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Kligerman: Everyone Should Try Attending the Daytona 500 because . . . America!

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Let’s face it: Big events are terrible.

More than 100,000 people descending on a destination laughably unfit for the attention. Bursting at the seams of its infrastructure and mobility. Anything you attempt to do will be greeted by a line. A line to move, a line to eat, a line to see, a line to pee.

Always in a line. And lines are awful.

The Daytona 500 should be no different. But it is.

Because most events attract 100,000-plus people because everyone wants to be there. The Daytona 500, on the other hand, has commentators, writers, outsiders and other sports aficionados telling you that no one wanted to be there.

The problem is they were there –  the forgotten, post-majority, God-fearing Trump voter. The people whose existence continues to be debated by the coasts. They do exist, and their existence is proven at the 500.

Sure, when you see the crowd and clientele in this incredible amphitheater location, it will trigger every stereotype you have been fed into your psyche.

Rednecks, hillbillies and cowboys. Overweight, toothless and uneducated. Surrounded by Southern, snakeskin-cowboy, industrial opulence.

But that’s because you want to see those things. You’ve been told to be prejudiced at the perceived fan base.

And that is much like heading to China and only seeing communists.

You’re judging by what you’ve been told and selling yourself on what you see.

The key in an event such as the Daytona 500 is to talk, which is impossible in the normal sense of using words and sounds. Most of the time it is so loud, hearing damage seems the only outcome.

But you will talk — via gestures, glances, pointing and jumping.

It’s all very primal, but it allows you to connect with the man who has had too many Budweisers and looks as if he spent the last day on the surface of the sun. The woman to your right who looks like the 1980’s stole every bit of life from her and left a deflated, gray-straw hair, coughing corpse in its wake. In a sleeveless Dale Earnhardt Jr. T-Shirt.

This isn’t Americana stoic in a museum. This is Americana in motion at 200 mph, and you’re a part of it.

You won’t find that at the Super Bowl, no matter which team is playing or where it’s located. You will get the wealthiest, most-educated and best fans that city has to offer. Because a ticket costs more than an Ivy League education and stadium capacity is limited to roughly 80,000, it’s a select few who can afford the privilege.

At the Daytona 500, you get the fans, the people, the Americans. They can’t afford to go, but they are there. Separated by a mere single railing from a successful oil executive grand poobah, drinking a Budweiser in a five-figure suite. It’s a rite of passage, it is near and dear to their hearts, and it compels them to revel in the high-octane experience.

And because of this, there never has been a better time for you to go. (EDITOR’S NOTE: It’s been only a month since the end of the most recent Daytona 500, but it’s never too early to plan a trip for the 60th running in 2018.)

I was sitting at a bar in the Daytona airport when a man burst in, and the bartender asked how he was doing. The man – balding with olive-hue skin and wrinkled like an old piece of leather because of a lifetime of tobacco products – responded “@#%&ing terrible, I gotta head back to Connecticut”

He wants to stay in the sun. He agrees with what’s here. He tells the bartender, “This is the worst year yet, I was talking to a couple bar owners, and they are all preparing for Bike Week. No one under 35 likes NASCAR anymore. No one.”

The guy to his left agrees, adding “seems a lot of sports are having this problem.”

At this time, I had to leave. But the message was clear: Our perception is our reality and therefore there never has been a better time to attend.

Among the aging, graying, empty-nesters, and Medicaid-addled fan base sits a sport ripe for the young, vibrant and independent to make it what they want. It’s ours for the taking.

The NFL won’t listen to you, nor will the NBA, but NASCAR will — and through all its negative press, perceived fallacies and ridicule.

I ask you to find me a more American form of sport. You can’t.

Attend next year’s Daytona 500 (or any year) at least once for America, and you will see. It’s a big event worth attending, and the best time to go is right now.

Here’s the point(s): Brad Keselowski locked into second round already

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Brad Keselowski came into the NASCAR Cup playoffs concerned primarily about one thing: wins.

His strategy was if he won at least once in the first two or three rounds, it likely would leave him in good position to reach the final Round of 4 for the championship in the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Ironically, Keselowski is just two races into the 10-race playoffs and he’s already advanced to the second round Round of 12 not on wins, but points.

After finishing sixth in the playoff opener last Sunday at Chicagoland Speedway, Keselowski finished fourth in Sunday’s ISM Connect 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

That’s enough points earned to put Keselowski and Kyle Larson into the second round with points, while Chicagoland winner Martin Truex Jr. and New Hampshire winner Kyle Busch also advance to Round 2 with their victories.

While Keselowski would have liked to earn his first playoff win and third triumph of the season, knowing he doesn’t have to worry about where he’ll finish next Sunday in the first round elimination race at Dover gave the 2012 Cup champion satisfaction indeed.

“It was great execution,” Keselowski said. “The pit crew was really solid today and a pretty good setup too. (Crew chief) Paul Wolfe and the engineers did a good job putting the right stuff under the car.”

Even though he never led a lap in Sunday’s race, a win was definitely possible for Keselowski, even though he was contending with the Toyotas of Kyle Busch and Truex Jr.

He stayed in the top 5 for much of the race, didn’t suffer any problems on pit road and stayed out of trouble.

“I felt like we were where we needed to be to win and to run up front with the pit crew and the setup, just kind of lacking a little bit with aero stuff to keep up,” Keselowski said. “But on this type of track, aerodynamics are a little less important and I felt like it helped us run a little bit higher this week.”

Now, Keselowski can go into Dover a bit more relaxed, knowing he’ll race yet another day after next Sunday – as in the Round of 12 opener at Charlotte on Oct. 8.

