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From the Marbles

Happy Hour: SAFER, Joey, Denny and Tony

Nick Bromberg
From The Marbles

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Kyle Busch, Joey Logano and Denny Hamlin in happier, teammate times. (Getty)

New season, new Happy Hour! You know the drill. 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.

Quite the busy week, isn't it? Especially as we head to our first off weekend of the year. Hopefully Denny Hamlin can heal quickly, and also (much less importantly) not be a continuing topic in Happy Hour. Pretty soon this will be the Hamlin Hour at this rate.

Been reading and enjoying the blog for awhile now. I am curious what topics are going to be involved this week during Happy Hour. Just kidding, everyone is gonna be talking still about Hamlin - Logano - Stewart.

But specifically about the SAFER Barriers on infield walls. I know there are several people calling for SAFER Barriers along every inch of the track. Terry Blount wrote on his blog asking why there wasn't a SAFER Barrier where Hamlin crashed, and instead of sending a diatribe on ESPN comments, I was hoping this would be more constructive.

The problem with putting a SAFER Barrier wall along every inch of track is cost. I know at one point in time, there wasn't enough steel in the world to actually be able to do this - no matter what the cost was. I'm not entirely sure if this is still the case. I don't want to see anyone get hurt because they slammed into a concrete wall, but you cannot predict that two guys are going to go hard into 3 and 4 at Fontana and then one guy ends up banging head on into the portion of infield wall. I know that NASCAR gives suggestions and I believe even requirements for each track on where each particular track needs or should have SAFER barriers. But to have every inch of any exposed wall to be covered in SAFER barrier? At what cost does NASCAR or a track have to be liable for a wreck?

I understand that the SAFER Barrier walls (as well as the HANS device and car design) have been a huge step forward in ensuring driver safety, but they are not the end all solutions. Why hasn't there been a call to be able to produce the next barrier wall technology that is more cost effective? If there isn't enough steel in circulation to be able to pad every inch of track, can't a new design be come up with that wouldn't require as much steel? I understand that research of this nature takes time, but the SAFER barrier has been around for a decade now.
- Alex

As a NASCAR fan I would like for all tracks that host racing events in all NASCAR tiers take a long hard look at their safety measures. There is no excuse for a wall to not have a SAFER barrier. I'm tired of drivers discovering safety weaknesses the hard way. I'm praying for a speedy recovery for Hamlin but I can't help think he wouldn't be in this position if that wall had a SAFER barrier.
- Jenn K.

In all the talk about the Hamlin/Logano wreck at the end of the race, how come ACS isn’t getting more heat for not having safer barriers on the inner wall. The idea that there are walls that are somehow “out of reach” of on track incidents is absurd to anyone who watches racing. After all, no one ever thought Mark Martin would T-bone the end wall on the pits last year, or that JPM would hit a freakin Jet Dryer. And yet, on an interior wall located in a spot where a driver coming down off the track after an incident could easily go head-on into it, ACS has no safer barrier? While Logano may have caused the contact that caused the wreck and Hamlin’s injury, ACS and NASCAR have to take a large part of the blame for not having the safer barrier at that spot in the first place. There is no doubt that Hamlin would not be hurt as bad as he was if there was a safer barrier in place.
- Steven "Mad Max" K.

So we wait until someone gets hurt or killed then we add the barriers??!! I ain't no genius but at 200+ MPH a misdirected car can nose in just about anywhere. And there's plenty of room at this track as wide as it is…freaking idiots!

Look I'm no Hamlin fan…but don't want anyone to get hurt…unless it’s a black eye just after the race!
-Robert

Geoffrey Miller and I talked about this a little bit on the Chrome Horn podcast (which I hope you all listen to!), but SAFER barriers are about $500 a foot. That's pretty pricey. I don't think there's a supply issue -- not one that has been brought up recently, but I think it's been a situation where the price has been so high that tracks and NASCAR play the odds, so to speak, and install them where they think the highest likelihood of then coming into play is.

Is that the optimal solution? No -- that's why you can't see NASCAR go "back to its roots" to smaller short tracks whenever they want because those tracks need to have SAFER barriers installed and the costs can simply be prohibitive for them. (The sanctioning body approves all safety features at a track so that the track can host a race -- so if you're angry about the lack of SAFER barrier.)

That said, I think it's time that we have all inside walls be lined with SAFER barrier. It's not going to be as much as lining the outside wall, obviously, but it seems that safety should trump finance in this case. NASCAR has done a lot with the car, it's time to do as much as possible with the SAFER barriers.

