Long: Special delivery that keeps giving

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In the rabidness of fandom, sometimes it’s easy to forget the pure joy sports provides. Why enjoy something when it’s easier to argue, belittle or banter about some minutiae?

If you’re lost among the trees, then just look to Thomas Selbe.

Until Tuesday morning you probably never heard of him but that’s OK, it’s not too late to follow his way.

But first you need to know a little bit about Thomas.

He didn’t speak when he was young. Didn’t sit still. At age 4, his parents found out why. Thomas was diagnosed as autistic.

He took speech therapy all through elementary, junior high and high school to the point when if it’s a subject he loves, he’ll talk nearly non-stop now.

He also joined Special Olympics and found an outlet he had never known.

“When I was in school I used to be bullied a lot,’’ Thomas, now 25, told NBC Sports. “I just wanted to be part of something where everybody was included and nobody said, ‘No, you can’t do this. No, you can’t do that. No, you’re not welcome.’ ”

He flourished in Special Olympics and grew to where if one met him, they likely wouldn’t know about his condition.

“He has come further than my husband and I ever dreamed,” Beth Selbe said of her son. “Thomas has just exceeded every single goal.”

Then came that day in 2004. His parents were watching the NASCAR Cup race from Rockingham when Thomas walked into the room. He sat down, saw the cars and didn’t move.

“I used to have trouble sitting still and paying attention but that day, my dad recalled, that was the first time he’d seen me sit for so long,’’ Thomas said.

Beth also vividly remembers that day. They hadn’t found anything that kept him so calm until then, so they embraced NASCAR as a family.

They live in Santee, California — not far from El Cajon, home of Jimmie Johnson. The nearest NASCAR track is Auto Club Speedway, which is about a two-hour drive away. Beth and David took their son to the Cup race there in February 2005.

He loved it.

Friends at church pitched in so Thomas and his family could go to Charlotte and attend the Coca-Cola 600 in 2006. The day before the race, they went to the fan appreciation event at Evernham Motorsports and met the drivers, including Thomas’ favorite, Kasey Kahne. The next day, Kahne won the 600.

“It was the perfect race weekend as far as Tom was concerned,’’ Beth said.

The family didn’t get back to another NASCAR race until 2010 when they returned to Auto Club Speedway. They kept going year after year, providing Thomas with special memories.

“I like seeing how the drivers interact with the fans and give them an experience that they’ll never forget,’’ he said.

Thomas recalls standing at the front of a stage for Joey Logano’s appearance one year. Thomas caught some good-natured ribbing from the emcee for wearing Kahne’s gear but Logano admired the diecast car Thomas held.

It was the car Logano ran in his first ARCA race at Rockingham in 2008, a race Logano won. He signed the car for Thomas. That is one of many diecast cars Thomas has at home, along with a coupe of pieces of sheet metal from Dale Earnhardt Jr.‘s cars.

Which brings us to the letter.

Last year marked the first time since 2009 that Thomas would not attend the Cup race at Auto Club Speedway. His Special Olympics floor hockey team qualified for the Winter World Games in Ramsau, Austria. He was excited to go but disappointed he would miss the race.

So he wrote many of the drivers letters explaining why he wouldn’t be able to attend the race and explained to them what Special Olympics had meant to him. He sent the letters to the race shops. Over time, he received some correspondences, including signed hero cards.

Those hero cards at the track had inspired him. In the letter to the drivers, he also included a picture of his floor hockey team. It was his version of a hero card and he signed it for each driver.

“I wanted to sign the photos because I thought it would be cool to do what the drivers do,” Thomas said.

The letter to Clint Bowyer included something else. Thomas put the gold medal his team won that earned them a spot at the 2017 Special Olympics Winter World Games.

Tuesday, Bowyer saw Thomas’ letter. He tweeted a picture of it and the medal and wrote: “Your inspiration was just the motivation I needed. Let’s all kick ass this week.”

Soon after, Thomas saw the tweet.

“To be honest, I nearly dropped my phone when I saw Clint’s tweet” Thomas said. “I was like wow!

“I had no idea I’d made such an impact or be such an inspiration.”

That’s the beauty of sports.

 and on Facebook

NASCAR Cup playoff standings after Coca-Cola 600


The severe penalty to Chase Briscoe and his Stewart-Haas Racing team Wednesday for a counterfeit part dropped Briscoe from 17th to 31st in the season standings. Briscoe now must win a race to have a chance at the playoffs.

The penalty came a day after NASCAR suspended Chase Elliott one race for his retaliation in wrecking Denny Hamlin in Monday’s Coca-Cola 600. Elliott is 28th in the points. The 2020 Cup champion also needs to win to have a chance to make the playoffs.

Ten drivers have won races, including Coca-Cola 600 winner Ryan Blaney. That leaves six playoff spots to be determined by points at this time. With 12 races left in the regular season, including unpredictable superspeedway races at Atlanta (July 9) and Daytona (Aug. 26), the playoff standings will change during the summer.

