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From the Marbles

Happy Hour: Keselowski’s dilemma, Cup drivers in Nationwide and Jimmie’s Chase clinch

Nick Bromberg
From The Marbles

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Should Keselowski have pulled a podcast and used the Chrome Horn? (Getty)

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.

Does Michigan I feel like it was longer than two months ago to anyone else? I think that Pocono's two races being close together has something to do with it, as it's the only track on the circuit that has its races closer together than Michigan's.

This weekend is our final road course race of the season for either the Cup or Nationwide Series as the junior circuit takes on Mid-Ohio. (The Truck Series will be at MoSport on Labor Day weekend.) We'll miss you, cars on road courses.

This week we've got some good stuff. Let's begin, shall we?

I've watched NASCAR since 1997. I remember the good ole days when drivers actually had a personality about everything, whether it be about the tracks, drivers, or the race itself. With NASCAR fining everybody for their opinions is actually hurting the sport more than helping it, especially when they fined Hamlin this year for his opinion on the Gen 6 car. My wife and I were discussing about retaliations in the sport.

Granted we don't condone what Kyle did to Hornaday at Texas two or three years ago, but drivers should be allowed to bump someone out of the way and be the "BULLY" without being penalized anymore. On to the points system, NASCAR needs to scrap this chase. Drivers are coasting every week, especially those that are in danger of missing the chase, i.e. Gordon, Kahne, Newman. Drivers are no longer going for wins and being aggressive anymore and that is hurting the sport cause drivers need to push the issue. Keselowski not racing Kyle harder at Watkins Glen is not how the sport should be. What happened to the time where you had Labonte and Earnhardt racing tough to the line at Atlanta or Gordon and Harvick at Atlanta in 01 or Craven and Kurt grinding on each other at Darlington for the closest finish in NASCAR history?

If NASCAR fixes the sport where drivers can be vocal and do what they do without penalization except in real dangerous situations, then the sport would be popular again. Not this 3 man race for the wins this year that Johnson, Kenseth, and Kyle are doing. I wanna see the chase scraped and the old points system back in place where its from Daytona to Homestead with the 43 point system. You would have better racing than you would today.
- Matt

Matt, if you're looking for something to blame Keselowski's dilemma at Watkins Glen on, you may not have to look much further than the Chase. Why? Because the impending final 10 races not only heightens the importance of a win for Keselowski, but also the consequences of getting paid back by Busch.

Under the old points system, Keselowski is simply worried about finishing the year in the top 10 as high as he can. The championship is likely an afterthought. But since he is still in contention despite being at the back of the top 10, foresight is heavily required.

Did Keselowski do the right thing? Ultimately, given the circumstances of last year and the Chase, he likely did. However, this is such a gray scenario with four races left to determine the 12 drivers to battle for the championship, we're not going to know until after Richmond. And even then, it'll be a case of hindsight being 20/20.

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After Kyle Busch won his trillionth nationwide race at Indianapolis, I started thinking about how to discourage Cup drivers from driving in the Nationwide series. I think I have figured it out. Make a rule that a Cup driver can only earn prize money in Cup. That way, they would not earn anything. That, I think, should discourage Cup regulars from running Nationwide races. Thoughts?
- Jason

I'm completely on board with what Geoffrey Miller has presented on the Chrome Horn podcast. Let the Cup drivers run the Nationwide Series, but make them start at the back of the pack.

Yes, they'll be up 10 spots by the end of lap one because of the start and parks and slow cars at the back of the pack, but it'll add an element of excitement to the racing and allow Nationwide only drivers to run up front by themselves for at least a little while.

Will it prevent Cup drivers from winning? No. Will it hinder it? I think so. The Nationwide Series needs its own to be leading and winning. When those own are starting on equal footing (at best) to Cup drivers, that's really tough.

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So I have to ask.... why has no one (on Yahoo sports) said anything about Vader clinching a chase play off spot? I read about it on the Lowes racing page (yeah, I'm a 48 fan) but have seen nothing on the Yahoo site.

Or did I just miss it?
- Tim

BREAKING NEWS: Jimmie Johnson has clinched at least a wild card spot for the Chase. Wait, that's not really breaking news? I apologize for not addressing it directly in Power Rankings this week, but remember, this is the driver who has raised a legitimate possibility of skipping a race before the Chase if necessary. As Daughtry would say, this is no surprise.

