From the Marbles

Happy Hour: Remaking the Chase and who would win a helmet throwing contest?

Nick Bromberg
From The Marbles

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Should there be a Chase lottery? (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.

Shoutout to Bobby Labonte for a quick recovery from the bike accident he was in this week. Labonte was cycling and broke three ribs in a crash. He won't race this weekend for Phoenix Racing and will be replaced by Mike Bliss.

It's quite the busy weekend, especially if you're a college football fan as well as a race fan. We've got football for five straight days, the Truck and Nationwide Series on Saturday, IndyCar and Cup on Sunday and then on Monday the finals of the US Nationals, the biggest event in drag racing. Where's Formula 1 to race when you need them to?

Now that the Chase is two races away, we've got some ideas on tweaking it in this week's mailbag. It's perhaps the best mailbag of the season. Let's do this.

I have a great idea on how to make the Chase a little more interesting and make the “regular” season count more. Instead of having the Chase be the same 10 races year after year, let’s let the drivers determine what tracks are used for the final 10 races. Start by taking the 23 tracks that are on the current schedule and give them a single race for the first 23 races. If NASCAR still wanted 26 races before the chase starts, bring back Rockingham and two other tracks. Now at the end of the “regular” season, the Top 10 drivers get to pick what tracks that will be used during the Chase. The points leaders at the end of the 23 or 26 races gets to pick first. He gets to pick the track and what order in the Chase that it happens. Then the second place guys gets to pick the track and order, until all the drivers have picked, without repeating a track. NASCAR takes a week off after the last “regular” race and makes a big production to announce the driver’s selections. Imagine having the final race of the Chase at the Glen or Darlington or even Bristol. It would also add a bit of strategy considerations to the driver’s choice. Do you pick your best track for the first week to get some momentum going or save it for last when you might need a strong finish to wrap up the Cup? Do you pick your best track or do you pick the track that has been a disaster for the guy that has the hot hand coming into the Chase? The possibilities are endless.
- Chris

In a perfect world, I absolutely love this idea. It'd be great drama and think of the strategy involved in a situation like this? You could keep the same bonus points structure to start the Chase and use the order of the standings before the Chase starts to select the 10 races. Right now, it really doesn't matter if you're in 2nd or 5th. With this, it would.

However, we don't obviously live in a perfect world, so this wouldn't work. A week wouldn't be enough for a track to prepare to host the first race of the Chase, and hosting the final race of the Chase north of, say, the Mason/Dixon line is a dicey proposition at best. (Even in the south it can get chilly in November.) Remember that cold November New Hampshire race in 2011?

I've got more, but let's continue it after this letter.

Here is an idea for NASCAR to totally revamp the season, and the chase.

How about we start with NASCAR starting the season like they do now, however at the start the schedule is only up until the chase, and each track has 1 event. Then the night before the Daytona 500, NASCAR holds an event kind of like they do for the Bud shootout each track getting to pick a bottle, then all at once they open the bottles and 10 get the numbers 1-10 and that's your chase tracks and the order. Now as far as the chase goes, here is how we change it up, the top 20 get in, and all are equal, no bonuses for wins, After 2 races the bottom 5 are eliminated, 3 more races 5 more eliminated, then each week 2 get eliminated until for the final race it is basically between the best 2 drivers, oh and each elimination round is a points reset, so no playing it safe. Also I think for the All Star Race, go back to letting the fans vote during the race to invert the field, and let us vote to make the cars turn right instead of left, how crazy would that be for the last segment.
- Jason

This idea could be feasible, and it's similar to the idea that Kurt Busch proposed after qualifying at Bristol on Friday when he said that tracks should bid for the final Chase race of the season. Imagine tracks having a sealed bidding process and then the host of the Chase is unveiled during Speedweeks?

Though that sealed bidding process wouldn't exactly be secret given the status and number of tracks that ISC and SMI own. Would each track be given a line item in the budget to spend? But then each would know what everyone else's max is? Could they add to the pot on top of it, so a track like, say, Texas could spend more of it's own money? I know I'm jumping into the weeds headfirst with this, but I'm crazy.

I love ideas like these. Keep them coming. At the very least we could get a "Make your own Chase" feature installed in the next NASCAR video game.

