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1323810410dejj_img01_hiresNDIANAPOLIS — As if producing likable music, learning to market it to a mass audience, and then keeping the band together wasn’t difficult enough, choosing a great name is often the tallest task for any performing artist.

To borrow from a popular racing idiom, Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. finally gave up the ghost on their name as the Detroit-based indy pop duo has decided to drop the famous NASCAR driver from its title, becoming simply “JR JR” moving forward.

The group, which consist of Daniel Zott and Joshua Epstein, made the announcement on their website on Wednesday and made it clear that the name change has nothing to do with legal pressure from the driver of the Hendrick Motorsports No. 88 Chevrolet.

In fact, the group included a letter Earnhardt sent the band in 2011 where he offered both approval and support. The text of that letter, which was posted on their Facebook page, plus the rest of the post can be found after the jump. View full article »

20150623_184758CHICAGO — Last night was probably the coolest moment of my non-professional life.

Certainly, my job allows me to opportunities to go to a lot of places (and do a lot of things) that I have wanted to see since I was a kid racing karts and bandoleros throughout the Deep South. I’ve been to the Daytona 500, the Indianapolis 500 and even covered the inaugural Formula 1 Grand Prix in Austin, Texas back in 2012.

But those who have known me the longest know that baseball, not motorsports, was my first true love.

I grew up in racing family.

My dad raced. My pawpaw raced. I raced.

So racing felt like something we simply did more than something that was a true passion. It wasn’t until I took some time away from racing in high school that I realized how much it meant to me and eventually found my way back as a journalist.

Anyways, when I was a kid, I was all about Chicago Cubs baseball. View full article »

On Dragon Ball, Digimon and Evangelion in 2015

dragon-ball-z-2015ATLANTA :: Were that many people clamoring for more Dragon Ball?

The answer is apparently a resounding yes as there is a new movie coming out called Dragon Ball Z: The Resurrection of F. For those unaware, the F represents the unavoidable return of Frieza — the most iconic villain in the history of the most popular anime franchise to ever hit the United States.

Despite the fanfare surrounding the return of Dragon Ball, I’m pretty skeptical about this movie. Since the announcement several days ago, I’ve had multiple friends ask me if I’m excited for more kamehameha waves and spirit bombs and the answer is an indifferent ‘meh.’

Like any twentysomething, I owe all of my otaku fandom to the likes of Pokemon, Digimon, Gundam, Outlaw Star and Dragonball — a well-rounded diet of action, comedy, drama and irreverence. As a result, Dragon Ball still has a special place in my heart.

My cat is named Gotenks after all. View full article »

Super Bowl XLIX Prediction

Boomer-20121104202656MOBILE, Ala. — I haven’t watched as much football as I would have liked to this season. My Saints were godawful and my weekends were kind of occupied with the “Fraternal Order of Go Fast.”

I have watched the NFL Playoffs this winter but take the following prediction with a grain of salt — because let’s face it — no one pays me for my football opinions, right?

For Super Bowl XLVIII, I picked the Broncos over the Seahawks, believing that the cagey veteran quarterback, Peyton Manning, would use every trick in the book to outsmart the youthful, energetic exuberance of Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor and the “Legion of Boom.”

I was wrong. View full article »

I’ve Been Around the Block But Not Near Enough

MapMALCOLM, Ala. — I have been lucky enough to see a decent number of race tracks in my first 26 years of existence. Working in NASCAR, IndyCar and short track racing over the past few seasons has only increased that number. With that said, I still have so many bucket list venues to kick off my personal list and hopefully 2015 will allow me to do so.

You’ll notice that the vast majority of these tracks are pavement and road courses. I grew up in a Southern dirt track family and raced dirt myself before pursuing journalism. (My parents started taking me to the track to watch Dad race months following my birth.) I removed myself from dirt more and more as I got older. That changed a little bit last year as I started following the National Dirt Racing League, which folded as quickly as it started.

But the NDRL did start a flirtation with Dirt Late Models so maybe I could find myself at a Lucas Oil or World of Outlaws event next season.

Regardless, here is a list of every track I have ever attended from 1988-2014. View full article »

VPSATSUMA, Ala. — Most of you guys reading this know my backstory and how hard I’ve worked to make it in motorsports journalism. It’s not easy and has required much sacrifice.

