Big race days for KVD
Kevin VanDam, the 2009 Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year who last weekend logged his 18th BASS event win, might have two races to look forward to over the next few weeks.
On July 3, the famed Bassmaster Elite Series pro from Kalamazoo, Mich., is slated to be an honorary race official for the Coke Zero 400 Powered By Coca-Cola at Daytona International Speedway.
The second race appearance isn't quite as sure a thing, but thanks to his win last week on Kentucky Lake, VanDam could end up in the July competition for the 2010 Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year title.
He earned enough points to vault his standing from 26th to 8th a remarkable advance by anyone's standards. He needs to stay in the top 12, though: Only the top 12 in points after this week's season finale will advance to the postseason.
The big race VanDam's hoping to be in will be run in two laps, July 24-25 and July 30-31, on two Alabama fisheries. It would be his attempt at a sixth and third straight Angler of the Year title.
There's no title more prestigious in pro fishing than Bassmaster Angler of the Year unless, of course, it's Bassmaster Classic champion, a title VanDam's won three times.
Meanwhile, at the Daytona event on July 3, VanDam will be introduced at the driver's meeting, participate in the driver introductions and ride in one of the grand marshal cars in the pre-race parade.
And, as part of a race promotion called Reels and Wheels, VanDam will team with 2010 Daytona 500 champion Jamie McMurray to give a fishing seminar to fans who purchase a special race day ticket package starting at $110. (www.daytonainternationalspeedway.com).
The package includes a grandstand seat, a pre-race, behind-the-scenes tour, and a Fishing 101 seminar led by VanDam and McMurray, who are both sponsored by Bass Pro Shops. Bass Pro is entering its fifth season in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series as one of the primary sponsors of the No. 1 Chevrolet.
While VanDam can choose to relax and watch the Coke Zero 400, it will be a high-pressure working day for McMurray. The 2010 Daytona 500 winner will be attempting to become only the fifth driver in Daytona International Speedway history to sweep both NASCAR Sprint Cup Series events in the same year. If he won July 3, his name would be added to the list of four who have doubled: Fireball Roberts, Cale Yarborough, LeeRoy Yarbrough and Bobby Allison.
If VanDam won his sport's 2011 title, he would become only the second angler in history to win three times in a row. Roland Martin accomplished the sport's only triple in 1971-1973.
McMurray and VanDam were brought together recently by Bass Pro Shops to make some promotional video spots that highlight the coincidence of the pros' big 2010 wins. McMurray took his sport's biggest event exactly one week before VanDam won the 2010 Bassmaster Classic.
"I'm really looking forward to spending some more time with KVD, especially at Daytona, a place that means so much to me," McMurray said.
New Elite title sponsor
AutoZone, a leader in aftermarket auto parts, has signed as the sponsor of this week's Sooner Run, the finale of the 2010 Bassmaster Elite Series' regular season.
The June 17-20 AutoZone Sooner Run will be played out on the Arkansas River out of Muskogee, Okla. Elite anglers will be vying for a top-12 position in the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year race so they can advance to the July postseason.
Like Bassmaster, AutoZone has a long and rich history. Founded as Auto Shack in Forest City, Ark., the auto parts retailer celebrated its 30th year in 2009. The AutoZone name was adopted in 1987. By 1995, the company had 1,000 stores across the United States; in 2007, the 4,000th location opened. The company's many accomplishments include making the Fortune 500 list for the first time in 1999, improving its ranking on the list each year since.
Riding the bubble
This is as difficult as it sounds: wrap your arms and legs around a slippery, shape-changing object much larger than yourself and hang on until time is up. Not unlike, we imagine, riding a bull. A greased bull at that.
All eyes will be on the Bassmaster Elite Series anglers as they ride it out for top-12 positions this week at the AutoZone Sooner Run out of Muskogee, Okla.
The bubble riders for the 12 postseason slots are Gary Klein of Texas, in the 12th-place hot seat with 1,511 points. Just one point above Klein is Bill Lowen of Ohio with 1,512. Just below Klein is Dave Wolak of North Carolina with 1,508 points.
Much of the focus will be on the top 37. That's because the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year race determines not only the 12 candidates for the July postseason, but also the 37 pros who will make the 2011 Bassmaster Classic roster from the Elite ranks.
To qualify for a Classic berth through the Elite Series, an angler must end up in the top 36. If the defending champ happens to be within the top 36 (as is almost certain this season), then the 37th pro will be tapped for a Classic spot.
Riding smack on the Classic bubble going into the Oklahoma event are rookie Cliff Crochet of Louisiana and Californian Jared Lintner. Crochet sits in 38th place with 1,319 points. Lintner is only one tick behind with 1,318 points. Then there's the legendary Denny Brauer with 1,306 points, and his fellow Missouri pro, Mark Tucker, in 41st place with 1,299 points.
Most vulnerable to being bucked off the bubble, thus out of the Classic 37 is Kelly Jordon with just 35 points more than Crochet. But, with 320 points going to a wire-to-wire winner, almost anything could happen.
Wirth worth a lot
Bassmaster Elite Series pro Kevin Wirth will be fishing Sept. 25 for a million bucks.
One small catch: if he won, he would not be able to keep any of that money. It would all go to his fishing partner.
That's the deal for Wirth in a consumer contest set up by one of the Kentucky pro's major sponsors, Early Times Kentucky Whisky. Called Reel in a Million, the contest offers one winner a fishing trip with Wirth on Lake Erie, where the two can pool their skills to catch any one or all of 25 tagged bass.
One of the bass Big Cash Bass wears a tag that says it is worth a million dollars. If Wirth boated Big Cash, his partner of the day would win the prize. Not Wirth.
Ditto for other prizes, such as a Triton VT17 bass rig.
Consumers can enter the contest to fish with Wirth and have a shot at the big prizes. Entries are being accepted online at www.earlytimes.com or by mail using entry forms available in stores. The winner will be announced in early August, in plenty of time to plan strategy and prep tackle for the Sept. 26 trip.
Of course, a fishing trip with an Elite pro is worth quite a lot in itself.
No margin for error
"Make the slightest mistake, or have the slightest thing go wrong, and the other guys will jump up and bite you." Kevin VanDam in his Bassmaster.com blog on his bid to qualify for the postseason by fishing clean this week at the regular-season finale in Oklahoma.