Happy Hour: Harvick’s rise; Kyle the bully?

Jay Busbee

Welcome to the latest Happy Hour mailbag! You know how these work: you write us at nascarmail@yahoogroups.com or on Twitter at @jaybusbee, we respond to your messages, everyone goes away with a smile on their face. Today, we're talking Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch the bully, All-Star voting, media snits and more. Away we go!

Kevin Harvick has had a strong car all year, he just hasn't been able to make it to the end of the race for various reasons. When this stretch of bad luck is over you can bet he'll be in the top 10 or 5 in no time. Question, why do the sports media talk about someone being out of contention for the chase after 4-5 races? That's just stupid in my opinion. There's a whole season for things to happen, good and bad, to all the drivers. If Carl Edwards has 2-3 DNF's and Jimmie Johnson or Harvick (or any driver) wins 2-3 that will mix things up a lot, even with the new points system. Please stop speculating on the future and report on the now, it makes you look more intelligent when you don't have to reverse what you said last week.

— Randy

Well, that took a turn there at the end, didn't it? This is the old "If you keep your mouth shut, the world might think you're an idiot, but if you open it, you'll remove all doubt" line that my grandfather used to tell me. Usually after I'd opened my mouth. However, it's possible to speculate on the future AND report on the now, given the benefit of history and hindsight.

After five races in 2010, Denny Hamlin was the lowest-ranked guy who would eventually make the Chase, and he was 19th. In 2009, the lowest was Greg Biffle at 18th. In 2008, it was Carl Edwards at 16th. You get the picture … while it doesn't torpedo your season to start slow, you don't want to be like Biffle (currently 20th), Hamlin (21st), Brian Vickers (24th), Jeff Burton (25th) or Jamie McMurray (28th) if you can possibly avoid it. Yes, the wild card means all those guys are still potential Chasers, but staking your hopes on a win is a long shot at best.

As for Harvick: as this weekend showed (Randy's letter was prescient, as it was written before Fontana), he's totally still in the mix. Winning tends to cure a lot of ills.

{ysp:more}

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Jay, how come Kyle Busch was allowed to use the rear end of the pace car [Sunday] to get rid of the debris on his grill? I know it wasn't as bad, but I feel like that is in the same boat as the mope who got out of his car at Daytona a few years back to fix his fender.

Donald
Chicago, IL

Well, it was more of a passive use of the pace car rather than an active use of a fist, as Sterling Marlin did. (Aside: "Active Use Of A Fist" would be a great album title.) For me, it falls under the same category as sweeping your tires back and forth during cautions to get the grit off them. Now, you want controversy? What about Brian France cleaning the windows on the 48 during that last round of pits? That seemed a bit over the li — what, you didn't see that? Oh, right, I'm not supposed to mention it.

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Jay, in your email post this week a reader brought up Mr H. firing Kyle to hire Junior.  I'd just like to remind you that Rick also could have fired Casey Mears and made room for Junior, but Rick let Kyle leave and the fired Casey the next year.  I never seem to hear people question that decision, just that Kyle got fired for Junior, not Rick kept Casey instead of Kyle.

Kevin in Junior Nation

Excellent point, and it kind of kicks the pins out from under that whole "Hendrick took Junior over Kyle" tale that is nearing urban legend status now. Technically, you're right, it was Casey Mears over Kyle Busch. For the very last time.

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NASCAR has opened voting on the Vote-In driver for the All-Star race. This year, Dale Jr. must win a race or race his way in, being that he's up for Voting, not winning a race this or last year. Is it time for a possible upset? A.J. Allmendinger was my vote. I say fans should vote for the 22 drivers they feel deserve to be in the All-Star race. Fans create the field, not wins or championships! But that'll never happen.

— Jon Dilks

No offense, but fans are idiots. Well, that's a little harsh. Fans — and I include myself in that category for purposes of this discussion — tend to focus more on names than ability, which is why the baseball and basketball all-star games are stocked with future Hall-of-Famers who are no match for their current competition. (If Michael Jordan was on the ballot for the 2012 NBA All-Star game, you know he'd be voted into the starting lineup, and he's like 78 now.)

On the flip side, the All-Star Race is supposedly for the fans, so you know what? Screw it, I agree with you. Let the fans vote everybody in. And if that leads to a starting grid that includes Richard Petty, The Bandit, Cole Trickle and a black No. 3 car, so be it.

(Also, I think Earnhardt has legitimately raced his way into the fan vote that we all know he'll get.)

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A good final 5 laps does not a good race make. I was really hoping for a Kyle Busch blowout win. That would have made everyone forgetting about Auto Club that much easier!
Darrell
Harmony, NC

You're just lucky you're in North Carolina, Darrell. There are plenty of Auto Club Speedway fans who're livid with you for making that comment. Well, I assume there are. I haven't actually seen any, but they have to be out there, right? Hello, Fontana fans?

Also, as we approach the halfway mark, we present the latest in our burgeoning Photoshop series, this one a new take on the infamous "Dale Earnhardt with angel wings" motif begun last week. (Surely you saw the amazing first pass at this, right?) This one is by Cody Milam, and can we request that Cody send that Dale-with-wings as a separate picture? That's totally going to be my new avatar.

And keep those photos and Photoshops coming, people. We love 'em.

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Hello, I just wondered what your thoughts are on Marcus Ambrose. I see a good racer with some good qualities there, but I wonder if he has what it takes to run up front. Also ... I don't think we all realize just how competitive NASCAR racing is. When you have, say, one-third of a second from first to last with 42 cars in qualifying, that tells me the racing is close also.

