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  • 16 August 2019
    Our experts weigh in on four of the biggest questions in auto racing as the Sprint Cup Series braces for Chase race No. 8 Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway:Turn 1: Would a seventh Jimmie Johnson title be more impressive than Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt reaching that mark?Ricky Craven, ESPN NASCAR analyst: I remember drivers like Cale Yarborough expressing how they felt Dale Earnhardts (then-tying) seventh title came under stiffer competition than Richard Pettys. I believe the same could be said for Johnson if he pulls it off in a few weeks. With a seventh, the greatest of all time debate heats up.Ryan McGee, think what hes done is every bit as amazing as what they did, and I also think you can make a pretty strong argument that its been more difficult. Theres a parity level both in equipment and in talent that has existed during Johnsons career that didnt during Petty and Earnhardts reigns. Like The King, hes also managed to win titles in different versions of the points system. I know some claim the Chase (all versions of it) and rules like lucky dogs and wave-arounds have made it easier for Johnson, but I would argue the opposite. I think those rules also brought the field back to him a lot of times when he would have benefited from being able to check out.John Oreovicz, It probably would be more impressive, given that Petty usually had only four to five quality cars to beat in his era and Earnhardt had maybe 10. There are more competitive car/driver combinations in the modern era, not to mention the way the Chase stacks everything that matters at the end of the season. Obviously you have to have seven to get to eight, but in the long run, No. 8 is the one that really matters.Bob Pockrass, More impressive. The 10-race Chase format before the elimination rounds were added was the toughest championship format, because a driver had to run great through that entire 10-race stretch.Turn 2: Is Johnson the driver NASCAR needs in the Championship Round for interest and ratings?Craven:?It absolutely creates interest. The other seven drivers simply dont have the same brand recognition. That said, I also believe a championship against Jimmie might have a bit more meaning for drivers seeking a second title like Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick or Matt Kenseth, so theres appeal in that. Jimmie definitely brings value to the championship race.McGee:?Yes. Its a little strange in that among hardcore NASCAR fans hes always seemed to generate as much animosity as he has cheers. But theres no question that his drive for a seventh Cup will attract national media attention that none of the other drivers can. Its like Jeff Gordons final race (at the time) one year ago. There were media outlets at Homestead that wouldnt normally be there, especially on a huge NFL/college football weekend. I can tell you firsthand that well be doing a ton of stuff there for SportsCenter. Im not sure wed be planning as much as we are if not for his shot at history.Oreovicz: I think so. With Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart about to depart the scene, Johnson will remain the sports only true superstar in terms of championships and chasing records. As talented and polarizing as Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick may be, they dont move the needle like JJ does. Hes the gold standard until any of the upcoming 20-somethings start to make their mark.Pockrass:?Yes and no. NASCAR needed someone other than the four Toyota drivers to advance to the championship round. But Kevin Harvick, Joey Logano and Kurt Busch would have filled that role as well. Johnson does add a little interest going for a seventh title, probably with just as many or more people rooting against him than for him.Turn 3: Lewis Hamilton is now tied for second all time in Formula One wins. Where do you rank him on your all-time F1 drivers list?Craven: In order: Phil Hill, Michael Schumacher, Ayrton Senna, Alan Prost, Lewis Hamilton.McGee: Hes on his way to building a case for No. 1, but not yet. Id go: (1) Michael Schumacher, (2) Ayrton Senna, (3) Juan Manuel Fangio, (4) Jim Clark, and have Hamilton racing Jackie Stewart and Alain Prost for fifth.Oreovicz: In the top 10, but certainly not among the true greats like Michael Schumacher, Juan Manuel Fangio, Jim Clark, Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna. Fifty-one wins for Hamilton in the modern era equates to about half that number in the past, putting him on a level with Jackie Stewart and Niki Lauda.Pockrass:?Probably fifth behind Michael Schumacher, Ayrton Senna, Alain Prost and Juan Manuel Fangio. Jackie Stewart and Jim Clark probably would make an argument to be in the top five ahead of Hamilton as well.Turn 4: Kevin Harvick likely needs another clutch performance to advance in the Chase. Does he have it in him?Craven:?He absolutely does, and his greatest advantage is having done it before. Harvick and crew chief Rodney Childers have fallen in this hole before, so they also know where the ladder is hidden.McGee: Yes. Phoenix sitting there as the final cutoff race feels custom-made for The Closer.Oreovicz: A lot of people already have a Phoenix win gift-wrapped and placed under a Homestead palm tree for Harvick, and it would be a great story if it happens. But sooner or later, that