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From The Marbles

Happy Hour: Qualifying changes and no, NASCAR isn't rigged against Jimmie Johnson

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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.

Let's start with talking about qualifying briefly, then we'll touch on two of the funniest emails of the year before we vote on Kurt Busch's new FTM nickname, shall we?

I would have to disagree with your article and with NASCAR about a minimum speed requirement.  If NASCAR did impose a minimum speed as a percentage of the leader then this would keep the car going at relatively the same speed as all the other cars.  The problem exsists because the teams are used to taping up the grills for qualifying and not letting the are in.  The teams just need to open up the grills and this would solve all the problems with overheating.  This would make the cars closer to race trim than a different qualifying set up. - John

Thankfully NASCAR did the sensible thing and we didn't have to see what cool-down laps at Bristol would look like.

When guys who drive near 200 MPH for a living are saying something is the most dangerous thing they've ever done, something needed to be done. After all, this is a sport that champions its safety record recently. with SAFER barriers (that aren't mandated everywhere, however), safer cars, head and neck restraints and other things. And for the most part that championing is deserved. NASCAR has done a lot of good things.

And this was a situation that needed proactivity rather than reactivity. Drivers and teams will always be pushing the limits of the situation and their equipment in whatever parameters they're given. Danger will never be eliminated and always inherent. But when there are 150+ MPH speed differences between cars on track in a qualifying session, the sanctioning body needed to step in.

Now, onto the fun. Please note, I have not edited either of these emails.

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Hi Nick, dont know what is happining but everyone is sure  the races are fixed now, they are saying Jr. this year and Danica next year.  Hey does any writer really and truley feel like Jr. is stronger that JJ?, no and you dont either and you never will. - Johnny

Do U ever get tired of nascar rigging the races by throwing caution flags for (IMIGANARY DEBRIS) on the track? they wont let Fox show the debris unless its actually there.
Also nascar is going to try everything they can to assure that Jimmy Johnson doesn't win another championship, they don't want any one to tie the KING or Earnhart.
And when is Danica going to realize that if she wasn't a pretty face she wouldn't have a ride in nascar.
thanks - Calvin

Let's talk about Johnny's email first. Since when is three races a big enough timeframe to judge anything in a grand scale? (Well, it can now eliminate you from the Chase.) Especially when judged in the context of the careers of Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jimmie Johnson.

Let's not sell Dale Earnhardt Jr. short, he's long been one of the better drivers in NASCAR. But he'll probably be the first one to tell you that Johnson is the best driver in NASCAR. And besides, Johnson has said that his team is just a bit off to start the season as they put all their eggs into the 2013 basket last year. And JJ has finished in the top six in the first three races of the season. Yeah, they're really struggling.

Junior was basically eliminated from the Chase last year after blowing up at Chicago. And look the well-documented run he went on in the final nine races. That was a team that had the benefit of looking towards 2014. And if they were doing so, it certainly has paid off so far.

Now onto Calvin's email. It's certainly plausible to think that NASCAR looks harder for debris at certain points in a race. And any time that TV can't find debris for a caution it is going to set off flashing lights in the head of the conspiracy set.

To think that the Chase has been Jimmie-proofed is absurd, as we've pointed out before. Who are you going to take in a one-race playoff? Yeah, it's probably the No. 48 team.

When it comes to Danica, we all know that the NASCAR filed in any series isn't set by the best drivers attempting the race. It's all about the right combination of talent, (which has to be greater than zero, mind you) money, equipment and other factors. There's no perfect formula.

And allow me to drift off into a tangent for a moment that could become a column at some point. After seeing this tweet from NASCAR today, I started to wonder if the sport is doing itself a disservice by focusing on the Chase so much.

The season is 1/12th over and yet the countdown to the playoffs is already on. Does that devalue the remaining "23 to go" until the all-important final 10 races? It's a fair question to ask (and one that would generate answers all over the spectrum), especially as NASCAR really only has baseball to compete with over the summer months.

With all the push towards the Chase by the NASCAR marketing department powered by Sunoco race fuel, the March focus is being pushed to September, when the sport competes with college football and the NFL.

Yes, with the new format, the Chase is always going to be in the discussion (as it's designed to be, of course). But what would happen if some importance was put back on each individual race especially when there's not nearly as much competition and a certain popular driver is leading the points standings? It doesn't have to be blatant, mind you, but it's easy to see how there can be implications for fans to look to September rather than the next race.

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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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