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From the Marbles

Happy Hour: Are you angry that Jimmie Johnson sandbagged?

Jay Busbee
From The Marbles

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"Keepin' clear of the pack, Chad." (Getty Images)

Welcome to the latest Happy Hour mailbag! You know how these work: You write us with your best rant/ joke/one-liner at happyhournascar@yahoogroups.com or on Twitter at @jaybusbee, we respond to your messages, everyone goes away with a smile on their face.

We've got the greatest day of the motorsports year coming up this Sunday. Combine that with the unofficial kickoff to summer, and you've got one hell of a good reason why it's a very good thing there's no work on Monday. You listening, NFL? This is how you do a celebration. Make Super Bowl Monday a holiday and then we'll talk. Till then, we have Racing Sunday and then a blessed day to recover.

To your letters, starting with the issue of Jimmie Johnson sandbagging:

If Dale Earnhardt Jr. had won the All Star race, everyone would be saying it was the greatest race format ever! Be thankful Jimmie Johnson did sandbag, or he probably would have won all 4 segments. [Those complaining about Johnson's win are] the same bunch of whiners that couldn't appreciate JJ winning 5 in a row. I personally thought it was impressive to see a team come out with a strategy & execute it to perfection. No matter how you tweak the length of segments or pit stops, no one was outrunning the 48 Saturday night! Get over it!

Jeff
Collinsville, Ill.

Do you think 20 years from now they'll still be talking about "fireworks" and "no holds barred" and "tempers flaring" and great All-Star race memories and show replays of Kyle Petty and Davey Allison followed by Earnhardt and Elliot? NASCAR is living in the past, especially when it comes to the All-Star race. The meatball nostalgic fan thinks that even in this current format that Dale Earnhardt or Rusty Wallace or Bill Elliott would've tried to win all 4 segments anyway and then run away in the 10-lap shootout.

Eric
Chicago

First off, let's lay this out there: yes, Jimmie Johnson sandbagged the last three segments of the All-Star Race. There's no other way to put it. Good strategy? Absolutely. Crap racing? Also, absolutely. But Eric makes an excellent point: Johnson did exactly what the wise drivers of earlier days would have done before him: used the rules to his own advantage. Do I have a problem with that? Aesthetically yes, competitively no. You do what you do to win, and it doesn't matter if you don't look pretty doing it.

Longtime readers of this column know I don't have a whole lot of patience for some of the Sacred Whines of the NASCAR faithful ("It was better back then," "Jimmie is a cheater," etc.) Those of you displeased with the All-Star race, which would be everyone who's not a 48 fan, unfortunately need to accept that Johnson gamed the system to his own advantage, and did so in a perfectly legitimate fashion, like it or not.

BUT! Let's not end this conversation there. No, you folks stuffed my inbox with dozens of suggestions for how to fix this silly race, so let's run down a few:

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• NASCAR needs to move the All-Star race. How about a stand-alone race every year at someplace like...Rockingham? (Randy Black/extavernmouse, Portland, Ore.)

• 1) Invert the field after each segment. 2) Run the race in two 30-lap segments and a final 30-lap shoot-out. 3) Use something like the old points system in each of the first two segments to set the field for the last 30-lap shoot-out and award 10 points extra for winning a segment. (Dave D., Stoughton, Wisc.)

• Four 25-lap segments, winner of each segment wins bonus money, mandatory four-tire pit stops after each segment, start with 25 cars, bottom 5 cars of each segment go home. Final segment would be a 10-car, 25 lap shootout with fresh rubber. (Gus, Naperville, Ill.)

• Make it mandatory to change 4 tires during the (last) stop and really pressure the pit crews. (Mark Zahn, Atlanta)

• Five 20-lap segments. Winners of each of the first four get $25,000. During those runs no pit stops until the mandatory caution. Only green flag laps count. During those four mandatory cautions, all cars must make a four tire pit stop. Give a $25,000 prize to the crew who has the fastest stop for that segment. Line them up as they come off pit road. For the last 20 laps, line them up as they come out of the pits. Then have it be a final 20-lap, winner take all segment. (Sean, San Diego)

• Run one 30-lap heat. Stop for tires. Invert the finish order. Run another 30-lap heat. Total the points pits and starting grid determined by total points. Now the fun part: a 60-lap race. MAKE IT COUNT. The final win is an Automatic Bid into the Chase. (Bruce Lavoie, Concord, N.H.)

