Dick Trickle was so much more than a guy with a funny name.
He knew his name was hilarious and often the butt of jokes. It didn't bother him a bit. He embraced it. Trickle realized his name was marketing gold.
Former ESPN sportscaster Keith Olbermann, like many other sports anchors at the time, took advantage of that unusual name when he teamed with Dan Patrick on "SportsCenter."
"No sports figure Dan and I had fun with took it more graciously,'' Olbermann wrote Thursday on Twitter. "In fact, gratefully. In a time in which athletes were really getting overly sensitive to what we and everyone was starting to do, his attitude was, 'Hey, you guys made me money. All I've got to do is put up with a little giggling, and I put up with the giggling anyway.'
"We gave prominent attention to him, then his races, then all races. He helped mainstream NASCAR at SportsCenter."
Trickle died Thursday at age 71 of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound. Depression is a serious problem in our country, from soldiers returning home from the battlefield to people you might never expect who are struggling with everyday life. It doesn't receive enough attention and support. Sadly, it seems to have caught up with Trickle.
Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY SportsDick Trickle made 303 Cup Series starts.
It's also a bit sad that he will be remembered more for his name than for his accomplishments on the racetrack. Even Tom Cruise's lead character in the NASCAR movie "Days of Thunder" had a similar name -- Cole Trickle.
But Trickle was much more than his laughable name. He never won at NASCAR's top level in 303 starts over 24 years from 1970 until his last start in 2002.
However, he was a short-track legend, especially in the Midwest and his home state of Wisconsin, reportedly winning more than 1,000 races.
He also was quite a character. ESPN sportscaster Allen Bestwick pointed out his favorite Trickle quote, when interviewing him after a crash in a Cup race:
"It was at least 50 percent my fault," Trickle said. "I went out there with them idiots!"
A folksy guy to those who knew him, Trickle also knew a thing or two about race cars: "A good friend, he taught me how to drive an IROC car at Indy. Very sad,'' tweeted former Indy 500 winner Eddie Cheever.
Former Cup champion Rusty Wallace considered Trickle a mentor.
"When I was short-track racing, I would call him every Monday morning and he would always help me with race setups and stuff," Wallace said. "He and I had such a good time telling little stories, but he was the guy that taught me almost everything in the American Speed Association. He knew so much about racing."
And that's what people should remember. Trickle was an old-school racer who helped many a talented driver on their way up.
Yes, his name was the punch line to a hundred jokes over the years, and he took it all in stride. But he was so much more than a guy with a funny name.
Allow Blount to be blunt on a few things.
NASCAR got a message this week: Loosen up and chill out.
Major penalty reductions came for Joe Gibbs Racing and Penske Racing after NASCAR had basically thrown the book at both organizations.
The JGR reversal Wednesday was a stunner, from a six-race suspension for Jason Ratcliff, Matt Kenseth's crew chief, to only one race. And a huge change to Kenseth's points penalty, from 50 down to 12. He also gets the three Chase bonus points for the win at Kansas reinstated.
This move was the right call, but highly unusual to see the three-person appeals panel (the first level of the NASCAR appeals process) make such a surprising reversal. The one connecting rod that was barely too light (about three grams, the approximate weight of two paper clips) in Kenseth's car was no performance advantage and didn't come from JGR. It was a part from Toyota Racing Development.
Nevertheless, a major penalty revision for any engine violation doesn't happen, until now. It's an indication that NASCAR needs to re-evaluate the severity of some of its punishment decisions.
The JGR decision came one day after chief appellate officer John Middlebrook reduced the suspensions for the Penske Racing team members from six championship races to only two for the rear-suspension violations at Texas.
Losing Ratcliff for only one race is a big help to Kenseth, but losing crew chief Paul Wolfe for only two championship points races instead of six is a much bigger break for Brad Keselowski. Few drivers are as reliant on their crew chief as Keselowski is with Wolfe, arguably the best man on the box in the sport today.
The decision by Middlebrook to reduce the lengths of the suspensions for all the Penske brain trust is much bigger than reducing the lost points or the fines, which he didn't do for Keselowski or Joey Logano's team. The 25-point penalty and the $100,000 hit to each team will remain, but Keselowski and all the Penske guys should be thrilled about the partial reprieve on suspensions.
Middlebrook is proving to be a fair man. When he eliminated most of the penalties on Jimmie Johnson and the No. 48 Chevy team last year after the body violations at Daytona, some people accused him of playing favorites with his old buddy, team owner Rick Hendrick. Nonsense.
