NASCAR is unlike any other professional sport in that it's the only one where upsets are really unexpected. There's an old saying in Major League Baseball that says even the worst teams managed to win 60 games. And even the worst NFL teams can win 2 or 3 games every year. (Well, most of the time. Here's to you, Buccaneers, Lions, and Browns.) NASCAR's upsets are few and far between. Let's take a look at the greatest upsets in NASCAR history.
5. Jamie McMurray, 2002 UAW-GM 500
The story of Jamie Mac that night in Charlotte begins with another driver: Sterling Marlin. Marlin was having a career year in 2002. In fact, with only ten races left in the season, Marlin led future Hall of Famers Mark Martin, Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, Rusty Wallace, and Bill Elliott in the point standings. His season would end prematurely following a neck injury during a wreck at Kansas later that season. In comes the 26 year old Jamie McMurray to replace him. Following a 26th place finish at Talladega, McMurray shocked the NASCAR world by leading 96 laps at Charlotte and getting the win in only his second start. Jamie Mac would go on to win six more Cup races in his career, including a Daytona 500. Today, he's a NASCAR analyst on Fox.
4. Trevor Bayne, 2011 Daytona 500
Bayne flashed a little potential before running a majority of his Cup races. In his 2010 Nationwide Series season, he won three poles, recorded six Top 5s and 11 Top 10s with a highest finish of third, which he did twice. Wood Brothers Racing tapped him to drive the legendary #21 car in the Great American Race, and the rest, as they say, is history. Bayne would become the youngest Daytona 500 winner at only 20 years old.
That would be it for a long time.
While he was solid in Nationwide races, Cup success past that win eluded him. He couldn't finish higher than 8th until the 2016. He would be released from Wood Brothers, and he'd end up with Roush. He'd post 13 top 10s and four top 5s in his three full seasons in the 6. He'd be demoted then released in 2018, and today he is no longer in the sport.
3. Justin Haley, 2019 Coke Zero Sugar 400
The most recent one on this list, Haley's career is just getting started. He's only 20, and he's been racing in NASCAR since he was only 15. When he was 16, he posted 13 top 5s, 14 top 10s, and he also won two races in the K&N Pro Series West. That same year he'd run part-time in Trucks, and when he turned 19, he'd put up 18 top 10s, nine top 5s, and three wins, at Gateway, Canadian Tire, and the fall race at Texas. This season he's competing full-time in the Xfinity Series, posting 12 top 10s and two top 5s so far. However, his upset came in Cup. He's only made three Cup starts so far, running part time in the Spire Motorsports #77 car, finishing outside the top 30 at both Talladega and Sonoma. Of course, he closed the book on a part of NASCAR history: winning the final 4th of July weekend race at Daytona. How did he do this? He was just able to avoid The Big One that took out 18 cars with only 40 laps to go. That put him in third as the yellow flag waved. Kurt Busch and Landon Cassill, both believing the race would go back to green, pitted to hand the lead to Haley. He'd lead one lap, the only lap led off his Cup Series career, before the race was red flagged due to lightning. After over two hours, NASCAR called the race, giving Haley the win.
2. David Gilliland, 2006 Meijer 300 Presented By Oreo
The only non-Cup Series race on this list, it was such a big upset it had to be included. Gilliland was a late bloomer in NASCAR. He didn't make his NASCAR debut until he was 21, in the K&N Pro Series West. That's not too out of the ordinary, but he wouldn't run a full season in that series until he was 28. While most drivers were well into their national series career, Gilliland's regional career was just starting. He'd make his Trucks debut the next year, and in 2005, he'd begin running part-time in the Busch Series with Clay Andrews Racing. In 2006, he attempted to qualify for nine races, missing two. His equipment just wasn't up to par, only finishing top 30 once in his first four races that season. Then he shocked everyone. The Busch Series back then was dominated by Cup drivers, even worse than today. Gilliland became the first Busch Series regular to win in the 2006 season with his win at Kentucky. He couldn't back it up, being unable to finish higher than 26th the rest of the season. Clay Andrews would close its doors before the end of the season, and Gilliland would move up to Cup in 2007, where he would race until 2018. Today, he owns a Truck Series team named DGR-Crosley, where he still races on a part-time basis.