Among those without a win this season are points leader Ross Chastain and former champions Kevin Harvick, Brad Keselowski and Elliott.

Here’s a look at the Cup playoff standings heading into Sunday’s Cup race at World Wide Technology Raceway in Madison, Illinois. Drivers in yellow have won a race and are in a playoff position. Those below the red line after 16th place are outside a playoff spot in the graphic below.

NASCAR issues major penalties to Chase Briscoe team for Charlotte infraction


NASCAR fined crew chief John Klausmeier $250,000 and suspended him six races, along with penalizing Chase Briscoe and the No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing team 120 points and 25 playoff points each for a counterfeit part on the car.

The issue was a counterfeit engine NACA duct, said Elton Sawyer, NASCAR senior vice president of competition, on Wednesday. That is a single-source part.

MORE: Updated Cup playoff standings

The team stated that it accepts the L3 penalty.

“We had a quality control lapse and a part that never should’ve been on a car going to the racetrack ended up on the No. 14 car at Charlotte,” said Greg Zipadelli in a statement from the team. “We accept NASCAR’s decision and will not appeal.”

Asked how then piece could have aided performance, Sawyer said Wednesday: “Knowing the race team mentality, they don’t do things that would not be a benefit to them in some way, shape or form from a performance advantage.”

The penalty drops Briscoe from 17th in the season standings to 31st in the standings. Briscoe goes from having 292 points to having 172 points. He’ll have to win to make the playoffs. Briscoe has no playoff points at this time, so the penalty puts him at -25 playoff points should he make it.

Briscoe’s car was one of two taken to the R&D Center after Monday’s Coca-Cola 600 for additional tear down by series officials.

The penalty comes a day after NASCAR suspended Chase Elliott one race for wrecking Denny Hamlin in last weekend’s race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

NASCAR Championship Weekend returns to Phoenix in 2024


Phoenix Raceway will host the championship races for the Cup, Xfinity, Craftsman Truck and ARCA Menards Series in 2024, NASCAR announced Wednesday.

The races will be held Nov. 1-3, 2024. The Cup season finale will be Nov. 3, 2024. The only other Cup race for 2024 that has been announced is the Daytona 500. It will be held Feb. 18, 2024.

Phoenix Raceway has hosted the championship finale for Cup, Xfinity and Trucks since 2020. Chase Elliott won the Cup title there in 2020. Kyle Larson followed in 2021. Joey Logano won the crown there in 2022.

This year’s Cup finale at Phoenix will be Nov. 5 and air on NBC.



Drivers to watch at World Wide Technology Raceway


After the fireworks from the Coca-Cola 600, NASCAR heads to World Wide Technology Raceway, a 1.25-mile speedway just outside of St. Louis. Sunday’s race (3:30 p.m. ET on FS1) marks the second time the Cup Series has raced at this track.

Much is at stake. The race to win the regular season championship has intensified. Tempers are high. The pressure to make the playoffs builds. Ten drivers have wins this season. Twelve races remain in the regular season.


Kyle Larson

  • Points position: 11th
  • Best finish this season: 1st (Richmond, Martinsville)
  • Past at WWTR: 12th last year

While a driver coming off back-to-back finishes of 20th or worse might not seem like a frontrunner, it actually does make Larson one. His topsy-turvy season has seen him place outside the top 10 in back-to-back races four times. In the three previous times he had consecutive finishes outside the top 10, he came back to finish second, first and second. Can he keep that streak going this weekend?

Bubba Wallace

  • Points position: 15th
  • Best finish this season: 4th (Las Vegas I, Kansas I, Coca-Cola 600)
  • Past at WWTR: 26th last year

Wallace has scored three consecutive top-five finishes, his best streak in his Cup career. He has climbed from 21st to 15th in the standings during this run.

William Byron

  • Points position: 3rd
  • Best finish this season: 1st (Las Vegas I, Phoenix I, Darlington I)
  • Past at WWTR: 19th last year

Byron has finished no worse than seventh in the last five races. He’s led nearly 20% of the laps run during that time. Byron has averaged nearly 47 points a race during that streak.


Corey LaJoie

  • Points position: 20th
  • Best finish this season: 4th (Atlanta I)
  • Past at WWTR: 36th last season

NASCAR’s one-race suspension to Chase Elliott gives LaJoie the chance to drive a Hendrick Motorsports car for the first time. This will be the best car LaJoie has driven in his career. Many eyes will be on him to see how he does.

Ross Chastain

Chastain has finished 29th and 22nd in the last two points races. He’s not gone more than three races without a top-10 finish this season. After his struggles last weekend at Charlotte, Chastain saw his lead cut to one point over Coca-Cola 600 winner Ryan Blaney in the standings. Five drivers are within 17 points of Chastain in the season standings.

Aric Almirola

  • Points position: 26th
  • Best finish this season: 6th (Martinsville I)
  • Past at WWTR: 5th last year

Almirola has finished 13th or worse in all but one race this season for Stewart-Haas Racing. In the five races since placing sixth at Martinsville, Almirola has finished an average of 21.0.