Middlebrook carefully studies each appeal and listens intently to the arguments being presented. He is not a shill for NASCAR or any team owner. He simply wants to come to a reasonable conclusion.
Middlebrook is not toeing the party line for NASCAR. Neither did the three-person appeals panel Wednesday on the JGR penalties.
No one can claim NASCAR'S appeals process is a kangaroo court. To the contrary, this week's penalty reductions are a message that NASCAR needs to lighten up on its draconian penalties.
No driver has finished on the lead lap of every race this season, which shows how difficult it is to do.
Paul Menard was the only one left until failing to do so Sunday at Talladega. Four drivers have done it in nine of 10 events -- Johnson, Keselowski, Aric Almirola and Menard, but Menard and Almirola are the only drivers in the top 10 who don't have a top-5 finish.
Amirola ranks seventh in the standings after posting four consecutive top-10s, but the one lap he led at Talladega is his only lap led this season. Menard is eighth in the standings with only three laps led.
What does that tell us? Both Almirola and Menard are racing consistently and not making mistakes, but they aren't serious contenders until they can challenge for victories.
Kyle Busch is doing things in the opposite fashion of Menard and Almirola. Busch has an average starting position of 6.4, but an average finishing spot of 16.9, a minus-10.5 and the worst ratio of any full-time driver in Cup.
Busch can win races, as he has proven twice this season. But consistency is lacking. Some of it's bad luck and some of it isn't.
By the way, Danica Patrick is a plus-5 with an average starting spot of 31.1 and an average finish of 26.1. But the farther back you start, the easier it is to move up.
Take J.J. Yeley, for example. He's at a plus-7.8 (the best among full-time Cup drivers), starting 37.0 and finishing 29.2.
Futility, thy name is Kvapil. Travis Kvapil has the fewest points of any driver who has made all 10 starts this season. His average finish is 33.7.
Kvapil ranks 37th in the standings, two spots behind AJ Allmendinger, who has only four starts. Kvapil is the only driver to start all 10 races without finishing on the lead lap.
When Judgment Day came Wednesday, Penske Racing found out NASCAR has no mercy. NASCAR has sent a couple of messages this season for every team to hear:
Do not criticize the new Gen-6, and more importantly, do no tamper with it. Hell hath no fury like a NASCAR judge.
Other than parking a team for a race, it doesn't get worse than this:
" Drivers Keselowski and Joey Logano docked 25 points each, along with 25 owner points taken from both cars.
" Crew chiefs Paul Wolfe and Todd Gordon suspended six championship races (plus the All-Star Race) and fined $100,000 each.
" Car chiefs and the lead team engineer for both cars also suspended six points races.
" Penske Racing team manager Travis Geisler suspended six points races.
Jared C. Tilton/Getty ImagesPenske Racing teammates Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano got docked 25 championship points each by NASCAR.
In other words, the entire brain trust for both Sprint Cup teams was gone in an instant, a severe punishment for unapproved changes to the rear-end housing on both cars at Texas.
Penske Racing officials immediately sent out a brief statement saying they will appeal. I would hope so. What do they have to lose?
The appeal means everyone keeps working for the moment, but it could be only a temporary reprieve.
And NASCAR made it crystal clear Wednesday it won't tolerate any monkey business when it comes to "pushing the envelope" on the Gen-6. This is one of the harshest penalties ever imposed by the sanctioning body.
Martin Truex Jr. and the No. 56 Toyota team also were penalized Wednesday, but Truex must feel like his team got off light by comparison. Truex was docked six points and crew chief Chad Johnson fined $25,000 for the car being too low in a postrace inspection at Texas.
And Camping World Truck Series veteran Ron Hornaday Jr. also got off relatively easy by avoiding a one-race suspension. Hornaday was docked 25 points and fined $25,000 for deliberately wrecking Darrell Wallace Jr. under caution in Sunday's race at Rockingham.
Kyle Busch fans will howl over that one since Busch was parked for one weekend two years ago when he pulled a similar move on Hornaday at Texas. Hornaday caught a break for previous good behavior.
But the Penske boys were tossed in the NASCAR dungeon in chains. As harsh as it is, the Chase format makes the punishment survivable. Had this happened at the start of the 10-race playoff, game over.
Keselowski can make up the 25 points since it comes long before the Chase starts. It's a little tougher for Logano, because the points reduction would drop him out of the top 10 for now, but not an insurmountable loss.