And bringing up Martin is a good point. I know that back in December, the incident and any potential modifications of the pit wall structure at Michigan, or any other track for that matter, was still being evaluated. And I haven't seen any announcement of any kind. I have to think that if Martin had been injured in that crash, NASCAR would have announced them by now. I have a feeling we may see an announcement of any future modifications and safety specifications via Hamlin's crash less than seven months from now.
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So Tony let me get this straight, you can't stand that a brash, hard driving, cocky your racer wouldn't let you go by him because he blocked you, right? But wasn't that you before you got soft around the middle? And in a post race interview you complain about him and his driving and complaining about other drivers, but wasn't that you before you got old? or it seems you are still that way! Give me a break Tony you are the most hypocritical driver in NASCAR, and then you take the spotlight away from a great finish just to stick your nose(or gut) in the moment. Please go back to being Danica's owner!
- Kent

First of all, NO ONE wishes drivers any injury. I believe JD Gibbs when he said Joey didn’t know Denny was hurt when he made his post race comments. I have been a long time Tony Stewart fan, but dang, he makes it hard on us some days. He is such a hypocrite, and I hope when Martinsville rolls around, somebody backs him into a corner and forces him to explain why his block at Dega was ok, and Joey’s block at Fontana was not. Tony talks big, but honestly, he is just a big baby. He has “warned” drivers many times that if someone blocks him, he’ll wreck them in return. Joey throws a GIANT block at the end of the race and Tony…. does nothing. Until his pit road temper tantrum. I don’t blame Joey at all for blocking at the end of the race; conversely, I wouldn’t have been mad at Tony for punting Joey in response! If you are going to throw a televised fit about blocking, you can’t (1) do it yourself and (2) threaten to wreck people when they do it and then not follow through!

p.s. I am no Logano fan, but I did not appreciate Tony’s personal attack on him. Is he seriously implying that kids from a privileged background shouldn’t be allowed to try things like racing because certain things come easier? Like Austin Dillon said when someone asked him about the same criticism “grandpa makes sure I’m in good equipment, but I still have to drive the car.”
-Sue B.

Tony, Tony, Tony, Tony. I don't think there are many, if any, people who feel that Stewart was in the right with how he went after Logano. And that's not even the physical aspect -- simply calling out Logano for the blocking moves would have been hypocritical enough.

The criticism of Logano's career path sure hasn't come to the forefront until his recent "rivalries" with other drivers, and the guess is that while it's not a scarlet letter, it's certainly an early target. And as Sue points out, Logano is hardly the only driver in the garage who has been fortunate enough to be in a family with access to great opportunities. Just as a quick rundown, there's the Dillons, a guy by the name of Menard, and, oh yeah, the most popular driver 10 years running.

_____________________

Hate to see the Hamster laid up with a fractured back. Hate to disagree with you, but watching the replays Hamlin gave Logano plenty of room in 3 & 4, and Logano just ran him into the wall. Uneccessary. But his comments at the end of the race were uncalled for, ''He probably shouldn't have done what he did last week, so that's what he gets.'' When a guy is in an ambulance that is totally without class. Penske and Logano may want to backup and apologize; it's one thing to race hard, it's another to injure someone and then gloat over it. And if they didn't know how badly Hamster was hurt, maybe they should have kept their pie holes shut.
- Dean

Anyone else think the controversy surrounding Joey Logano will only help him? Think about some other young drivers who had run ins with veterans earlier in their careers: Dale Earnhardt vs everyone, Kurt Busch vs Jimmy Spencer, Brad Keselowski vs Carl Edwards, even Mr. Hypocrite himself Tony Stewart vs the field. What is the common denominator here? All of these drivers went on to become champions. A little controversy is exactly what Logano needs.
- David

David hit on something we may be talking about in September: is this the defining moment for Logano that will launch him to Chase contention? Lost in the entire fracas of that final lap and the events afterward on Sunday is the fact that Logano ran a very, very strong second to Kyle Busch for most of the day. He had the only car that could consistently stay in Busch's same zip code.

JoLo is ninth in the points standings and hasn't had an impeccable year by any means. He crashed at Daytona, had issues at Phoenix and then had Episode 1 with Hamlin at Bristol that catalyzed a finish in the teens. With some better luck, Logano could be top five in the points right now.

As far as racing Hamlin, neither driver did anything wrong in that instance. Do you really think either of them should have done something different? Hamlin did what he needed to do by holding his line and hoping that Logano would wash up the track and get off the gas. Logano did what he had to to by driving as hard as he could and hoping the car stuck or that he could use Hamlin as a barrier.

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Loved today's Warped Wednesday! I find the best part is the reader comments and being reminded how many people cannot recognize irony.

Thanks for the fun column!
- Paul H.

HEY YOU WERE RIGHT ON WITH THE OBSERVATION ON Nascar today. I was watching with my almost 4 year old son when Tony’s interview was heard. I very disappointed with Nascar. I guess they pick and chose who they want to fine. Plus, Fox sports should be accountable too. Do they really care about a family sport or want to boast ratings with fights. I really don’t know how much we will be watching. I wanted to e-mail Nascar and Fox but couldn’t find the right link. Feel free to send this to them. Thanks again. A concerned fan.
-JC

Warped Wednesday, where the reactions are always like this.

Thanks all for reading! I hope you have a chance to enjoy the first off-weekend of the NASCAR season, eat a bunch of Cadbury Creme Eggs and get a Sunday afternoon nap in. A happy Easter weekend to those of you that celebrate it, and in a week, the Martinsville circus begins.


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