ones.

Petty’s seen everything in his sport and has 200 victories on top of it. His opinion carries tremendous weight no matter how critical, senile or sexist he comes off.

Time will eventually let this story fade into the background. Likewise Junior’s victory at Daytona.

Just remember, though, if NASCAR generates another monster story here in the next couple of weeks, I told you so.

MOUNT RUSHMORE

Since everyone seems to have an opinion on which four granite likenesses should make up the NBA’s Mount Rushmore, it’s time to chime in.

Left to right, I’m going to go with: James Naismith (inventor of the sport), Bill Russell (11-time NBA champion), Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (three-time college champion, six-time NBA champion, NBA career scoring leader) and Michael Jordan (six-time NBA champ, sports apparel merchandising groundbreaker).

Relegated to “also receiving votes” status are Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Kobe Bryant, Red Auerbach, Wilt Chamberlain, Oscar Robertson, LeBron James, Jerry West, Shaquille O’Neal, Karl Malone, Hakeem Olajuwon and Isaiah Thomas.

There are others, yes, but this is my list.

Feel free to argue.

FEELING DRAFTY

The Houston Texans have until May 8 to decide what to do with the first selection in the 2014 NFL Draft.

It seems to be a three-piece puzzle with the franchise capable of, A) trading the pick, B) selecting jitterbug quarterback and homegrown Texas boy Johnny Manziel or, C) nabbing freakishly athletic defensive end Jadeveon Clowney.

I sense Houston ownership and executives will eventually cave to local pressure and go with Manziel, who could wind up being nothing more than a modern-day Doug Flutie.

Or he could be the revolutionary Johnny Football he was at Texas A&M.

Whatever the case, imagine the jersey sales for the team that drafts him. At least for the first three seasons until Manziel is standing next to (name other backup quarterback here) holding a clipboard with his baseball cap facing the wrong direction.

If that happens. Should Manziel’s star continue to shine, all the better.

Mike Beas is a sports writer for the Daily Journal. Send comments to mbeas@dailyjournal.net.

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