1. Alan Kulwicki, 1992 Cup Series Championship
Imagine you and a few of your buddies decide to start your own football team. You're athletic enough and you understand the intricacies of the sport, so why not, right? You pay for a lot of it out of pocket and then, somehow, you manage to beat Tom Brady and Bill Belichick in the Super Bowl. This actually happened in NASCAR, and it was done by Alan Kulwicki. Kulwicki was a genius. I'm not just saying that, he legitimately was. He had an engineering degree from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee under his belt. He used this to build the fastest racecars he could at the cheapest cost he could. And he had talent. He won the Cup Series Rookie of the Year in 1986. Four years later, he'd be offered a top tier Cup ride by the best owner in the garage, Junior Johnson. Kulwicki turned him down. So Johnson replaced him with one of the best drivers available: Awesome Bill From Dawsonville, Bill Elliott. Heading into the last race of the season, it was a three man contest for the Championship. Both Kulwicki and Elliott entered this race at Atlanta Motor Speedway trailing Davey Allison in points.
What happened next was the greatest race in the history of NASCAR.
It was Richard Petty's last race. It was Jeff Gordon's first. All Kulwicki had to do to clinch the Championship was go stride for stride with two Hall of Famers.
Davey Allison had a bad wreck on lap 254. It effectively eliminated him from Championship contention. Kulwicki needed to finish with the most laps led for bonus points, and he had to finish at least third. On lap 310, he clinched the most laps led with 103. Bill Elliott led every lap from there on out, finishing with 102 laps led. Elliott ended up winning the race. Kulwicki ran second, the Cup Series Champion.
Unfortunately, not even six months after his Championship, Kulwicki would lose his life in a plane crash. He was 38. He left behind a legacy beyond his years. Five wins, a Championship, the iconic Polish Victory Lap, and, of course, the greatest upset in NASCAR history.
(Via Tony Gutierrez/AP Photo)
It wasn't too long ago where Mike Minor looked to be, for lack of a better term, a bust. He had all of the potential in the world, but couldn't live up to it. He just kept getting injured, he couldn't even start games, and somehow in 2019, he was named an American League All-Star. How did he get here?
Out of high school in the town of Chapel Hill, Tennessee, Minor was drafted by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in the 13th round of the 2006 MLB Draft. He would turn down Tampa Bay in order to attend the college baseball powerhouse that is Vanderbilt University. He was a consensus Freshman All-American and named the SEC Freshman of the Year for a Vandy Boys team who won a then-school record 54 games as well as both the SEC Regular Season title and the SEC Championship before losing in the Regionals of the NCAA Tournament. How did Minor do? Well, how about 90.0 innings pitched, 88 strikeouts to only 19 walks, and a 3.09 ERA. The rest of his college career wasn't as good for both Minor and the Commodores (save for his performance at the 2008 World University Games) however that didn't stop the Atlanta Braves from taking him seventh overall in the 2009 MLB Draft. He'd rise through the minors, making the All-Star Futures Game in 2010, and on August 9 of that same year, Mike Minor made his major league debut. It was nothing to write home about, six innings pitched, five strikeouts, a walk, four runs allowed (three earned) on five hits in a no decision, but his next three starts would show the Mike Minor the Braves saw when they took him seventh in the draft: a combined 17.0 innings pitched, seven runs allowed (all of which were earned) on 19 hits with 21 strikeouts to only six walks. The Braves went 3-0 in those games. While he would get shelled in the remainder of his starts that season, there were still reasons to believe that Minor couldn't have become a good pitcher, or even a great pitcher, if just given the time. After a couple more meddling seasons, it looked like he broke out in 2013: 204.2 innings pitched, a 3.21 ERA, a career-high 181 strikeouts to only 46 walks for a Braves team that would win 96 games and the National League East before losing to the Dodgers in the NLDS in four games. He'd pitch 6.1 innings of one run ball in his only postseason appearance to date, and helped the Braves win their only game of that series.
