Category Archives: Sports

Articles and feature stories about sports and sports figures.

Flying Around the M1 Concourse Track In A Dodge Challenger Hellcat [Video]

I had the rare opportunity to attend a fundraising event at the M1 Concourse track in Pontiac, Michigan. This venue is a massive nod to Detroit’s muscle car culture preeminent in the 1950s and 60s. Its location on the north end of Woodward Avenue, where the annual Dream Cruise takes place each August, makes it a focal point for the event. 

The M1 Concourse is a focal point of all things Automotive around Detroit. It’s a great place where car buffs can keep the show and drive their vehicles on a closed test track.

The facility resides on 87 Acres on a long-gone GM truck and bus plant site. It has private garages and its own private Motorsports Club. The gem of the place is a one-and-a-half-mile Champion Motor Speedway test track. 

The Woodward Dream Parade is the highlight of the Dream Cruise. This is a celebration for all Woodward residents and admirers. A police-escorted procession (limited to 200 automobiles) cruises down Woodward Avenue and the historic Widetrack Drive in downtown Pontiac.

Getting Set Up To Take A Drive

Cars line up to take the next run.

Getting set up to drive on the track with a professional driver was seamless. After signing a waiver, I was fitted with a helmet and given a bit of instructions on what to expect. There were four cars to choose from,  two Dodge Challengers and two Mustangs. I was glad to hop in the Challenger and enjoy the view. My driver was named Kevin. He said he has been taking part in racing and a professional driver since he was a teenager. He said we would take two laps around the course with the last half of a lap as a cool down.

I asked if it was okay if I videotaped it with my phone. He said there was no problem with that but was told to hold it tight because if I lost the phone through the window, there’d be no chance to retrieve it.

The Race Experience on The M1 Concourse Track

Four cars went around the track at the same time. I jumped in the last of the four vehicles because I wanted a good video of the other cars in front of us. The start was quick, and I was pressed into the seat as the vehicle accelerated to nearly a hundred miles an hour on the first straight away. 

I’m glad I wore a helmet. On one of the curves in the back of the course, my head hit the side of the window. For a second, I was reminded of a 2019 film I saw, Ford vs. Ferrari. In one of the scenes, the CEO of Ford was taken for a wild test drive in a prototype race car. While this experience wasn’t exactly like that, it was a taste of it. We went around the winding curves and the backend straight away effortlessly. It was a game of chase, and it seemed we were inches away from the Mustang up front during the sharp turns.

Final Thoughts On The M1 Concourse Track Experience

The experience was over quickly, and I was glad I videoed it because I don’t think I would remember much as it happened so fast. The experience was just a taste of what racing would be like. I’m sure the real thing is much more intense.

The M1 Concourse Track was a wonderful experience and I recommend it for any car buff. Anyway, I hope you enjoy the video, and let me know in the comments if you know of other facilities that do the same thing.

#1 Greatest University of Michigan Basketball Team of All Time

The University of Michigan has been around for many years, giving them numerous great basketball seasons. Today we will be talking in-depth about the greatest University of Michigan basketball team of all time, also known as the Fab Five. So sit back, relax, and enjoy the story.

The Greatest Basketball Team at U of M

University of Michigan Fab Five – Skoch3, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Michigan’s 1991 Recruiting Class

The year was 1991 when Michigan had arguably some of the best players recruiting class in college basketball history, even up to 2021. This team consisted of Chris Webber, Jalen Rose, Juwan Howard, Jimmy King, and Ray Jackson. Four of these five individuals were in the top ten recruits for their class that year, with only Ray Jackson falling out of the top five and sitting at the number twenty-four ranking. Including their high rankings, four out of the five members were McDonald’s All-Americans which set a record for two decades.

Now, these freshmen slowly came into stardom, with different players earning starting spots throughout the year. When the season began, only three of the young stars started for the team, which was still a high number in college basketball back in the 1990s. It also took a few games until the five members were all on the court together at the same time.

It would take another month until all five freshmen started together on the court when it occurred on February 9, 1992. They shocked the world when they scored all of the team’s points against Notre Dame, which earned them the starting spot for the rest of the year.

This team was remarkable not only for their talents on the court at a young age but also for their attire. They also grabbed the attention of fans all around with their baggy shorts and black shoes, and socks. This may seem common sense to people nowadays, but some of the guys who got this trend started in basketball.

1992 NCAA Tournament

Now we wouldn’t be talking about them if they weren’t a successful basketball team, and trust us, they were. They performed very well in their first season at the NCAA tournament in 1992 while they were all freshmen. The first few games of this journey were relatively uneventful, but all eyes were on their elite eight matchups against the Ohio State Buckeyes. The Buckeyes destroyed the Fab Five rather handily by double digits during the regular season, so fans were expecting another blowout during this game as well.

