Dan Wetzel

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Dan Wetzel is an award-winning sportswriter, author and screenwriter. He has covered all levels of basketball as well as college football, the NFL, MLB and NHL. He is the co-author of the book "Death to the BCS: The Definitive Case Against the Bowl Championship Series," which following five printings of the first edition was re-released in a second, updated edition in October.

  • Brian France puts NASCAR in crosshairs with Trump endorsement

    On the eve of Super Tuesday 7,500 people jammed into a basketball arena on the campus of Valdosta State, down deep in South Georgia. And then out came Donald Trump, out amid the waving signs and recording cell phones, and after rolling through his latest poll numbers, he said he was ready with a special, surprise announcement.

    NASCAR CEO Brian France speaks at a campaign rally for Donald Trump. (REUTERS)NASCAR CEO Brian France speaks at a campaign rally for Donald Trump. (REUTERS)"Do we love NASCAR?" Trump asked.

    The crowd loved NASCAR and so here came "NASCAR" or at least enough of it to throw the sport smack dab in the middle of a contentious Republican primary, reversing course from last summer and rankling Marcus Lemonis, a high-level executive who, like the Donald himself, is a highly successful entrepreneur who stars on a reality television show.

    In the process, NASCAR, and sports in general, were reminded of the dangers of wading into impassioned waters of the political world, where supporting anyone is sure to anger someone. That included Lemonis, who on Monday led the charge for fans who'd prefer their sports league stays

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  • Denny Hamlin doesn't know how he won the Daytona 500

    DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Denny Hamlin and his crew had overtaken victory lane here, hugs and high-fives everywhere in a place that until the final mile of the final lap of the Daytona 500, they had no earthly reason to believe they'd reach.

    So for all the celebrating there was also a mystery to solve, with crewmembers and their driver turning to each other shouting, "what happened?" and "how?" and then laughing at it all because no one knew … not even Hamlin.

    "I don't know where it came from," Hamlin said at the time. "I don't know what happened. I don't know what I did."

    What he did was win the Daytona 500 by 0.010 seconds, the smallest margin the 58-year old history of the Great American Race. What he did was deliver one of the most epic final half lap come-from-behind victories in a race where passing the leader was virtually impossible.

    What he did was race Martin Truex Jr. for 2,640,000 feet to beat him by one. What he did, by first acting as a good teammate and trying to block an

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  • Cold beer. Hot sun. Good times. NASCAR already has it all

    DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — They were crowded two deep around the open-air Busch Beer Bar set up here in the infield of Daytona International Speedway on Saturday afternoon.

    Cars were whipping around during the Xfinity Race, but many fans were more than content to just listen to the roar, watch some of the action on a few big screens and enjoy a perfect afternoon socializing with friends. All, of course, while knocking back 25-ounce cans of Busch and Busch Light – because sometimes 24 ounces just isn't quite enough and the Daytona infield is one of the those times.

    "Busch is Back," is one of the marketing slogans in NASCAR this year, a return of Anheuser-Busch pushing a brand that used to be synonymous with stock car racing. It appears rather popular, either out of appreciative refreshment, simple nostalgia or hipster irony.

    The infield at Daytona was filled with beer-drinking race fans on Saturday. (Yahoo Sports)The infield at Daytona was filled with beer-drinking race fans on Saturday. (Yahoo Sports)It might also serve as a blueprint for the sport as a whole.

    This is a transitional year in NASCAR, whose season kicks off with Sunday's Daytona 500. The retirement of

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  • BMOC: 4-foot-4 Rico Abreu turning heads at Daytona

    Rico Abreu is prepping for his first full season in NASCAR's Truck Series. (Getty Images)Rico Abreu is prepping for his first full season in NASCAR's Truck Series. (Getty Images)

    DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — The fan sensation of NASCAR's Truck Series stands 4-foot-4, operates from a custom-built cab, possesses an oversized personality, has produced world-class celebratory burnouts and is one of the most promising young drivers in racing.

    "I'm a little person," Rico Abreu said. "Or my name's Rico. That'd be fine too, if you just call me by my name."

    There's the last name too, which is pronounced like a synonym for a beer.

    "Yeah," Abreu said with a laugh. "A-Brew."

    No wonder he's popular around the track. He faced a lengthy line at a fan autograph session here Friday afternoon and drove to huge cheers in that night's 250-mile season-opening race here at Daytona International Speedway.

    Abreu started 16th, ran in the middle of the pack for most of the night before getting caught in a wreck and finishing 29th.

    Still, he's just getting started. He is infectious. He is funny. He is open. He, at age 24, is just so happy to be here, running around an infield near all the

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  • Danica Patrick's season of discontent

    Danica Patrick has a new sponsor in 2016. (AP)Danica Patrick has a new sponsor in 2016. (AP)DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Across the early months of 2015 Danica Patrick couldn't avoid wondering if much of what she knew in NASCAR might be slipping away.

    GoDaddy, her chief sponsor for the past nine years, was transitioning as a company right as their sponsorship deal for her car needed to be negotiated. And the process, Patrick said, was frustrating.

    "Well, we definitely got strung along for a really long time last year about re-upping," Patrick told Yahoo Sports Friday as she prepared for Sunday's Daytona 500. "It was excuse after excuse about, 'We're working on this; we're working on that; we're going public; we've got a lot going on.' Once that goes on long enough, you start to realize you're getting strung along.

