|CURATING THE BEST IN SPORT|
|November 10-16, 2020|
A Champion in merit or randomness? NASCAR
It is not news that NASCAR makes things their way and that part of its essence is close racing. It is not uncommon to see a driver win unpredictably in the last seconds (such as Cole Custer’s upset victory at Kentucky this year). NASCAR has also increased the unpredictability of the Championship itself by introducing a “Playoffs format”. Is it crowing the correct Champions?
The Playoffs format is hard to explain in a few words, but basically consists of four cutoffs throughout the season (to 16, 12, 8 and 4 contending drivers), called “Rounds”. The drivers with most points accumulated in that round plus some bonuses they acquire for finishing in the top places at the subdivisions (called “Stages”) of each race in the season. This means that regardless of anything else, there will be four drivers -no more or less- that battle for the Championship in the last race, the best of them in that Finale becoming the Champion.
This year it turned out that the “Championship Four” finished in the top four places of the Finale, with Chase Elliott (USA) passing Brad Keselowski (USA) in the last laps to become the Champion. He beat his rivals on track, “fair and square”. But it is also relevant to note that Kevin Harvick (USA) was left off the Championship Four after a second place and a couple of mediocre races (16th and 17th) although he won nine races and finished in the top-5 in twenty races out of thirty-six. It felt as if the driver who had indisputably been the best throughout the season -followed by Denny Hamlin (USA) and then Elliot- was not being crowned as “the best in the season”.
This is not unique to NASCAR: the PGA Champion is also determined in one tournament (although golfers are given stroke advantages according to their season performance) and the ATP Season also concludes with the “Finals”, which have not been won by the year-end #1 in the last four seasons. A difference might be that in NASCAR, every driver faces each other -bar rare instances- on every race of the season, while in other sports not everyone is tested against everyone else at the same time so many times throughout the season. If anything, NASCAR might be the top-tier sport league that has more chances to compare everyone against everyone throughout the year. They could take advantage of that.
Regardless, ultimately all drivers have the same shot at winning the Championship and it will be determined by on-track performance. Maybe it is not about the best performer throughout the season, but NASCAR has been about close driving and uncertainty and maybe it is not incoherent with what NASCAR is. Just don’t do this in Formula 1.
PS: The most successful Champion in NASCAR history, Jimmie Johnson (USA) retired from NASCAR this week. Johnson had seven Championships. Had the Championships been defined by season-long points, he would only have three, while Jeff Gordon (USA) would have had seven, instead of four. But that’s not what the records read and maybe Johnson is the best because he knew how to race to win Championships, even if that meant not necessarily being the best throughout the season.
|Five things to know from last week|
- Breeders’ Cup. John Velázquez (PUR) won the Breeders’ Cup Classic with Authentic (USA) and the Filly & Mare Sprint with a track-record-breaking Gamine (USA). Pierre-Charles Boudot (FRA) won a 73-1 upset with Order of Australia (IRL) in the Mile and also won the Filly and Mare Turf as a last-minute jockey replacement on Audarya (FRA), also with a track record. Another Covid-19-related last-minute replacement was Colin Keane (IRL), who rode Tarnawa (IRL), to win the Turf. Trainer Brad Cox had four winners, including Monomoy Girl (USA), who won her second Distaff in her possible final start, and with Knicks Go (USA), who won the Dirt Mile also in a record time. These horses were mounted by Florent Geroux (FRA) and Joel Rosario (DOM) respectively. Both rode two winners. Irad Ortiz Jr (PUR) also rode two winners and took the “Bill Shoemaker Award” for a third consecutive time because he also had a second and a third place, although he “only” had one Grade 1 win. Read the takeaways from America’s Best Racing
- Indian Premier League in Dubai. The Indian Premier League finished successful T20 seasons at Dubai, both for men and women. The Mumbai Indians defeated Delhi Capitals by 5 wickets with 8 balls left in order to take their fifth Championship since 2013 and keep on proving they are clearly the best. The three-team Women’s Challenge was won by the Trailblazers, who defeated the Supernovas. Nattakan Chantam (THA) made a spectacular save for the Trailblazers. She said it doesn’t hurt! Watch it here (News18)
- Redemption for Roglič? Primož Roglič (SLO) won the Vuelta a España after having being 2nd at the Tour de France, although countryman Tadej Pogačar (SLO) was not competing. Roglič also took the Points Classification and four Stages. Richard Carapaz (ECU) finished 24 seconds behind and Team Movistar won the Team Classification, as they did at the Tour. Lisa Brennauer (GER) won the Women’s Madrid Challenge by La Vuelta and also took the points classification. World Champion van der Breggen (NET) and Lizzie Deignan (ENG) were not competing. Deignan finished atop the UCI Women’s WorldTour. (Cyclingnews)
- Precisely. Wales won its first PDC World Cup of Darts represented by Gerwyn Price and Jonny Clayton, who defeated England’s Michael Smith and Rob Cross in the Finals. In another precision sport, Bill O’Neill (USA) won the PBA Playoffs (Bowling), for his 13th PBA tournament win (PBA).