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Unlike many of the NASCAR fans that comment on various websites, I was actually around during the "Golden Age"? of NASCAR. There was a totally different dynamic going on, with an immense gap between the "factory" cars and the independents. In addition, only a handful of teams actually contended for the championship, especially up until the time when the schedule was reduced and the 100 mile events were eliminated. As you pointed out, many races were won by laps, not seconds or fractions thereof.

This is not to say that it was unexciting in the least. In essence, one watched the race differently, as you watch a formula one race differently than an off-road rally, or a sports car race and a dirt-track sprint.
I believe that a big part of the nostalgia for the "old days" was the makeup of the racers themselves. Most were products of the depression and world war two who would otherwise be farmers or factory workers (yes, Americans made things in those days) and not suburban kids nurtured and developed from childhood in go-carts by parents with the means to do so.

It was, in effect, a grittier sport back then, without cool-suits, power steering, and pit crews comprised of well-trained specialists. It was like football played in the rain on a cold, muddy field as opposed to a game played on AstroTurf inside of a climate-controlled dome.

Differences aside, skill, talent, and chemistry prevail. Without a doubt, racing is a team sport. Most drivers and teams have their greatest successes when circumstances and people combine in a way that "clicks". Richard & Maurice Petty & Dale Inman. The Wood Brothers. Junior Johnson and Herb Nab.

Jeff Gordon and Ray Evernham. Tony and Zippy. Harry Hyde with Bobby Isaac and later with Tim Richmond. Richard Childress and Dale Earnhardt. And high on that list has to be Jimmie Johnson and Chad Knaus.

Yes, their success has come in the Chase era, but what of it? They have won a tremendous number of races in those years, with no sign of letting up. And while NASCAR has only itself to blame for the perception that they seem to favor some teams over others, I cannot envision a conspiracy massive enough to provide 5 championships to one team that could remain clandestine. They are that good.

This is not a ringing endorsement of NASCAR racing as it is today. It is no longer my favorite form of motorsports; perhaps my tastes have changed. Still, to deny talent and success because of one's dislike of outcomes is absurd and, frankly, immature. I do not have to like Kyle Busch in order to recognize his talent. I am free to take pleasure in his failures - in sports it is as important to have someone to root against as it is to root for. As a youngster in 1969, I cringed every time that LeeRoy Yarbrough and Junior Johnson won a race. And while part of Junior's genius lay in finding the, shall we say, gray areas of the rulebook, their success that year was tremendous. I can today think back about LeeRoy and admire him for that special year when he thrashed all of my favorite drivers, and feel good that, as a human being, he had his moment in the sun before his life unraveled so tragically.

And while I am on the subject of perspective, let's examine the uneven success rate of open-wheel racers who have moved to NASCAR. Sam Hornish, Jr., a big success in Indy Car, has had a terrible time transitioning, only becoming adept in the past year and a half. Dario Franchitti had a miserable run in NASCAR. For every Tony Stewart, there have been dozens of open-wheelers who have been unsuccessful in stock cars. Danica Patrick was not a top-tier driver in Indy Car on level with Franchitti or Dixon, but was a solid top-seven driver most of her career. Her current struggles do not diminish the fact of her accomplishments. Any driver, just to be able to compete at the professional level of motorsports, has to be tremendously skilled. The reflexes and concentration required to run even at the back of the pack are beyond the levels most of us are capable of. Scott Pruett, the most successful racer in the Grand-Am series, never was able to achieve much in NASCAR. How many railbirds out there that claim that they could do better than Patrick think that they could fill in for Pruett as well?

Patrick has used her looks and femininity to advance her career. To establish oneself in any sport, one uses any advantage one might possess. In a sport dependent on huge sponsorships, the manipulation of ones assets to advantage is necessary for survival. Michael Waltrip, not so talented as his elder brother, managed a long career with his sense of humor, looks, and geniality. Today, he is the owner of the fastest rising racing organization in the sport. Should he be ashamed of his success? Patrick has brains, talent, looks, and savvy. Enough to make us ordinary folks jealous and resentful, it seems.
- John

The "corporate age" of racing has its trade-offs. Sponsors (and teams) with deep pockets have allowed teams to be extremely competitive. However, those sponsors and teams have had their drivers undergo media training and learn how to represent the company that represents them accordingly.

Money changes things for sports. And life. It's a simple fact. Look no further than the NFL. If you think that NASCAR personalities aren't what they used to be, what do you think of yet another NFL crackdown on celebrations?

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