streak is going to end.Pockrass:?Yes. Phoenix, where he has won six of the past eight races, provides that opportunity. But he plays with fire every time he gets in that position. Carl Banks Youth Jersey . -- For the first time in two months, an opponent was standing up to Alabama. Phil Simms Youth Jersey . Three came down to the fourth quarter while quarterbacks continued to shine in all four games; so important to the overall quality of the game. . Its sharpness matched my mind. This was no night to go to sleep. Oshane Ximines Womens Jersey . The news was first reported on Gonzalezs Twitter account and confirmed by the Rockies. Gonzalez has a six-week window before position players have their first workout at spring training in Arizona. Julian Love Giants Jersey . They reached the 100-point plateau for the fourth time in five games, bested the visiting Trail Blazers by 34 in the paint and scored 19 of the final 25 points in regulation. When Jayant Yadav turned up to bat during Indias net session at the HPCA Stadium in Dharamsala on Friday, he had a distinguished pair of non-regular bowlers bowling to him. MS Dhoni and Virat Kohli, bowling offbreaks, were amusing themselves by servicing a group of lower-order batsmen that included Amit Mishra and Umesh Yadav. There was some good-natured teasing of Jayants batting as Dhoni and Kohli bantered with the rookie.Jayant is one of the newbies picked for the first three ODIs with the established bowlers rested. Ajinkya Rahane said the arrival of these players was energising. Jayant is the only member in the squad without any international experience; he is not one of the 31 players who have played ODIs for India since the 2015 World Cup. He is, in fact, the only player who returned from the Zimbabwe tour in June without featuring in a single game.But Jayants is not a one-off situation. Only seven players have featured in 12 or more of the 19 ODIs India have played since April 2015. More than 10 players on the fringes have played at different points, particularly during the two limited-overs tours to Zimbabwe in 2015 and 2016 when many senior players sat out. The likes of Kedar Jadhav and Faiz Fazal would invariably make way for the bigger names once a more high-profile series began. There have also been injuries at different points, a reason for the high turnover of personnel. These patterns point to a larger issue; Indias ODI game has been in limbo for some time now, something that is easy to overlook because of their recent golden run in Test matches.India have lost nine of their last 19 ODIs since April 2015. While these numbers may not tell you much, consider this: India have lost three of their last five ODI series - against Bangladesh, South Africa and Australia - with their only wins coming against Zimbabwe. That they start the five-ODI series against New Zealand on almost equal footing despite playing at home and having swept the Tests tells you the story. India have only eight ODIs from now till the Champions Trophy - while New Zealand will play almost three times as many matches - to resolve some longstanding problems. With Dhoni almost certain to lead the team into the Champions Trophy, these ODIs present a timely opportunity to sort out the kinks.Take thee case of his seemingly unending search for the seam-bowling allrounder.dddddddddddd After trying Stuart Binny and Rishi Dhawan with varying degrees of success in recent times, Dhoni seemed to have found in Hardik Pandya a third seamer who could biff the ball in the lower order. But with Pandyas form tapering off in the IPL, the selectors overlooked him for the Zimbabwe series. Now, despite not stacking up attractive numbers in India As tour of Australia, the selectors have reverted to taking a punt on Pandya in recognition of the pressing need for a seam-bowling allrounder, particularly in English conditions for the Champions Trophy.Another factor that would have bothered Dhoni is Suresh Rainas slipping form since the 2015 World Cup. When Raina was at the top of his game, Dhoni could not only turn to him for middle-order insurance, but also use him as the fifth or sixth bowler. While Raina has been recalled without many runs to show in recent times, should he click, it will offer Dhoni the comfort of returning to a proven success formula.One of the more successful auditions in recent times has been that of Manish Pandey; he has not done much wrong since his hundred in Sydney. He has none of Rainas bowling abilities, but with his attacking batting and fielding skills, he makes a good case for a middle-order spot. There is also Axar Patel, who is a much improved lower-order striker apart from being a niggardly bowler, as he demonstrated for India A against Australia recently. In Ravindra Jadejas absence, he has another opportunity to show why he can mimic the Saurashtra spinners role.Crucially for Dhoni, he now has Anil Kumble - who is into his first ODI series as coach - to lean on for tactical advice. With Kumble known to be a keen-eyed strategist, there could be a departure, even if just slightly, from the more gut-driven methods Dhoni had adopted in the past. No matter what Rahane or his team-mates say, India cannot afford to look at this series only for what it is. With bigger stakes looming in the form of the Champions Trophy, selection of personnel cannot be a one-off, and will have to be geared towards a larger and a more concrete game plan. ' ' '