Points by Ben Simmons during Game 3 victory over Nets

Eric Fisher’s weekly column about a variety of topics. This week Eric serves up opinions on the reaction to Matt Rhule leaving Temple, Penn State being left out of the playoffs and Lane Johnson’s potential return.

Young players such as second-year defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere (pictured) and 19-year-old rookies Ivan Provorov and Travis Konecny could be crucial to whether the Flyers improve this season. But the future has definitely arrived.

Eric Fisher’s weekly column about a variety of topics. This week Eric serves up opinions on Roger Federer, Venus Williams’ historic victory and an interesting move by Jeffrey Lurie.

Archive for the ‘NASCAR’ Category

Johnson feeling left out at Dover

Posted by Eric Fisher On October - 6 - 2018 ADD COMMENTS

With 11 victories, Jimmie Johnson has won more times at Dover International Speedway than any other driver. But if he earns win No. 12 Sunday at the Gander Outdoors 400, it won’t matter very much.

A victory would snap Johnson’s 33-race winless streak, which dates back to the 2017 spring race at Dover. But it affect his standing in NASCAR’s playoffs.

Sunday’s race at the Monster Mile (2 p.m.) begins the second stage of NASCAR’s playoffs. Four drivers are eliminated after each stage, and one of the four eliminated last Sunday was Johnson.

Johnson sort of eliminated himself last week at Charlotte Motor Speedway. He was in second place during the final lap. If he had played it safe, he would have advanced to the second stage. But Johnson went for the win, trying to pass leader Martin Truex Jr. on the final turn. Johnson collided with Truex. He was able to get his car restarted and finished in 14th place.

Finishing 14th left Johnson tied in the standings with Aric Almirola and Kyle Larson, with Larson only earning a tie because Jeffrey Earnhardt crashed with sight of the finish line and couldn’t get his car restarted. Johnson lost the tiebreaker, so Almirola and Larson advanced to the second stage while Johnson joined Austin Dillon, Denny Hamlin and Erik Jones in the first group of drivers eliminated.

Nobody can match Johnson’s victory total, but there are drivers still alive in the playoffs who have a history of success at Dover. Kevin Harvick, who is in second place, has won three of his past seven races at Dover. Brad Keselowski, in fourth place and with wins in three of his last five races, has two wins and six Top 10 finishes in his last nine Dover races. Truex, in third place, has a win and eight Top 10 finishes in his last nine Dover races.

Kyle Busch, who is in first place, has trip to Victory Lane and four Top 10 finishes in his last eight Dover races. Busch will start from the pole position Sunday because qualifying was wiped out by rain.

If you’re looking for a driver besides Johnson and the top four who could win at Dover, consider Chase Elliott, Johnson’s young teammate at Hendrick Motorsports. Elliott, in ninth place in the standings, has raced at Dover five times while on NASCAR’s top circuit. He had never finished outside of the top five until finishing 12th in the spring.

Elliott, Larson, Almirola and Alex Bowman are in the final four positions entering the second stage. But, with the standings closely bunched after the top four drives, they are all within 15 points of fifth-place Clint Bowyer. Even if they don’t win, those bottom four drivers want to do as well as possible at Dover to move out of the elimination positions entering the final two races of the second stage.

There is a lot at stake for a lot of drivers at Dover on Sunday – even if Jimmie Johnson isn’t one of them.

NASCAR playoffs: Will the Big Three rule?

Posted by Eric Fisher On September - 15 - 2018 ADD COMMENTS

It would be surprising if anyone other than Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick or Martin Truex Jr. won NASCAR’s 10-race playoff. That’s how dominant the big three have been this season.

It’s really the Big Two, with Harvick winning seven races and Busch winning six and leading in points. But Truex is the defending champion, and his four wins are nothing to sneeze at.

The playoffs begin Sunday (3 p.m.) with the South Point 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. NASCAR conducts its playoffs in four stages. The bottom four drivers in the field, which begins with 16 participants, are eliminated after the third, sixth and ninth races. The second stage begins at Dover on Oct. 7, so the field will be whittled down to 12 by that point.

Let’s evaluate the 16-driver field.

NO SHOT: Alex Bowman had the fewest regular-season points of the 16 drivers in the playoff field. Bowman only had one Top 5 finish all year, so he will likely be eliminated at the end of Stage 1. The same is true of Austin Dillon, who only finished in the Top 10 four times and didn’t even finish in the top 16 in points but qualified for the playoffs by winning the Daytona 500, the year’s first race. It’s been a long time since the Daytona 500. Aric Almirola only had one Top 5 finish all year, so he’s likely to be on the chopping block before reaching Dover.

NOT THEIR TIME: Erik Jones, Ryan Blaney and Kyle Larson are young drivers on the rise, but it’s not their time yet to challenge for a championship. Larson, 26, had 14 Top 10 finishes, but he doesn’t have a victory yet this year. Blaney, 24, also is winless and only has five Top 5 finishes. Jones, 22, won the pole for the playoff-opening South Point 400 and won a race this year, but he still isn’t ready for a run at a title. The upside for these drivers is making it to the third stage, although they’ll likely be gone by, at the latest, the end of Stage 2.

PAST THEIR TIME: Being in this category doesn’t mean the driver is washed up, but former champions Jimmie Johnson and Kurt Busch aren’t having the type of season that would indicate they are championship contenders. It would be wise never to count out Johnson, a seven-time NASCAR champion, but he only has eight Top 10 finishes this year. Kurt Busch is seventh in points entering the playoffs, but he only has four Top 5 finishes and his days with Stewart-Haas Racing seem numbered. He’s going to need better performances to even reach Stage 3. Clint Bowyer has had a bit of a career resurgence, winning two races and ranking fifth in points as the playoffs begin, but he hasn’t done much the second half of the season.

LONG SHOTS: Denny Hamlin hasn’t won a race all season, but he was running strong late in the regular season. Some might even say he should have won a race. Perhaps Hamlin is getting his act together just at the right time. Chase Elliott only has one win this year, but he seems like the likeliest of the young drivers to break through into the upper echelon. If he can survive the first three stages, anything can happen in the final race at Homestead.

TOP CHALLENGERS: Brad Keselowski, the 2012 NASCAR champion, won the final two races of the regular season. Entering the playoffs on a hot streak, Keselowski shouldn’t be counted out. Joey Logano only has one victory this season, but he has 18 Top 10 finishes. Logano is likely to reach Stage 3 and shouldn’t be taken lightly if he reaches Homestead.

THE BIG THREE: Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick are the clear favorites, with Truex just a half-step behind. Busch and Harvick have been more consistent than Truex, which is why he’s considered a shade behind them. But you should never count out the defending champion. Prediction: 1. Kyle Busch; 2. Kevin Harvick; 3. Chase Elliott; 4. Martin Truex Jr.

Harper hits 1st home run as Phillie