Cubs

Relive the craziest Daytona 500 of all time

685086.jpg

Relive the craziest Daytona 500 of all time

From Comcast SportsNet
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) -- There was rain, fire, soap suds and fog in the most bizarre Daytona 500 in history. When it was all over, Matt Kenseth was the only sure thing. It wasn't even close. Kenseth capped a crazy 36 hours for NASCAR by winning the first postponed Daytona 500 in 54 editions of the marquee event. He held off Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Roush Fenway Racing teammate Greg Biffle over a two-lap overtime finish in a race that was scheduled to begin Sunday afternoon but ended in the early morning hours Tuesday. "We had a really fast car and have fast cars in the past, and I figured out a way to mess it up," Kenseth said. "I am glad it all worked out." It did for Kenseth, who picked up a second Daytona 500 title to go with his 2009 victory at the end of a wild SpeedWeeks. All three of NASCAR's national series races went to overtime, with unknown winners picking up the victories in the Nationwide and Truck Series. In the end, the Daytona 500 will be remembered not for the actual racing, but all the fluke things that plagued it from start to finish. Rain at Daytona International Speedway first forced NASCAR to push the race to Monday afternoon, then Monday night for the first-ever 500 in primetime television. Then a freak accident caused a massive fuel fire that stopped the race for two hours as safety workers used Tide laundry detergent to clean up the track. "The thing that comes into my mind is NASCAR just can't catch a break," Earnhardt said. "We're trying to deliver, and we just have some unfortunate things happen such as the rain delay, potholes in the track a couple of years ago. We're a good sport, and we're trying to give a good product." Kenseth and Biffle took over the lead following the stoppage with 40 laps to go, caused by the fire that began when something broke on Juan Pablo Montoya's car. He was driving alone under caution, spun hard into a safety truck, and the collision caused an instant explosion. "About the time you think you've seen about everything, you see something like this," NASCAR president Mike Helton said. Jet fuel -- the safety truck held 200 gallons of kerosene -- poured down the surface of Turn 3 at Daytona International Speedway after the accident, creating a fiery lasting image of NASCAR's biggest race of the year. "I've hit a lot of things -- but a jet dryer?" said Montoya, who added he felt a vibration in his car before the accident. "It just felt really strange, and as I was talking on the radio, the car just turned right." Journeyman driver Dave Blaney was leading at that time because he had not pitted, and all the drivers surrounded him as they lingered outside their parked cars during the clean-up. It looked a little bit like a party -- and Brad Keselowski nearly tripled his number of Twitter followers by live tweeting during the break -- as everyone discussed just what had happened to derail the race. And the bad luck continued after the race ended when teams were stranded in Daytona another night: bad weather in North Carolina closed the airports at home. "Now believe it or not I can't go home," fourth-place finisher Denny Hamlin posted on Twitter. "Fogged in. Yet another night in Daytona." He had it better than driver Landon Cassill -- his rental car was towed from Daytona International Speedway property sometime during the race. Yup, it was that kind of race. When racing resumed after a 2-hour stoppage for a freaky fuel fire, it was obvious it was Kenseth's to lose. Biffle was the only driver who could mount a challenge as the Fords were the class of the field. Carl Edwards, another Roush driver, started from the pole and finished eighth. "The Roush cars are really strong; they showed that all week," Earnhardt said. The racing was aggressive at the drop of the green flag, and the first accident occurred on just the second lap, when Elliott Sadler ran into the back of Jimmie Johnson as they drafted around the track. The contact sent Johnson into the wall, and as the five-time NASCAR champion slid back down across the track, he was hit hard in the door by David Ragan. The accident collected six cars total, including defending Daytona 500 winner Trevor Bayne and Danica Patrick. "I'm just really, really bummed to start the season this way," Johnson said. "To work as hard as everyone did at Hendrick Motorsports to get this Lowe's Chevrolet and to have it barely complete two-and-a-half miles of green flag racing is pretty sad. We'll just go on and go to Phoenix and set our marks on winning that race." He may go to Phoenix without any points: NASCAR is expected to penalize crew chief Chad Knaus this week for failing the first inspection of SpeedWeeks. Knaus could be facing both a suspension and a loss of a points. It took about an hour for Patrick's Stewart-Haas Racing crew to get her back on the track, and she returned 62 laps behind the leader. The race settled down after that, and the push for the 200,000 leader bonus at the halfway mark didn't spark too much excitement. Two-time NASCAR champion Terry Labonte had been running second and presumably in position to make a move for the cash, but he was spun by Marcos Ambrose. "Awe, man! Who would turn the Ice Man around?" Earnhardt shouted on his team radio. After a brief caution, the leaders had a 10-lap sprint to the halfway point, and Martin Truex Jr. used a big push from Denny Hamlin to slide by Greg Biffle on the deciding lap. Although he was told over his team radio to "go get the other half," history didn't bode well for Truex: the last leader at the halfway point to win the Daytona 500 was Davey Allison in 1992.

