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Happy Hour: What would you say to an announcer-free race?

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No talking!

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.

So I spent the off weekend at this little golf club in a backwater Georgia town. I'd love to tell you that what Augusta National could use is more campfire smoke and piped-in Zac Brown music, but I don't want to lose my badge for next year. I was sorely tempted to shout "Go Junior!" during one of Tiger Woods' drives, but alas ... journalistic responsibility and all that. Anyway, I'm back now, so let's get to your letters.

First, a couple that hit on the same theme: what if they ran races without announcers?

Went to the 1960 Daytona 500 in diapers and haven't missed one since. Let's enrich my TV viewing experience! How about when I push the SAP button on my remote all I hear is the damn race cars?  ... While I love Mike Joy and would tune in to hear him read the phone book,there comes a time where we just want to see the race. I'm not talking about Larry Mac's dream of a "race" off of pit road, either. Larry, honey, if I want to watch guys change some tires I'll go cheer on the guys at the local Goodyear dealer,okay? The NFL did a game with no announcers, how about NASCAR trying one?

Hugs and Kisses,
Liz

After reading all of the complaints about the TV coverage of NASCAR races, I wanted to share a "zen" moment I had during the Gatorade qualifying races at Daytona. I was stuck at work but wanted to tune in so I fired up Race Buddy and did a ride-along with Kyle Busch. Now I put on my headphones thinking I might hear commentary, or radio chatter but all I heard was the sweet sound of the motor. It was like experiencing the most amazing white noise ever. My eyes are glued to the monitor as I watch from a roof-top camera angle. And my mind just totally zones out with the drone of RPMs. It was mesmerizing. No ads, no announcers, no interruptions, just me and Kyle racing up through the pack, then settling back into a 7th place finish in what turned out to be a caution-free event. When I took the headphones off, I felt like I was removing my helmet to unwind from the race. Somehow the time that had passed was a blur to me. It is difficult to explain, but it was a truly remarkable experience. I would recommend it to those who don't enjoy the traditional coverage. I wish we had Race Buddy every week.

Ken Hall

Thanks for not offering hugs and kisses, Ken. Anyway, there's something incredibly relaxing about a race without announcing, particularly if you're at the track. It's like being back in the womb, only it's a womb with a lot of empty beer cans and cigarette butts. ( ...nah, I'll let that joke stand on its own.)

There's something off-putting about sports events without announcers, but that's not to say it's necessarily a bad idea. We're certainly headed in that direction; at some point you'll be able to go announcer-off and get all the info yourself on your iPad 7 or whatever. What about the rest of you? We all gripe about the announcing, but would it really be better if there wasn't anyone at all? Then we'd be griping because we didn't have the dulcet tones of Darrell Waltrip boogity-boogity'ing us to start the race. Really, we gripe about everything, don't we?

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The age-old excuse of "serving the masses" is partly an excuse for the media to not be original or think outside the box, i.e. be lazy. If you wrote about the other drivers more often, fans would get to know those drivers better, maybe becoming a fan of that driver based on what they read/hear.

Man, it's easy to regurgitate the same ol' [censored] that the toads at ESPN, MRN, PRN, Speed, etc. etc. etc. are doing. Don't you realize that fans have more depth than just reading about "their guy"? Do you think we're all stereotypical NASCAR hicks, I mean Dale Jr. fans, I mean..?

Dude, grab some sack and take a chance on a series of articles on the smaller guys. We already know which 1 of 10 possible drivers is going to win on any given week, give us something that's not a given and write about those other 35 or so drivers.

Zach Hall
Ft. Sill, Okla.

First off, let's be honest here, Zach: numbers-wise, Yahoo! Sports wallops everybody else on the planet, so really, they're regurgitating our [censored], right? At the very least, we've stumbled onto something that works. Here's the thing: we are in the business of telling the best stories to as many people as we possibly can. The dance between serving the reading public, serving the advertisers and serving the truth of a story is one that's ever-present (and beyond the scope of a smartass mailbag), but believe me when I say that we have no bias against any driver ... it's just that the stories which resonate with readers, which keep them coming back, are the ones that concern the biggest names.