- Underdogs in Portugal. The FIM Enduro GP World Championship held its first Portuguese round and Josep García (ESP) impressed by taking third and first in the overall category, which is especially impressive he is in the E2 class (2nd and 1st) and he had not competed in an EnduroGP round in three years! Steve Holcombe (ENG), another E2 rider, also took the Day 1 Overall and leads the Championship standings. In the Baja Portalegre 500, part of the FIA and FIA Bajas World Cups, Guillaume De Mévius (BEL) (Grégoire’s son) won the SSV category and impressively finished 2nd in the cars category, challenging Bernhard Ten Brinke (NET) for the win (Baja Portalegre 500).
|GLOBAL PODIUM OF THE WEEK|
Gold: John Velázquez
(Puerto Rico, Horse Racing)
John Velázquez did not just win two Breeders’ Cup World Championship races, but he also did them with two of the fastest rides in the world this year. He first won the Filly & Mare Sprint mounting Gamine (USA), who set a track record for the seven furlongs at Kenneland and destroyed the rest of the field by six lengths and a quarter, ahead of now-retired Serengeti Empress (USA). With a Beyer Speed of 110, this is the second fastest speed recorded in the US this year for up to one mile.
And then came the highlight: Velázquez won the $6 Million USD Breeders’ Cup Classic by mounting Authentic (USA) at a speed of 111 Beyer, the fastest achieved this year in the US for over one mile. Authentic beat one of the most competitive fields that has been seen at the race; Improbable (USA) came second. This win makes a great case for Authentic to be named the North American Horse of the Year, having also won the Kentucky Derby mounted by Velázquez. These Breeders’ Cup wins are the 17th and 18th of Velazquez’ career, which rank him second in the all-time list. Authentic retires as a Champion.
Relieve the Breeders’ Cup Classic
Silver: Tim Gajser
Tim Gajser won his third Motocross Grand Prix World Championship (2016, 2019, 2020) and he made it by taking two Grands Prix in the same week: the MXGP of Pietramurata and the MXGP of Garda Trentina, both held at Pietramurata, Italy. In both rounds, Tim finished the first race in 2nd and 1st in the second race. Tim took 16 podiums in the last 17 races for a total of 15 race and 5 round wins out of 17 rounds, and finished 2nd in the Constructors’ Championship with Honda, KTM taking the honors. Jeremy Seewer (SUI) and Romain Febvre (FRA) took the two other races this week. Clément Desalle (BEL), 23-time Grand Prix winner, announced his retirement from competition.
Watch the highlights of the MXGP of Garda Trentino 2020
Bronze: René Rast
(Germany, Auto Racing)
René Rast won his third Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters (2017, 2019, 2020), which place him second in the all-time list. He won the championship by finishing second and first in the last two races at Hockenheim. He stood on the podium in the last 10 races of the Championship and won 5 of the last 6, eding out Nico Müller (SUI), who had a dominant start of season.
Watch the highlights of the season finale (DTM)
|GLOBAL SPORTS AGENDA|
The Masters will be played in an unusual month of November and then again in April, when Carlos Ortiz (MEX) will be able to play after having won the PGA Houston Open, the first PGA win for a Mexican in 42 years.
Lewis Hamilton (ENG) might equal Michael Schumacher’s (GER) record of seven Formula 1 Driver’s World Championships at the Turkish Grand Prix.
The Argentinian Triple Crown of Polo continue with the start of the Hurlingham Open, just as Ellerstina won the Tortugas Open convincingly minutes ago.
Snooker will have its first of the Home Nations tournament and it will be a homecoming for Mark Allen (NIR), who just defeated Neil Robertson (AUS) 10-6 to win his first Champion of Champions title, after defeating Mark Selby (ENG) in a great semifinal match.
