Drivers weigh in on tournament

March, 19, 2008

NASCAR drivers in general know very little about other sports. There are exceptions, certainly. Guys like Elliott Sadler and Dale Jarrett are sports junkies, but for the most part, Sprint Cup's finest stick to focusing on cambers and casters and the proper line through Turn 3 at Atlanta, and couldn't care less who won the NFC championship.

But March Madness is a bit different. The NCAA men's basketball tournament bracket is a phenomenon that makes most everyone pay attention. Even my momma -- who cared not one iota about sports unless I happened to be whiffing at a t-ball or something -- filled out her bracket each March. And usually won.

NASCAR drivers, too, are apt to take a stab at bracketology. So NASCAR's PR staff coaxed several drivers into prognosticating the Final Four and, ultimately, the champion.

Judging by the feedback, the Kansas Jayhawks or North Carolina Tar Heels will hoist the trophy when the checkers fly in San Antonio.

A.J. Allmendinger (No. 84 Toyota)
Final Four Picks: North Carolina, Kansas, UCLA, Texas
Champion: Kansas
Why Kansas: Because Kansas and North Carolina can't play each other for the title, we're going all Big 12 in the championship game. But I like Kansas. They're just too tough. They have been all year. If you need any help with your bracketology, just call me.

Clint Bowyer (No. 07 Chevrolet)
Final Four Picks: North Carolina, Kansas, UCLA, Memphis
Champion: Kansas
Why Kansas: This is going to work out perfect. When Kansas beats Roy Williams and North Carolina on Saturday, I'll head to San Antonio after the Cup race in Texas for the national championship. It looks like Kansas was meant to beat Roy Williams and I was meant to go the national championship. I love it when a plan comes together.

Jeff Burton (No. 31 Chevrolet)
Final Four Picks: North Carolina, Kansas, Pittsburgh, UCLA
Champion: Kansas
Why Kansas: As much as I would love to see my Duke Blue Devils pull it off, I don't think it's going to happen. I believe Kansas is going to win the championship. They have a great team and have played well over the last few games.

Kurt Busch (No. 2 Dodge)
Final Four Picks: North Carolina, Kansas, UCLA, Memphis
Champion: Memphis
Why Memphis: Of course, I'm pulling for my Arizona Wildcats to make it as far as possible, but even if they win their opener against West Virginia, they have to get past Duke and Xavier just to get a shot at knocking off UCLA in the West. I don't see it happening. I'll go with Memphis winning it all, but I'll have to pull for my PAC-10 teams, even if it means cheering for UCLA. I watched some of the tournament games last weekend. It'll be really interesting to see how far teams like Georgia, Drake and Butler can go.

Kevin Harvick (No. 29 Chevrolet)
Final Four Picks: North Carolina, Georgetown, Memphis, UCLA
Champion: North Carolina
Why Carolina: DeLana and I went to the Duke-Carolina game earlier this year, and I was impressed by North Carolina's potential. I think they have a few veteran guys who could carry them a long way in the tournament.

Bobby Labonte (No. 43 Dodge)
Final Four Picks: Texas. (That's it.)
Why Texas: I'll admit that I don't know very much about college basketball. But I have been following the Texas Longhorns. When you're from Texas, you always follow the Burnt Orange. Even though they lost to Kansas in the conference tournament, they look to me like they have the talent to win six games. D.J. Augustine is a really good point guard and you need talent at that crucial position.

Kyle Petty (No. 45 Dodge)
Final Four Picks: North Carolina, Kansas, Memphis, UConn
Champion: North Carolina
Why Carolina: Memphis and North Carolina will meet in the national championship game, with Carolina cutting down the nets in San Antonio. That was my best Dick Vitale impersonation. No, I just think that North Carolina is playing their best basketball at the right time. Two months ago I don't think you would have picked them to win the ACC regular season and tournament. And Hansbrough is a beast.

David Ragan (No. 6 Ford)
Final Four Picks: Memphis, North Carolina, Georgetown, UCLA
Champion: North Carolina
Why Carolina: I am all about March Madness. I stay glued to the TV for the entire tournament. The Tar Heels will be tough to beat because of their depth and offensive firepower, but Georgetown will be a challenge if they meet up in the national semifinal. My money is on the Tar Heels to cut down the nets in San Antonio.

Elliott Sadler (No. 19 Dodge)
Final Four Picks: North Carolina, Kansas, UCLA, Texas
Champion: North Carolina
Why Carolina: It's finally here, March Madness. As a college basketball fan, we follow our teams all year long to get to this point. They get seeded throughout the year, then it all comes down to the selection committee and how they line up in the brackets. I love it because one upset can mess up everyone's brackets for the rest of the tournament.
You all know I'm a big UNC fan, so it's no surprise I picked them to go all the way. The team is strong, the defense is on their game and Tyler Hansbrough has been playing incredible. I'm picking my UNC Tar Heels to go the distance and cut down the nets in San Antonio.

For the record, Kansas gets my vote -- barely.

Memphis is good, but its inability to shoot free throws -- the worst in America -- will do it in. Carolina is ridiculous. Hansbrough is excellent, and even on off nights wills his team to victory with an infectious hustle you can't help but admire. "Psycho T" is a great nickname, too. So fitting. The kid looks like his head's going to explode half the time. Lawson, Ellington and Green are all great, too, but I really like Mario Chalmers. He and Brandon Rush are amazing, and will lead Kansas to the national title.



You must be signed in to post a comment

Already have an account?