Both Minor and the Braves would take a major step back the next season. For Minor, his ERA would balloon to a monstrous 4.77, his highest in a full season. His strikeouts and innings pitched would both be down. The Braves would go from the playoffs to 17 games out of first and a 79-83 record. It is worth noting that Minor would pitch through pain for much of the 2014 season, but this toughness would actually accelerate his downfall. In 2015 Spring Training, Minor would report discomfort lingering from the previous season. It turns out that Minor had actually tore his labrum, and he'd be immediately put on the 60 day disabled list. His season was done, and so was his tenure in Atlanta, given that the Braves would choose to non-tender him. He'd end up in Kansas City, signing with the defending World Series Champion Royals. They'd have to defend their title without him, however, as Minor would miss his second straight season recovering from his surgery. He'd make his first appearance as a Royal on Opening Day 2017, out of the bullpen. He hadn't pitched out of the bullpen since his rookie year. And that was mop-up duty in game 160. The former seventh overall pick was no longer considered good enough to start.
The crazy part is Minor was good in Kansas City. He wasn't just good, he was their best pitcher out of the bullpen. He'd lead all Royals relievers in innings pitched (77.1), strikeouts (88), WHIP (1.017), and batters faced (307) while finishing second in FIP (2.62), ERA (2.55), and ERA+ (176) as well as having the second fewest walks (22). Despite this performance, the Royals would decline his option, leading Minor to sign with his current team, the Texas Rangers. The Rangers put him back in their starting rotation even though he seemed to have found his calling in relief. His return to the rotation seemed to be a return to his past self: an ERA of 4.18, an ERA+ of only 112, all for a 67 win Rangers team. Was he that team's best pitcher? Well, maybe, but they had a terrible rotation. Their #1 was Cole Hamels, who would get traded to a real team in the Cubs at the deadline. Outside of Minor and Hamels, they didn't have much. 45 year old Bartolo Colon, Martin Perez, Yovani Gallardo, Matt Moore, and Doug Fister all made double digit starts for the ballclub. In 2019, once again, Minor turned around. And this time, it might just be for good. At 31 years of age, Mike Minor is finally fulfilling his potential. He's recorded the lowest ERA of his career at 2.54, his season in the pen included. He's leading the American League in ERA+ with 199. In other words, he's 99% better than the average American League pitcher. This is essentially unheard of for a guy who never recorded an ERA+ over 117 as a starter. The Rangers have turned it around as well. They've gone from last place in their division, finishing 36 games out of first in 2018, to being only a half game out of the second Wild Card spot in 2019. And by the way, through all this, Mike Minor was named an American League All-Star. While he won't play in the game due to starting the last Rangers game before the Break, making the team is an incredible accomplishment in and of itself.
Mike Minor is one of the greatest single-season turnarounds in recent baseball history. And only time will tell if he continues this comeback.
NBA Free Agency still does not officially get under way until 6 PM tonight, but the rumors and commitments have been running rampant for the past couple of days. Kyrie, Kemba, Jimmy, and Kawhi, among others, have been at the center of the NBA world as everyone is anxiously awaiting to see where these superstars end up for the upcoming 2019-2020 season.
All of these rumors are subject to the player signing on the dotted line, and we all know "commitments" mean essentially nothing (Looking at you, Kyrie), but it appears as if Kemba Walker has all the intentions of signing with the Boston Celtics. The 9th overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft has spent his entire career in Charlotte, but looks to be moving on to greener pastures. All signs point to Walker signing in Boston to the tune of a four-year, $141 million deal come July 6, when players can officially start signing with their respective teams.
Walker has been one of the better players in the NBA for these past couple of seasons, but had perhaps his best in his contract year. While playing in all 82 games, Walker averaged 25.6 points, 4.4 rebounds, and 5.9 assists, while shooting 43.4% from the floor. Walker isn't a great shooter, but he can attack the basket, has a fantastic motor, and suits up for essentially every single game.
Looking at this move strictly from a basketball standpoint, there is not a significant drop-off between Kyrie Irving and the aforementioned Walker. They are different players and most certainly have different personalities, but the Celtics are replacing Irving with perhaps the next best thing on the free agent market.
