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From the Marbles

Happy Hour: Red Bull gives you walking papers

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 nascarmail@yahoogroups.com or on Twitter at @jaybusbee, we respond to your messages, everyone goes away with a smile on their face. Today, we're talking Red Bull, Andretti and wounding crew members. Let's begin!

Jay, short and to the point: Red Bull pulling out of NASCAR means that fields of less than 43 cars are much more likely. At a minimum, you are going to see more start-and-parks as the chance of those teams qualifying goes up with fewer well-supported teams entering races. There's money in bringing a bare-bones car to a track now, especially on the East Coast … Prediction: more owner/drivers/single car teams. JRM (buying the DEI name back?), KHI, Moobs Racing (Hooters can sponsor), etc.This actually could be GOOD for NASCAR.

Sarge
Statesboro, Ga.

I like the idea of mass anarchy, power to the people (or single-car teams, same thing), but I think we're going in the opposite direction: consolidation and alliances among the big teams. Red Bull was always a curious fit with NASCAR, and while I hope that they can find an investor to keep the teams (and their jobs) afloat, the Red Bull corporate style never really seemed to click with NASCAR fans. Well, except for in the infield when it hits about 2 a.m. and you need to stay awake because your buddy met these really awesome bros two rows over and they've got some girls there and dude, we just have to go NOW.

As for more single-car/driver-owner teams, I can't see that happening in this climate. Tony Stewart has been so besotted by bureaucracy he needs to be wearing one of those green accountants' eyeshades to interviews. Are the headaches worth the extra coin? For many, the answer is no.

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With Red Bull reportedly leaving NASCAR at the end of the season and Andretti Autosport reportedly looking at setting up shop in NASCAR, what are the chances that Andretti buys or invests into the Red Bull team?

Here's the advantages that I see for Andretti.
1. They buy/invest into a pre-existing team saving a lot of legwork
2. Opens the possiblity of gaining potential sponsorship money from Red Bull, keeping Red Bull in NASCAR and taking Red Bull sponsorship to Indycar (Andretti is expected to lose Danica and the GoDaddy money that goes with her next season if she heads to NASCAR)
3. Andretti can work an alliance with Hendrick which would give them top notch equipment in NASCAR and give them access to GM (Chevy) engines in IndyCar for next season.
4. They could sign Clint Bowyer for next season, which is already rumored with Red Bull and keep Brian Vickers (or replace Vickers with Juan Pablo Montoya which would give Andretti a great two-car NASCAR team).

Nate Cutten
Cali, Colombia

I like the concept, but I'm not sure how well it will work in reality. Andretti has been rumored to be working with Roush-Fenway and Ford, and it's possible that they may try to bring in a past champion (Bobby Labonte?) to get provisionals that way. (Of course, they could buy Red Bull's points, or sacrifice a goat, or whatever it is that you do to get entry into races.) It's fairly unlikely that Bowyer or Vickers would go with a startup team, and Montoya is reportedly ready to announce an extension with EGR. Regardless, the entry of Andretti into the sport would be welcome … and we wish them the very best of luck if they try.

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Having watched the last few races on TV it really seems like there are a lot of empty seats at most tracks these days. I know that the drop in attendance has been talked about to some length, but I just have to wonder at what point does it start to cut the track owners' profit margin to the point that it doesn't make sense to host the race. I am sure it would have to be an even more significant drop than what has been seen, but there has to be some point where a businessman looks at the numbers and asks "Why am I doing this?" Do you have any insight into this?

Rob
West Virginia

ISC has freely admitted in quarterly reports (well, probably not "freely;" they kind of have to) that attendance has had a significant impact on the bottom line. Obviously lagging attendance was a factor in both California's Auto Club Speedway (an ISC track) and Atlanta (an SMI track) hit the breaking point for attendance last year, obviously, as both lost a race. (There were other factors, but had the fans beaten down the gates at those tracks, you have to think they'd still have their second race.)

Tracks clamber for races and in just the last few years Bruton Smith's SMI has spent hundreds of millions of dollars buying more tracks to host more races, so you've got to figure there's still plenty of revenue to be had. It's really more of a perceptual thing: if a track has stretches of empty seats, the whiff of failure starts to rise, and that can in turn dissuade even more fans from attending. The whole attendance knot is virtually unsolvable without cutting the whole thing to pieces and starting over, so let's move on to another topic … Sprint drivers in the Nationwide series! That one's easy to fix!

