NASCAR: Hall of Famer Rusty Wallace goes off on Olbermann in radio interview

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As part of his op-ed yesterday on how this NASCAR off-season has veered into the bizarre, my colleague, Tony DiZinno, brought up the recent Twitter scrap between big-name sports commentator Keith Olbermann and six-time Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson – a scrap that began with Olbermann spouting off on the Kurt Busch/Patricia Driscoll saga.

The details of the Olbermann/Johnson exchange are in the link above, so I won’t rehash.

But Johnson isn’t the only Cup champ that has jumped in. Yesterday on Phoenix’s Fox Sports 910 AM, 1989 champ and NASCAR Hall of Famer Rusty Wallace put in his two cents on the matter and on Olbermann’s belief that racing isn’t a sport.

He didn’t hold back.

“I don’t pay any attention to Olbermann. He doesn’t know anything about our sport,” Wallace said. “Our sport’s the most popular form of motorsport in the world. There’s no doubt about that, you can’t argue it. You get in a car, you run 200 mph sweating your brains out. You lose anywhere between 10 to 12 pounds in a race – that’s what I used to do – I mean it’s physical.

“We’re not trying to say we’re stick and ball guys, by all means. But to try and belittle the drivers and say it’s not tough or something is not correct. Because every NFL guy or any basketball player, anybody like that, they’re in shock and awe when it comes to NASCAR and what it takes to run these cars in the Daytona 500 or Bristol or anywhere – two inches apart, running 200 mph, for 500 miles, three and a half hours.

“They don’t talk any crap on it.”

Wallace then said anti-NASCAR negativity in some corners of the American sports media is a constant obstacle that must be fought. Later in the interview, he returned to Olbermann.

“I’d love to have Olbermann in a car one time and run his ass around the track and see what he says then,” he said.

One of the radio hosts then proclaims that Olbermann could “kiss [his] ass.” To which Wallace replied: “He can kiss my ass, too, how’s that?”

While any Formula One fan may beg to differ on Wallace’s assertion of NASCAR being the most popular motorsport in the world, he otherwise puts up an OK defense. Racing does take a lot out of you physically and mentally, and you’d figure a lot of athletes in the ‘Big Four’ sports (Detroit Lions back Reggie Bush, being one example) have respect for racing.

However, it would appear that Olbermann’s mind is made up. He closed his tweets on the subject with the following on Friday:

All you can do is shrug and go back to my colleague’s op-ed and its central point: We really need to get some cars on the track, so we can focus on that.

The first practice at Daytona Speedweeks is in 27 days.

IndyCar’s Scott Dixon staying fit during lengthy time off

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During a regular racing schedule, five-time NTT IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon of Chip Ganassi Racing would spend much of his time between races at PitFit in Indianapolis.

The highly advanced workout facility on the northwest side of Indianapolis is run by noted sports trainer Jim Leo. His clientele includes IndyCar Series drivers and other athletes in the area.

In addition to the array of workout machines, Leo’s facility also has advanced equipment to test a driver’s reaction time. These range from a board with lights that rapidly flash, and a driver have to hit the board to turn them off. There are other tests drivers do to keep their skills sharp and reaction time focused.

Times have changed, though.

Indiana is under a statewide lockdown with the exception of essential services only. Instead of going to PitFit, Dixon is working out at his home on the north side of Indianapolis.

His reaction time is being tested by his wife, Emma, throw a tennis ball at him, changing the direction with each toss.

“I’ve gone back to old school, like tennis balls and Emma can drop them or throw them,” Dixon told NBCSports.com. “As long as you keep up with basic cardio and lift weights and work on the neck muscles, that’s the harder part to get ready for. “As we get through this transition, we have 8-10 weeks before these things get lifted.

“I had already stopped going into Pit Fit last week. We had not been doing that for a while. Haven’t left the house for 13 days, now. We went to the grocery store once. The rest of the stuff has been delivered.

“We’re locked down, man, trying to do our best for everyone else.”

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Dixon’s home has an impressive array of workout equipment. That allows the 39-year-old racing legend to stay fit during this extended time off that won’t end until the last week of May at the earliest.

