Gorch on the Porch: Another Fantasy NASCAR season comes to an end

Photo by Steve T. GorchesJim Saylor of Michigan City psoes on Tuesday with the two Brickyard 400 tickets he won in the News-Dispatch Fantasy NASCAR contest. Saylor enters the contest with his brother, Greg, and parents, James and Barbara.

Just as the regular NASCAR season is heating up, another News-Dispatch Fantasy NASCAR campaign comes to an end this week as the annual Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway arrives this weekend.

For those who have asked why we end the Fantasy NASCAR now instead of going all the way, it’s all about timing.

When I started this contest at another Northwest Indiana newspaper, the goal was to throw NASCAR readers a bone while producing something to fill space. Also, the logical contest reward was tickets to the Brickyard 400, meaning we had to end the contest in July.

Carrying over Fantasy NASCAR to the News-Dispatch makes this week’s ending even more logical due to the Pro Picks football contest that will start in about six weeks, and the added prevalence of high school sports in our award-winning coverage. And we still have two tickets to Sunday’s Brickyard race for the overall winner.

That winner turned out to be Jim Saylor of Michigan City, and he was perfectly fine with being the second choice.

Each weekly winner was put into a proverbial hat (some people won more than once, so they earn multiple spots) and three names are pulled out in order. We have to make sure a winner is able to attend the race this weekend, and our first choice, Linda Hancock of Michigan City (a three-time winner this year), was unable to go. Saylor was the No. 2 pick and he will be attending for the first time since 2000.

Jim enters our contest with three other Saylors, and they all won at least once this season. Jim’s parents, James and Barbara, and his brother Greg, all won. James was our winner in the final race this past weekend, edging Jim by two points (221-219). James’ lineup was consistent without race-winner Denny Hamlin. Instead, it had Kyle Busch (41 points), Kevin Harvick (40), Martin Truex (49), Kyle Larson (45) and Matt Kenseth (46). Jim did have Hamlin and his 51 points, but also had Jimmie Johnson, who had 33 points, much less than all of dad’s picks. Two other previous winners this year, Mark Talbutt and Dave Hack, were tied for third with 211 points.

As for the answer to another FAQ (frequently asked question, for those not familiar with texting language), not sure if Fantasy NASCAR will return next year, but my hope is that it will.

• Another 30-for-30 classic: Those ESPN 30-for-30 specials are getting better. The latest fits right into a daily ritual for me and myriad other sports fans — turning on the car radio.

Last week’s installment was simply called “Mike and the Mad Dog” about to the famous sports talk radio duo that were a mainstay on WFAN in New York City for 19 years until 2008.

“Mike” refers to Mike Francesca, who was a college basketball analyst in the 1980s before getting into radio, while his partner was Chris “Mad Dog” Russo.

They are considered the fathers of sports talk radio as we know it now. Most hosts on WSCR-670 (known as “The Score”) in Chicago admit that they might not be in the business or The Score wouldn’t have started in 1992 if it weren’t for Mike and the Mad Dog.

Back then, I actually disliked the duo because they were from New York, and I had that Chicago Second City mentality of hating everything New York. But now that I’m older and wiser (most of the time) and realize they were the perfect originators of sports talk shows, especially after watching the 30-for-30.

They were two New Yorkers who lived and breathed sports in the Big Apple, and that’s what made them perfect for WFAN after the station tried to bring in sports guys from other parts of the country. The Score is built the same way with Chicago guys talking Chicago sports.

Also, Mike and the Mad Dog were the first sports hosts to take calls and they berated callers for being dumb or having stupid opinions. Some sports fans don’t like this — it’s carried over to some Chicago shows — but Francesca’s explanation was perfect. He called callers “entertainers” and said they were different than the real listeners.

This is the third straight 30-for-30 that I highly recommend for your viewing pleasure. “One and Not Done” on John Calipari was great, and will change the way you think about the Kentucky coach, and the “Best of Enemies” three-part series on the Lakers-Celtics rivalry brought back plenty of memories for us older basketball fans, and would be very informative to Millennial fans who weren’t around for one of the greatest sports rivalries in any sport.

Reach sports editor Steve T. Gorches at sgorches@thenewsdispatch.com or (219) 214-4206. Follow him on Twitter @SteveTGorches.

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