It is safe to say that everyone was shocked when the Fab Five beat the Buckeyes, and the Fab Five crew scored all but two points for the Michigan team during that game. This proved the power of the young team and was almost as impressive as their victory in general.

The National Championship game was not as close, losing by twenty points during March Madness to the Duke Blue Devils. It is safe to say that everyone was disappointed in this performance based on previous expectations. Despite the setback, Webber earned second-team All-Big Ten Conference recognition in 1992. Lucky for Michigan, all the players decided to return to the team in 1993 for their sophomore years to give it another shot and prove the world wrong.

1993 Season at U of M

Crisler Arena – Dwight Burdette, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Even though they didn’t have as much attention now that they were sophomores, their performance did not change much. Unfortunately, they never won a Big Ten regular-season championship, which is quite ironic. They still performed well enough to give them a second chance the following year at the National Championship in 1993.

1993 final four was a great game is one of the most iconic games in all of college basketball history. It was coming down to the wire in the second half, and Michigan was all out of timeouts. However, Chris Webber, a forward for the team, called a timeout when there were none left, which results in technical foul and free throws for the North Carolina Tar Heels. This was in the game’s final seconds, which ultimately led to their defeat 77-71 and earned them the runner-up title for the second year in a row.

Unfortunately for the team, Chris Webber would become part of an investigation that would strip the team of their wins and Final Four appearances. Michigan was stripped of its record for the entire 1992–93 season, including its six NCAA post-season tournament games. It was found that Webber had received cash and support payments from a booster. This would come many years down the road, but one of the best ways to show a team’s success is how many players furthered their careers in the NBA.

NBA Careers for Four of the Fab Five

To be exact, four of the five players on this Michigan starting lineup would make it onto an NBA roster. The only man who did not make it on an NBA roster was Ray Jackson. Despite playing 125 games and scoring over 1200 points for U of M, he was cut preseason by the New York Knicks and the Detroit Pistons. Jackson was also the only player who was not in the top ten of the recruiting class before attending the University of Michigan. In 1995 Jackson was drafted into the Continental Basketball Association (CBA) by the Grand Rapids Hoops, where he received the 1995–96 CBA Rookie of the Year Award.

Jimmy King only played two seasons in the NBA, not amounting to anything crazy. King played two seasons in the NBA, playing 64 games in 2 seasons with the Toronto Raptors and Denver Nuggets, and made one start for the Raptors in 1996. For most of King’s career, he played for the CBA in the Quad City Thunder.

Juwan Howard was a little luckier as he is the only member of the Fab Five who won an NBA Championship. He also had one of the longest NBA careers as his ring came in 2012 and then 2013, decades after his time at Michigan. His career has now come full circle, with Howard now being the coach of the Michigan Wolverines.

Fab FIve point guard Jalen Rose never won a ring, but he still was a great player in the league and helped lead the Indiana Pacers to the NBA Finals in 2000. Unfortunately, he did not win that title and is more famously known for being the man Kobe Bryant scored 81 points on. Chris Webber took his talents to the NBA, became an All-Star, and led his team to score when they reached the Western Conference Finals in 2002. During his fifteen-year career, he was an All-Star five times and even had his number retired by the Sacramento Kings

Conclusion of Michigan’s Fab Five Basketball Team

As you can see, the Fab Five was considered the greatest team in basketball at the University of Michigan and highly notable in NCAA history. Although they never won an NCAA Championship, Michigan fans continued to follow the team as they continued to play at a high level even after their time at college was over. For more information about this time, we recommend watching the Fab Five 30 for 30 documentaries made by ESPN.

Related Reading About The Greatest University of Michigan Basketball Team and Other Stuff

Discovering Michigan Mountain Bike Trails

By BRAD PARSONS – Michigan Department of Natural Resources

Backcountry – Courtesy Michigan DNR

Michigan mountain bike trails system has more than 3,000 miles dedicated to paved, gravel, and off-road single-track trails for bicyclists to enjoy 365 days a year. These public trails are situated in every region of Michigan at state parks, recreation areas, pathways, forests, and rail trails.

Michigan’s natural terrain and varied seasons, and access to public trails provide a unique experience for all cyclists. As a Michigan Department of Natural Resources videographer, I have the privilege to help document and promote this recreation activity across the state. I’ve learned that nonmotorized bicycle trails can dramatically influence personal connection to the outdoors, build communities, and strengthen local economies.

About a year ago, in August 2019, I was assigned to film a promotional action video of the Waterloo State Recreation Area’s DTE Energy Foundation mountain bike trail system in Chelsea, Michigan. At that time, my knowledge of mountain biking was minimal. I didn’t even own a bicycle.

What is Mountain Biking?

Trail Riding – Courtesy Michigan DNR

So, what is mountain biking? It’s best described as riding a bicycle off-road, on trails specifically designed for bicycle use, over varied terrain. Two familiar mountain bike trails are flow and cross-country (or backcountry).

