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Florida Gulf Coast's Christophe Varidel leaps over Sherwood Brown before practice for a second-round game of the NCAA college basketball tournament on Thursday in Philadelphia. Florida Gulf Coast is the first 15th seed to advance to the NCAA tournament's Sweet 16.
Monday, March 25, 2013
As fans in California cheered one of the most exciting Sprint Cup races in recent memory on Sunday, you could almost hear another celebration erupt on the opposite coast.
The darting, the diving, the dueling - Martinsville Speedway officials had to love it all. And the drama that unfolded after the race, with Tony Stewart confronting Joey Logano and unleashing threats? Well, that won't hurt ticket sales at the .526-mile oval either.
"Sales are brisk," Martinsville Speedway President Clay Campbell said Monday afternoon. "You can't say that yesterday did it, but you've got to imagine it did."
After a week off for Easter, the Cup Series visits Martinsville on April 7 for the STP Gas Booster 500. That means two weeks of Stewart stewing and two weeks of debate over how scores will be settled heading into the track with the tightest confines of any on the circuit.
If you missed Sunday's race, it featured some of wildest racing you'll see - drivers making bold moves throughout the final 10 laps. Kyle Busch took the checkered flag, but that's not what most people were talking about when it ended.
The focus turned to Denny Hamlin's health and Stewart's anger after Logano collided with Hamlin on the last lap and sent the Chesterfield, Va., driver to the hospital, where he spent the night.
Campbell stressed his concern for Hamlin on Monday afternoon, as the driver's condition hadn't been updated yet. (Joe Gibbs Racing later released that Hamlin had a compression fracture in his back and would be evaluated further to determine whether he would need to miss any races).
Stewart, enraged that Logano blocked him on a late restart, confronted Logano after the race and then unloaded a diatribe to reporters. "It's time he learns a lesson," Stewart said. "He's run his mouth long enough and done this double standard, but he's nothing but a little rich kid who has never had to work in his life."
Nice ad hominem attack there - one that will no doubt delight his fans - but Stewart had no business reacting how he did. It was moneymaking time.
What's Logano supposed to do, slide up to the outside like he's three laps down? He was fighting for position. Besides, can Stewart actually claim he's never blocked somebody late in a race?
Regardless, fans picked their sides. Then many of them picked up the phone and called Martinsville to inquire about tickets.
"It's hard to quantify," Campbell said of the impact of the Logano-Stewart dustup. "But obviously, if you talk to any track promoter, they'll tell you that they love seeing drama and feuds the week before their event. It's got to get the interest level up and get people paying attention to what we have."
Perhaps the best part: Martinsville has three drivers scheduled to appear in its Fan Zone - an add-on option for ticket-buyers that includes a Q&A session with drivers - the morning of the race.
Jeff Gordon is one of them.
The others? Tony Stewart and Joey Logano.
FGCU is F-U-N
As Florida Gulf Coast continued its alley-oop show in the NCAA tournament Sunday, I was reminded of something Virginia Tech coach James Johnson said about his own team back in November:
"That's one of the things we've talked about: having fun," Johnson said. "Playing hard and having fun. Enjoying the game. Enjoying being at Virginia Tech. Enjoying playing for Virginia Tech and playing in the ACC.
"That's a big thing for these young men, and they need to really enjoy doing that. You don't get every day to play basketball in the ACC. You need to take advantage of that every time you step on the floor."
FGCU is doing that. See those guys doing the chicken (duck?) dance on the sidelines? See all the pure joy from those guys after they knocked off San Diego State to become the first No. 15 seed to make the Sweet 16? Great stuff, and an embodiment of what Johnson would like the Hokies to become.
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