The real punishment comes in losing the key personnel for both cars. Other than Chad Knaus, who led Jimmie Johnson to five consecutive championships, Wolfe may be the best crew chief in NASCAR today.
Speaking of Knaus, he should send a text to Keselowski and Wolfe that reads: "Welcome to my world, boys. NASCAR has a new champ to pick on."
Few drivers rely on the expertise of their crew chief more than Keselowski does with Wolfe. He's Brad's lifeline.
And any chance of keeping things running smoothly in his absence was eliminated by suspending car chief Jerry Kelley and team engineer Brian Wilson as well.
Logano faces the same fate, just when it appeared he was starting to feel comfortable with his new team. Now both teams will have to fight their way through it.
Until now, inspections had gone relatively smoothly for the Gen-6, so what changed?
Texas was the seventh race of the season in the new car. Teams are starting to feel comfortable with it, and consequently, willing to try more things to make it faster. The more you know, the more you're willing to take a few risks.
No, no, no, boys. Big Brother NASCAR is watching. The Penske punishment essentially tells all the teams, "Don't try it. We will catch you and you will pay."
NASCAR went with a new points system in 2011 based on one point per finishing position. It's better than the old system, but it still results in way too big a penalty for a bad finish compared to a good one.
For example, Joey Logano has one top-10 finish in the first five races (third at Fontana) and ranks ninth in the standings. The California race was the only time this year Logano has finished better than 12th.
Ryan Newman has finished better than 12th three times. He has three top-10s (including a fifth in the Daytona 500) but ranks 20th overall.
Huh? Newman crashed at Phoenix and finished 40th and had an engine failure at Las Vegas and finished 38th. A DNF (did not finish) is a points disaster.
Busch had an engine failure at Daytona and finished 34th. Biffle hasn't finished worse than 17th, which he did twice. But shouldn't the man with three top-5s and a victory in the first five races rank ahead of the guy with no top-5s?
Consider this oddity: A driver could win three times in the first five races and be lower in the standings than a driver who didn't post a top-10 in those five events.
Five finishes of 11th (without leading a lap) would give a driver 165 points.
Another driver could win three times and lead the most laps (good for 144 points), finish 34th in the other two (good for 20 more points), and be one point behind the driver who didn't post a top-10.
That's not going to happen, of course, but you get the point, no pun intended.
The good news is the wild-card format (basing the final two playoff spots on victories for those drivers 11th through 20th) means the driver who wins races is likely to make the Chase if he ranks in the top 20.
But the system should have more of a reward for finishing well or less of a punishment for having a bad day.
• Joe Nemechek is really racing: In 98 Cup starts over the previous three seasons, Nemechek was running at the finish only four times. He has equaled that amount in the first five races this season.
Nemechek's only DNF this season came in the Daytona 500. He isn't able to race competitively because he just doesn't have the funding or the personnel to do it. But he's racing until the end, giving it all he has, and that's good enough for me.
Hamlin has an L1 compression fracture now because he hit a concrete wall head-on that didn't have the SAFER barrier in front of it.
It's absolutely inexcusable, after almost a decade of SAFER barrier use by NASCAR, that a car still can slam into a concrete wall that doesn't have the collapsible barrier in front of it.
But it happened to Hamlin on Sunday on the final lap with a vicious crash into an inside wall at Auto Club Speedway that didn't have the SAFER barrier in place.
When will all these speedways learn that any concrete wall, no matter where it is around the track, endangers the lives of drivers if the wall doesn't have the SAFER barrier in place?
Does someone have to die before this situation changes?
Frankly, all these tracks have been lucky it hasn't happened. Changes to the cars, along with head-and-neck restraints, have prevented serious injuries in many severe crashes, just as the SAFER barrier has.
But it's Russian roulette to have any exposed concrete wall, which likely caused Hamlin's injury Sunday.
No one can say for sure the SAFER barrier would have prevented Hamlin's back fracture. But the odds of him coming out of it without a back fracture would have improved dramatically had his car hit the collapsible wall.
Some fans are placing all the blame on Logano for what they see as an inappropriate payback move at the end of Sunday's race.
The two drivers were going all-out to win the race at the end. Had the situation between the two of them been more cordial, maybe the sheet-metal banging at the end wouldn't have happened. But maybe it would have since both drivers wanted to win.
Logano made a comment about Hamlin he shouldn't have made afterward: "He probably shouldn't have done what he did last week [wrecking Logano at Bristol], so that's what he gets," Logano said.
