Race Weekend Central

Full Throttle: March Madness from the NASCAR Perspective

The second-biggest sporting event of the year after the Super Bowl (sorry NASCAR fans but its not the Daytona 500) is just about to get underway with the greatest two days of sports activity anyone can ask for. On Thursday and Friday there will be 32 college basketball games where each team’s season hangs in the balance. A loss and they are done for the year, but a win and they advance to the next round.

The entire field for the event will be cut in half in two days and cut by three quarters by the end of the weekend. The unbridled excitement that will be experienced by college basketball fans will be unmatched by even the fans of the driver who wins the Daytona 500. To help prepare the fans for this thrilling event, we’ll take a look at who will win based on NASCAR connections.

In the East region, Pittsburgh is the number one seed. Their first round match is against East Tennessee State. Darrell Waltrip lives in Tennessee. Darrell is a big fan of Digger. Pittsburgh wins. There are no drivers from Oklahoma so Tennessee wins the 8/9 matchup, but the Digger card comes into play again, so Pittsburgh is in the Sweet 16. Mark Martin lives in Florida while Matt Kenseth is from Wisconsin. Kenseth has two wins this season so the Badgers advance over Florida State.

Xavier is from Ohio where Sam Hornish Jr. grew up, while Portland is from Oregon where they don’t have a NASCAR track or Cup driver. Xavier advances. Kenseth vs. Hornish, no contest, Wisconsin moves on to face Pittsburgh. With no driver from Pittsburgh, Wisconsin moves on to the Elite 8.

On the other side of the bracket, UCLA is from California, the home of Jimmie Johnson, Kevin Harvick, AJ Allmendinger, Casey Mears, Robby Gordon and David Gilliland. Virginia Commonwealth is from the home of Jeff Burton, Denny Hamlin and Elliott Sadler. By sheer numbers UCLA advances. In the 3/14 matchup, Villanova is playing American. Villanova is a former national champion while American University is, well, American University, so Villanova advances.

With no drivers from Philadelphia, UCLA will advance to the Sweet 16. In the next matchup, Texas plays Minnesota, and with the Labonte brothers in their corner while no Cup driver hails from Minnesota, the edge goes to Texas. In the last matchup in the region, Duke goes up against Binghamton. Burton is a devoted Duke fan, and he’s already been ousted in the VCU game, so his allegiance for the Blue Devils will allow them to prevail over the driverless squad from Binghamton.

Burton against the Labonte brothers is still not a contest so Texas moves on to the Sweet 16. Texas faces UCLA and the sheer volume of titles from the California crowd overpowers the Texas twosome, so UCLA moves on to the Final Four from the East region.

We head to the South region and North Carolina will take on Radford. Try as we might, there’s no way we can give Radford a chance, so UNC moves on. In the game to take on UNC, LSU will face Butler. While Jeff Gordon wasn’t born in Indiana, he claims it as his home state. With no Cup wheelers from the Sportsman’s Paradise, Butler moves on. Even with four titles in tow, Gordon’s Butler Bulldogs cannot overpower the sheer volume of Cup drivers who have and still do list NC as their home state. UNC is in the Sweet 16.

The next pairing in the bracket faces off Illinois and Western Kentucky. Waltrip is from Owensboro, Ky., so the Digger connection dooms the Hilltoppers and Illinois moves on. Gonzaga takes on Akron in the next matchup. Gonzaga is from the state of Washington while Akron is the home of Goodyear. Greg Biffle and Kasey Kahne trump the giant tire, the Zags advance. Illinois matches up with Gonzaga where the power of two drivers vs. none pushes Gonzaga on to the Sweet 16. UNC takes on Gonzaga in that matchup and, well there is no contest, Richard Petty trumps Biffle and the Tarheels move on.

On the other side of the bracket, Arizona State takes on Temple while Syracuse takes on Stephen F. Austin. With the Labonte brothers being facing only Regan Smith as opposing drivers representing other schools, the major upset of SF Austin to the Sweet 16 is a no brainer. In the next to last matchup, Clemson takes on Michigan. David Pearson and Cale Yarborough trump the big three any day of the week, so Clemson moves along.

Morgan State plays Oklahoma in the last match of the bracket. C’mon, its Morgan State, Oklahoma moves on. Unfortunately for the Sooners, the second winningest driver ever moves Clemson past them into the Sweet 16. Pearson and Yarborough against the Labontes is no contest so Clemson is in the Elite 8. In the final match of the region, UNC takes on Clemson. Petty and Dale Earnhardt have 14 championships. Sorry but that beats anybody. UNC is in the Final Four.