“I have most of the stuff I need at home,” Dixon explained. “Some of the reaction stuff, the D-2s and Synaptic machines plus some of the upper-body machines are pretty unique machines. Those are the machines that Jim Leo has at PitFit.

“As far as cycling, running, general weights, skiers and rollers, I have that at home.”

It seems like a lifetime ago when the world was normal. That was before the dreaded COVID-19 outbreak has literally sent society underground and locked in while a solution to this fatal virus is found.

Photo by Chris Graythen, Getty Images

Before this unexpected shutdown, Dixon would go into PitFit to work on specialized equipment on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. He would do the rest of his physical workout at home.

“I started skipping that when we got home before the lockdown,” Dixon said. “Before the lockdown, Jim could have stayed open because he never has more than 10 people at once.

“Typically, he would have the drivers spaced out where Tony Kanaan and I would go in at 8 in the morning and Alexander Rossi and James Hinchcliffe would go in at 9:30 and then Zach Veach and Spencer Pigot and Charlie Kimball would go in around 11. There were only about five of us going in at once.”

Two weeks ago, Leo dropped off some equipment at Dixon’s house along with more instructions to focus on his workouts during the layoff.

Sacrifices are being made all throughout the world, including racing.

“You can’t be selfish,” Dixon said. “It sucks for the drivers, but it sucks a lot worse for a lot of other people. Luckily, the school the girls go to has e-learning. It’s school as usual on the computer from 8:30 to 3 and that has been seamless on that front.

“On a personal note, it’s nice to be home with the baby and bonding as well and that is great. But all of us wish everything was back to normal as soon as possible.”

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Dixon is the father of three, including young daughters Poppy (10), Tilly (8) and infant son, Kit.

This is a time to keep his family safe.

“You hear mixed messages about who is more at risk,” Dixon said. “Obviously, older people with underlying conditions. We’re a fairly healthy family, but still it sounds like something can trigger a pretty bad situation. It’s better to be safe than sorry so we are limiting our contact as fast as possible. The quicker everybody locks down, the quicker we will get through the situation. If we stay home, we will see a decline and hopefully get back to normal pretty quickly.

“It’s a new thing for everybody.”

For now, Dixon works out at home, while the girls continue their classes on the computer. Emma spends time with her infant son, Kit, while taking care of the family.

These days of working out at home will be important because once racing is scheduled to return, tentatively set for May 30 at Detroit, it will be flat-out, racing nearly every weekend.

There won’t be time-off in-between races.

“No, but everybody is having plenty of rest right now,” Dixon quipped. “It’s not what anybody wants. We all keep hoping everybody remains safe and healthy. It’s a difficult time for a lot of people and we’ve been very lucky that we don’t know anybody that has had an issue so far. Hopefully, that remains the same.

“Everybody is ready to go. We were ready to go at St. Pete. This will be welcomed greatly.

“Nothing is normal these days. I think what IndyCar and IMS did was probably the best of the situations. You never want to move the dates of the 500, but you always want the people to be relaxed enough they are going to come to the race, too.

“The way they have done the schedule is pretty cool. It gives them enough wiggle room now with Detroit being the kickoff. What is also fun is the July 4 doubleheader weekend at Indianapolis and St. Pete finishing the season.”

Once life returns to normal, depending on what the new normal will look like, race drivers and athletes will once again be in an area they know.

The difficult part of this, however, is nobody knows when the COVID-19 pandemic will end.

“The hard part right now is there are so many unknowns,” Dixon said. “That is what people hate. They could wrap their hands around two weeks, but it could be another six weeks. People will go crazy.

“That is what we are going through right now. The unknown. Nobody knows what the next step is.”

That is why Dixon has a message for all race fans to take these orders seriously.

“Stay safe. Stay away from people. Lock down. Get this period done with,” Dixon said. “Once we do that, hopefully we can crack on like normal and people can find fixes and therapies. As soon as everybody bunkers down, we will get through this sooner instead of later.

“Let’s get back to normal as quick as possible and get back to racing when we can.”

Follow Bruce Martin on Twitter at @BruceMartin_500