When Logano made the statement, he didn't know Hamlin was injured.
But it isn't like Logano went out and hunted down Hamlin to get even. They were side by side on the last lap, battling to take the checkered flag.
Hamlin may miss several races because of his injury, and it could cost him a spot in the Chase.
Hopefully, that won't happen. If it does, don't blame Logano. Blame the track for not having the SAFER barrier in front of the concrete wall.
I'm officially lobbying for a NASCAR rule change. OK, maybe it's unofficial, but you're welcome to join.
After four races, two cars rank in the top 10 in the owner standings, but they aren't Chase eligible. For the No. 55 Toyota and the No. 51 Chevy, they're top 10 only in owner points because both teams have used more than one driver.
Here's the request: If those cars stay in the top 10 after the 26 regular-season races, let each team designate one driver to compete in the Chase.
As a combo group, they'll have earned it. So let them pick a driver to go for it in the playoff.
Yes, I know. It's not fair to a driver who raced in all 26 pre-Chase events. Who knows if the 55 or the 51 would have stayed in the top 10, or earned a wild-card spot, if each team had used only one driver.
But wouldn't it be fun to give them a shot at it? Each team does have a shot at the owner's championship, not that anyone pays much attention to that.
Maybe they could compete in the Chase in a separate category as a combined driver's champ if they won the playoff.
The 55 Toyota, part of the Michael Waltrip Racing stable, is shared by Mark Martin and Brian Vickers, who have already raced, and Waltrip, who will race in a few events later this season. The 51 Chevy, owned by James Finch, has used three drivers in the first four races -- Regan Smith, AJ Allmendinger and Austin Dillon.
The 55 car ranks fourth overall and the 51 is tied for seventh.
Martin finished third at Daytona and Vickers was eighth last weekend at Bristol. Smith was seventh at Daytona and Allmendinger was 11th at Phoenix and 13th at Bristol.
These guys are getting it done. They deserve some recognition.
Look at it like this: A baseball team doesn't lose the game if the starting pitcher doesn't go nine innings, assuming it is still ahead at the end.
Giving these race teams a chance to compete for something more in the Chase would add an element to the playoff drama.
And there's another factor in this that could come into play sometime. Say a driver led the standings after 26 races, but got injured in the final regular-season event and had to sit out two or three races.
If this rule changes, a team could use a sub and still compete in the Chase. Otherwise, a sponsor spending millions of dollars would lose all the exposure it hoped to gain in the playoff.
So feel free to join my lobbying effort, not that it will do any good. Or tell me you hate the idea. Either way, it's an interesting topic and a fun debate.
LAS VEGAS -- Radical, man.
That about sums it up for Jimmie Johnson and four extreme athletes who managed to do more sports craziness in one day than most people will do in a lifetime.
This wasn't your typical Monday at the office. In fact, it probably was an unofficial record for trichotomous physical activity over the course of nine hours.
Johnson and his posse of champions -- snowboarder Eddie Wall, ski racer Chris Benchetler, surfer Ian Walsh and standup paddler Dave Kalama -- tackled some of California's epic venues from dawn to dusk last week.
It started with surfing in Huntington Beach -- known as Surf City, USA. Next up was 200-mph action at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana. And the daredevils closed it out with skiing and snowboarding on Mammoth Mountain. Their mode of transportation between venues: Johnson's private plane.
"I met some great athletes," Johnson said. "Only in my home state can you do all three of those cool things in one day. I'm proud of that."
Johnson held his own on the two disciplines that aren't his specialty. Let's start with surfing, which Johnson admits isn't his best sport.
"I was most nervous about the surfing," Johnson said. "There are no guarantees of catching a wave and I didn't want to lay a big goose egg there. I don't think the other guys felt I could catch a wave and ride it, but I did. It wasn't the prettiest thing."
Maybe not, but he got in the swing of things without much trouble.
"I was a little rusty," Johnson said. "It took me two or three tries to catch a wave and remember the right angle so you can ride it. I had three or four good rides.
"The hardest part is you ride the wave in, and then you have to paddle out through all that stuff again. That's tough. We were in the water for an hour and a half. At the end, my arms felt like they were going to fall off."
Johnson just was happy to get through the first phase without an injury.
"The way the waves were breaking would take you right up by the pier," Johnson said. "I was a little nervous I'd get caught in the pillars.