In the Midwest Region, Louisville is the number one seed in the whole tournament. No matter who they play, Digger curse or not, they’re going to advance. Their opponent will be Ohio State because Dave Blaney outlasts New York’s Smith, who’s representing Siena. The Digger curse kicks in during the second round and Ohio State moves on to the Sweet 16. In the next pairing, Arizona goes against Utah. Good weather beats snow any time, Arizona moves on.

The 4/13 pairing is Wake Forest vs. Cleveland State. The Demon Deacons will ride the North Carolina wave to overpower Blaney and Hornish to move to the next round. Wake continues to ride the momentum past Arizona to match up against Ohio State. Blaney and Hornish continue to get pummeled by the North Carolina power as Wake breezes into the Elite 8.

On the other half of the bracket, the Ohio drivers pull out a win as Dayton takes on West Virginia. They’ll face Kansas as Clint Bowyer is able to push the Jayhawks by North Dakota State. In the battle of dirt racers, Blaney puts a whooping on Bowyer and Dayton makes the surprise move into the Sweet 16. In the final pairings, Southern Cal piles onto the California driver bandwagon to roll past Boston College, while Michigan State blows past Robert Morris on the strength of the big three.

In the next round, Michigan State can’t overcome the tidal wave of California drivers and USC makes the Sweet 16. When Dayton takes on USC, it’s no contest and the sheer numbers of California win out again, pushing the Trojans into the Elite 8. In the last game in the region, Wake Forest takes the energy of the 14 championships of Earnhardt and Petty to squeak by the Southern Cal contingent and put the Demon Deacons into the Final Four out of the Midwest region.

The last region is the West where Connecticut takes on UT Chattanooga. We know a No. 16 has never beaten a No. 1, and the Digger curse makes sure that continues. They’ll play the winner of BYU/Texas A&M where the Labontes flex their muscle again to move on. They roll right on past the Huskies to make it into the Sweet 16. Purdue is in the next matchup against Northern Iowa. Ryan Newman actually attended Purdue, which lends more credence than drivers just living in states, so Purdue moves on.

Washington takes on Mississippi State, and the Kahne/Biffle contingent pushes into the next round. However, Newman’s degree overcomes the fact that they just lived in Washington, and Purdue makes the Sweet 16. In the other half of the bracket, Marquette takes advantage of the Kenseth/Dick Trickle connection and moves beyond Utah State. Missouri faces Cornell in the next pairing and they ride the force of the Wallace family to overcome the New York effort. Marquette takes on Missouri and the two wins of Kenseth trump the lack of wins this year by the Wallaces, so they make the Sweet 16.

The 7/10 matchup pits California against Maryland and the large amount of drivers from Cali again makes for too much to overcome, California moves on. Memphis takes on Cal-State Northridge and, thanks to the focus on the California game, sneaks into the second round. Unfortunately, when Memphis takes on California, they’re not so lucky and they go down to the onslaught of Cali drivers who make the Sweet 16. When Purdue takes on Texas A&M, due to the fact that Newman attended the school and Gordon claims Indiana as his home state, they make it past the Aggies into the Elite 8. They’ll take on the winner of California vs. Marquette.

While Kenseth’s wins this year are strong, Johnson’s three straight titles are stronger, and California advances. In the final game of the last region, Purdue takes on California, and Newman’s degree outlasts the mere proximity of the California boys, and Purdue moves on to the Final Four.

In the Final Four, Purdue faces Wake Forest, and the North Carolina power has to be applied somewhere, and its with the Tar Heels. Wake Forest is weakened and the Boilermakers make it to the final game. They’ll be playing with winner of UCLA/UNC. With Petty and Earnhardt against Johnson, the number of titles is 14-3. The California reign comes to an end as North Carolina takes the step into the final game.

In the championship game North Carolina looks like the dominant choice, but the fact that Newman has an engineering degree from Purdue allows him to optimize his yaw and maximize his efficiency to take the title and give the Boilermakers their first ever NCAA men’s tournament title.

So there you have it, a purely unscientific look at the tournament and how the influences of NASCAR will affect the outcome. Enjoy the madness everyone.

(Let it be known the author is a Purdue grad and that may have some influence on how he interprets the data).

About the author

What is it that Mike Neff doesn’t do? The writer, radio contributor and racetrack announcer coordinates the site’s local short track coverage, hitting up Saturday Night Specials across the country while tracking the sport’s future racing stars. The writer for our signature Cup post-race column, Thinkin’ Out Loud (Mondays) also sits down with Cup crew chiefs to talk shop every Friday with Tech Talk. Mike announces several shows each year for the Good Guys Rod and Custom Association. He also pops up everywhere from PRN Pit Reporters and the Press Box with Alan Smothers to SIRIUS XM Radio. He has announced at tracks all over the Southeast, starting at Millbridge Speedway. He's also announced at East Lincoln Speedway, Concord Speedway, Tri-County Speedway, Caraway Speedway, and Charlotte Motor Speedway.

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