Arcespark
Halfway, Missouri

Ambrose was one unfortunately-timed engine shutoff from a win last year. He's incredibly talented, he's put up with a lot, and I do think he'll break through now that he's got more of a team's focus on him. And your point about the difference in qualifying times is well taken: this past weekend, there were less than two seconds of qualifying time between the polesitter (Juan Pablo Montoya) and the 42nd car (Tony Raines). (J.J. Yeley didn't need to qualify, as there were only 43 cars entered.) You're right, the margin between superstardom and irrelevance is shorter than the time it takes you to read this sentence.

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Yes, I am a Shrub hater (no, not Rowdy, SHRUB), and I think after the Fontana weekend I finally have him figured out. If Kyle Busch isn't the one standing in Victory Lane, he isn't happy. Other drivers are smart enough to understand it is a 1-in-43 chance, but for Kyle it is all or nothing. Unfortunately, with the exception of one season he isn't the big race's dominant winner. He pumps it up and leads the most laps, but whoops — where is he at the end? Sunday was just another example of that. The big boys came and took his toy (the trophy) away! I at last now understand why he is so hot on being in every Nationwide race he can be. For the most part these drivers are still getting their feet wet so the competition isn't as seasoned and the Cup drivers, while wanting to win the race, aren't obsessed about it like Kyle. There is no title on the line for them, they just love to race. So I liken Kyle to the schoolyard bully who stomps on the younger, skinnier kids and spoils their fun. Does this make me feel sorry for him? NO! It just makes me understand how pathetic he is!

Joyce Keith
Bloomington, IL

Wow, tear it up there, Joyce! Kyle made some severe missteps early in his career by complaining too much and pitching too many tantrums. You get a rep, you get stuck with it forever. That said, if you can put the tantrums aside — and he seems to have done that so far this year — I don't really mind the "obsessed about winning" side of Kyle. Think about it this way: of the 13 races in NASCAR's national series this year, Kyle has won five of them. That's pretty damn impressive, no matter what you think of the guy.

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I live in Atlanta and used to go for the Saturday race because the Cup race was too expensive … There used to be a carnival atmosphere outside the track with the sponsor tents and fun and goodies and treats. Now? They shut down the booths an hour before you get in and there's no fun. It's pure corporate shill. The reps are phoning it in.

I used to get excited to go and have a good time and looked forward to the races. Now, I simply feel like everyone connected- from the motels to the food vendors to the sponsor tents to the tracks to NASCAR itself- simply views me as a cash cow and doesn't value my business any longer. And when I start to view it as a business, they haven't turned out anything fresh and exciting and fun in quite some time. It's the Jay Leno of sports. And why pay money to go see that? I'll spend my dollars on something else instead.

Nancy

You listening, trailer reps, sponsors and vendors? Step up your game! Still, I'd be a little wary of sweeping generalizations. I can say from experience that there are many people working at the tracks who love the sport and its fans. And, yes, there are money-grubbers and people who really ought to be doing something else because they look so miserable when handing over your beer or your t-shirt, but you get those types everywhere. Still, any time you're compared to Jay Leno, it might be time to start reexamining your business practices.

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What do you think of this constant battle between the media corps that has been happening on Twitter?  There seems to be a faction … who insists on attacking other journalists when they don't have the same opinion or pointing our supposed flaws in someone's reporting without actually reading through the other journalists' articles first.  Is this good for the sport?  To have journalists attacking one another or defending themselves from attack on Twitter?  I can't see how it is.  It only angers us hardcore fans who love this sport and don't care for the fighting.

My thought is this simple.  After the whole "cheering in the press box" debacle and claims about what is and is not professional, if you (I use that as a generalization) complained about a lack of professionalism within the media corps then maybe you should act like a professional in your daily life.  And I think attacking other journalists because your opinion differs from theirs or you think they are wrong is not professional.  If you disagree write an eloquent article about how you disagree and why, don't jump on Twitter and get snarky about it.

Patricia Lauren Augusta

What? Twitter was made for self-righteous snark! Nah, I get what you're saying. At the risk of kicking off yet another tired "the media sucks" round of comments, the NASCAR media corps is just like any other group of individuals brought together by occupation: there are some who are models of professionalism, and there are some who — oh, let's be kind — have a different view of how best to interact with their co-workers. Yes, it's a gossipy lot, but then so to is your office — it's just that your office isn't broadcast to the world. Follow me on Twitter at @jaybusbee, and I promise I won't tell you which media members chew with their mouths open or cry at NAPA commercials. (cough*Bromberg*cough).

Me, I'm fascinated by media relations with the public, but I get the sense it bores the snot out of most people, so I tend to keep it quiet. If that stuff interests you, find me on Twitter or FB and we'll chat.

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Finally, This Week In Spam:

Nascar, The world is on your lap, no matter what. What're you going to do with it? If you want to learn, listen. sit down, drop everything. If you try to achieve something, you'll eventually get it. I can prove this. Prove to everyone who's doubted you on your choices in life wrong. Don't you want to insure that your life will be set for good? [Link deleted, obviously.]

Come on, Nascar! All you have to do is click that link, and once you're done disinfecting your computer and repairing your credit report after your identity has been stolen, all your problems will be solved! (Although the concept of the world being on one's lap is not quite as enticing as I think the spam-seller was hoping.)

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!