"And I fell off a couple of times in the water. You always wonder where the board is when you fall. It's hooked to your foot, so you know it's going to come back after you."
After holding his own in the surf, Johnson got his chance to shine on the 2-mile oval at Fontana, a track where he has five Sprint Cup victories.
"It was fun to see how excited those guys were to drive a race car," Johnson said. "They were so thrilled to ride around and make laps on their own."
A couple of guys also did their Brad Keselowski impression by tweeting a little in the car.
"If you're not first, you're last. Racing NASCAR with Jimmie Johnson," Benchetler tweeted.
Walsh was fired up in his tweet: "Funnest thing ever. No. 1 hands down."
For the final venue, everyone hopped back on Johnson's plane and flew to Mammoth Mountain (about 165 miles south of Reno) to take on the slopes.
"I feel like I'm a far better skier than a surfer," Johnson said. "So the day went from really nervous, completely comfortable, then pretty comfortable again."
Johnson is no novice on a pair of skis.
"I started going with a good friend of mine from school whose dad was into [snow] skiing," Johnson said. "We went to Big Bear Mountain, a couple of hours away from my parents' house [in El Cajon]. I learned to ski there. I loved it and skied a lot from my mid-teens on."
And Johnson is no stranger to snowboarding, either.
"My wife [Channi] is into snowboarding, so I switched to snowboarding,'' he said. "But I was on skis for this thing.
"We went through some gates and they timed us, which was fun. We did some small little jumps, too, but those guys just fly. It was fun just zipping down the mountain with them."
Fellow NASCAR racer Brendan Gaughan was a little jealous.
"Sure, won't ski with me anymore," Gaughan tweeted to Jimmie. "I see where I rate."
All in all, it was quite a day for everyone involved.
"A Monday I'll remember for a long time,'' Walsh tweeted after a rare tripleheader of sports fun.
LAS VEGAS -- Thou shalt not criticize the Gen-6.
Consider it NASCAR's newest commandment, which Denny Hamlin learned today from his $25,000 fine for daring to see the new car as less than perfect.
"Bow to Gen-6, lowly driver, and do not take its name in vain."
That's the message to all the drivers from NASCAR's comment police, and this time, it's a step too far. NASCAR has to be more thick-skinned than this, but apparently, it isn't.
Hamlin, in a moment of frustration after the Phoenix race, said the Gen-6 isn't any better than the Gen-5. Oh my goodness. Do not compare the most beloved car in NASCAR history (that's the 2013 mantra for the Gen-6) to the most hated car in NASCAR history (the Car of Tomorrow, Generation-5).
Any intelligent, critical comment by a driver will not be tolerated by the ivory tower of NASCAR, as Hamlin found out. Defending Cup champ Brad Keselowski got the same lesson at Daytona after criticizing some of NASCAR's policies in a USA Today article.
Keselowski didn't receive a fine, just a stern private conversation with Brian France and Lesa France Kennedy -- NASCAR's royal brother and sister duo.
Keselowski took it in stride. Hamlin didn't. Based on Hamlin's comment during the test session Thursday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Denny is mad as hell and he's not going to take it anymore. No doubt that will result in a new fine.
Hamlin said he won't pay any fine. Good luck with that. He has 10 days to appeal, but a suspension is coming if he loses his appeal -- which he probably will.
A fellow columnist friend of mine brought up a good point today. The second amendment (as in the NRA sponsorship of a Cup race) -- is all good in NASCAR. The first amendment -- drivers speaking their mind -- not so much.
Jonathan Ferrey/Getty ImagesDenny Hamlin was fined $25,000 by NASCAR on Thursday.
Robot training to begin soon for all Cup drivers. Stepford wives will be the instructors.
Look, I've been one of the biggest supporters of the Gen-6. It has so many advantages, starting with the way it looks. And I've said everyone should show some patience before judging how it will race, including drivers.
And for the record, I'm 100 percent in NASCAR's corner on the suspension of Nationwide driver Jeremy Clements. Insensitive racial comments cannot be tolerated in any situation.
But NASCAR has overreacted this time. NASCAR officials should have talked to Hamlin privately and asked him to reserve judgment and try to understand the process before going overboard on critical comments about that car.
No fine, no public message.
Maybe Hamlin will think twice next time. He said it's very hard to make passes in the Gen-6, but he started in the back at Phoenix and finished third. Obviously, he made some passes.
Whether he's right or wrong really isn't the point. NASCAR has made itself look like a lumbering heavyweight who can't take a punch.