The DTE trail is classified as a flow trail – built with a particular machine that carved berms, hills, and unique features into the pre-existing natural terrain on public land. 

Backcountry mountain bike trails feature existing natural terrain, including roots, rocks, and other obstacles found in the forest. These trails can sometimes be more technically challenging. Both types of courses are available on Michigan public land. 

Bike Event – Courtesy Michigan DNR

While I was capturing video clips of mountain bikers at the DTE trail, one rider decided to stop and introduce himself. It was Jason Aric Jones, creator of the trail. My encounter with Jason was inspiring. He encouraged me to bring a bicycle with me when I visited the trail. In response to this experience, I went to my local bike shop three days later and purchased my first mountain bike.

I then found myself back at the DTE trail for a follow-up video assignment, recording the trail with a 360-degree video camera mounted to my bike helmet. So, long story short, I discovered the joy of mountain biking through a work assignment and inspiration from the fantastic community of Michigan bicyclists.

Check out Brad’s 360 DTE Energy Foundation Trail video.

Michigan Mountain Biking – A New Way of Life

The bicycle has transformed my life and given me a new appreciation for Michigan trails and the mountain biking community. Mountain biking in Michigan became an accepted recreation activity in the late 1980s.

 

Author – Courtesy Michigan DNR

 A few of Michigan’s top destinations for mountain biking include Copper Harbor and Marquette in the Upper Peninsula, the Chelsea/Pinckney area near Detroit, Augusta, Rockford in the western Lower Peninsula, and the Traverse City region in the northern Lower Peninsula.

Each of these destinations provides a unique terrain and challenges, and they welcome all mountain bikers, regardless of skill level. The best part about trails in Michigan is that they are approachable for the novice or less-experienced riders. 

 

Snow Bike – Courtesy Michigan DNR

And when the snow arrives in Michigan, a recent production of fat-tire bicycles enables enthusiasts to experience groomed trails year-round. 

A lot of progress has been made in popularizing the sport during the past 40 years with the help of mountain biking advocacy groups, volunteers, and the holding of special events. In addition, advocacy groups help influence policies and rules and create or introduce new trail systems with the DNR.

Michigan Mountain Biking Organizations

The Michigan Mountain Biking Association, the state’s largest organization dedicated to the pastime, coordinates local and regional groups like the Potawatomi Mountain Biking Association in southeastern Michigan. Members of these groups provide financial support and volunteer their time to maintain mountain bike trails.

Development, management, and maintenance of mountain biking trails on state land is often a partnership between the DNR and mountain biking organizations. The DNR, as the land manager, works to balance the use and preservation of public natural resources while allowing for great trail opportunities.

 

Backcountry Biking – Courtesy Michigan DNR

 Local mountain bike groups perform the majority of on-the-ground trail work and maintenance of the trails with the help of many dedicated volunteers.

In addition to managing the land, the DNR also works with local groups to permit special events hosted at state parks and recreation areas. These events are vital to communities and introduce the activity to new users. Mountain biking events also strengthen local economies, primarily via increased patronage of bike shops and restaurants.

In my personal experience, local bike shops are the heart of every bicycle community. Not only have I purchased all my bikes through a local shop, but I’ve also learned about maintenance and other important information, like biking safety and etiquette, from friendly staff. Also, if I have a question about anything related to the bicycle, I call my local shop for help.

Bike shops also provide jobs and maintenance services to the community by repairing old bikes that have been in storage for years or with monthly tune-ups for avid cyclists.

In my opinion, bike shops provide a product, service, and knowledge necessary for mountain biking to flourish in every community in Michigan.

I would encourage all bicyclists to get involved with their local biking community via a trail organization, biking events, and bike shops or participate in volunteer trail maintenance workdays. Riders should be good trail stewards and not ride when trails are wet after rains or muddy spring conditions after the ground thaws.

“Riders should ride safely and respectfully when using trails during the COVID-19 restrictions, including spreading out to observe social distancing and being patient with other riders,” said Ron Olson, chief of the DNR Parks and Recreation Division.

Although Michigan is not known for mountainous terrain like the western United States, there is a tremendous wealth of fun to explore while riding a mountain bike in “The Trails State.”

Sept. 20-27 is Michigan Trails Week, a great time to get out and enjoy all of Michigan’s 13,000 miles of state-designated trails. Be sure to participate in the virtual Trails Week Challenge and get entered to win cool outdoor gear and Michigan-branded prizes. For more information, visit Michigan.gov/TrailsWeek.

 

Courtesy Michigan DNR

CHECK OUT A DNR MOUNTAIN BIKING VIDEO

To learn more about getting involved and discovering mountain biking, visit Michigan.gov/DNRTrails

Check out previous Showcasing the DNR stories in our archive at Michigan.gov/DNRStories. To subscribe to upcoming Showcasing articles, sign up for free email delivery at Michigan.gov/DNR.


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