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From the Marbles

Happy Hour: What’s in a name, Greg Biffle?

Jay Busbee
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 happyhournascar@yahoogroups.com or on Twitter at @jaybusbee, we respond to your messages, everyone goes away with a smile on their face.

I'm filing this column while on the plane to Richmond. A plane! BEAT THAT, SHAKESPEARE. We'll have plenty of info for you on the regular-season finale in the next couple days, but for now, your letters.

I've lived in NASCAR country all my life, but have never gotten deeply involved in the bowels of the sport, so to speak. I tried. I picked a random driver to follow one season, but in an effort to avoid all the pre-made contractual obligations of who-you-gotta-love, who-you-gotta-hate, I picked a relative newcomer. He didn't last in NASCAR, and that was that. More recently, I've considered Biffle. He'll be around for a while, he's getting great results, but as far as I can tell, nobody loves him and nobody hates him. He's NASCAR's invisible man. Perfect, except for one thing. I can't bring myself to cheer for a guy named Biffle. In fact, I would go so far as to say that it is his name that's been holding him back from NASCAR stardom. He's taken the Biffle name and turned it into a personality.

Do you think he would consider changing it? "Biff" would have been good if it weren't for the Back To the Future Series. Bifflehauser maybe? A good German name will never elicit neutral sentiment. Biffinator? Or better yet, legally change his name to Vader. That would get a reaction.

Chip
China (formerly Mississippi and Virginia)

Look, I've got the name "Busbee," which sounds like a cartoon character, so I'm not exactly the guy to be busting on someone else's name. But there could be something to what you're saying. "Fireball Roberts": that's a NASCAR name. "Dale Earnhardt": that's a NASCAR name. "Buckshot Jones": that's such a NASCAR name that it may have been created in a lab. But "Greg Biffle"? Sounds like the sound you'd hear in a particularly nasty pillow fight. And we haven't exactly helped him by giving him the nickname "Fiffle" in our weekly race chat. (It was a TYPO. Sorry, Gerg. I mean, Greg.)

Ah, but what's in a name? (Second Shakespeare reference this column. A new record.) Would Biffle drive that much better if his name was Bubba Bucksnort? Billy Ray Gutburn? Could be, could be. Worth a shot, anyway.

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A lot of people talk about what NASCAR is going to be like when drivers like Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart retire. That doesn't seem like such a big problem compared to the owners retiring. Look at Roush (70), Childress (66), Hendrick (63) and Gibbs (72). Only Gibbs has a true successor (that I know of) in JD. I think NASCAR will be in far more trouble when these owners decide to call it a day rather than the current star drivers.

Ciao from Switzerland,

Bill

First China, now Switzerland? We're worldwide, baby! Anyway, I imagine that all teams have lines of succession, with vice presidents whose names you've never heard (they're the guys wearing the golf shirts with the team name in the garage, looking all official) angling for that top job. The thing you've got to worry about is whether somebody's getting promoted on name alone. All indications are that JD Gibbs knows what he's doing — heck, he got Matt Kenseth in the stable — but the worst thing that can happen is for someone to build an empire and then hand it off to their moron offspring, who proceed to run it like a fantasy team and crater it within a decade.

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I noticed Jimmie Johnson has the most DNFs of anyone in the Top 25. How should fans see this: a sign of weakness that he's had so many DNFs, or a sign of strength that he's still in 4th place despite those performances?

David J.

I double-checked David J., and sure enough, Vader has five DNFs. (No. 2 in the top 25? Denny Hamlin with 4.) I'd go with the latter explanation: Johnson is so darn good that he can hamstring himself with a few DNFs just to let the crowd stick with him. Shoot, he might just sit out a race in the Chase, just to mess with people.

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So here we are. We have a sport that is in transition. A fan favorite that can't seem to find victory lane anymore. And to make matters worse. There's some hot shot west coast driver that everyone hates, racking up win after win and title on top of title. No, this isn't a gripe about the current state of NASCAR. This is a look back at the time between 1996 and the end of the decade ... and here's why I'm bringing it up.

I keep hearing people say "NASCAR can't succeed when Junior is struggling". I don't buy this. After Dale Earnhardt's insane crash at Talladega in 1996 until he finally Slew the beast that was Daytona in 1998, it appeared that the Intimidator had lost his aura and as time went on. It seemed that it was never coming back. During this same time period, a young buck by the name of Jeff Gordon was winning just about every race he entered and had Petty's/Earnhardt's title mark directly in his crosshairs.

I don't remember anyone saying that the sport was any worse off than when Earnhardt was in his prime. And his fans, much like Junior's fans today, would show up in numbers at every race, whether he finished 31st or 1st the previous week. I just can't buy into the theory that one driver, regardless of his popularity, can be the single rivet that holds the ship together.

(And speaking of a young Jeff Gordon. If 1997 Jeff Gordon could travel 15 years into the future, he would slap his older self for not running over Denny Hamlin to get that 2nd win!)

Darrell "Furiousd" Watts
Wishing I was from anywhere but Charlotte this week

Well said. Can't argue with any point there. NASCAR is circular, and those dire predictions of doom and gloom never quite seem to materialize. We'll be fine, even if we're not quite as Southern as we once were.

Also from Darrell: This video of a race from Zandvoort that shows just how tricky pit stops can be, particularly when you don't clear hoses out of the way ...

OUCH.

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So, why didn't NASCAR fine Jeff Gordon for swearing on the radio during a race? Nothing was ever said about this. Junior got fined and all he said was 'Hell' AFTER a race. JG dropped the foxing F-bomb several times, loud and clear. Favoritism? He should have lost points too.

Mrs. R. Stark
Glendale, Ariz.

Didn't Junior use the s-bomb? And radio communications are off-limits to the restrictions on language, theory being if you listen in on that, you know what you're getting into. Which is lovely, particularly if Kurt Busch or Juan Pablo Montoya is having a bad day.

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Does anyone think it's ironic that now Joey will be wearing a firesuit much like DeLana was when he called her out? And if Smoke waits to retaliate until next year, he can wreck his old self.

Thomas
Dallas

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"CRY BABY- BAD ATTITUDE STEWART" WANT A FRIEND- GET A DOG!!!! I USED TO THINK KYLE WAS THE WORST, BUT YOU HAVE HIM BEAT BY A MILE. YOU GET WHAT YOU DESERVE AND I HOPE EVERY WEEK SOMEONE "TAKES YOU OUT" OF THE RACE. YOU TREAT FELLOW DRIVERS WITH NO RESPECT , BUT YOU THINK THEY SHOULD BOW DOWN TO YOU. YOU THINK IT'S OK IF YOU PUT ANOTHER DRIVER IN THE WALL BUT WHEN IT HAPPENS TO YOU - YOU DON'T LIKE IT A BIT. NASCAR NEEDS TO "GROW SOME" AND START DOING SOMETHING ABOUT DRIVERS LIKE YOU BEFORE YOU END UP KILLING SOMEONE BECAUSE OF YOUR BAD ATTITUDE.

-No Name Given

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Hello,

Please assist me to receive and invest this US$20,000,000,00 Million. I will give you details as soon as I hear from you.

Regard,

Mrs. Susan Van.

$20,000,000 million? I'm gonna invest it in a Sprint Cup team! Somebody get Brian Vickers and Sam Hornish Jr. on the phone!

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 happyhournascar@yahoogroups.com. 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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