“I think today this execution is as good as you can get,” Keselowski said. “A little bit of luck helps and of course you want to be the fastest car.

“That’s not the scenario with rules the way they are now, so we’ve got to make the most of it and hope to catch a few breaks and make sure we do our part.”

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Ricky Stenhouse Jr. overcomes tough day to hold on to final transfer spot

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LOUDON, New Hampshire — No, there were not any bruises although Ricky Stenhouse Jr. admits it felt like “we were in a boxing match with Floyd Mayweather all week.’’

Stenhouse persevered Sunday, coming back from scraping the wall on Lap 7 of Sunday’s  race and getting lapped before halfway to finish 15th. That puts him in the final transfer spot for the second round with only next weekend’s race at Dover International Speedway left before the playoff field is trimmed.

Stenhouse is tied with Austin Dillon for the final transfer spot but owns the tiebreaker based on a better finish in this round. Stenhouse’s best finish in this round was the 15th-place finish he scored Sunday. Dillon’s best finish is 16th, which he scored last weekend at Chicagoland Speedway.

Stenhouse entered Sunday’s race four points behind Dillon for the final transfer spot. Odds were not in his favor to gain ground. Stenhouse had the worst average finish (20.44) at New Hampshire among the 16 playoff drivers coming into the race. It looked all weekend as if he’d struggle to make it into the top 20.

“We just couldn’t find speed, couldn’t find the handle on the car,’’ Stenhouse said. “We made a lot of adjustments for today and was surprisingly a little bit better than we were in practice. I didn’t think we were as capable of a car to finish where we did, but we did what we needed and had some good breaks and some good pit stops and ended up gaining some points. That was our goal, so I feel really good about that. I’d say we’ve had two sub-par weeks and we’re still in this thing, so we’ll regroup and get focused and go to Dover.”

Stenhouse has 2,044 points, tied with Dillon and one point ahead of Ryan Newman.

Dillon finished 19th and was involved in an incident with Kevin Harvick that spun Harvick and triggered an eight-car crash at the end of the second stage.

Dillon said he didn’t know what happened.

“He kept coming left and I was in the gas and he bobbled and when he bobbled I tapped him and it spun him out,’’ Dillon said of Harvick.

As for next week, Dillon said: “We’ve got to go get ‘em … and have a good race and we will see where we end up.”

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Kyle Larson: ‘Top fives will get us to Homestead’

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Kyle Larson has finished in second a lot.

His runner-up finish Sunday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway was his eighth of the year and his first in the playoffs.

In Sunday’s ISM Connect 300, the Chip Ganassi Racing driver started and finished second after failing to track down Kyle Busch in the closing laps of the race.

But Larson doesn’t mind, especially after he’s earned two top fives to open the playoffs.

“That’s a lot of second-place finishes this year, but I’m fine with second,” Larson told NBCSN. “Top fives will get us to Homestead (for the championship race), so hats off to everybody on our Target team. The pit crew was great all day. I think we gained spots every time. Normally I’m struggling on short tracks, but this year we were pretty good.”

Larson placed second in both New Hampshire races this year. Before this season, he hadn’t finished better than 10th in his previous four starts. He placed third and second in his first two New Hampshire starts in 2014.

Larson earned his first short-track win two weeks ago in the regular-season finale at Richmond Raceway. The rest of his five Cup victories have come at 2-mile speedways, of which there are none in the playoffs. But there is the short track of Martinsville and the 1-mile oval at Phoenix in the third round.

Any sting of finishing second once again is likely dulled by the fact Larson has already advanced to the second round based on points.

But Larson wants to make more trips to victory lane in the final eight races.

“You could probably point your way to (the championship race), but I would prefer to get a win in each of these rounds,” Larson later said in his post-race press conference. “If we can keep the good runs going, we should be all right.

“Obviously, I think as you get into the later rounds, wins are even more important than they are now. We had good regular season points, gave ourselves some good playoff points. This first round I knew would be fairly easy, but I think as we get into the next round and then the third round, a win would be great.”

Larson leaves New Hampshire second in the NASCAR Cup standings. He is 24 points behind Martin Truex Jr.

Larson’s next chance to win in the first round of the playoffs is next weekend at the 1-mile Dover International Speedway. In his seven starts at the “Monster Mile,” Larson has three top fives.

Two of those were runner-up finishes, including in the last visit there in June.

NASCAR Cup standings after Loudon: 4 drivers locked into second round

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Four drivers emerged from Sunday’s ISM Connect 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway with a bit of pressure taken off their shoulders.

In addition to race winner Kyle Busch and last week’s winner, Martin Truex Jr., Sunday runner-up Kyle Larson and fourth-place finisher Brad Keselowski are all locked into the second round of the NASCAR Cup playoffs, also known as the Round of 12.

That means no matter what happens at Dover International Speedway next Sunday, those four will have automatic berths in the second round.

Drivers in the first round that need strong results at Dover to advance — or run the risk of being eliminated if they don’t — are Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (12th place), Austin Dillon (13th), Ryan Newman (14th), Kurt Busch (15th) and Kasey Kahne (16th).

Following Sunday’s race, Martin Truex Jr. remains No. 1 in the standings, holding a 24-point lead over Larson, a 30-point edge over Kyle Busch, 43 points ahead of Brad Keselowski, 61 points ahead of Denny Hamlin and 62 points ahead of Matt Kenseth.

Click here for the full NASCAR Cup standings after Sunday’s race at New Hampshire.