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From the Marbles

Happy Hour: An omen for Johnson, entry lists and what if Tony Soprano was a car owner?

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Three more of these and a title equals six championships and 66 wins for Johnson and Knaus. (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.

Who else is excited for some road course racing this weekend? This may be the best summer weekend on the schedule (assuming you like your drivers to make both left and right turns), and a 5 p.m. ET start for the Nationwide Series race on Saturday is perfect. Don't be stunned if we see a first-time road course winner in each race. Plus, the weekend is made better with the return of Jacques Villeneuve to the Sprint Cup Series. (How could I forget his first foray into NASCAR with the UNICEF car?)

Let's start with a discovery, shall we?

I think I have finally reasoned out why so many people hate Jimmie Johnson and Chad Knaus, and I don’t think you will be surprised. You may have even had an inkling along these lines, but couldn’t quite put your finger on it. You see, Jimmie Johnson is the Beast and Chad has sold his soul to become his successful chew chief. While I cannot yet prove these allegations, I do believe all will become clear at the end of this season. I predict Johnson will win six races this year finishing the season with 66 wins. He will also win his sixth championship, thus revealing his marking as the Beast (666).
There is a reason for the haters to rejoice though, because after his true nature is revealed, Jimmie will no longer be able to hide his true form making him unable to fit inside even the new Gen-6 car. He and Chad will be forced to leave NASCAR and withdraw from public.
- Bill

In case you were wondering about Bill's math, he's right on. Johnson has three wins this season, which gives him 63 for his career. And we all know he has five titles, so, yeah, is this the reason he's so polarizing to so many?

I kid, I kid. I don't think anyone expects Johnson to stay on six titles and 66 wins for very long. And you know what? It's entirely possible he could get more than three wins the rest of the year anyway.
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Again this week we see a short entry list with only 43. Included is Paulie Harraka, a "gentleman driver" for the #52 Brian Keselowski team? The #51 team publicly announcing their last race will be at Indy. Bruton's start and park campaign to financially penalize them 4k a position. Rumors of a high dollar "Gen6" engine. Is it likely that we will see an unfilled grid soon in the cup series?
- Ricky Bobby

Harraka has made 15 NASCAR starts; four in the Nationwide Series and 11 in the Craftsman Truck Series. He's only got one start on a road course (2010 at Montreal) and he finished 29th there. By any traditional means of "working your way up the ladder," this is quite the leap of rungs. But this is NASCAR in 2013, and sponsorship is golden. (It's also worth noting that Harraka is the first member of NASCAR's Drive for Diversity program to make a Sprint Cup Series start.)

It's very possible that we'll see short fields this year, especially if Finch closes up shop after Indy. However, it does need to be pointed out that Finch has talked about closing his race team before, and he's still here.

But given the prevalence of starting and parking because of the costs of NASCAR and the lack of sponsorship, how much of a detraction is it if there's a few races this season with 42 cars? Many weeks there aren't 43 cars on the track past lap 20. P.S. Starting and parking is not going away as long as it doesn't continue to be financially advantageous for underfunded teams to run an entire race.
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TNT's race coverage SUCKS! It has always sucked. Somebody needs to get it thru the thick skulls of NASCAR that we are changing the channel. The commentators are just plain boring (rears) that need to move on. TNT having a huge banner across the top of the TV is (manure). I will not watch another race that does that. I already mute the TV because I can't stand people who say "Huh" after every other word and saying "I mean" trying to explain a simple thing 10 different ways. The commentators talk like a bunch of ignoramuses. It would be 100 times better if they played music instead of these knuckle heads that spend the entire race trying to one up each other or kissing Kyle Petty's (rear). It should be federal law that only Mike Joy is allowed to call NASCAR races. The rest of them act like they have jelly marbles for brains. About the only time I listen to them is after a commercial to find out why there's a caution. That's enough to make a man insane. Show the race and shut up, they should only be allowed to talk during commercials.
- Darrell

Wow, Darrell is not a fan of the current broadcaster of NASCAR.

I do have to give TNT credit for making the size of their banner ad atop the ticker a bit smaller at Michigan. (If it wasn't, it certainly looked less invasive than it did at Pocono.) It's worth pointing out, thanks to the wonderful folks at CawsNJaws.com that TNT's broadcast of this year's Michigan race had 10 minutes more race broadcast and seven minutes more commercials than last years race.

I know complaining about commercials and TV coverage has gotten to be cliche -- and I can contribute to that on race day on Twitter, I admit -- but that's definitely not a relative jump compared to the minutes of racing and commercials. And, not related, but TNT's ratings were down significantly from last year. Though those were helped by a rain delay and the Junior effect.

Related note: Would From the Jelly Marbles be a good blog name?

Now for a fascinating question.

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Hey Nick -- in rememberance of James Gandolfini, say there was a plot twist and Tony Soprano owned a NASCAR team. 1) Who would drive for him? 2) Who would sponsor that team (both publicly and privately) 3) How would it benefit the Mob? and 4) What underhanded tactics would they use to win races? I'll hang up and listen. Thanks
- Bob

The Sopranos was such a transcendent TV show for so many people, and it was one that cast a person who wouldn't normally be the protagonist in a formulaic drama into that position. That complicates the first part of this question, doesn't it? The easy answer would be saying a driver that gets a lot of boos -- but people didn't boo Tony Soprano. However, does Kyle Busch fit the bill? He's more popular than the people that boo him think, but he's still cast in a bad guy role in many people's eyes.

For sponsorship, I would imagine it would be some sort of Jersey Shore resort conglomerate. That's a good front for mob activity, right? How would it benefit the mob? Well, if that aforementioned sponsorship was in-house, there's probably some creativity to be had, though as someone who wasn't a Sopranos viewer, I'm not sure I could give an adequate answer.

The underhanded tactics are easy. Imagine the trouble you could cause by surreptitiously messing with teams' equipment. Easier said than done, but this is Tony Soprano we're talking about. Jamming an air gun, sabotaging fuel and gluing toolboxes shut wouldn't be out of scope, would it? I imagine this is great fodder for the comments below. Y'all have at it.

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