    "So I had a bad feeling about it."

    Her concerns were about more than just a potential split with GoDaddy, which she'd become almost synonymous with over the years. She's appeared in more Super Bowl commercials than any person ever, all of them for the company. If the

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  • Dale Earnhardt Jr. pays tribute to his dad

    DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Dale Earnhardt spent part of Thursday scrolling through social media and seeing fan tributes to his late father, who died on this date 15 years ago in a final-lap crash of the Daytona 500.

    He never tires of seeing how so many still care so much about his old man.

    "It really warms my heart," Junior said.

    Dale Earnhardt Jr. takes the checkered flag for the 17th time at Daytona. (AP)Dale Earnhardt Jr. takes the checkered flag for the 17th time at Daytona. (AP)Then in classic Earnhardt Family fashion, he delivered his own kind of memorial, winning one of the Can/Am Duel 150s, a 60-lap, 150-mile qualifying race here on Thursday night. It wasn't just fun in its own right, but positions him well as a favorite for the top prize, Sunday's Daytona 500.

    It was the family's 51st victory in some kind of race at this legendary track (34 from Senior, 17 from Junior), including three in the 500. It's part of the bittersweet tapestry this place provides – the site of his father's tragic wreck into the outer wall of Turn 4 is also the track where Dale Jr. performs his best.

    The date and the place weren't lost on him.

    "It's real

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  • Jeff Gordon thankful to walk away healthy

    DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Thursday marked the 15-year anniversary of the death of Dale Earnhardt Sr. on the final lap of the Daytona 500, the starkest of reminders that this is a sport where tomorrow, where retirement, where happily ever after is never guaranteed. Not even for one of the greatest and most iconic drivers of them all.

    Jeff Gordon was Earnhardt's rival and Earnhardt's friend. He was on the track that day, Feb. 18, 2001. He, like so many others, can't show up here each February for the Daytona 500 and not remember.

    This Sunday, for the first time since 1993, Gordon won't be in the Daytona 500. Instead, the 44-year-old begins a second career as a Fox broadcaster.

    He's a retired driver now and the beauty of that phrase isn't lost on him. Retired is a heck of a thing to be in this sport. It means he didn't just beat a lot of drivers en route to 93 career Sprint Cup victories and four season championships. He also beat the whole damn sport, a goal that he admits slowly, and

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  • What's more thrilling for Chase Elliott: Winning Daytona 500 pole or flying in F-16?

    Jeff Gordon is retired. Tony Stewart is injured and going to retire this year. Jimmie Johnson, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kevin Harvick are all in their 40s. The grandstands surrounding Daytona International Speedway, which hosts Sunday's iconic, season-opening 500-mile race, have been expanded and refurbished into what they are calling a motorsports "stadium."

    It doesn't require a poet to see this Daytona 500 as a race in transition and the start of a year that NASCAR must look to a bolder but uncertain future. Chase Elliott (AP)

    Then along came 20-year-old Chase Elliott, the son of Bill Elliott, a NASCAR Hall of Famer and one of the most popular drivers in the sport's history, driving the 24 car that Gordon rode to four Cup titles and untold fame himself.

    And then Elliott won the pole in his first qualifying.

    NASCAR's next big thing is here, not a moment too soon. It needs him, especially him, tying old and young, fresh and familiar, promise and talent for a sport that needs every bit of star power to

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  • Cam Newton's defense of his pouting shows fallacy of culture war debate

    Cam Newton refused to apologize for his relatively brief and not particularly loquacious media conference following the Carolina Panthers' loss Sunday in Super Bowl 50.

    "Show me a good loser and I'll show you a loser," Newton told reporters in Charlotte on Tuesday.

    This was a tremendous answer and not because it propped up one side of the debate surrounding Cam or devastated the other side of the debate surrounding Cam. Instead it did both to both.

    Dislike Cam because he's a pompous, look-at-me modern star lacking grace and class … how about channeling some Vince Lombardi? Is that old-school enough for you?

    Love Cam and believe every bit of criticism thrown his way is based on cultural misunderstanding, mean-spiritedness and the fact the NFL didn't create a safe space for him to deal with the micro (or macro) aggressions Von Miller unleashed on him … no, he acted exactly how he wanted to act. It was genuine. He meant it.

    Cam has become a piñata in the middle of a culture war debate

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  • When Von Miller and the Broncos realized they had broken Cam Newton

    SANTA CLARA, Calif. – On the sixth snap of Cam Newton's Super Bowl, Von Miller charged at him from the edge, hit him face first and promptly ripped the football out of his hands. Just tore it out.

    This was grown man stuff. This was violent, blunt-force defense. This was the best player on the Denver Broncos confronting the best player on the Carolina Panthers, and just taking what he wanted – the ball, the Super Bowl, his football soul for the next few hours.

    "That play did it," Denver linebacker Brandon Marshall said. "That play rattled [Newton]. We got in his head like that. We got in his mind. He hasn't been harassed like that all season."

    Cam Newton is sacked by Von Miller during the first half of Super Bowl 50. (AP)Cam Newton is sacked by Von Miller during the first half of Super Bowl 50. (AP)You may never see a defensive player dominate a football game like Miller dominated Super Bowl 50 in leading the Broncos to a 24-10 victory. It wasn't just the six tackles, the 2½ sacks and the two forced fumbles that produced Denver's only two touchdowns.

    This was some unholy stuff, balletic brutality that made him the most important player

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