Welcome to the latest Happy Hour mailbag! You know how these work: You write us with your best rant/ joke/one-liner at email@example.com on Twitter at @jaybusbee, we respond to your messages, everyone goes away with a smile on their face.
I was on-site at Talladega this weekend, and let me tell you, that's my favorite track of all of 'em. I love the way the campfire smoke hangs low over the entire valley, I love the instant society that springs up in the infield, I love the speed and the size and the very name and all of it. But oh, the negatives are fast starting to outweigh the positives for many of you ...
I'm angry. I'm mad. I'm irritated. I'm pissed. Congrats, NASCAR! You have done it. You have ruined Daytona and Talledega. Boring races. Neither the best drivers nor best cars necessarily have a shot at winning, unless they have a dance partner. And now, we have an honest kid who admits he was told not to push an opposing Chaser in the final laps. No NASCAR driver should HAVE to rely on another driver or be over 10 mph slower than the rest of the 2 car tandems. This should absolutely not be a race in the Chase. I'd prefer that they put...ready for this?...Pocono as a Chase race than Daytona or Talledega. There are too many ramifications for "team orders" to dictate an outcome or affect the Title.
I received more negative letters on this subject than anything, ever. And I'm not talking the usual "NASCAR sucks 'cause it ain't like when Senior was running and I'm done with it" kinds of rants that show up every week. No, I'm talking well-reasoned, well-thought-out, long emails of disgust at the two-by-two racing. There's an old saying about writing that if you hand 10 people your work and they come back with 10 different critiques, you can safely ignore all of them, but if all 10 come back with the same critique, you'd better pay attention. Heads up, NASCAR: everybody's saying the exact same thing.
So what can NASCAR do about this 2x2 racing? Glad you asked. Here's an idea:
My father said never complain about anything unless you can offer some kind of solution, so here we go:
1. Weaken the front and rear bumpers on the cars.
2. Drastically decrease the pressure on the radiators forcing the cars to keep space between them to avoid over-heating ( i know they reduced it some, but nowhere near enough).
3. Allow drivers to only communicate to their crew chief and spotter.
4. Mandate that Goodyear manufacture a tire that will lose grip over a long green flag run, bringing pit strategy back to the race.
Just an opinion of a life long NASCAR fan that wants to see the sport to succeed.
All good ideas, but what about the most obvious one: just outlaw pushing entirely. Yeah, it'd make the cars go slower, but in relative terms, you wouldn't really notice. Pushing a car isn't like making secret under-the-hood modifications; it's fairly obvious when one car is bumper-to-bumper on another.
What seemed to push things over the edge this time was the explicit reliance on team alliances in a way that absolutely affected the outcome of the race. Combine that with the fact that there's absolutely zero purpose to the first 170 or so of 188 laps (anyone can get up front with enough planning and guts in those final laps) and you've got the makings of a race that's more exhibition than competition.
I generally don't have a lot of patience with the "it was better back when" argument, but in this case, it WAS better back when, and I define "back when" as recently as 2009.
You're Trevor Bayne, lined up for a restart with three to go. Ahead of you is Matt Kenseth, to the outside of you is Jeff Gordon, and all three of you need a partner. Who you gonna go with? No matter what he indicated to Gordon over the radio, his allegiance lies with RFR and the Ford camp. I believe the backlash would have been even bigger had he left Matt out to dry. It was only logical to team up with another blue oval, especially if one was that close to him on the restart. He shouldn't have even needed team orders to make that decision. He is a rookie and that is what rookies do…pay their dues. Besides, Jeff fights with his helmet on.
Poor Chocolate Bayne. I agree with you, his first loyalty needs to be to his team, and then his manufacturer. As others pointed out, he's not a kid anymore, and while it's cute that he's still a bit starstruck by Gordon, this is a business.
He's a little older and a little wiser for this experience. World's a cruel place, and Gordon fans can be tough on a guy if they feel he cost their guy a win. But he'll be fine. In the long run, he did the right thing.
Clint Bowyer and Jeff Burton kept the pace extremely fast and this really prevented the 48 & 88 and the 99 & 16 from ever getting back to the front. It was clear they thought they could come to the front at will and then they discovered too late that the pace was just too high and the traffic too thick to make a dash forward. Clearly either intentionally or unintentionally Burton and Bowyer keeping the pace so high helped to cut the losses the 29 was going to have due to his own problems on the day. If intentional, it was a very effective strategy by Richard Childress Racing.
I'm not sure you can attribute the low finishes of those cars to RCR strategy, but they absolutely played it right by staying in the front all day long. It seems Carl Edwards was content to stay out of the mess for most of the afternoon, but the Jimmie Johnson/Dale Earnhardt Jr. pairing really had a strategic misfire there, the second one in a row (after Daytona) where they've fallen short like that.
See? There's still strategy involved in plate racing! Really! Come back! Where are you going?
I'm on the side of scrapping the Chase and all that nonsense in favor of just requiring points qualification to include at least one win. The fewest different winners since 2001 was 12 in 2008, and it seems to bounce in the 12-15 window (this year will probably be a record) so you'd have roughly the same number of drivers; you'd just be replacing those Chasers without a W with some of the winners who missed the cut after Richmond. This would result in the last handful of races (playoffs now) having 4-5 drivers within striking distance of a championship yet still needing to win one of those races just to qualify for the season championship (if the last three years are any indication).
It might not really make a difference; the championship always goes to a multiple-winner. But it makes sense, and it recognizes that the difference between winning and running strong is the difference between a champion and an also-ran. Isn't this true in all endeavors?
Well, in this scenario you'd bounce Tony Stewart, who might well win a championship without a "regular-season" win, but you'd keep Carl Edwards, who might well win a championship without a Chase win.
You know, I've seen about every iteration of the "new Chase" format you can imagine, but there is something elegantly simple about "win and you're in." (Yes, yes, we all know which driver would be on the outside looking in.) Still, it's looking like the winner will come from the Edwards/Kenseth/Keselowski/Stewart quartet, with the outside chance of Harvick sneaking in ... and would you be truly upset with any of those guys winning? All have been either consistent all season long or gotten hot at the right time. Each of them would be a worthy champion ... but that's a topic for another day.
So in a sport where champions are booed and Junior is the fan favorite, will Jimmie Johnson finally be respected for losing the Chase?
This is a classic case of "don't know what you've got 'till it's gone." It's all but mathematically certain that Johnson is finished, that his run will end at five Cups (which is four too many for most fans, but whatever). There'll be plenty of talk about Johnson's legacy, but let's not forget: the dude ain't going anywhere. He could be right back in the mix next year. And yes, with him off the podium, hopefully people will start to recognize that he's one of the greatest drivers in NASCAR history, period.
Unless he's not done ...
Jimmie Johnson is in the best position he could be in. If he pulls out a miracle and wins the championship, every story written about NASCAR will be about him. If he fails, everyone will still write about him, breaking down what went wrong, why he didn't get #6, etc. So win or lose, he wins and that will overshadow the stories that should be written about whoever unseats him. So in the end Jimmie still wins.
Hmmm. Not sure I agree with this line of reasoning. I think the best position he could be in would be, you know, still leading the points standings. And yes, Johnson's run will get memorialized, but falling out of the hunt so early means it'll happen in the next couple weeks, not at Homestead. Yeah, all things considered, I think Jimmie isn't going to be celebrating the fact that there are articles written about his reign's demise.
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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