Danica Patrick is all smiles, like it or not. (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 email@example.com or on Twitter at @jaybusbee, we respond to your messages, everyone goes away with a smile on their face.
I was at both the Kentucky Derby and Talladega this past weekend. This is what I came up with. I'm still exhausted. So let's get to your letters:
Given how polarizing a figure she is, do you think there will be (or should be) any disciplinary action taken by NASCAR towards Danica Patrick for intentionally wrecking Sam Hornish Jr. after the checked flag on Saturday?
— Eric Tien
[Video: Is Darlington Kyle Busch's to lose?]
Simple. Efficient. I like that kind of letter. Incidentally, this race was finishing exactly as the Kentucky Derby was starting, so I was darting back and forth between the press balcony overlooking the track and my laptop playing the race broadcast. Sure wish Bodemeister had turned I'll have Another in the final straightaway; I'd have a few more bucks right now.
So, my opinion: Yes, NASCAR should have taken some action against Patrick. At the very least, she should have been (say this with scary music in the background) Called To The Hauler to discuss exactly what happened. Did Hornish's brakes fail? Did Patrick not see him? Whatever, letting her bolt off into the Talladega night was exactly the wrong thing for NASCAR to do.
Now, as for the unhinged Danicahaters who scream that because Kyle Busch did almost the same thing at Texas last year, Patrick should be suspended or worse: shut up. Seriously. Just chill the heck out. This is not even remotely comparable. Busch's actions happened during a race (albeit under yellow), and took Ron Hornaday Jr. out of the running entirely. Busch's punishment was also the culmination of a series of run-ins with NASCAR brass. Patrick hasn't had that. She had a bad day and a bad moment. Does she deserve a little lecture, maybe even one of those not-so-secret-but-still-really-secret fines? Absolutely. And if she does it again, crank up the punishment. Beyond that, let it go, people. I'd have been a lot more disappointed if she'd gotten out of the car and started crying or something.
Was Tony Stewart so worried about the cost of tearing up cars when he was 'just' a driver? But I do agree with his sentiment. We fans pay the bills, but we're quite often stupid. And as a driver becomes more successful and rich, we become even more stupid, don't we? Honestly, I do not watch races just to see the wrecks. I don't like to see them just for the sake of all that carnage and personal danger. I'd rather see some passin' and rubbin', but not necessarily hittin' and wreckin'. But when they do occur, it's interesting to see who messed up and any drama resulting from it. I do like the drama...and Tony can be the king of producing drama...just by opening his mouth.
— Robert in Richmond
[ Power Rankings: Change at the top ]
You've got to hand it to Stewart, the man knows how to keep himself in headlines, and he knows how to get his point across. I have absolutely no problem with what he did, and I find it very interesting that many of the same fans who whoop and holler when he calls out the media or other drivers get all butthurt when he calls out YOU. Doesn't mean I agree with him entirely ... but let's save that for our next answer.
Reading all the "Sarcastic Smoke" accolades has exacerbated an irritation I already have with the idea that NASCAR fans simply want more wrecks. I hate wrecks. They make me physically ill as though each one of those drivers were my own baby boy. Of course, I am a woman, and likely in the minority of NASCAR fans. But seriously, I have never read or heard a complaint from any actual fan stating they need to see more wrecks to watch races more religiously on TV or to attend more races in person. Are these complaints actually in existence, or is this just one of those "media-hyped" (no offense) arguments? I'll grant that the possibility of wrecks increases the adrenaline, but wouldn't that just increase the longer you go WITHOUT a wreck? The argument alone is insulting, but now I have to listen to DW say the fans don't respect what the drivers do and hear Tony Stewart say we would prefer to see Talladega turned into a figure eight. Hogwash, I dare say. Where's the proof?
This is like proving a negative; how can we prove that fans like wrecks without having wrecks? I guess we could point to the fact that NASCAR has been in decline since the safety improvements that have kept every driver alive for the last decade-plus, but that's a bit grim, isn't it? And it's a cheap, and not necessarily direct, causal connection.
