Joe Gibbs marvels at Peyton Manning, picks Denver to win Super Bowl

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While he may be one of NASCAR’s more successful team owners these days, Joe Gibbs’ heart and soul isn’t far from his days as one of the most prolific head coaches in the NFL.

Gibbs took the Washington Redskins to four Super Bowls during his coaching tenure, winning three of them. As one of the most successful team owners in NASCAR, he also has three Sprint Cup championships.

And while he’s gearing up for the start of the 2014 NASCAR season in a few weeks, Gibbs — according to SportingNews.com — is picking Peyton Manning’s Broncos to win Sunday’s Super Bowl — if the weather cooperates.

“My Super Bowl pick would be Denver, as long as there is not a big wind,” Gibbs told SN with a laugh. “If there’s a big wind, I’m switching my deal. I’m going to go to the window and try and get my money back.”

In a more serious tone, Gibbs, who compiled a 171-101 record (63 percent winning percentage) in 16 seasons as an NFL head coach, is particularly keen on the Broncos’ offense and how Manning has brought the team this far.

“Their scheme is probably one of the best schemes ever in offensive football, because you’ve got a guy (Manning) who is that experienced, that accurate and that knowledgeable, and he’s actually calling everything from the line,” Gibbs said. “When we call it from sidelines, you’re just guessing.”

While he stops short of calling Manning the best quarterback he’s ever seen, Gibbs still marvels at Manning’s ability.

“Most teams obviously have audibles because you are trying to put it back in the quarterback’s hands because you’re not sure what the (defense is) going to play,” Gibbs said. “But when you see him (Manning) go to the line of scrimmage and all of a sudden you see him quick-snap that thing, and then you’ve got to get into whatever (defense) you are playing … And then he goes to the line of scrimmage and he backs out of there and now he is looking at what you’re doing and he’s making a call based off that, that scheme is obviously hard to stop.”

Coyne transitioning from underdog to Indy 500 threat

Photo: IndyCar
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For most of the team’s existence, Dale Coyne Racing has been the Chicago Cubs of American Open Wheel Racing – a team whose history was more defined by failures, at times comically so, than success.

The last decade, however, has seen the tide completely change. In 2007, they scored three podium finishes with Bruno Junqueira. In 2009, they won at Watkins Glen with the late Justin Wilson.

The combination won again at Texas Motor Speedway in 2012, and finished sixth in the 2013 Verizon IndyCar Series championship. That same year, Mike Conway took a shock win for them in Race 1 at the Chevrolet Dual in Detroit.

Carlos Huertas scored an upset win for them in Race 1 at the Houston double-header in 2014, and while 2015 and 2016 yielded no wins, Tristan Vautier and Conor Daly gave them several strong runs – Vautier’s best finish was fourth in Race 2 at Detroit, while Daly finished second in Race 1 at Detroit, finished fourth at Watkins Glen, and scored a trio of sixth-place finishes at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course, Race 2 at Detroit, and the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

And 2017 was set to possibly be the best year the team has ever had. Sebastien Bourdais gave the team a popular win in the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, and then rookie Ed Jones scored back-to-back top tens – 10th and sixth – at St. Pete and the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach to start his career.

But, things started unraveling at the Indianapolis 500. Bourdais appeared set to be in the Fast Nine Pole Shootout during his first qualifying run – both of his first two laps were above 231 mph –  before his horrifying crash in Turn 2.

While Jones qualified an impressive 11th and finished an even more impressive third, results for the rest of the season became hard to come by – Jones only scored two more Top 10s, with a best result of seventh at Road America.

But, retooled for 2018, the Coyne team is a legitimate threat at the 102nd Running of the Indianapolis 500.

Bourdais, whose No. 18 Honda features new sponsorship from SealMaster and now ownership partners in Jimmy Vasser and James “Sulli” Sullivan, has a win already, again at St. Pete, and sits third in the championship.

And Bourdais may also be Honda’s best hope, given that he was the fastest Honda in qualifying – he’ll start fifth behind Ed Carpenter, Simon Pagenaud, Will Power, and Josef Newgarden.

“I think it speaks volumes about their work, their passion and their dedication to this program, Dale (Coyne), Jimmy (Vasser) and Sulli (James Sullivan) and everybody from top to bottom. I can’t thank them enough for the opportunity, for the support,” Bourdais said of the team’s effort.

Rookie Zachary Claman De Melo has been progressing nicely, and his Month of May has been very solid – he finished 12th at the INDYCAR Grand Prix on the IMS Road Course and qualified a strong 13th for the “500.”

“It’s been surreal to be here as rookie. I’m a bit at a loss for words,” Claman De Melo revealed after qualifying. “The fans, driving around this place, being with the team, everything is amazing. I have a great engineer, a great group of experienced mechanics at Dale Coyne Racing.”

While Conor Daly and Pippa Mann struggled in one-off entries, with Mann getting bumped out of the field in Saturday qualifying, Daly’s entry essentially puts three Coyne cars in the race – Daly’s No. 17 United States Air Force Honda is a Dale Coyne car that has been leased to Thom Burns Racing.

Rest assured, the days of Coyne being an “also ran” are long gone, and a Coyne car ending up in Victory Lane at the biggest race of the year would complete the Chicago Cubs analogy – the Cubs won a World Series title in 2016, and an Indy 500 triumph would be the crowning achievement in Coyne’s career.

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