We cover every driver who did something of significance each week in the Power Rankings, if nothing else. If Paul Menard or Dave Blaney does something spectacular on-track, they'll get more coverage. But writing a story just to write it about them? Those are the start-and-park stories of journalism. We try. Nine times out of 10, articles on lesser-known drivers are nonstarters. It's just the way it is. We can't make you love Joe Schmoe when you already align with Tony Stewart or Kyle Busch.

Put it this way: let's say that in this summer's Avengers movie, the Avengers stop fighting, look at the camera and lecture us to stop bullying and eat our vegetables. Then they bring on some indie actors and hipster musicians for the soundtrack that we "should" know in order to be more cultured. Kind of kills the flow of it all, right? Not exactly what you went there to see, right? There's a time and a place for all kinds of coverage, but doing something that's less interesting just to balance the scales leads to dull stories.

(And yes, I just compared Yahoo! Sports to "The Avengers." You can feel free to make whatever hero-writer connections you wish.)

Anyway, I get your point, and it's a valid one. But Danica Patrick is the most-searched athlete on Yahoo!, and despite what some curmudgeons would have you believe, it's not because the media forces her down our collective throats. Like I always tell people who scream about unbalanced coverage: just because you don't want to see more stories on the big names doesn't mean everyone else doesn't.

Wow, I need to shut up now. Back to your letters. This next one's a good one.

____________________

I've tried to imagine if this story about the car graveyard of Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s would have garnered any interest at all if it had been a different driver keeping these cars. Were it Jimmy Johnson or Michael Waltrip keeping a graveyard of junked cars on their property would I (or anyone) have found this factoid remotely interesting or unusual? In my opinion, I doubt it.

The fact that the driver who has this 'graveyard' just happens to also be the son of a driver who was killed on the track, I believe, makes this story strangely fascinating. Most notably, the way that the cars here have their own resting places and aren't bunched up together like a typical junkyard feels sort of eerie. Each car is almost like its own unique tomb or shrine. I imagine Jr. riding around his property on an ATV and as he drives past these wrecks every day being constantly reminded of the ghost of his father.

Yet these wrecks all had drivers who walked away. In a way, it's touchingly sad.

There is also something oddly satisfying about Jr. being the final caretaker of these cars; Jr. just feels like the one driver who could give these cars a degree of solemn dignity. Yet being constantly reminded of wrecks that other drivers walked away from (most of which were a lot worse than his father's wreck) makes me sad for him too.

Granted, I'm just speculating and have no way of knowing what Jr. is actually thinking or what his true intentions are, but the whole idea of him having these cars just feels like he's hanging onto some sort of ghost or demon.

Dan Harlow

This may be the most thoughtful letter we've ever received here. I disagree with the idea that another driver wouldn't garner any interest; the simple fact of all these cars in the woods is, in itself, a fascinating story. But, yes, you bring an entire philosophical component to the story that takes it to another level. Between the loss of his father and the role he's played in the post-Intimidator NASCAR world, it does seem fitting that he's the caretaker of these cars. Good job.

Now, let's get back to some smack talk.

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You have got to be kidding [about Green-White-Checker protests]! Is it because the privileged few actually out-drove their talent, or is it because someone else besides the powerful Hendrick pair didn't win that we are actually talking about this? Finish under green, that's the best rule change NASCAR has implemented since I have been a fan. Years and years of watching races end under caution have come to a close. A fan wants to see racing action. Hey boys, if you can't make it to the finish … suck it up!!

Beachie
Crown Point, N.Y.

We received dozens of emails about the Green-White-Checker, and the bottom line was this: everyone wants it to stay. Some advocated adding a couple extra laps (my solution), some advocated bringing everyone in for fresh tires and fuel, but everyone agreed that finishing a race under caution is about as unsatisfying as it gets.

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What happens if the #55 of MWR is in the top 10 in points come the Chase? Or has more wins and would get a wild card if it had a consistent driver? It's currently ranked 9th in owner points.

Dustin Cox

Doesn't matter. It's driver-only, not owner-points-driven. I stumbled into one of those idiotic moments when I thought I was being so clever recently when I suggested that it would be possible for both Mark Martin and Brian Vickers to race their way into the wild card via wins, and then how the heck would they split the car? I was quickly reminded by about two dozen people on Twitter that neither would be in the top 20 in points, thus killing any chance of that wackiness and cementing the picture of me as a moron in many, many minds. Anyway, not gonna happen unless Martin goes on a winning-race tear.

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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