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From The Marbles

Happy Hour: It's overwhelmingly related to Dale Earnhardt Jr. this week

Nick Bromberg
From The Marbles
NASCAR: Aaron's 499
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May 4, 2014; Talladega, AL, USA; NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Dale Earnhardt, Jr. (88) pits during the Aaron's 499 at Talladega Superspeedway. (John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports)

Throughout the week you can send us your best questions, jokes, rants and just plain miscellaneous thoughts to happyhourmailbag@yahoo.com or @NickBromberg.We'll post them here, have a good time and everyone's happy.

Before we get to what happened on the track at Talladega, namely with one driver, did you get the chance to read Jay Busbee's story about the Talladega infield? I would go try to replicate it in the Kansas infield this weekend, but that'd be like Hangover 2 compared to the original Hangover. It'd simply be a blatant ripoff. I'm not going to do that. But I am going to be on the lookout for fun things.

Now, let's start with Junior, shall we? I wrote this post on Monday based off of Junior's reaction on Sunday. What I got in response we'll sample below.

I'm not even much of a #8 fan, and still think this story was full of it to put it nicely.  So much so I took the time to send this email.  EVERYONE knew what he was doing, race announcers we're all over it too.  Did you have nothing better to write about or just trying to get a lot of attention? OBVIOUSLY he was staying back to avoid getting in the middle of a wreck that almost certainly would happen. If you couldn't figure that out, or didn't hear the race announcers talking about it, you might want to find another sport to write about. I have a feeling this won't be read, along with a ton of #8 fans saying much worse things. I tried to keep it polite. - Mike

Is Mike stuck in the Dale Earnhardt Inc. past? Looks like he is. No one is saying it isn't obvious of what Junior was doing. I simply explained that with the way the Chase is set up, it was an easily defensible move. Defensible against (unedited) things like this...

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if earnhart wants to lay back and cruse - y is he racing at all - - ??? the fans  dont want to see him - or anyone else - not try to win a race. the competition of the race is what it is all about - not some stupid points system. Would dale sr do the same ???  - how about fireball roberts - - king richard   ???
I dont think so. I believe for them - they would race go karts - scooters - skate boards - if that is what they had and they would race to win. Jr is a disappointment - to me and the fans, i dont know how many fans feel the way i do but i am not a jr fan anymore - Jim

Hey Nick forget any reasoning your trying to use – Nascar should worry – if their drivers don’t want to try then why pay to see guys driving in circles.  I am both a huge Nascar fan and a Jr. fan – but what he and his team did Sunday violate that fan performer relationship to the highest level. How about a race where all 43 drivers pull that crap. Then see how Nascar cannot fill the seats. - Michael

Why should NASCAR worry when drivers are legitimately using the system to their advantage? Is it the utopian way NASCAR would like them to use it? No. But every upside has a downside, you know, and if this is it, then so be it.

And besides, playing the system to your advantage is nothing new. What about Tony Stewart in 2005 at Homestead? It was clear that with the lead he had going into the race, he and crew chief Greg Zipadelli played it smart and safe (especially at the end) to guarantee a top-20 finish and the title. The same with Brad Keselowski in 2012. He knew with the lead he had over Jimmie Johnson at the final race, he didn't have to risk it all, especially after Johnson had a problem at Homestead.

To say that drivers would have gone all out in the past no matter the title circumstances is absolute bunk and another reason why the "the past was so much better in NASCAR" comments are ridiculous. The myths of NASCAR from 20-50 years ago have gotten unsustainable at points.

If you don't want drivers sacrificing some races throughout the season at the benefit of a greater good (the title), then there shouldn't be a championship. Does anyone gripe when a position player (like Texas' Mitch Moreland) comes in to pitch in a baseball game late in a blowout? No, because people realize that the losing team knows there's far more reward in saving the bullpen than trying to win a game that's almost unwinnable.

Was Dale Earnhardt Jr. in an unwinnable situation on Sunday? No. But much like a baseball team in the scenario above, he saw present risk outweighed the potential reward. It's not the end of the world. 

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I think we have to clear the air about something. Brad Keselowski is loose cannon on the track. When you're 6 laps down and start getting in the way of leading drivers......HE'S WRONG!
Earnhart had to back off so he could stay out of a late race crash situation. He was Right wasn't he. These racing cars don't grow on trees ya know!
But then again, the situation over a week ago involving Gordon and two other drivers that looked like they were running interference so Keselowski could stay in the lead and win. looked more like the old PAYOLA in the Rock and Roll days. The NASCAR game these guys play is wearing really thin on me. - Gerald

Calling Brad a loose cannon is a bit far, but what if Keselowski had said after the race that he was flat out wanting to learn something for October rather than try to win the race?

As I said in Power Rankings on Tuesday, I see both sides of the issue, and if he's second in line and the driver ahead of him has the same issue, it's a non-story. It just so happened that he was the one that got loose and took out a majority of the field.

And if you're screaming for a conspiracy about last week, you're yelling in the wrong echo chamber. Why would a winless Jeff Gordon be running interference for Brad freaking Keselowski? Really?

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How come NASCAR didn't throw the yellow before hamlin took the white flag with the crash happening right before the flag stand?  i've seen NASCAR throw a yellow before a green flag to start a race, due to mark martin crashing into johnson at michigan I think about 10 years ago.  Bowman and Allgaier were right in the middle of the pack, when they crashed and let the drivers continue then throw the flag on the backstraight with 5 cars that were in the need for gas in the top 7, Hamlin, Harvick, Vickers, Biffle, and Larson.  They basically gave the race to Hamlin because they didn't want to throw a caution to ruin a possible side by side racing that was going to give a great finish. - Matt

The thought of throwing the yellow right before they came across the start/finish line crossed my mind too when the accident happened, but there's no way in heck NASCAR could have gotten the caution thrown before Hamlin had taken the white flag. Unless you think people in the NASCAR tower have superhuman reaction skills for some reason. (And Mark Martin hit Jimmie Johnson at Talladega. I have vivid memories of watching that on television.)

What left me a bit perplexed was the lack of a caution until the drivers were on the backstretch. It was a completely caution-worthy incident and the bumper at the exit of the tri-oval wasn't going anywhere (Unless someone could have run out and gotten it in less than 30 seconds, which was not going to happen). I get that NASCAR wants to prevent a last-lap caution unless absolutely necessary, but it felt almost teasing that half of the final lap was completed before the caution flag had come out.

Heck, just think about the craziness that would have happened if Greg Biffle passed Hamlin before the caution lights came on? The field is supposed to be frozen on the final lap at the moment of caution, rather than the use of the last scoring loop.

It's also ridiculous to complain that the race finished under yellow too. Crashes happen at Talladega, and most people were expecting one, right? A good race with an anti-climactic ending should have the same principles that a bad race with a climactic finish has applied to it. The end of a race is not the determining factor of a race's quality.

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Nick Bromberg is the editor of From The Marbles on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at nickbromberg@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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