Off the court is an entirely different issue. Irving is perhaps one of the worst teammates in the entire NBA, and I do not say that lightly. Irving had the unique ability to completely destroy a team that had arguably the brightest future in the entire NBA. I am not blaming Danny Ainge, Brad Stevens, or any of the young guys. I am blaming Irving. Not only did he tear the team apart, but this was on the heels of Irving committing to sign with the Celtics at the end of this past season. All of these character issues for Kyrie could possible be negated if the Celtics were winning, but they drastically underperformed. To be perfectly honest, I have serious doubts if the Celtics would even entertain bringing Irving back if he suddenly had a change of heart.
Why do I talk about all of this? After all, this article is supposed to be about the newest prospective Celtic, Walker, not Irving. However, I only mention this because Walker is the complete opposite of Irving. All he wants to do is win. He is leaving Charlotte because he wants to go on a deep playoff run and win a championship. Walker is such a good character guy, he even entertained the idea of taking less money to stay in Charlotte if they were able to bring in another star. But Michael Jordan is, well, Michael Jordan.
At points in this past season, people entertained the idea that the Celtics had too much talent and not enough chemistry. I truly believe that bringing in Walker helps this immensely. Are they losing a bit of talent? Sure. Are they improving their locker room with a true leader that only wants to win? One that won't be making stupid movies and getting nose jobs during playoff runs? You bet.
Not only does this help the locker room issues that plagued the Celtics last season, but I think it also makes them a better team on the court, even if they are losing some talent. The Celtics have enough talent to win a NBA Championship. Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Gordon Hayward, Kemba Walker, and a decent big man can win a NBA Championship. But they need to mesh on the court. Walker can be effective without the ball in his hands for 15-20 seconds per possession, unlike Kyrie. This will allow Tatum, Brown, and especially Hayward to be more effective.
Moving forward, I would love to see this team get a solid big man. The Celtics could and should get back to their roots of being a gritty team that the fans love. They got away from this last season and it was detrimental to not only the team, but the fan base.
What else does Ainge have up his sleeve?
(Via Chicago-Sun Times)
James Holzhauer got on Jeopardy after six years of trying and once he did, he decided to go full scorched earth on the game. Go for the big money questions, bet big on Daily Doubles and Final Jeopardy.
But he wasn't perfect. He still (rarely) got questions wrong, and he still didn't shut out his opponents. In other words, he had his flaws. And Jeopardy, like baseball and bowling, is a game where a player can be absolutely perfect. Unlike baseball and bowling, while it was always theoretically possible, a perfect game of Jeopardy has never been accomplished. It isn't impossible, but a player would need a perfect storm of events, a quick trigger finger, and of course, the ability to answer all the questions. It is possible, and I took it upon myself to calculate the score a player would get in a perfect game of Jeopardy. Let's take a look at that.
So, how would a player accomplish this? It's all about betting on Daily Doubles and Final Jeopardy. The Perfect Coryat Game (that is, a game where there is no betting whatsoever) gives the winner only $54,000 in winnings. As James Holzhauer, Roger Craig, and Ken Jennings have taught us, that amount is more than possible. With betting, that number is unsurprisingly much higher. Credit to reddit user u/leme16, as he or she went through every single Jeopardy game on the Jeopardy Archive and created this heatmap, which shows the percent chance every question on the board has to be a Daily Double.
(Via u/leme16 on Reddit)
This hypothetical perfect game (as well as the highest possible amount in a game of Jeopardy) relies on the unlikely chance of a Daily Double in the $200 row. The perfect round can be accomplished by doing the following: answer five $200 questions correctly, not letting another player get the opportunity to answer. That'll put you at $1000. Answer all six for the six $400 questions, and you'll be at $3400. Do it again for the $600 questions to get yourself to $7000. Once again for the $800 questions to put you at $11,800. Finally, finish up the $1000 questions to get you at $17,800. You'll get the final $200 question, the Daily Double, where you need to go all in and of course answer correctly. If done perfectly, you will be sitting on $35,600 while your opponents will be shut out. Onto Double Jeopardy.
Fortunately for us, the absolute legend of u/leme16 also created a heatmap for Double Jeopardy. While both Daily Doubles are unlikely to be in the $400 row, they are required to keep perfection up. For all intents and purposes, we will assume they are in the first two categories of the $400 row.
