Search This Blog

Friday, February 27, 2015

2015 NASCAR Preview

The 2015 NASCAR season got underway in Daytona in February, but there is so much pomp and circumstance surrounding the Great American Race that it almost feels like a stand-alone event.  In many ways, it feels more appropriate to do the Banshee Sports 2015 NASCAR Preview now that fans and teams have settled in for the long haul of the season.

Jeff Gordon's Swan Song.  Prior to the start of speed weeks in Daytona, Jeff Gordon announced that 2015 will be his final season behind the wheel of his iconic #24 Chevy.  Jeff Gordon's rookie season was in 1994.  Twenty-one years later, he is still one of the top contenders each and every week on the NASCAR circuit.  Gordon has won four Sprint Cup Championships, and with Hendrick horsepower underneath the hood, Gordon will be a serious challenger to win the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship.

(Joe Blanchard/Orlando Sentinel)
Musical Chairs at Joe Gibbs Racing.  The activity at Joe Gibbs Racing is worthy of a post all its own, but I will try to keep this brief.  JGR will be running four teams in 2015.  Matt Kenneth and Denny Hamlin are both returning to their familiar rides.  Kyle Busch was supposed to be behind the wheel of the #18 car, but a nasty wreck in the XFINITY Series race at Daytona left Busch with significant injuries that required multiple surgeries.  David Ragan will fill in for Busch for an indefinite period of time.  The fourth car to join the JGR fold in 2015 is the #19 car driven by Carl Edwards.  After a bit of a down trend last year, the Toyotas seem to have sufficient horsepower to contend on all race tracks.  Despite all the shakeups, JGR very well might get all four teams into the Chase.

Stewart-Haas Drama.  After an emotional and tumultuous 2014 that included a self-imposed sabbatical for team owner Tony Stewart, Stewart-Haas Racing was hoping for a bounce-back year in 2015.  However, it turns out that adding the notoriously mercurial Kurt Busch to the team was not the recipe for peace and calm at SHR.  Sure, the elder Busch has tons of talent, but he also has tons of baggage. Just days before the Daytona 500, NASCAR announced that Kurt Busch was indefinitely suspended due to a domestic violence incident last fall.  Regan Smith is the short-term replacement for Busch in the #41 car, but things remain in flux as long as NASCAR declines to put a time limit on Busch's suspension.  Then there is Danica.  The only female in NASCAR's top series is in the final year of her contract at SHR.  Thus far in her career, Danica Patrick has been fairly disappointing on the track, but she has consistently gotten herself into the news with her post-race tantrums.  It will be interesting to see if in 2015 Danica's performance can finally match her notoriety.

Confidence in Junior Nation.  No NASCAR preview would be complete without a mentioning Dale Earnhardt, Jr.  At least not a preview on this website.  I have never hidden the fact that I am a proud citizen of Junior Nation.  In past years, a championship for Junior was just an optimistic hope.  This year, however, a championship is a realistic possibility.  Dale, Jr. is coming off a solid 2014 campaign, and Hendrick equipment is second to none.  Normally, replacing a crew chief like Steve Letarte would be a daunting task, but Greg Ives brings familiarity and stability to the top of the #88 pit box.  All indications are that Dale Earnhardt, Jr. is poised for a serious championship run in 2015.

Dark Horses.  Under NASCAR's current playoff format, it only takes one win to qualify for the postseason.  Although the #42 Target Chevy team is capable of making the Chase on points, I'm looking for Kyle Larson to clinch a spot by getting the first win of his young career.  Paul Menard is another name to watch.  It is unlikely that Menard will qualify on points, but his RCR Chevy is strong enough on restrictor plate tracks to possibly steal a spot in the Chase.  Although he is not eligible to compete for a Sprint Cup championship, Ryan Blaney is another driver who could capture a checkered flag this season.  The Wood Brothers have proven in the past that they can take a part time driver to victory lane, and with Penske technology in the car, the twenty-one year-old driver could have a breakthrough moment of fame in 2015.