_____________________

I used to watch Nascar every weekend. I would not miss a race and my Sunday was designed around the cup schedule. As time goes on I find myself with less and less time to watch races and I find the racing itself has gotten more and more boring. So here's a crazy way to fix it, taking away the in-car radios. It can't happen because of all of the safety stuff, but I think it would make everything more interesting. If it's time to pit in, best get out your chalk and write it on the board, and hope your driver sees it. If your driver shows up unexpectedly, you had better ask him why. You'll even have to retrain the flagman to show the black flag to certain drivers instead of telling them who is penalized. I think it would add more guesswork to the whole thing and thus make the racing more unpredictable and exciting.

Imagine Jimmie Johnson's 48 is running loose and he needs to make the adjustment. So he trundles down pit road and pulls into his stall, dropping the window netting and screaming the problem to anyone who'll hear him. Wasting precious seconds his crewman leaps back over the wall to grab the chassis wrench and return to fix the problem. Drivers and crew members would have to come up with hand signals and other means of keeping each other informed, and thus on a track like Daytona, it's one more thing to think about, apart from put it in 4th and stay behind the guy in front of you.

So yank the Radios, why not?
- James

Another great out of the box idea. However I think that this one would make NASCAR even more dependent on simulations and engineering and setups, because in-race adjustments would be much much slower. Granted, it'd still be a level playing field, but when you move into the engineering and simulation categories even further, the rich teams are going to be the ones that are favored the most.

Getting rid of the radios would be a great idea for the All-Star Race to try though.

_____________________

Thanks for posting my comment about being fined for helmet throwing. So, here is my response. Since it is okay with NASCAR … let’s have a Helmet Throwing Contest.
Who could break the first windshield and be the winner? According to you….no fine.
- Wayne

Kurt Busch. I think he could get angry enough to get Hulk strength for one throw. Who y'all got? And speaking of Busch...

I'm in total disbelief that Stewart/Haas can not resign Ryan Newman saying they don't have the resources for a fourth team all the while they are trying to court Kurt Busch. Newman is so much of a better person than Kurt and in my opinion a hellava lot better racer...Just saying...
- Stephen

It's even more obvious from their press conference on Tuesday how much of a fan Gene Haas is of Busch. However, this is truly an experiment that has distinct possibilities of going in divergent directions, either one of which that would not be surprising. That's why SHR is the must-watch team in 2014, simply because you just don't know what's going to happen. Plus, will they struggle early like they did in going from two cars to three? That's one variable that could be like a kitchen mixer.

_____________________

You published a letter last week from Doug that addressed a few questions. One being that when racing on non road tracks at some point the officials should stop the race and turn it around. Personally I think that is a great idea.

But he also mentioned that you can't buy the same cars we see every weekend at a dealership. The whole reason NASCAR changed to the Gen-6 cars was to force the manufacturers to put these cars in the showrooms. As for the engines being different between cars and teams, Doug have you not been watching the races? Toyota was blowing engines left and right till they worked out some bugs, and recently Hendrick cars took (I believe) 4 of the top 5 on some new engines.

Now my rant about Nationwide and the trucks. I know there are not enough drivers in either one to make good races but what if the rules said full time Cup drivers had to start at the back of the pack and even if they crossed the finish line first the trophy and money went to the first Nationwide or truck driver to finish. I know most of the Cup guys that do run these races do it for owner's points, and that is fine, it doesn't affect the individual drivers.

OK, last rant for this week at least.
Start and parks: Now I just recently got back into racing and at first I would watch the ticker at the top that gives position and intervals and wondered what I had missed when I would see cars out or off but there didn't seem to have been an issue and the announcers hadn't said anything. It wasn't until Indianapolis was over and I read or heard that there were no teams that pulled a start and park. I did what I always do when I don't understand something and looked it up. Now if NASCAR will fine a driver for expressing their opinion on something where is the fine for taking up space and taking possible sponsors away from real racers?
- Heather

Cup cars were already "in showrooms" before this iteration of the Sprint Cup car. They just didn't have the resemblance that they do now. However, just like the COT, these cars are a far far departure from what you'll get in the dealership.

As far as start-and-parks go, I'm not sure that they're taking away sponsorship from cars that need it. Certainly not from Hendrick, Roush, Gibbs and others. Many teams start and park because they want to accumulate enough money and exposure to sponsors to be able to run a full race. It's not a proud thing for racers to do.

Yes, there are some teams that have learned how to exploit the system and make some cash off of starting and parking, but for drivers like chat favorite Joe Nemechek, the ultimate goal is to run the race.

If you're going to be angry at start and parks, don't get mad at the teams that do it, be mad at the environment that's forced starting and parking to become so prevalent.

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