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From the Marbles

Happy Hour: Remembering Jason Leffler, plus we talk TNT and standing starts

Nick Bromberg
From The Marbles

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.

This week's Happy Hour isn't so happy as we kick it off on a somber note given the news of Jason Leffler's fatal accident Wednesday evening. As Jay said earlier Thursday, it's a reminder how far NASCAR has come, but also how dangerous racing can be. NASCAR and its tracks have the benefit of being able to spend millions of dollars on research and development for car safety and SAFER barriers. Exponentially more tracks don't have that luxury.

What's your favorite Jason Leffler memory? The moment that immediately pops into my mind is the 2004 July Nationwide Series race at Daytona (above), when he tried to do almost anything to win the race. He was second on the final lap to Michael Waltrip and made contact with Waltrip's back bumper as he went to the outside... a bump that sent Waltrip into the inside wall. As the field barreled into turn three, Leffler was pursued by Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Mike Wallace. Junior went high and so did Leffler, who was not going to let him by. But by moving up to prevent Junior from passing, Mike Wallace snuck by on the inside.

Leffler crossed the line second, but was scored 13th after a NASCAR penalty. Yeah, he may not have made many new fans out of those who cheer for Waltrip and Junior that night, but you can't discount how much he wanted to win that race.

Let's get to it.

Clearly the 48 along with the rest of the HMS camp as a whole has figured out the GEN6 car. Yet, HMS hasn't used any of the 4 NASCAR tests yet. They're not bringing new updated GEN6 versions each week to the track. In fact the 88 camp is returning the same car he won with at Michigan last spring. So, are they cheating or is it that the cars aren't that different after all?
- Ricky Bobby

The transition from the COT to the new car was not as stark as it was from the "Gen-4" car to the COT. Many teams, as exemplified by Junior and the No. 88 camp at Michigan this week, have taken trusted chassis and put new car bodies on them.

Stewart-Haas is a prime example that what worked with the COT doesn't always work with this year's car, but Hendrick Motorsports has enough access to things like seven-rig shaker posts and the ability to gather a ton of data with their four cars that it's not surprising at all that they're where they are. Oh, and Chad Knaus is still Chad Knaus and Jimmie Johnson is still Jimmie Johnson.

On a related note, the Toyotas are going to dial back in some horsepower this week. Joe Gibbs Racing has been better than Hendrick this year -- they just haven't had the results to show for it. Will they be the fastest team in town at Michigan? And will they be the most reliable?

Now we get a couple of contrasting opinions. I like when that happens.
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Hi Nick,

I’ve got to give credit where credit is due. I am NOT a fan of the TNT Broadcasting group when they take over NASCAR for the summer. However, they did very well this year. Good job! I hope they keep it up for the next five races.
- Dayna

Knowing that we would be moving from FOX to TNT after Dover, and remembering how much everyone complained about TNT's broadcasts of the races last year, I figured I would throw some fuel (was I supposed to say Sunoco race fuel?) on the fire.

Fox's broadcast of Dover from green flag to checkered flag lasted 3 hours and 15 minutes and had 116 commercials total. This includes the side by side, and does not include pre race or post race.
TNT's broadcast from Pocono lasted 2 hours and 47 minutes and had 101 commercials total from green to checkered.

So yes TNT does bombard us with many more commercials on average, but they should be more ashamed of the bad commentary of the race. Pre race show we were told that the front straight away was 32 feet long. Announcers forgot to explain why the first caution was out. And worst of all, the roller on top of the screen taking up way to much space because they need to have an ad plastered in your face the entire time. TNT truly needs to get their act together or get out of the business of showing races.
- Tim

It was the first race of the season for the TNT gang and it always takes a bit of time for an announcing crew to get a feel for one another again. Plus, TNT only has six races, so Adam Alexander, Kyle Petty and Wally Dallenbach only call 1/6th of the NASCAR schedule together before going back to their other duties.

I did appreciate Kyle Petty's candor after the first caution flag when he admitted that the broadcast hadn't told viewers why it had been displayed. But the worst part of the broadcast -- it's not even close -- was the banner ads at the top of the tracker.

I totally understand that advertising pays the bills. Hell, readers see that every week on the blog. But there should be no way that advertising on a standard race broadcast should take up so much room during the broadcast itself. Ad included, it's not an exaggeration to say that the ticker took up more than 15 percent of the screen. It crossed the line from "noticeable" to "frustrating."

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Here’s a crazy shake-up for you: With the TV Rope falling on the track and the 15 minute fix-it timeout came this idea: Sometime during the third quarter segment of the race a computer would spit out a random red flag. All cars on the track are required to make it to their pit stall and allowed 10 minutes to fix whatever they choose; as long as it is done in the pit stall. At 10 minutes all cars are given the signal to leave their pit stall in the same exact order when the flag was thrown. Any car not able to leave would lose their spot in line. But no racing to the line. And a 10 minute 'half-time' for the TV folks to get in 15 minutes of commercials!

And to solve the restart question: All restarts should be from a standing start, dragster style. The first 4 cars all across the track staged at the start-finish line and so on all the way back. A single green light positioned where all can see it flashes ON, and they’re off! What fun! Almost as good as the figure-8 race suggestion Tony Stewart had for Talladega.
- Robert

Bring back the Truck Series halftime! I didn't mind halftime in the Truck Series, but I can't see how standard field manipulations in points races in the Sprint Cup Series could be a serious idea. There are already enough complaints about debris cautions, so imagine the first time the arbitrary red flag comes out with Danica Patrick or Dale Earnhardt Jr. about to be lapped? If you thought the Jimmie Johnson tinfoil hat stuff was big-time, you ain't seen nothing yet.

As far as the standing starts go, I would love to see them at the All-Star Race for the beginning of the segments, if not at the very least the beginning of the race. (In a perfect, danger-free world I'd love to see a rally start, but yeah, that's not happening.) Let's paint some temporary F1-style start boxes on the dogleg at CMS and make it happen!

Related coverage on Yahoo! Sports:
Love of racing makes risks worth taking for NASCAR drivers
Jason Leffler's death a reminder how far NASCAR has come
Chase concerns linger for Tony Stewart

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