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From the Marbles

Happy Hour: Hail Mary time? Hail Mary time.

From The Marbles

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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 spent something like 30 hours over the Labor Day holiday and beyond at the Atlanta Motor Speedway. Seriously, I was thinking they'd start charging me rent. By the end of it, the few media people who were left had this haunted, faraway look in their eyes, and the drivers pretty much outnumbered us. The track did a great job of putting up with us for so long, though I'm not sure they liked me curling up in the flag stand to sleep. Anyway, your letters:

Tony Stewart is 23 points ahead of Brad Keselowski, so if Keselowski wins and leads most laps (48 points, also not impossible considering how he's been running), Stewart would need to finish 19th to tie him (25 points, so 20th place would mean he misses) which, while likely, is not a sure thing.

That being said, with that the slim possibility of a Denny Hamlin collapse, shouldn't Clint Bowyer, AJ Allmendinger, Joey Logano, Mark Martin, and all those guys from 10-19th be killing themselves for the victory this weekend? The Hamlin situation is slim, but the Keselowski-Stewart one doesn't seem absolutely horrible at all.

— Steve
Newark, NJ

The odds say that Stewart will get into the Chase with no problem, and that Hamlin will hang on and get in by his fingernails. Of course, the odds also would have said that Brad Keselowski would have trouble cracking the top 25 this year, so there you go.

I've started seeing people gripe because it looks like the wild card will give us the top 12 drivers in points. And yes, it's true that there would be just as much tension, from a different angle, if we didn't have the wild card: Hamlin would have to stay at least 11 spots ahead of Dinger and Bowyer. But now, you've got several guys with a not-unthinkable chance: Dinger, Bowyer, Biffle, Paul Menard and Marcos Ambrose. The latter two effectively control their own destiny: win and they're in the Chase. That's going to lead to some amazing Hail Mary scenarios, gambling with fuel or tires. You've got at least six cars, in addition to the leader, that you'll need to watch all night long ... or at least until they run out of gas or put themselves in the wall.

Bottom line, you've got angles upon angles in play here, and they all intersect at Denny Hamlin. Sleep well this week, Hambone!

{ysp:more}

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My question this week is this: It seems from time to time that Juan Pablo Montoya likes to run drivers into the wall, or spin them out, or just plain bully them. But they never do anything to seek revenge. Why is that? If what Clint said is true when he said everybody in the garage knows how he drives, then why don't they get him first? Are they afraid of him?

— Wes R

Can't speak for the drivers in the garage, but there's way too much money at stake for these guys to go hell-bent seeking vengeance. Montoya also strikes me as the NASCAR equivalent of that kid in your school who was always undersized, but if you got him ticked off, he'd take it to DEFCON 1 immediately. You know, you make fun of him and next thing you know he's leaping over the desk and biting your arm. You tap Montoya and he responds with thermonuclear force. And it's your fault for making him do it.

Was talking with some people in the garage this past weekend at Atlanta, and one very well-known driver who had a dustup earlier this year with another very well-known driver is actually rather good friends with said driver. It's like hockey; you have to blow off steam now and then, and then you breathe and sanity returns. Perhaps that's the case with these guys and Montoya. We can dream, can't we?

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What exactly is the scenario when a NASCAR race gets completely rained-out, i.e. postponed. It's not inconceivable for a hurricane (or tornado) to cause even a cancellation. In other sports, the game is made up some time during the year, especially if it affects the outcome of a Championship or league race. In NASCAR every race counts. So what do they do? Slide the schedule to the right? Add the race at the end and make IT the Final Race? What about race twice in the same week, like Thursday and Sunday? Has NASCAR even thought about this or do they think the weather also answers to them?

— Zach Hall
Kaiserslautern, Germany

THE WEATHER BOWS TO NASCAR! Except when it doesn't. Yes, they've thought about this, and there were contingency plans in place this past weekend. Your last suggestion was the correct one. They'll do everything they can to get the race in during the scheduled period. For instance, this week they were prepared to stay in Atlanta until Wednesday to run the race, and if they couldn't get it in by then, the rumored plans were to return on Monday, Sept. 12 and run the race then. Where that's a problem is if you're talking about the last race of the regular season. What if they couldn't run Richmond in time? I think they'd do everything they could to get it in during the week, but absolute worst-case, aliens-land-in-the-raceway scenario, they'd have to push it into the Chase.

