I was off NASCAR duty this past weekend, covering the Tour Championship. Sweet heaven, people, if you think the Chase is confusing, you should see the dog's breakfast of statistics and projections that is golf's FedEx Cup. They literally had a guy with a white board diagnosing points scenarios every half-hour, and since golf hasn't adopted a handy points-to-places system, the poor commentator was trying to add, say, 1,350 to 825 on the fly. As it turned out, the guy who won the final tournament won the big prize, but there was very nearly a chance that a guy who hadn't won a tournament the entire playoffs would walk away with a $10 million prize. So, yes, it could be worse, friends. Always remember that. It could be worse. Let's begin with your letters ...
How nasty are you allowed to be before the Powers That Be at NASCAR step in?
Kurt Busch has been an absolute jerk. First he acts like a donkey's derriere with the press, ripping up press releases and making Tony Stewart look like a candidate for Mellow Dude of the Year. Then, he throws the F-bomb on live TV to an ESPN cameraman, only to have Allen Bestwick apologize three hours later. KURT BUSCH should have apologized.
No penalties for this? Be angry. Be frustrated. Have at it. Take a lesson from the Smoke Play Book and lay the sarcasm on so thick they need the jet dryers on the track to dry it up. Or be like Juan Problem Montoya and tell everyone they are making it up. But there has to be a line you can't cross off the track.
If Junior can't say the s word in Victory Circle, then why on The King's Hat can Kurt Busch throw an F Bomb on live TV with no consequences?
The farther that we get from the infamous Janet Jackson Super Bowl wardrobe malfunction (for which Justin Timberlake got off scot free, but that's another story), the more that the courts are willing to let inadvertent curse words slide. But NASCAR still has dominion over its own product, and yes, there's certainly a double standard there (and one which, shockingly, doesn't favor Mr. Eight-Time-Most-Popular).
I'd be very surprised if NASCAR isn't having a little conversation with Kurt Busch about his behavior, either now or in the offseason. There's rebellion of the Tony Stewart variety, which is healthy and promotes the image the sport wants, even if it makes him a total pain in the spoiler to cover. But there's a line of professionalism he and Busch are starting to stomp on, and it's getting tougher to write that off as "heat of the moment" and "boys being boys" and whatever other rationalizations you want to make. It's making not just the drivers themselves, but the whole sport look bad.
Perhaps what Busch needs is just some straightforward media training. The AP's Jenna Fryer, the target of that transcript-ripping incident in Richmond, sat down with the Rowdy guys last week and talked about this in a very illuminating interview, and she noted what many have found: when the cameras are off, Busch is as engaging and fun a driver as there is in NASCAR, but when the lights go on, his defenses go up. The art of deflecting a question without being a jerk about it is one that every driver but two seems to have mastered.
As Danica Patrick inches closer to her Sprint Cup debut next year, Robby Gordon has let it be known that he is not interested in giving up/selling his #7 to her. While Gordon's rationale of "I've built up my brand with the #7" is patently absurd (aside from a couple of road course wins, his "brand" consists of nothing more than [a] starting and parking, or [b] being a moving chicane during any given Sprint Cup race), I also wonder whether NASCAR would ever step in and force Gordon to give up /sell the number? After all, doesn't NASCAR in essence "own" the numbers and merely "leases" them out to the teams? That has always been my understanding, and I can't imagine that the governing body wouldn't prefer the marketing synergy of Danica racing #7's in both the Nationwide and Sprint Cup Series as opposed to letting Gordon continue doing absolutely zero with the number.
— George Noriega
New York City
This does put NASCAR in the position of looking like a bully if it rips the number off Gordon's car, but I agree with you ... the 7 just doesn't immediately conjure up thoughts of Robby Gordon for me. I'm thinking there will be some sort of arrangement made ... perhaps Gordon will start running the 07, perhaps NASCAR will give him a handful of those rumored "get through inspection free" cards. (It's true. You could show up at inspection with a jet engine strapped to your car, but you present one of those and you're on your way.) Seriously, I'd be very surprised if Danica doesn't somehow end up running either the 7 or the 77 next year. Or at least changing her Nationwide number to match whichever one she runs in Cup.
In Victory Lane Sunday, when asked about his rough regular season, Tony Stewart responded "Well we got rid of some dead weight earlier this week, so it's made it alot easier. It's been a big weight lifted off our shoulders, sometimes you gotta make adjustments in your life, and it's definitely helped this weekend for sure."
Any idea what that was? The way Tony made it sound it wasn't just releasing a few crew, or shop members, it sounded like something big. I haven't heard about any changes at Stewart-Haas and I was just curious if you could give some insight.
— John Waylon
General consensus seems to be that this was something about Stewart's personal life. Stewart bucked up when asked about it, even though he, in courtroom parlance, opened the door to such questions by making it public himself. Without speculating on the nature of Stewart's true meaning, let me just say it'd be absolutely charming to refer to an ex as "dead weight."
