From the Marbles

Happy Hour: Should NASCAR shorten its season?

Jay Busbee
From The Marbles

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Should tracks lose a race? (Getty Images)

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.

Summertime! And while the great majority of us don't get the time off, we can still cast longing looks out the window and dream of the days when we used to just sit around and do nothing. Got a good summer memory that can be printed? Send it along here and maybe it'll make the cut next week. For now, your letters:

Any chance that Rusty Wallace's idea of cutting back to 32 races goes anywhere?

— Josey Wales
Via Tuesday chat

It's a great idea in theory. Wallace is right, there's too much supply. Do we really need two races at [track redacted to prevent hurt feelings]? We don't, and you know it. Thing is, how do you get that toothpaste back into the tube? Cutting races means cutting revenue, and no track owner is going to volunteer that in this economy. The only hope is if there's a track that's fundamentally losing money year in and year out; then it becomes a lot more justifiable. If removing a race improves the bottom line, there'd be some careful consideration of the idea.

Fortunately, NASCAR doesn't have the same sacrosanct schedule that other sports have; season-long records aren't as big of a deal in NASCAR as in the NFL or baseball, and thus you wouldn't have people rioting the way they would if you were to lop a dozen games off the baseball slate. Back in Richard Petty's day, they used to run more than 1,500 races a year (may be a slight exaggeration) and so there's not the same veneration for a certain schedule length as there might otherwise be.

Cutting the schedule would cause pain, yes, but it could help tighten up the product. Just be sure to keep your non-NASCAR-watching family and friends in the dark; you don't want them learning you suddenly have four extra free weekends. There, honey-do lists await.

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The Coke 600 was the typical 2012 race: ride around in a train and make points. There has been a lack of aggression all season long. Drivers are not taking any chances because there is the possibility of losing more than gaining. This has led to long green-flag runs and lack of cautions. I cannot recall, recently, a season that started this way. Is it because Carl and Tony tied last year and one point would have given Carl the cup?

— Sean
San Diego

I think that's a factor, but you came closer to the point earlier: the points system penalizes you for bad finishes more than it benefits you for good ones. You screw up and finish 35th in a race, you're effectively screwed for a month or more while you try to make up those points; by contrast, you ride around and finish 10th, and you're still right in the mix.

How do we solve this? One way would be to remove the extreme penalty; everybody under, say, 30th place gets the same amount of points. But that smacks of "everyone gets a trophy," so what about the other way: pumping up points for top-10 finishes. As every Black Friday shopper knows, there's got to be an incentive to push harder; right now, the disincentive is too high.

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To borrow from Slim Pickens, "What in the wide, wide world of sports is a-goin' on here?" When did Dale Earnhardt Jr. become possibly not only the most consistent driver at Hendrick, but also also all of NASCAR? No one tops him with nine top 10s in 12 races. And he has no DNFs or even a finish lower than 17th. I know the entire world is hung up on the "when will he win?" debate/conundrum. However, the pairing with Letarte is obviously working, and Junior has grown as a driver. If he continues to show the same maturity, patience, and tenacity (especially on the inevitable weeks when one doesn't have the best car on the track), the wins will come. Just like soccer or hockey, if you keep clanging enough off the goal posts, eventually something is going to go in.

Eric
Washington, D.C.

Oh, now you've done it. You've both given Junior Nation reason to hope and Junior Hater Nation reason to rage. But you're correct, Earnhardt is in exactly the right position (well, not EXACTLY; that would be in front of the pack). As Edwards showed last year, all you need is one win to challenge for a championship. It'll come, soon enough, but we're through predicting it for now.

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When Brad Keselowski hit Tony Stewart and spun him on pit road and Smoke proceeded to do a 180 burnout on pit road during green flag pit stops and almost took out another driver, why didn't NASCAR give him a penalty for the boneheaded move on his part? He complains about other drivers driving like idiots, but that was clearly a big time incident that did not happen and could have caused some serious injury! Your thoughts?

— Jamie Herschel
New Philadelphia, Ohio

My thoughts are that if Stewart was that close to hitting anyone, he'd have been nailed with a penalty. NASCAR brass often appears to have a tin ear when it comes to charges of differing treatment for different drivers, but in this case, based on the recent Kurt Busch case, I'm thinking NASCAR would have certainly slapped Stewart with some sort of penalty if he'd done something to warrant that. Then again, maybe they, like Keselowski, were afraid of Stewart's reaction if they tried to fine him. You never know.

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With the recent Hall of Fame class being inducted, I was reminded that Bruton Smith didn't make the ballot this year. Some say he's a Hall of Fame track promoter. I've always thought of him as a money-grubber who had no imagination as he brought cookie cutter tracks to new markets. What do you think? Is Bruton Smith a money-grubber, a Hall of Fame track promoter, or both?

Eric E.
Home of Cousin Carl

Seeing as how Smith smiled as he took a race away from my hometown track, I may not be the best to comment on this. Like everyone who's achieved a certain level of status, he's made a few enemies, but he wouldn't still be around if he wasn't good at his job. I say he deserves a nomination ... and then deserves to get that nomination revoked until he can amass enough people to vote him in.

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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