• First segment is $10,000 a lap for 20 laps as a warmup. Second segment is $20,000 a lap for 40 laps. After that, they get the break to work on their cars and are returned to the running order at the end of the second segment. Final segment is a 20 laps, each lap worth $50,000. Throw in a $500,000 bonus for the winner of the race and a $500,000 bonus for whoever leads the most laps overall and I think we have something a little more interesting. Every lap should be a race. (Patrick, Gastonia, N.C.)

All interesting suggestions, but let's think bigger. First off, what exactly is the point of an All-Star race? In other sports, the All-Star games are opportunities to see the sport's biggest stars sharing a court/field/rink in a way they never do during the regular season. Here, we see that every single week. So why run it in any way close to a normal race? I like the idea of elimination, although sponsors would absolutely howl. (Solution: give every eliminated driver a nice minute-long on-camera interview to plug his/her sponsor.) I also like the idea of putting something real at stake, like a spot in the Chase. Yes, I know that would make purists howl, but drivers who make it into the All-Star race have already proven they're at least Chase-worthy. Barring all that, I'm definitely on board with the traveling-circus idea, and the possibility of reviving dormant tracks is an enticing one indeed.

Now, no more suggestions, please. We're full up here.

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Maybe it's time for the NASCAR fanbase to be a tad more appreciative of what these guys do for us on a weekly basis. I don't know many people who put their lives on the line to entertain people yet get so much flack for being safe. We should thank our lucky stars that we get to watch them do what we love them doing, and that is race. It's time to stop complaining and love what we're given. These guys owe us nothing and we owe them everything regardless of how much money we spend on merchandise and tickets. Without men and women who like to drive fast and put on a show we wouldn't have NASCAR or any racing. That's how we should look at it, not that they owe us because we make them money. We owe them because they put their lives on the line every week to give us a good show regardless of whether or not we think it's boring.

It's been bothering me, this "me, me, me" mentality that some fans have.

Patricia Lauren Augusta
Simi Valley, Calif.

What? WHAT? I want WRECKS! I want CARNAGE! I want it like the GOOD OL' DAYS, and I want it NOW!

Thanks, Patricia. Good points. I'd argue that these guys actually do owe us a fair amount; without fans, they'd be doing burnouts in the parking lot after clocking out of work, not after winning races and seven-figure checks. But yes, our sense of entitlement does get a little overwhelming at times. That's what Smoke was hinting at during his Talladega rant, but he couldn't quite say it as explicitly as you did ... not yet, anyway.

Finally, we have a letter writer taking issue with me (imagine that):

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(My words from the letter column last week) "I will say that I can understand why people are sick of the Danica coverage … to some extent, it's the NASCAR equivalent of ESPN slobbering all over everything Boston."

Really? ESPN slobbering all over Boston? Wouldn't you? City of Champs. ESPN slobbers all over the NBA and only the NBA. Busby, I bet you're a Yankees fan.

PWard

SAWX RULE! BRUINS RULE! TAWM BRADY WILL BE OWAH PRESIDENT ONE DAY! WE LOVE YOU KEVIN GAHHHHNETTT!

A few notes for you, my Back Bay broseph:

1. It's "Busbee."
2. Calling me a Yankees fan? Why not slap my mother in the face while you're at it?
3. Junior Nation: when your guy starts winning again, don't be like Boston fans after their decades-long sports drought. You'll vaporize our goodwill within minutes.

And on that note, we're out. Thanks to all our writers this week. You want in? Fire up the computer and hit us with whatever's on your mind, NASCAR-wise, at happyhournascar@yahoogroups.com. You can find Yahoo! Sports' NASCAR coverage on Facebook right here, and you can follow me on Twitter at @jaybusbee and on Facebook here.  Make sure to tell us where you're from. We'll make you famous!

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