(Via u/leme16 on reddit)
Answer four of the $400 questions. Remember: don't let your opponents get the opportunity to answer. One correct answer from either and your bid for perfection is over. You're at $37,200. Answer all six for the $800 questions. Now you're at $42,000. And again for $1200. Now you're up to $49,000. Answer all questions for the $1600 row, and now you're at $58,800. You just beat the perfect Coryat score with one bet. Oh, and you still have eight questions remaining in this game. And you'll have the chance to bet on three of them. Move on to the $2000 questions. Go six for six. Get up to $70,800. Finally, turn to the Daily Doubles. Select your first, go all in, and get it right. You're sitting at $141,600. Congratulations, you just broke James Holzhauer's record for largest Daily Double, beating his comparatively tiny $25,000 bet. You also broke Roger Craig's record for largest true Daily Double, beating his comparatively tinier $18,000 bet. And, this should go without saying, but you did also beat James Holzhauer's single game record by a little over $10,000. And you have another Daily Double. Break all those records again by going all in again, getting it right, and head into Final Jeopardy with $283,200.
Final Jeopardy is so much more simple and straightforward. No need for a quick hand on the buzzer in this round. Your opponents shouldn't even be able to qualify for Final Jeopardy. One last time, go all in, answer the question correctly, and you will be sitting at $566,400.
So now that the perfect score of a Jeopardy game has been calculated, there's one question that still remains: Will anyone actually do this? Short answer: no. While this game is possible in theory, it's essentially impossible in practice. Nobody is that quick on the draw to where they wouldn't get beat at least once out of 60 questions on the board. Even if there was a player who was that quick on the draw, nobody knows that many pieces of trivia. Even the Trivia God James Holzhauer himself occasionally declined to buzz in on the off chance he didn't know, or he lost money on an incorrect answer. But since this is hypothetical, let's assume there is a player who can do this. The reason a score of this magnitude is possible is also why it will never happen: Daily Doubles and Final Jeopardy. Looking through all four questions where the player would bet, it's unlikely they would go all in on any of them. In the Jeopardy round, it is at least in the realm of possibility for a player to go all in with $17,800 but a player would never risk everything when he is shutting out his opponents that late in the game. Once we look at the Double Jeopardy Daily Doubles, it really doesn't make sense. If a player is unwilling to go all in with $17,800 then it's impossible to imagine that he would bet $70,800 or $141,600 in a Daily Double. Moving on to Final Jeopardy, a player winning by $283,200 is obviously a runaway. Any player who is leading the runaway either declines to bet or bets so little that they'll hold on to the win in the event of a wrong answer. There's no way a player would go for the jugular in Final Jeopardy, since both his opponents will have failed to qualify for Final Jeopardy in the first place.
I wish it would happen. Honestly, I do. But as it stands now, a Jeopardy perfect game is a statistical impossibility.
I'm quite a fan of Jeopardy. I watch the show every night if I can, and if I can't, I'll be sure to read up on what went down on the Jeopardy subreddit. It's essentially a sport, when you think about it. And like any great sport, there are all time greats. Since nobody else seemed to do it, it's high time to make a comprehensive list of the greatest Jeopardy players of all time.
First, some ground rules. No players from the Kids Tournament, Teen Tournament (sorry Leonard Cooper), College Tournament, or Teachers Tournament. The Tournament of Champions is fair game, as is the All Star Tournament, but players must be judged primarily on their regular season play. All these stats come from j-archive.com, the Baseball Reference of Jeopardy. With that, let's get into the list.
10. Arthur Chu
Arthur had a fair bit of controversy during his 11 game winning streak. Since he liked jumping around the board instead of answering entire categories, people accused him of playing Jeopardy the "wrong" way, only to see him defended by one Ken Jennings, as well as anyone who likes fun. He finished second in the 2014 Tournament of Champions. His Achilles heel was his Final Jeopardy. In 16 regular and postseason games, Arthur was only 8-8 in Final Jeopardy. It really was the only thing holding him back from truly fulfilling his potential as a Jeopardy player.
9. Matt Jackson
Matt is one player who goes on the offense. He had a 13 game winning streak back in 2015, during which he had two games over $50,000 compared to one game under $20,000. However, Matt has one major flaw that separates him from being one of the elite Jeopardy players in history: just like Arthur, his Final Jeopardy answers. During his streak, including his loss, he finished 8-6 in Final Jeopardy. Only slightly better than a coin toss. In the Tournament of Champions, while he did make it to the Finals, he ultimately went 1-3 in Final Jeopardy in postseason play.
