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Happy Hour: A certain Texas spring race sponsor is up first

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New season, new Happy Hour! You know the drill. 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. Right? Oh who are we kidding, this is NASCAR. No one is ever happy.

Last week was predictable for its Danica discussion. This week, it's all about the NRA 500. I've never gotten as many emails about a single post as I did about that one, and many of them were accusing me of things that were never brought up in the post. Such is our life these days when we talk about an organization affiliated with guns, I guess. So naturally, we're going to talk about the race some more!

Sometimes I feel like NASCAR wants to leave behind its Redneck Hillbilly roots and try to take the sport mainstream. They want a lot of flash and culture as opposed to a bunch of drunk fat guys up in the stands with their shirts off. Having said that, those same drunk fat guys are the ones who buy the tickets. So why not play up to them? I see nothing wrong with having the NRA as a sponsor. You should poll the fans...how many of you attend races or watch on TV and own guns. I think NASCAR wants to hide its fan base and try to act Hollywood. They need to remember those who purchase the tickets and sleep near the track all weekend in a camper or RV. Nobody seems to do that for football, basketball or baseball. NASCAR, please stop trying to be so PC. You can't offend a Redneck as easy as you can some sissy in LA.
-Wes

You asked a question in a column, is the NRA good for NASCAR? The answer is simply, no, it's bad for business.
By aligning itself with the NRA, NASCAR will become a flashpoint in the culture wars. The new fans it wants to attract, the new dew drivers in it's diversity program, will go away. The conversation will turn to guns and gun control, and away from racing.
In effect NASCAR will limit its potential fan base to less than half the country. That's not good for any business. Chik-Fil-a had to do a turnaround for just the same reason. A business that gets involved in social and political issues will suffer.
As this heats up, there will be sponsors for drivers that will not want to be affiliated with the NRA and drop sponsorship for drivers. That is quite likley in the climate today, same as sponsors are leaving the Boy Scouts in droves. Businesses do not want to be affiliated with controversy.
Bad move by NASCAR.
That goes for any business, and practically any issue.
-Dean

I see Wes's point, but I counter that by saying that the core demographic mentioned above already knows about the NRA. While there certainly may be sponsor activation going on, there isn't much more sponsor awareness being achieved.

And Dean talks about the issues that I touched on in my post. By default, having the NRA as a race sponsor in NASCAR embroils NASCAR in the polarizing gun debate. And given that there's no real reason for NASCAR to be in it in the first place, I'm not sure it's the best decision. But I'm also not a track promoter or NASCAR official. Otherwise I may have gotten fined for my column.

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With the recent comments from Dale Jr about Jeremy Clements. I get the feeling that NASCAR uses him as a mouthpiece to solidify their position. Each time NASCARs position comes to question with the fans. It seems like Dale Jr quickly comments to justify NASCARs position or is this just him being a leader of the sport?
-Ricky Bobby

Am I the only person totally baffled by Jeremy Clements' suspension? I would have totally understood a nice fat fine, but suspended indefinitely? On top of that, from what I gather, he wasn't being interviewed, he was helping an MTV reporter find someone's hauler. Not sure I have all the details right, but having said that, didn't Nascar just make this a huge story by suspending him? He isn't known as a nasty guy, and everybody screws up and/or says stupid stuff. Unless it was something really horrific, and from what I gather, it really wasn't, did this really warrant a full-on suspension? I realize nascar wants to move away from a redneck image, but let's be honest - the Phoenix brawl last November did did nothing to dispel any stereotypes whatsoever!
-S. Bilger

The issue with Clements was interesting by itself, and now with the news that Denny Hamlin was fined for pretty innocuous comments about the racing last Sunday at Phoenix, if you believe things come in threes, we've got another headscratcher coming down the pike.

I totally understand that NASCAR felt that Clements needed to be disciplined. However, two races seems excessive. And you can see why Earnhardt Jr. and Jimmie Johnson and others said what they did when asked for their reactions to the Clements suspension. It's NASCAR's ballpark and it's their rules. And sometimes it feels that we, as fans and media, are still learning those rules when it comes to what drivers can and can't say without fear of retribution.

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I have a quick observation, a question, and a rant. I am amazed at the toughness of the cup cars! Danica got blasted in the driver's side by David Ragan so hard, his car nearly got airborne. The 10 car lost it's outer skin and the blue foam, but all pictures I have seen show the inner panel with virtually no damage. Danica sounded like she was ready to get a manicure in the post wreck interview! Kudos to the guys who engineered and build these cars! The question: Why is everybody saying that the wreck debris from the 32 Nationwide car went over the fence at Daytona? Every video and photo I have seen shows the parts went THROUGH the catch fence! My rant: How in the name of good sense did Martin Truex Jr. finish in 29th place and win more money than Jeff Burton won by finishing in 10th place?!?! I understand the sponsor money, but a driver finishing 19 places behind and winning $8000.00 more than the guy who finishes 10th? That's just plain dumb!
-Bill

While we skewer NASCAR for decisions like the one they made with Hamlin on Thursday, it bears repeating over and over that they've done a wonderful job over the last 12 years when it comes to driver safety. (And I updated Happy Hour last week to reflect that the tire did indeed go through the hole ripped in the fence. On my first 20+ viewings, I swore the tire went over. But it did go through.)

Now, on to the prize money issue. Sponsor money is one part of it, and another is contingency programs. There are so many contingency programs, like the Mahle Clevite Engine Builder of the Race for example, that the money adds up. And because of sponsor conflicts, etc, not everyone participates in all contingency programs. (For example, Kasey Kahne, who is sponsored by Quaker State, doesn't participate in the Mobil 1 Driver of the Race program.) I'll even admit that it's a complicated puzzle at times, and a horrible indicator of driver's performance.

Alright y'all, thanks for reading! And remember where to send those emails, because you too could be published in an upcoming mailbag!

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