Table Tennis will have its Men’s World Cup and it would be no surprise that we see an All-Chinese final as we saw in the Women’s edition, where Chen Meng (CHN) defeated young Sun Yingsha (CHN) for the title.
The Vendeé Globe round-the-world regatta will complete its first week and it is two-time Paralympic medallist Damien Seguin (FRA) who leads the race.
Tennis will crown a Tour Champion with the ATP Finals and Daniil Medvedev (RUS) looks in good shape after beating Alexander Zverev (GER) in the Rolex Paris Masters.Alpine Skiing:
NFL Regular Season
FIFA International Matchdays
Vertical World Cup Harukas Skyrun (Virtual)
24H Series Europe (Mugello, Italy)
AMSOIL USAC/CRA (Arizona Speedway x2)
D1GP (EBISUwest, Japan)
FIA E-Rally Regularity Cup (Eco Rally de la Comunitat Valenciana, Spain)
FIA Formula 1 – Turkish Grand Prix (Istanbul)
FIA World Touring Car Cup (Aragón, Spain x3)
IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship – 12 Hour of Sebring
USAC NOS Energy Drink National Midget Series (Arizona Speedway x2)
Nippon League – Regular Season
KBO – Korea Series
WPSBA World Snooker Tour – Northern Ireland Open
World Boxing Organisation World Welter Title – Terence Crawford (USA) vs Kell Brook (ENG)
World Boxing Association World Super Fly Title – Joshua Franco (USA) vs Andrew Moloney (AUS)
World Boxing Council, World Boxing Association, International Boxing Federation, World Boxing Organisation World Female Light Title – Katie Taylor (IRL) vs Miriam Gutiérrez (ESP)
World Boxing Council World Female Super Feather Title – Terri Harper (ENG) vs Katharina Thanderz (NOR)
vacant World Boxing Association World Female Bantam Title – Rachel Ball (ENG) vs Jorgelina Guanini (ARG)
Speed Chess Championship Main Event Starts
PDC Tour – Winter Series Days 1-5
PDC Tour – BoyleSports Grand Slam of Darts start
Arena of Valor (King Pro League Fall 2020)
Quake Pro League Season 2: Stage 1
DH SC2 Masters 2020 Winter: Season Finals
PUBG Peacekeeper Elite Championship 2020
Men’s FIH Pro League Matches
Women’s FIH Pro League Matches
PGA Tour – The 2020 Masters at Augusta National
Ladies European Tour – Aramco Saudi Ladies International
Grande Premio Derby Paulista, Grande Premio Diana (Brazil)
Gran Premio Hipódromo Chile (Chile)
Clásico Matías Ramón Mella (Dominican Republic)
Queen Elizabeth II Cup (Japan)
New Zealand 1000 Guineas (New Zealand)
Cumhurbaskanligi, Surat (Turkey)
COUPE DU MONDE MOUNTAIN BIKE ELIMINATOR UCI (Spain)
FIM Borilli EnduroGP World Championship (Marco de Canaveses, Portugal)
FIM MotoGP World Championship (Circuit Ricardo Tormo, Spain)
FIM Women’s Enduro World Cup (Marco de Canaveses, Portugal)
Autumn Nations Cup
SRO E-Sport GT Series Asia
Dishang 2020 ITTF Men’s World Cup
Nitto ATP Finals
Sport’s best values
|Fathomless: Gigantes de Nazaré|
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
“[T]he Panel concludes that the only logical, principled and workable construction of the Rule is one that, in the case of disabled athletes who use a mechanical aid to overcome a disability, requires a comparison to be undertaken between the athlete’s likely athletic performance when using the mechanical aid and their likely athletic performance had they not had the disability which necessitates the use of that aid. A disabled athlete who uses a mechanical aid which does no more than offset the disadvantage caused by their disability cannot be said to have an “overall competitive advantage” over a non-disabled athlete who is not using such an aid. In such a case, the mechanical aid does no more than counteract a disadvantage which the able-bodied athlete does not share. Conversely, a disabled athlete who uses a mechanical aid which does not merely offset the disadvantage caused by their disability, but enables the athlete to achieve better overall performances than they would have achieved had not had that disability, can be said to have an “overall competitive advantage”.
Arbitration Award: CAS 2020/A/6807 Blake Leeper v. International Association of Athletics Federations
Deciding Blake Leeper’s (USA) case, finding his prosthesis make him run on an “unnaturally tall” stature, which give him a mechanical advantage vis-à-vis runner without prostheses.