Subscribe to Banshee Sports by Email

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Top Dog: Day Two at Westminster 2015

The 139th Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show wrapped up on Tuesday night in Madison Square Garden.  Before the coveted title of Best in Show was bestowed, the best in group titles were handed out in the Sporting, Working and Terrier groups.

Matisse the Portuguese Water Dog
Sporting Group:  The Sporting Group is made up of dogs who have traditionally assisted humans in hunting.  This includes retrievers, setters, pointers and spaniels.  Dogs from this group have graced oil paintings in many Guilded Age drawing rooms.  Liz, the English Springer Spaniel, won the Sporting Group for 2015 and advanced to the Best in Show competition.

Working Group:  The Working Group featured the odds on favorite to win Best in Show.  That favored dog was Matisse, the Portuguese Water Dog.  Matisse lived up to the hype and won the Working Group for the third year in a row.

Terrier Group:  The Westminster Kennel Club saves the best for last.  The terrier group is the most entertaining group in the show.  These dogs might be small in stature, but they are big in personality.  The 2014 Best in Show, Sky the Wire Fox Terrier came from this group.  Sky was not back to defend his title this year.  That, ironically, opened the door for a Skye Terrier named Charlie to win the group.

Best in Show:  At the start of the Best in Show competition conventional wisdom was that either Matisse the Portuguese Water Dog or Swagger the Old English Sheep Dog would take home the top prize.  Instead, Miss P, the 15 inch Beagle was crowned Best in Show for 2015.  Miss P was already scheduled to retire after this year's WKC Show to start a family.  Now she gets to go out on a high note.

Miss P, 2015 WKC Best in Show

Subscribe to Banshee Sports by Email

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Cooking with Banshee: Jambalaya

Sports and eating are both community events.  Thanks to the gift of Twitter, that community now extends from coast to coast.  On this Fat Tuesday, this traditional and authentic jambalaya recipe appears at Banshee Sports thanks to Evan Barnes.  Being the generous sort, Mr. Barnes not only shared his recipe, but shared also an appropriate New Orleans playlist to listen to while you celebrate the culinary arts of the Big Easy.

As I understand it, this recipe is based on one that originally appeared at, but as it appears here, it has been tweaked, personalized and explained by Evan Barnes.

Jambalaya by Evan Barnes
Jambalaya Ingredients:
2.5 lbs whole chicken, chopped into pieces
1 lb andouille sausage
3 green peppers, diced
2 onions, diced
5 cloves of garlic, minced
2 cans (14.5 oz), diced tomatoes
1 Tbs chili powder
1/2 tsp hot pepper sauce
1/2 tsp ground cayenne pepper
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
5 bay leaves
1 can (6 oz) tomato paste
1 cup uncooked white rice

Jambalaya Directions:
Place the chicken and sausage in a large pot and cover with water.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer until the chicken is done and falling off the bone (approximately 45 minutes).  Remove the chicken and the sausage.  Reserve the broth.  Shred the chicken.

In a large stock pot, cook the green pepper, onion and garlic over medium heat until the onions are translucent.  Add some reserved chicken broth, if necessary to keep from sticking.  Stir in the diced tomatoes, chili powder, pepper sauce, cayenne pepper, Worcestershire sauce, and bay leaves.  Reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes.  Stir in the shredded chicken, sausage and tomato paste.

Simmer the mixture until the spice suits your taste buds.  Add additional chicken broth if it gets too thick for your liking.  Stir in another cup of chicken broth and add the rice.  Simmer for 20 minutes or until the rice is tender.

The sausage and and chicken can be boiled ahead of time and refrigerated.  The spices can be tweaked to your personal preference.  As is, this recipe is flavorful, but black pepper and other non-salt seasonings can be added to give a personalized touch.  If you want to be a little extra healthy, quinoa can be substituted for the white rice.

