USA! USA! USA! What's more American than NASCAR racing?
NASCAR kicked off the 2002 season with its annual Super Bowl this past weekend. And Americans were left gripping the edge of their seats and asking for more after another dramatic Daytona 500.
Obviously, NASCAR fever has consumed Americans as the viewership for the season-opener set a record. The ratings would have been higher than the 10.9 rating, but the numbers from Paris, Texas and French Lick, Ind., had to be thrown out after it was discovered the cities colluded with Moscow, Idaho to only watch the Duke-Maryland basketball game.
At any rate, RPM.ESPN.com pays homage to the Olympics in this weekend's wrap-up.
The Steven Bradbury Memorial Award -- Dedicated to the Australian speedskater who went from last place to gold medal winner in the 1,000 meters speedskate after the four skaters, including gold-medal favorite American Apolo Ohno, crashed in front of him.
Gold -- Ward Burton. Burton can vouch with Bradbury that it doesn't matter how you win as long as you win.
Silver -- Elliott Sadler. Sadler finished second at Daytona. Not Tony Stewart. Not Jeff Gordon. Not Dale Earnhardt Jr. The 26-year-old was stellar Sunday.
Bronze -- Geoffrey Bodine and Kurt Busch, tie. If someone says they picked this pair to finish the Daytona 500 in the top-5, then I have a time-share condo on a beach in Afghanistan.
The 1980 Soviet Union Hockey Team Memorial Award -- Dedicated to those who expected excellence, but fell short.
Gold -- Stewart. His day was done after blowing his engine on the third lap. Finished dead last after winning the Bud Shootout and IROC race. Could be the biggest upset since the United States defeated the Soviet Union on the rink at Lake Placid.
Silver -- Jimmy Spencer. Scooby-Doo, where are you? Was off "target" in qualifying and failed to make the Daytona field. It wasn't exactly his fault, but nonetheless was a big disappointment.
Bronze -- Earnhardt Jr. We have to give Little E credit for never giving up. But it just wasn't his day at Daytona.
The Chris Witty Award -- Dedicated to the American speedskater who set the world record in the 1,000 meters and won gold despite finding out a month ago she had mononucleosis.
Gold -- Earnhardt Jr. Our first repeat medalist. He made more comebacks Sunday than Larry Holmes. Everyone had to admire the heart Junior showed. The legend continues to grow ...
Silver -- Bodine. Picks up a silver to go with his earlier bronze. Bodine almost died in a horrific wreck during the truck race at Daytona in 2000. Yet, he was back on the track with limited sponsorship and turned in a stellar third-place performance.
Bronze -- Shawna Robinson. Ran out of gas, broke a drive shaft, spun out, avoided several crashes and managed to finish 24th at the Daytona 500. Not bad.
The Marie-Reine Le Gougne Award -- Dedicated to the French judge who was suspended after admitting she was pressured in her voting that gave the gold to Russian's Elena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze instead of Canadian's Jamie Sale and David Pelletier in pair's figure skating.
Gold -- Sterling Marlin. Marlin should have just kept his seatbelt on and stayed in his car instead of trying to adjust his earlier "fender bender." Someone on his crew should have known better and relayed the information to Marlin that working on your car during a red flag is a no-no.
Silver -- NASCAR. They had to even the field by lowering the spoilers on Dodges and Fords, but taking a look at the top-10 finishers shows only two Chevys (Michael Waltrip in fifth and Gordon in ninth) and one Pontiac (Johnny Benson in 10th) finished among the 10 best. I bet I know who will be crying foul at Talladega in April. Hey, at least we don't have to listen to the speculation of how NASCAR fixed the race for Earnhardt Jr.
Bronze -- Gordon. Had a top-three finish wrapped up, but was more concerned about keeping Marlin behind him by blocking with five laps remaining. The two tangled and both eventually were sent to the back of the lead-lap pack. At least he was man enough to accept blame for the accident.
Best Performance By a Senior Citizen
The Anne Abernathy Award -- Dedicated to the 44-year-old luger known as "Grandma Luge." Although she is not quite a senior citizen, she is competing against athletes half her age.
Gold, Silver and Bronze -- Dave Marcis. As the only competitor eligible for the award, Marcis is our runaway winner. Marcis hung up his wing tips for the last time, as the 60-year-old driver finished his career after completing 79 laps Sunday. I wonder what the Vegas odds were on Marcis finishing the Daytona 500 ahead of Stewart?
Other Gold Medals
Quote: "(It's a) battle of wrecks. That's what you'll have in restrictor-plate races. We do that a lot here. The further it goes the more stuff you'll see. ... It gets wild. People get desperate at the end. I understand that. I was desperate, too." -- Michael Waltrip, on Daytona being a battle of attrition.
Photo: Check out the photo of the week. One of Rusty Wallace's crew members attempts a hand stand at an inopportune time?