Why what Mike Montgomery did against LA could go a long way toward keeping him in the Cubs' rotation

6-19mikemontgomery.jpg
USA Today

Why what Mike Montgomery did against LA could go a long way toward keeping him in the Cubs' rotation

Joe Maddon needed Mike Montgomery to get through at least six innings given the circumstances presenting the Cubs' manager before Game 2 of Tuesday’s day-night doubleheader against the Los Angeles Dodgers. 

Not only were the Cubs short a man in the bullpen (thanks to Brandon Morrow’s pants-related back injury), but Maddon had to use four relievers — including Pedro Strop for two innings — after Tyler Chatwood managed only five innings in Game 1 earlier in the afternoon. 

So when Montgomery — who had only thrown over 100 pitches once in the last two and a half seasons before Tuesday — saw his pitch count sit at 40 after two innings, and then 63 after three, he knew he needed to regroup to avoid creating a mess for the Cubs’ bullpen. 

What followed was a start that, statistically, wasn’t the most impressive of the five Montgomery’s made since re-joining the Cubs’ rotation earlier this year. But it was an important start in that the 28-year-old left-hander didn’t have his best stuff, yet didn’t give in to a good Dodgers lineup. And holding that bunch to one run over six innings was exactly what the Cubs needed in what turned out to be a 2-1 extra-inning win. 

“Especially when you don’t have have your best stuff, you always gotta — that’s when you really learn how to pitch,” Montgomery said. 

It’s also the kind of start that could be a major point in Montgomery’s favor when Maddon is presented with a decision to make on his starting rotation whenever Yu Darvish comes off the disabled list. Knowing that Montgomery can grind his way through six innings when his team needs it the most without his best stuff only can add to the confidence the Cubs have in him. 

Montgomery didn’t have his best stuff on Tuesday, issuing more walks (four) than he had in his previous four starts (three). He threw 48 pitches between the second and third innings, and only 25 of those pitches were strikes. Of the nine times the Dodgers reached base against Montgomery, six were the result of fastballs either leading to a walk or a hit. 

Even though the Dodgers were able to bother Montgomery a bit on his fastball, Maddon said that’s the pitch of his that’s impressed him the most over the last few weeks. 

“He never got rushed,” Maddon said. “In the past he would seem to get rushed when things weren’t going well, when he spot-started. Overall, fastball command is better — even though he was off a little bit tonight, the fastball command still exceeds what I’ve seen in the past couple of years on a more consistent basis. The changeup, really, good pitch. He got out of some jams but I think the fact that he knows where his fastball is going now is the difference-maker for him.”

Darvish will throw a simulated game on Wednesday after throwing two bullpen sessions last week. Maddon still doesn’t have a timetable for the $126 million right-hander’s return, and said he’s not entertaining what to do with his rotation until Darvish comes off the disabled list. But Maddon did mention Montgomery’s relative lack of an innings load — the most he’s thrown in a season in 130 2/3, which he did in 2017 — as a reason to perhaps not rush him into a permanent starting role the rest of the season. Going to a six-man rotation is a possibility, too, Maddon said. 

But the over-arching point is this: Montgomery will remain in the Cubs’ rotation as long as he keeps earning it. That can be the product of strong outings in which he has good stuff, or games like Tuesday in which he shows the Cubs the kind of resiliency most starters need to get through a full season. 

“I pitch well, good things happen,” Montgomery said. “I’ve always thought that. Opportunities, you just gotta make the most of them.”

Summer of Sammy: Sosa's 28th + 29th homers in 1998

Summer of Sammy: Sosa's 28th + 29th homers in 1998

It's the 20th anniversary of the Summer of Sammy, when Sosa and Mark McGwire went toe-to-toe in one of the most exciting seasons in American sports history chasing after Roger Maris' home run record. All year, we're going to go homer-by-homer on Sosa's 66 longballs, with highlights and info about each. Enjoy.

For the second time in 1998, Sosa went back-to-back games with multiple home runs. After going yard twice on June 19 of that season, Slammin' Sammy again sent two balls into the bleachers on June 20.

He singlehandedly beat the Phillies that night, driving in 5 runs in a 9-4 Cubs victory.

But that wasn't the most impressive feat of the day from Sosa. His second homer was actually measured at a whopping 500 feet! It was the longest of the season, but not the longest of his career. On June 24, 2003, Sosa hit a homer at Wrigley measured at 511 feet.

The back-to-back big games raised Sosa's season OPS to 1.083 with a ridiculous .685 slugging percentage. He began June 1998 with a .608 slugging percentage.

Fun fact: Kerry Wood struck out 11 batters in 7.1 innings on June 20, 1998 to pick up his 7th big-league victory. As Wood marched to the National League Rookie of the Year that season, he finished with a 13-6 record and 233 strikeouts in only 166.2 innings for a career-high 12.6 K/9 rate.