Happy Hour: The enemy of my enemy is … Kurt Busch?

Jay Busbee
From the Marbles

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

 I was on vacation this past week, and it was glorious. Watched the Indy race as a fan, which is always a strange experience for me. I kept off Twitter and Facebook, because I didn't want to be That Guy Who Shows Up At His Job Even When He's Off. If you've ever worked at a job where you interact with the public, like at a restaurant, you know the type: even when he's not working, he comes in to hang out with his pals who are on the clock. And for that, and the fact that he doesn't have a life outside his job, pretty much everyone hates him. So, yeah, don't be that guy.

Anyway, to your letters. We lead with the Fight du Jour:

So let me get this straight: Jimmie Johnson has wrecked Kurt Busch on more than occasion, Kurt races him hard — and clean, considering he would have been well within his rights to wreck Jimmie — and Jimmie reacts by whining about it after the race? And then he calls Kurt a "crybaby"? Clearly the irony is lost on Jimmie. I get why Jimmie doesn't like others racing him hard; one screwup and his race is over. On the other hand, Jimmie acts as if other drivers are supposed to just pull over because of who he is, and when they don't he whines about it; Jeff Gordon called him out on it, and now Kurt Busch. Maybe the reason NASCAR's fanbase hasn't embraced Jimmie (despite his remarkable 5-year run) has less to do with his vanilla personality and more with his attitude that he's entitled to some sort of kid-glove treatment on the track.

— George Noriega
New York City

Yeah, this whole spat backfired on Johnson in a way I don't think he anticipated. He's an insanely talented "clean" driver, one of the best in history, and so he's naturally going to prefer that style to "dirty" (not in the sense of cheating, in the sense of "down n' dirty") racing. Johnson will rattle you if he has to, but his clear preference is to drive around you rather than through you. It's too late in his career for him to change his driving style (and, really, why would he want to?) but maybe a little more silent retribution is in order. Points, though, for getting out of his car and confronting Busch; if he'd just complained to the cameras, that would've absolutely sunk him.

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I am totally annoyed with Jimmie Johnson. His complaining about Kurt Busch after the race put me in a position of having to defend Kurt, which I do not like to do! In my eyes, that was great last lap racing. Jimmie and Kurt both let it all hang out to get the best finish possible … Jimmie needs to get over it.

— Sue Bilger/@spunk72
Seattle

I received exactly zero letters of support for Johnson, which is why I didn't run any this week. (We're not a morning zoo radio show, friends; all these are real letters, not creations.) The reason I ran this one is Sue's first line, which is exactly what I love about NASCAR. You spend enough time around a sport where there are only really about 30 relevant on-track personalities, week in and week out, and soon enough they'll put you in the position of trying to choose the lesser of two evils. ("I like hard racing … but I hate Kurt Busch! What am I to do?") NASCAR, where the enemy of your enemy sometimes ends up as your A-List Fantasy Driver.

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During the rain delay, Carl Edwards was asked about the points lead, and he said something about not running like he had the lead, but like he was middle of the top 12. He knew that's where he would be when the chase started. I had never really thought about the Chase this way, but Edwards has a point. Why wouldn't the regular-season champ start the Chase in first? If NASCAR wants to reward the regular season champ they should stage places 2-12 the way they always have, and then put first place in first. It only seems fair!

— Darrell Watts

It does, and it would be a simple fix: either give the regular-season champ the equivalent of one race's worth of bonus points, raise him up to match whoever the bonus-points leader is, or both. While the idea of monkeying with the points yet again is something that makes NASCAR fans just shake their heads sadly (we're all too worn out to rage anymore), this is a change I think we could all get behind. It'd make those last few regular-season races interesting on the top end of the rankings, too.