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Drivers actually contending for the Nationwide Cup have 2 wins this year, of 15 races. Carl Edwards and Kyle Busch have a combined 9 wins of those 15 races. The drivers who are not racing for the Nationwide Cup have amassed winnings of $3,251,829!

How can NASCAR let this happen?

NASCAR should let the Sprint Cup drivers drive, with one stipulation, they have to distribute their winnings and points evenly amongst the entire field, including the qualifiers who didn't make it into the race because of a spot being taken by the Sprint cup guy. What says you?

Paul Kragthorpe
Parts unknown

I says that's an idea that Sprint Cup drivers would never sign off on. The thing with Nationwide series is that it desperately needs the Sprint Cup drivers to keep interest in the series, so it's in the series' best interest to keep the barriers to their entry and participation as minimal as possible. It's not a matter of the drivers' egos — well, not entirely; it's more a matter of sponsor dollars and race promotion.

I will say this, though: If they implemented your plan, I'd whip up a Nationwide team myself. Guaranteed cash even if I ran qualifying speeds of 75 mph? Sign me up!

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With all the recurring issues with the gas can an  the inability to completely fill the tank on a pit stop, do you think that if this issue happens at Homestead-Miami, and somehow changes or alters the outcome of our 2011 champion, this would this induce a backlash to go back to the catch-can idea? Or is this what NASCAR wants?  More races won by fuel mileage and pit road mistakes, instead of horsepower and driver skill?

Vince Bowman
Rabbit Hash, Kent.

Let me just say that anybody from a town called "Rabbit Hash" instantly moves to the start of the mailbag line. This guy could've asked why they turn left or if Junior will ever win again and I'd have put him in here. That said, Vince has a good question but an unlikely one. The last thing NASCAR "wants" is a race that's not dependent on driver skill. The gas tank/fuel mileage issue that's cropped up is yet another of those beloved Unintended Consequences that comes about whenever NASCAR introduces something new to the mix.

There won't be a return to the catch can; the change was made to accommodate new fuel and safety requirements. This is a case where the teams are just going to have to keep practicing … or keep looking at résumés.

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I was curious as to why it is not a penalty in NASCAR to run over one of your crew members. The last pit stop in the [Michigan] race, it appeared the tire changer did not get out from in front of Hamlin's car before Denny left and got knocked to the side a bit. This was amplified for me a bit because later in the day in the Indy car race, a driver brushed one of the pit crew members coming in to the pit and knocked him back a little. He wasn't hurt but the driver had to serve a drive through penalty for hitting a crew member. It seems with all of the emphasis on safety in the pits, it is odd that this isn't a penalty. If the tire changer had dropped the air gun and Denny ran over it and the hose, then it would have been a penalty. Is an air hose worth more than a crew member to NASCAR? I am not a Hamlin hater and I congratulate him on his win, but if that was a penalty, there would have been a different winner.

Don Kline
Lake Luzerne, N.Y.

The reason there are those pit road speeds in the first place is because crew members were unfortunately dying in the performance of their duties. But there's no penalty for tagging a guy while leaving. Jeff Gordon addressed this very point earlier this year: "It's like hitting a tire and knocking it out of the box. You're going to get penalized for that.  If you run over a guy, I've never heard of a penalty for that unless you maybe ran over another pit crew member in another box."

Aside from the fact that Gordon just compared pit crew members to equipment, he's got a point. You hit a guy, you ought to get served with a penalty. Hopefully NASCAR won't wait until someone gets tire tracks across their belly to set up such a rule.

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I was looking at the standings after Michigan and saw that there aren't any drivers in the 11th through 20th positions with a win.  It is my understanding that in order to obtain one of the 'wild card' slots, a driver must be in the top 20 and have at least one win.  Keselowski is closest, currently in 22nd, but Smith is much farther below him and the only other driver outside the top 10 with a win.  So, if we make it through the rest of the season and come Richmond, don't have a top 20 driver with a win; how are the 'wild card' slots awarded?

Jeremy
Binghamton, N.Y.

By points, which would be a pretty anticlimactic end to what was looking like a cool idea. I don't think that's going to happen; I think Keselowski is going to make an end run and get into the top 20, sneaking into the Chase that way. But somebody well-known, Tony Stewart or Greg Biffle or Ryan Newman or Mark Martin, is going to miss out as a result … and people are going to howl about that. What fun!

And on that note, we're out. And we escaped without a single Junior reference! That might be a record. 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 nascarmail@yahoogroups.com, 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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