One of those sacrifices has been my quickly eroding social life. Think about it: I worked 20 Sprint Cup weekends, 10 IndyCar weekends and countless short track events in 2014. Woe is me, right? (sarcasm) Trust me, I’m not asking for pity. I know that I have the coolest job in the world but there are certain things that I have given up in trying to make this work.

That’s what made last night so unique and special. View full article »

Happy Holidays and Best Wishes!

christmas_ferrari_10-10SATSUMA, Ala. — It has become customary to wish your social media friends and followers a Merry Christmas on this day each year. I feel like we’ve started to do it because that is what everyone else does and it starts to lose a little bit of meaning after a while.

That’s not to say I think we’re becoming insincere or anything like that. I just want to take this opportunity and go above and beyond the standard practice, if I may.

Because the truth is that, if you’re reading this right now, I think you and I have an invaluable relationship and I hope you truly have a marvelous Christmas!

I am so grateful for your friendship and support and I couldn’t do what I do without you! It’s because you follow me on Twitter, read my articles and share them to your friends that I’m able to be at a race track each and every weekend and write the stories that I put out.

By far the best aspect of this past season is that I was able to attend a lot more NASCAR events. In fact, I was able to work 20 Sprint Cup weekends, 9 IndyCar events and countless short track races over the past 12 months.

This is by far the coolest gig in the world and it’s allowed me to interact and meet many of you in person at Tweetups throughout the course of the year and that’s the best part of the job.

You guys are ‘my people’ and I think it’s so cool that we have a forum to talk about racing the way we do each and every weekend. So long story short, if I didn’t see you in person at least once this past season, I hope we are able to chat at some point in 2015.

I’m super grateful to know each of you in whatever capacity that I do and I wish you the merriest of Christmases and a Happy New Year.

Cheers,

Matt Weaver

Matt Reviews: Final Fantasy X HD Remaster

Tidus_and_Yuna_in_zanarkandSATSUMA, Ala. — When I was much younger, I vowed that I would never become a stubborn adult who was not open to change and the progressive evolution of his various interests.

Time has largely shown me to be a man of my word, especially with the mass of change that has come to NASCAR over the past decade with the Chase for the Championship, knockout qualifying and the overall evolution of Stock Car Racing.

I’m a proponent of change, believing that a product that doesn’t keep up with the times is at risk of getting lost to it. With that in mind, I’m saddened to admit that the state of Japanese Role Playing Video Games (JRPG) has passed me by, something I recently discovered by playing Final Fantasy XIII and the HD remaster of Final Fantasy X back-to-back over the past six months.

JRPGs were a major otaku passion of mine during my teenage years, a hobby that I’ve tried to maintain as an adult.

As a teenager, I took for granted the golden era of JRPGs, growing up with the releases of titles like Final Fantasy 7-10, Super Mario RPG, Legend of Dragoon, Chrono Cross and Xenosaga. What’s the common theme between each of these games?

If you’re still reading by this point of the blog post, you’re likely interested in the genre and know that the answer is a turn-based battle system, where you and your opponent take turns attacking, casting spells or healing your fellow party members. View full article »

Kyle Petty nWoCocoa Beach, Fla. — For better or worse, stock car racing and professional wrestling has always had a unique sort of synergy between each other. Both have a deep history and devoted following in the Southeastern United States and have often utilized that shared marketplace to grown and evolve over the past three decades.

The best example of that synergy can be found between NASCAR and the old World Championship Wrestling promotion who both owe a large amount of their respective growth to Ted Turner and his TBS cable empire as both were weekly stalwarts of the network in the 1980s and 90s. In fact, Turner owned WCW and had a passion for both “the business” and stock car racing.

There are countless examples of Turner leveraging two of his most valued properties together in building a unified following.

It is with that in mind, that I admit that I’ve been watching a lot of the WWE Network during this off-season. For those out of the loop, the WWE Network is a Netflix-style streaming product that allows me to enjoy events from days gone by, beneficial given the current boring and downtrodden state of the modern WWE television product. View full article »

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WrestleMania is four days away and I couldn’t care less.