8. David Madden
In 2005, it looked like Jeopardy may have another Ken Jennings. David had won 19 consecutive games, of which 10 were runaways. He's good in postseason play, helping Brad keep his perfect record against humans intact by running away with the All Star Tournament. So, why is he so low? Well, David's numbers during his streak don't really jump off the page when you read them. He barely crossed $25,000 throughout his streak and crossed $30,000 only three times. Hell, he won a game with only $11,000 one time. His wins are more quantity than quality, but 19 consecutive wins in anything needs to be respected.
7. Austin Rogers
Austin had his streak last for 12 games, but he loses out due to how he was winning. Sure, he was dominant. Many of his wins were runaways. But he just wasn't rewriting the record books. And while Austin was better in regular season play, he was a non-factor in ToC play. He'd finish in a distant third behind Buzzy Cohen and Alan Lin in the ToC, and his All Star team would also lose in the first round.
6. Julia Collins
The highest ranking female player, Julia was the second player, after Ken Jennings, to win 20 consecutive games. A good amount of her wins were runaways as well, but Roger gets the edge over her due to his sheer dominance when he was on. Julia wasn't really pushing any boundaries, not that that's a bad thing, but in every sport, records add to legacies. It also doesn't help that she finished third behind Ben Ingram and our old buddy Arthur in the 2014 Tournament of Champions.
5. Roger Craig
No, not the former 49ers running back. This Roger Craig was a six day consecutive champion, having lost on his seventh day when he could not identify the New Orleans Saints having won Super Bowl XLIV. He'd later come back for Tournaments of Champions and Tournaments of Decades, where he'd keep on winning. Roger would set several records during his time, including highest single-game total, highest five-day total, highest daily double, and highest true daily double, one of which wasn't beaten handily by the Trivia God.
Watson is the only non-human on this list. Watson is a computer developed by IBM which had the original intent to compete with human Jeopardy players. Despite some quirks, like Watson answering Toronto for a Final Jeopardy question with the category "US Cities" (It still won in a runaway, for what it's worth). It showed odd betting tactics, including betting $947 on said Final Jeopardy question. Still, it managed to blow out both Ken and Brad, so that earns a spot on this list.
3. Brad Rutter
There are two eras of Jeopardy. Before 2003, players were only allowed to play five games before they left. After 2003, the rules were changed to allow players to keep returning as long as they kept winning. Brad mostly dominated the first era, winning five straight games, taking two Camaros with him into the sunset. He then came back for the Tournament of Champions several times, and won every time. In a grand total of 19 Jeopardy regular season and ToC games, Brad has never lost to a human. Impressive.
2. James Holzhauer
The Trivia God himself. Earlier this year, James went scorched earth on Jeopardy, single handedly changing how the game is played. He went big every question, and usually got them. He hunted for Daily Doubles, and in his time on Jeopardy he got them right an incredible 95% of the time. Only once was he ever trailing heading into Final Jeopardy, and that was the game he lost. Only once did he get Final Jeopardy wrong. He still won that game. Of his 32 consecutive wins, which are second to only Ken Jennings all time, he only had two games that weren't runaways. His $2.46 million in winnings are also second to Jennings in regular season play. James also holds the record for the 10 highest single-game totals, including the only six $100,000 games in Jeopardy history. So, who could possibly be better than James? Well, that's obvious.
1. Ken Jennings
Ken Jennings is the greatest Jeopardy player of all time. His record of winning $2.52 million in regular season play is a record, and it was over a decade and a half before it was even threatened. Most impressively, he managed to win an astounding 74 consecutive games before losing to Nancy Zerg on November 30, 2004. That established a truly insurmountable record nobody has even come halfway to tying. He's the Tom Brady, Barry Bonds, Michael Jordan, Wayne Gretzky, and Richard Petty of Jeopardy. He's that great. And there will never be another Jeopardy player like him.
So there's the top ten. These players are the cream of the crop, and they've all set the bar so high, it's hard to see any change in this list.
Unless James agrees to play Ken and Brad.