Basically, Stewart is just like anyone else with a strong opinion: He doesn't see a whole lot of nuance. Look, I get where he's coming from; if any of us were in a wreck like these guys all sustain five or six times a year (or many times that, for certain drivers), we wouldn't exactly be thrilled with the sentiment that there should be MORE wrecks. (We'd probably be curled in a fetal position and not get into another car for two years.) But saying the only options are wreck-filled demolition derbies or hours-long roundabouts is a false choice. There are ways to make the racing more interesting while keeping the drivers safe and the cars largely intact. Sticking your head in the sand and staying in only one camp or another does no good to anyone.
Is Jeff Gordon in a slump? Is he really the product of bad luck or is he going to be content with running good races and not winning like Dale Earnhardt Jr.? Now I'm not saying Junior is content with good finishes, but when it's been season after season, you start to wonder. I have poked fun at Junior fans who are happy with his top 10 runs all season but never getting the win, so can I be happy for Jeff if he starts doing the same? The guy has four titles, a great career, lots of money, lots of wins, but if he was to race another four seasons and only score top 10s for most of the races is his past enough to satisfy not winning?
— Wes R
Wes, that's a question you're going to have to answer for yourself. It is interesting how the troubles of one group of fans don't seem quite so funny when they're your troubles. I will say this: I cannot imagine that these guys enjoy losing race after race, year after year. But knowing when it's time to walk away is the toughest thing for any athlete to do; you don't know what's waiting for you after that last race ends, and that's scary when you've got half your life still ahead of you.
I don't believe Gordon has another title in him, but I do think he has plenty more wins. The guy still burns for this stuff. You'll have him around for quite a few years. And when you don't, there's another guy waiting right in the wings ...
Is Brad Keselowski the best interview or what? His quote in the media center is the greatest quote I've heard a driver say: "Hell, it's my job to be good. That's what I get paid for. I don't get paid to suck at this." Absolutely priceless. Bad luck hurt him the Chase last year, just hope the equipment is good enough for him until he starts driving a Ford next year. He is exactly what the doctor has ordered for NASCAR. If ever he is crowned a champion, he most definitely would be a hard act to follow.
— Kevin Mullins
I would rank Keselowski among my all-time favorite interview subjects, along with Chipper Jones, Charles Barkley and Tiger Woods. (Ha! Just seeing if you were paying attention. Tiger Woods is a terrible interview.) After that interview, someone in the media room suggested we print up bumper stickers saying "I don't get paid to suck at this," and I'd totally buy one.
Seriously, Keselowski answers the question you ask in a way that indicates he's taking the question seriously, not just killing time. I asked him about the wrecks at 'Dega, and he gave me the great answer about daredevils and chess players; moments like that as a writer you're going, "This is gold!" Makes up for a lot of "We had a good race tonight. I want to thank the boys at the shop"-type interviews.
Anyway, yeah, Keselowski has won a lot of people over in the last year, and he's driving like a champion, too. This dude might well be the future of NASCAR, which would be good news for all of us.
All right, let's wrap with a little money-where-your-mouth-is suggestion:
From now on fan tickets should include a retroactive surcharge for every wreck in a race. You never know how much your ticket is going to cost until the race is over. Then, with more wreckage and "car"nage, you receive more entertainment and you pay more for your ticket. For a "boring" race where all you got to see was smart, clean, hard driving and excellent pit crews, you walk away disappointed but you keep your money in your pocket. The surcharge then goes to the owners who have to pay for the wrecked cars. So everyone wins. Fans pay more for better racing and owners are more willing to give it to them because they don't have to pay for it, the fans do!
— Bill Carswell
Fontana and Pocono would sell out! And you'd have one guy buying a ticket to Talladega, and he'd have to pay $10.3 million for it. I love it!
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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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