It isn't the drivers who need to chill out. It's NASCAR.
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- You want to know why Danica Patrick matters?
Listen to these stories:
Carl Edwards' daughter, Anne, turns 3 next week.
"Carl brought her over [to Patrick's motor coach] to meet me this week," Patrick said Friday. "I've known since last year that she's a huge fan of mine. Carl said he wanted her to meet me in person because she sees me as some mythical person who doesn't exist."
Anne was wearing green Go Daddy (Patrick's sponsor) shoes when she met Danica.
"A little later, Jimmie Johnson brought his daughter [2-year-old Genevieve] to meet me," Patrick said. "That's very flattering."
Jeff Gordon's daughter, 5-year-old Ella, told her dad she wanted a picture with Patrick in Victory Lane after Patrick won the pole for the Daytona 500. Gordon starts on the front row with Patrick.
Patrick also said she was working out at a gym recently when a man asked her to watch a short video.
"It was his two daughters," she said. "They were young, maybe 2 and 4. Their dad showed them a magazine cover with me on it. He asked them, 'Who is that?' They both said my name. The guy told me, 'I have no idea how they know who you are.' Something about this is impacting kids."
And that's why Danica matters.
The debate about how good a race car driver she is misses the point. Patrick matters because she inspires young girls to reach for the stars and do something most people see only men doing. And she brings people to auto racing who wouldn't have an interest without her presence.
"I have handed out more lug nuts to little girls this week than anyone else," said Tony Gibson, Patrick's crew chief on the No. 10 Chevy. "It's great to see all the little girls in Go Daddy hats and shirts."
The Daytona Cup garage has windows where fans can see the cars and crews. The windows also have a slot where fans can pass a piece of paper and pen to drivers for autographs. And the crews can pass things back, such as lug nuts.
"I take a Sharpie and write '10' on the lug nuts I give to them," Gibson said. "Kids are writing on our window. Seeing all this is really cool for our sport."
And that's why Danica matters.
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Before NASCAR kicks off 2013 with the Daytona 500, here are a few interesting statistics that might surprise you:
Bad news for bad Brad: If Brad Keselowski wins the Daytona 500 on Sunday, he'll be the first defending Cup champion in 13 years to accomplish the feat. The last man to do it was Dale Jarrett in 2000, three months after winning the 1999 title.
Bad news for popular Danica: It's also been over a decade since the Daytona 500 pole winner went on to win the race. That also was Jarrett in 2000. Does DJ know something everyone else doesn't?
Menard is No. 1: Yes he is, as far as laps completed. Paul Menard was winless last season and finished 16th in the standings with only one top-5, but he completed more laps than any other driver -- 10,406, or 13,676.386 miles.
Obviously, Menard was on the track a lot. He had only one DNF. No wonder my eyes hurt after seeing that neon yellow Chevy lap after lap.
JJ led almost everything in 2012: Except the one category that counted the most: Winning the championship. But Jimmie Johnson and the No. 48 Chevy team should feel good about their 2013 chances when they look at the stat book.
Five-Time was No. 1 in laps led (1,744), times led (78), races led (26), top-5s (18), top-10s (24) and driver rating (109.5). He also tied for the top spot in victories (5) and poles (4).
So how in the world did Johnson not win the title? He had six DNFs, the most of any driver in the top 20 in the standings.
Expect a close finish Sunday: Restrictor-plate races usually end one of two ways -- a side-by-side finish for the victory or a big wreck that brings out a caution.
Last year's Daytona 500 had the closest finish of the season when Matt Kenseth edged Dale Earnhardt Jr. by .21 of a second. The Talladega spring race was won by Keselowski by .304 of a second over Kyle Busch.
The other two plate races ended under caution because of last-lap crashes.
All that could change this year with the introduction of the "Gen 6" to the series, but expect some craziness at the end to continue.
By the way, 17 of 36 races last year ended with a margin of victory that was less than a second. Nine of those were less than half a second.
The low man on the points stand: That would be Landon Cassill in 2012, a category no one wants to lead in 2013, but someone will. Cassill had the fewest points of 26 drivers who started all 36 Cup events.
Start-and-park perfection: The trophy went to Scott Riggs in 2012. Riggs started 20 events last season. How many did he finish? Zero. He completed 8.2 percent of the laps and made $1.5 million. Nice work if you can get it.
The S&Pers will make a little less this season since NASCAR adjusted the purse money to pay less for the bottom feeders, but it's still good money for running a few laps.