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I find it annoying that everyone talks about Paul Menard only having a Sprint Cup ride because of his daddy's money and never acknowledge how many other drivers would also not have a chance to race every week if John Menard's millions were missing.  Is there another sponsor that is on quarter panels almost every darn week in the Cup, the NNS and the Truck series?  This doesn't even include the entire ARCA Series presenting sponsorship and the years of making Frank Kimmel's car that signature yellow that can be seen from orbit, or the hundreds of millions Mr. Menard has most certainly invested in the open-wheel world.  I doubt that there is any other sponsor that has spread more money around to more people to help the sport flourish and to help more guys get wheel-time.  So, if John Menard wants to route a few of those dollars to help his son secure a ride, that just makes Paul one of dozens of drivers over the last thirty years that have been afforded that privilege.  Also, it's not like this is a mulligan and his son is Milka Duno. I heard that he even won a race somewhere.

— Jeff Kennedy
Louisville, Kent.

No way! Paul Freakin' Menard won a race? ...huh. He sure did. Serves me right for going on vacation. Anyway, I think PFM killed those "Daddy's Money" jokes dead once and for all with his Indy victory. And good for him, I say. Let's hope that it inspires other megarich guys to funnel checks with lots of zeroes into NASCAR in the hopes of getting their own kids a ride. Does Mark Zuckerberg have any kids yet? Never too soon to start paving the way...

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Maybe I will be the only one to say it, but I think it's a good thing Travis Pastrana is out [of NASCAR until 2012]. Again with the hype, the hype, the hype! He put himself that fishbowl, I get that part, but racing against solid competition this time and 'world of NASCAR' is considerably different than what he is used to. Furthermore, he needs more practice to have RESULTS. None of us watching at home would have enjoyed a quality racer like Travis being 2-4 laps down and the booth still hyping it. I assure you, none of us enjoy listening to that.

— RJ Johnson
San Jose, Calif.

Well, I'd think that Pastrana's legions of fans would enjoy listening to that, and that's why so many people are so excited that Pastrana is coming over to NASCAR. I get why people want to tear their hair out when Pastrana and Danica Patrick (and, for that matter, Dale Earnhardt Jr.) get publicity far out of proportion to their actual achievement. There's a guy who emails me these really mean-spirited mocking "press releases" every week that goes by when Patrick doesn't win a race (which is to say, every week). But, people, relax. This is the way of the world; the hype for the famous supports the runs of the more successful but less telegenic. It's not fair from a purely competitive sense, but then neither is the fact that pro athletes get paid so much more than teachers, firefighters and [insert your occupation here].

Hmm. That was too close to a serious topic. Let's swim back toward the beach and wrap with a good ol' Junior email.

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Something's gotta be said about how bad the 88 pit crew has been. Junior consistently loses spots on green flag pit stops and even cautions. Pocono may have been just a "bad race" for the guys, but it's been going on for most of the season. After passing Carl Edwards three times it became clearly obvious his car was better. But what should I expect? I've been watching him pass the same cars all year.

— Joey
Texas

Doesn't Junior's pit crew always win those call-in/text-in contests? Surely the people making those calls are basing their decision on actual time, not just the driver's popularity, right? What's wrong with this world? Anyway, yeah, Junior's team had some problems on pit road Sunday, but the way that field was strung out at the end, they maybe cost him a single position. On the plus side, Junior has had far fewer driver-error pit mistakes this year, a good sign for him even if it costs us some of our best joke material.

Since the "lifetime tenure" approach with pit crews doesn't seem to work (everybody wanders over the wall when they feel like it), nor does the Chad Knaus "your job is at risk every instant" style (everybody's so nervous they're dropping lug nuts all over the place), how about a new one: megabonuses for fast times? Say, each pit crew member gets a thousand-dollar bonus for each stop if they set a record. (Hell, make it $10,000. Ain't my money.) But here's the best part: you have a huge jumbotron over every pit box, and as the pit time increases, the dollar value decreases. It'd be like those trivia games at sports bars where every instant you wait, more points come off the board. Imagine the tension then! The crew wouldn't even bother trying to help a man who falls down during the stop. "Run him over! He can buy a new leg with his bonus!"

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 nascarmail@yahoogroups.com, find us on Facebook right here, or hit us up on Twitter at @jaybusbee. Make sure to tell us where you're from. We'll make you famous!