For my longest-tenured friends, this must sound pretty blasphemous. Professional wrestling has always been a favored passion right alongside motorsports, baseball and otaku culture — my own personal pillar of geek.

The cliché is spoken all the time, that wrestling just ain’t the same, for the most part harkening back to the so-called Attitude Era of the late 1990s. But that’s not what I mean. I wasn’t a fan of Vince Russo and Ed Ferrara’s “Crash TV” style of promotion.

When I say professional wrestling ain’t the same, I’m referencing actual professional wrestling and not sports entertainment, the overly theatric and cheesy brand of choreographed athleticism produced by World Wrestling Entertainment.

My fandom goes back to southern style, with roots centered on names like Mid-Atlantic, Mid-South and World Class, my appreciation of the business starting with Atlanta-based World Championship Wrestling.

I like my professional wrestling sports-based and without flash and seriousness and that died a death in the United States the moment that WCW hired Russo and Ferrara back in 1999.

Today’s legitimate professional wrestling, at least stateside, is a WWE monopoly and the reasons that have pushed me away have finally outnumbered the reasons that I kept tuning in week-to-week, the final straw breaking violently in half when CM Punk suddenly called it quits following the Royal Rumble.

PunkRRPunk was the last vestige of the professional wrestling world that didn’t bow to corporate pressures. He overcame his lack of size and muscle, making it in the Land of Giants, based purely on athleticism, work-rate and his uncanny ability to make you believe whatever he told you on a microphone, regardless of if he was playing the role of a baby face (hero) or a dastardly heel (villain.)

He was authentic in a wrestling world overran with bright colors and silly conflicts in no way based in reality. The latter is a reason why MMA has thrived at the behest of pro wrestling, by the way. People want to believe that the characters are real, and that the conflicts are genuine, something that WWE fans are unable to do when Scooby Doo occupied television time on the prior segment.

Today’s WWE is a variety show of nonsense … enough is enough and it’s time for a change, to quote the late and great Owen Hart.

But more than anything else, I’m insulted by WWE giving Daniel Bryan the push and moment that CM Punk so desperately wanted and deserved, doing so after his departure almost as if a FU … err, Attitude Adjustment to the legacy of Chicago’s Straight-Edged Superstar.

I have no doubt that Punk, despite his hard-edged attitude and moodiness would still be at the company today if he had been treated like the superstar that so many, still chanting his name two months later, knew him to be.

Instead of giving Punk the obvious Stone Cold treatment, he was forced to job (lose) to Triple H, a non-regular who has long since moved into a corporate position with the company. Punk, who was trusted with the longest championship reign in company history, was continually overlooked for his WrestleMania main event for returning Hollywood stars The Rock and Dave freaking Batista.

The latter has already lost favor with the company, the other reason that Bryan was inserted into the main event — and that should be CM Punk.

But Punk, the last true professional wrestler in the WWE, has taken his ball and went home to Chicago. And without Punk, I really don’t care anymore.

With that said, I will always watch the Showcase of the Immortals, so here are some thoughts and predictions for WrestleMania XXX.

Randy Orton (c) vs. Batista vs. TBD

The TBD is of course, Daniel Bryan or Triple H. This will certainly be Daniel Bryan’s spot and I’m totally done with the business Triple H places himself into the main event. Daniel Bryan will defeat Triple H earlier in the night, earn his spot in the main event, and complete one of the greatest feel-good storylines in the history of modern professional wrestling.

Daniel Bryan vs. Triple H

See above.

The Undertaker vs. Brock Lesnar

The streak will never end — take it to the bank. I believe The Undertaker has three matches remaining in his career and he will win all three of them. He and Brock Lesnar will put on a pretty fantastic show on Sunday and Undertaker will bow out after defeating Sting and a heel John Cena in his final two appearances.

John Cena vs. Bray Wyatt

John Cena has nothing to lose in losing this match but he’s going to win because he’s Superman and this is WrestleMania. If the WWE was serious about establishing Bray Wyatt and his creepy Deliverance gimmick as a main event player, he would win on Sunday in the Big Easy.

André the Giant Memorial Battle Royal

It just makes a lot of sense for Big Show to win the inaugural Andre the Giant battle royal, right?

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