Unless, of course, he was referring to literal dead weight, which would make one hell of an episode of CSI: Talladega.
Next up: last week, we asked for your NASCAR look-a-likes, and oh, did we get some great ones. There are people running around out there who are dead ringers for Jimmie Johnson, Clint Bowyer, Tony Stewart and Kurt Busch. We'll roll them out over the next few weeks; for now, there's this.
My friend, not a NASCAR fan, now responds to the name "Joey" because we all call him that now.
— Matt Treske
I cannot imagine why. But you have to make sure he goes and shops very visibly at Lowe's and start a NASCAR tabloid controversy.
I wish to go on record as hating ESPN's new Advertisement Non-Stop. They say that are doing us a favor by giving us that tiny window to watch the race while they add thirty more minutes of blasting advertisements for the last half of the race. I would just as soon go back to the way things were, there was less advertisements then ... I mean, what is the point in having a 52-inch TV if my race picture is going to be about the size of a slice of light bread?
— John Edwards (NR)
I got a lot of emails about this very topic, and here's the thing: this is totally a case of perceptual bias. In other words, it only seems like there were more commercials. Actually, according to ESPN's Andy Hall, there were four fewer minutes of commercials this way. Why don't we believe that? Conditioning, baby. We're conditioned not to expect to see racing during commercials, so we grit our teeth and get through them. But when we see the racing, and it's right there, it seems like forever to get through those commercials. It's like in high school, I literally had to hide my watch under my desk to keep from looking at it to see how many more minutes calculus class was. Otherwise, it was like, 10:02 ... wait ... wait ... OK, it's been about 45 minutes, right? Let's look ... 10:04?! Aw, come on!
Also, you have a 52-inch TV and you haven't invited us all over? For shame.
Winning the pole gives the driver first selection of their pit stall this an advantage, at some tracks more than others. Though I wonder; it's not common at all to win a race from the pole, so outside of good pit selection it seems like maybe it's not so great. I mean, the goal is to finish first, starting up front certainly helps but statistically starting first doesn't get you into victory lane. What do you think?
History has shown that the mantra of famed NASCAR driver Ricky Bobby - "If you're not first, you're last" - is in fact incorrect, as it is possible to finish second, third, or even 42nd without finishing "last." A government study costing about $435,000 over the course of five years of research discovered that.
But here's the deal. It IS better to be up front early in a race, for the simple reason that fewer people around you means fewer people to screw up and take you out of the race. This is particularly true in the case of tracks like Talladega, where you want as many potential carnage-causers behind you.
Question is, though, how valuable is the pole? While using my favorite search engine (NOT Google), I found this academic study, which revealed that in 2004, the pole won 11 percent of the races. More significantly, the value of the pole position has declined steadily over time, which you can attribute to the fact that cars are getting closer and closer to one another in terms of power and qualifying speeds. In other words, you don't have Richard Petty rolling off a ride that can beat the field by ten laps anymore.
Somebody needs to update that study, and see if you can get some college or high school credit for doing it. Anything to make your work more fun is cool with me.
Here is an interesting format for the Chase cars. The first 12 spots on the grid are reserved for the Chase, and they are placed according to how they qualify. Those not in the Chase qualify and line up behind the chase group according to there times, but not in the first 12 spots regardless if they qualify faster. This would be like giving home court advantage to the better team during playoffs and it would make for better racing within that Chase group.
— David W. Wickey
I like that idea, though it'll make the "don't forget about the non-Chasers" purists scream. It perfectly illustrates the strange dynamic we have going on now, trying to graft a postseason onto a sport that requires all of its participants to run until the very end. But your solution would be an easy and effective one to get some good racing early on.
Wow; so the Marbles Power Rankings now has a sponsor? It's the Gillette Fusion ProGlide Power Rankings! IMPRESSIVE! It's much harder to whine about the rankings when they're sponsored; after all, we don't want to jeopardize the sponsorship for you. When I go to Talladega, where will the Marbles Fusion Power Rankings merchandise trailer be?
— Jeff "I've Now Washed My Red #8 Lounge Pants" aka "Sarge" Smith
Hey, thanks! All joking aside, we're pretty proud that they thought enough of our silliness to throw some sponsorship love our way. Also, THEY didn't get upset at Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s ranking EVERY SINGLE FREAKING WEEK, no matter whether he was on or off the list.
And the Marbles Fusion Power Rankings merchandise trailer will consist of me standing by a trash can in the infield holding a handful of gently-used razors, which I will happily autograph for you.
Finally, let's close off with a new catchphrase that the Jeff Gordon fans pray won't be needed ever again.
Let's just call the phenomenon of a caution late in the race with the 24 leading the "Eff-a-Jeff."
— Christopher J. Fox
Sometimes the best lines are so obvious you can't even see them. Well done.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org, 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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- Tony Stewart
- Kurt Busch
- Robby Gordon