But WHY CAN'T THEY RUN IN THE RAIN? That question gets asked every time there's a bit of cloud cover in the sky, and while we've already answered it, here's an interesting perspective:

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I've had the privilege of seeing SCCA drivers like Jerry Hanson and Joe Pirrotta drive 427 powered A Production Corvettes which produced a lot more HP than current generation restrictor-plate NASCAR. But great drivers like Jerry and Joe never whined about mounting rain tires.

As a volunteer corner worker in 1980, I was almost hit by three spinning GT-1 cars as a sudden rain storm enveloped the south end of Blackhawk Farms Raceway. I've also driven and won rain-drenched SCCA road races in a mid-engine sports racer.

On a dry track, it's all about who can make the most horsepower, and HP is all about sheer $. But rain brings out the best (or worst) SKILL in a DRIVER.

May I suggest (NASCAR communications chief) Kerry Tharp almost articulates NASCAR's rain tire motivation when he mentions "from a sponsorship standpoint": Yes, Mr. Tharp, the big buck teams with spokesmodel drivers wouldn't looks so good on rain tires and a little guy with a car he built himself might have a chance. Unfortunately, NASCAR has long-forgotten its grass roots base.

— David Ogden

I defer to your experience, but I'm not sure it's necessarily a "protect the big guys" situation. There's a lot more to it than simply strapping on rain tires and goin' racin'. This isn't a small racetrack; every race is a multimillion-dollar event, and the damage that could be done by running a race in the rain far outweighs the benefits that come from running the race on time.

That said, on Tuesday we were one good rain shower from living in a world where JJ Yeley won a Sprint Cup race. With the race paused and Yeley in the lead, if I'd been in Yeley's shoes, I'd have hidden under a pit box and prayed for the rain to come down harder. I'd have locked myself in the Port-A-Potty. I'd have gone 3 mph on the restart (YOU CAN'T PASS ME!). Whatever, I'd have tried it to go for the vultured win.

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My question is about the number of trucks that are showing up to put on a race each week. Seems to me last week the race started with 34 trucks, five to ten were start and parks, and a couple had real mechanical problems or accidents. That only leaves about 20 trucks a weekend attempting to win a race. Is sponsorship that low? Is the prize money too low? Is NASCAR thinking about cancelling the series, or should I buy a used truck off a team and start and park it myself?

I went to the Darlington race this year to see the trucks run. I was disappointed that I couldn't buy a hat, t-shirt or can cooler with a truck regular printed on it, not a single vendor trailer. I get each of them may not be able to have their own but why not get one for everyone to sell stuff out of? Only one section of grandstands was open so everyone was packed in the center section like sardines with two or three sections completely open. Man, did I want to sit over there so the fat guy next to me wasn't half on my seat.

— Chris

The trucks issue is a thorny one. It strikes me that it's a variant of the old line about how to make a small fortune in truck racing: start with a large fortune. Sponsorship is flat-out impossible; Kyle Busch recently said he simply can't get a sponsor to sign on with his truck team unless he's behind the wheel. And there likely aren't enough people interested in truck souvenirs to get even one hauler on the road; NASCAR's not in the habit of leaving even a single nickel on the table if it's possible to grab it.

So what's the answer? Boy, I don't know. Tracks have to pay a huge amount of money to get races in, and it would not surprise me to see more tracks going the way of Nashville and simply declining to run a race because it's a money-losing proposition. Of course, you decline a truck race and perhaps NASCAR decides they don't want you to be burdened with a Nationwide or Sprint race either. For your own protection, you understand.

I don't envy the people trying to promote the trucks and Nationwide series. Running a minor-league team when there's no major-league squad anywhere close is one thing. Running a minor-league series when the major leagues are at the same track 24 hours later? Tough. Any ideas from you on how to kickstart the truck series?

While you ponder that, we close with yet another lovely NASCAR moment in your own lives ...

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I was in the store and really wanted some M&M's but I remembered who was sponsored by them tasty candies. Of course then I didn't get them. Maybe some day. Then, even though I hate Bud, I went and bought a 6-pack of Budweiser. I do have friends that like Bud ... so it works out.

— Jim
Iowa

That email sounds so much better if you read it in a Karl-Childers-from-"Sling Blade" voice. Would that we could all settle our differences like you handled your store purchases, Jim from Iowa. Godspeed to you, sir, and to them tasty candies too.

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!

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