Lastly, and most importantly, you can't cook an authentic New Orleans dish properly without some authentic New Orleans music.  This New Orleans themed Spotify playlist was created especially for this occasion by Evan Barnes:  NOLA.

About Evan Barnes:  Evan Barnes lives in southern California and is a sports writer for the LA Daily News.  He also blogs at Bro Jackson and at EB Sports Report.  Although we have never met in person, I readily claim Evan as my friend due to his insightful commentary on sports, religion, culture and the important places where those things intersect.  He can be your friend, too, if you follow him on Twitter at @Evan_B.  

Subscribe to Banshee Sports by Email

Monday, February 16, 2015

Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show: Day 1 Recap

Temperatures were frigid on the East Coast, but the action was hot in the show ring at Madison Square Garden.  Day one of the 2015 Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show got under way Monday night in the Big Apple.  On the first day of competition, Best in Group was awarded in the Hound, ToyNon-Sporting and Herding Groups.

Miss P., 15-inch Beagle
Hound Group:  If any group captures the magic of the WKC Dog Show, it's the Hound Group.  This group includes the gigantic Scottish Deerhound, the squat little Bassett Hound and everything in between.  Nathan the Bloodhound won the group in 2014 and was back to defend his title in 2015.  But it was Miss P, a 15-inch Beagle from Canada, who won the Hound Group.

Toy Group:  When you take a look at these pups, "man's best friend" might not be the first thing that springs to mind.  In fact, "dog" might not be the first thing that springs to mind when you see some of these breeds.  Nonetheless, the the winner of the toy group has recently had an excellent chance at taking home the coveted title of Best in Show.  Rocket, a male Shih Tzu, won Best in Group and advanced on to Tuesday night's competition.

Non-Sporting Group:  The Non-Sporting group is basically a catch all group.  Any breed that does not fit into one of the other six groups competes here.  This year, the non-sporting group welcomed a new breed, the Coton de Tulear.  For the second year in a row, it was a Standard Poodle that won the group.  Flame will represent the Non-Sporting group in the Best in Show competition.

Swagger in 2013
Herding Group: The Herding Group is one of the most entertaining groups at Westminster.  This group contains some of the most intelligent and athletic dogs.  Swagger, the Old English Sheepdog, won this group in 2013.  Swagger was upset in last year's competition but reclaimed his title this year.  Swagger has the experience to make a strong push for Best in Show at the end of Tuesday night.

Coverage of the 139th Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show will resume on Tuesday night at 8:00 p.m. EST on USA.  Tuesday evening's competition with begin with the Best in Group competitions for the Sporting, Working and Terrier groups.  The evening will end with the crowning of the 139th Westminster Kennel Best in Show.

Subscribe to Banshee Sports by Email

Friday, February 13, 2015

2015 Westminster Dog Show Preview

Coton de Tulear
Football season is over.  Baseball spring training hasn't started yet, and the NASCAR season doesn't start for another week.  What's a sports fan to do?  Well, I suggest the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show.    On February 16 and 17 of 2015, the finest canines in the world will gather at the World's Most Famous Arena to vie for the title of top dog at the 139th Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show.

Television coverage kicks off on Monday night on CNBC at 8:00 p.m.  Monday's coverage will include the group competitions for the Hound, Toy, Non-Sporting and Herding groups.  The Non-Sporting Group features one of the two new breeds in this year's show, the Coton de Tulear.

Pretentious Wirehaired Vizsla
Tuesday night's coverage will begin at 8:00 p.m. on USA.  Tuesday's coverage will include the group competitions in the Sporting, Working and Terrier groups.  The Sporting Group includes the second new breed at this year's show, the Wirehaired Vizsla.

At the end of Tuesday night, the WKC will crown one canine with the prestigious title of Best in Show for 2015.  According to the Wynn Sports Book and Casino, the odds on favorite to win Best in Show is Matisse, a Portuguese Water Dog.

Stay tuned to Banshee Sports next week for more coverage of the 139th Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show.

Subscribe to Banshee Sports by Email