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From the Marbles

Happy Hour: Two views of Danica Patrick

Jay Busbee
From The Marbles

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Danica Patrick nervous about racing in Japan next week

b0520danica

Welcome to the latest Happy Hour mailbag! You know how these work: You write us with your best rant/ joke/one-liner at happyhournascar@yahoogroups.com (note new address) or on Twitter at @jaybusbee, we respond to your messages, everyone goes away with a smile on their face.

We're getting geared up for the season, and that'll bring us plenty of material, but until then: hit us with your best questions, NASCAR or no. Sure, we can talk about Chase scenarios and qualifying, but let's open it up a bit. Music? TV? Movies? Books? Fine dining? Religion? Philosophy? Politics? Hit us with it all. NASCAR will always lead the show, but let's get a little more variety in the lower reaches of the lettercol.

And now, let's begin with a highly noncontroversial topic: Miss Danica Patrick.

Hi Jay, how do you handle this conundrum? I have supported Danica Patrick for a while and look forward to the change to the standard in NASCAR. While chatting with my 12-year-old daughter tonight, I asked, "Do you want some fan gear, now that she is running fulltime stock?" Then it hits me. Do I want my daughter walking around in GO DADDY? I think not and dropped the conversation.

— AJ
Reedville, Va.

That's a great point, one that I'm not certain the Danica supporters have thought through. For all the advances she makes on behalf of a "woman racing in a man's sport" (an idea which I think is ridiculous; speed knows no gender), she gives back a lot of the goodwill by participating in those goofy Go Daddy ads. Sure, she always seems detached and above it all, but still: The message Go Daddy is pushing isn't exactly a subtle one. For her long-term career, she'd be better served hooking up ... er, aligning with a less sex-obsessed sponsor. (Kudos to Go Daddy, though, for sexing up web hosting, which has to be the unsexiest thing on Earth.) For another view on Ms. Patrick, here we go ...

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NASCAR does a lot to cater to fans. Frankly I feel they do a lot more than other sports do for fans, and they never get any relief from the complaining ... Then we finally get a female in the Cup series with a serious chance at being competitive and all people do is complain, and complain about things they seem to know nothing about. People say she hasn't earned her keep and yet if you look at what she's done in other series as a child in to adulthood she's no different than drivers who have come up the same way. So I don't get it. Is it that she's a chick and knows that sex sells and uses her sexuality to make money? Is the NASCAR fan base that prudish? So what did I miss here? Why is a woman who's been racing around the world since she was 10 years old criticized so much?

— Patricia Augusta
Simi Valley, Calif.

Nice counterpoint to the letter above. The problem with using sex to sell yourself is that, as much as the "seller" wants to delude themselves that they're in a position of power, the truth is, it's always the "buyer" who has the power. We're skirting right along the edge of our PG-13 rating here, so I won't take the metaphor any further. Patrick and her handlers have made a conscious decision to dive deep into the murky waters of sex and gender, and until she can prove herself as a driver at this level, that's the context in which she'll be judged. She and her team have set the rules of the game for the moment, and it's up to her to change the game going forward.

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I had a thought about the new designs each car manufacturer will be adding to the field. Since the cars will be different-shaped in 2013, wouldn't that mean that some teams are going to have an advantage, even if just minimal? And if there is some nominal gap, doesn't that mean we're not just seeing results based on drivers themselves, but almost more on luck of what vehicle they drive? I know that there are larger differences in the quality of engines and chassis that they use, but I feel that racing should depend on what the driver him or her can do. I would almost rather that all drivers drive an exact identical car so we can see how each individual can handle it. I know this is a pipe dream, but it would test the skills of the driver rather than relying on the better equipment they get because of the team they're associated with. I feel that these aerodynamic differences pull away more from the driver's skill.

Note: I am glad that they will look more like stock cars now and will be able to spot drivers easier. I'm just worried it'll provide some unfair advantage.

— James
Pismo

Pismo is a place? I always thought that was just a Bugs Bunny beach destination. Anyway, I'm no engineer, obviously, but I would imagine that the aerodynamic differences between the various manufacturers' noses wouldn't be enough to change the game entirely. A fumbled lug nut or a missed pit call would have far more drastic of an effect on the race than aerodynamics. To me, it adds a new dimension to the concept of driver-as-team-member; engineers now have to step up and play with design within specifications. But it will indeed be a fascinating statistical exercise to see how the manufacturers' new designs compare with the old ones and one another. Bottom line: I see no downside to the new designs.

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Isn't the object of qualifying to try to be the fastest and put on a show for the fans? If you make every driver and team have to get in on "strictly speed," you would see a difference. Plus, I also follow Ron Capps on the NHRA circuit and he missed an event during the "Countdown to the Championship," NHRA's "playoff," at the end of the year, and I do not recall anything being said about his sponsor, NAPA, being ready to pull the plug. You could also look at it this way: If "One Race Sponsor's" car doesn't make the show, it's not "fair" to him if his car outruns some of the Big Boys and doesn't make it, plus chances are the "One Race Sponsor's" budget is obviously not big and they lose on their investment. So I think it's time to get rid of the Top 35 Rule. Period.

— Greg Cates
Dinwiddie, Va.

I like the idea of throwing a little love to the one-race sponsors. Maybe there could be like a little "consolation race" for the guys who don't make it. Matter of fact, that's a great idea: Let 'em race a 10-lap opening-act race to get everyone fired up! Probably ought to make sure the track is clear of fans and the prerace entertainment before you do that, though. Would be hell trying to pick pieces of Foreigner out of the grille.

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Here's a fun idea for next year's All-Star Race...for the final segment, have "Crack-da-whip" rules. With 20 laps to go, only the top 20 cars remaining continue. As the last segment progresses for the final 20 laps, the last place car must retire from the field starting at lap fifteen. Here's how it would go:

Twenty-2-go: 20 cars continue.
Fifteen-2-go: Last place car is black flagged and retires to the pits.
Fourteen-2-go: See above.
.....
One-2-go: Remaining 5 cars duke it out, no-holds-barred.

So, in the final 20 laps, you have a frenzy of cars trying NOT to be last and lots of bumpin'-n-rubbin' for the final moments of the race.

— Douglas Osborn

I love this idea. LOVE it. I'd have a few more laps left at the end, maybe five, but that's a minor tweak. You'd have fun all the way through watching the last guys trying to get across the start/finish line every lap. You might not want to do it every lap; give the last-place guy time to regroup and catch up. But yeah, that would be so, so much fun to watch. Every. Single. Lap.

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These boys (AJ Allmendinger and Andy Lally at 24 hours of Daytona) did really well. One of the post-race comments was that Lally has made huge contributions to the Grand Am teams he has been on at Daytona. What's your take on why Lally has not done better at NASCAR's road courses? He obviously has the skill set in the prototypes.

— Jill Joachim

A very good question. Being a 21st-century journalist, I went and checked out Lally's Wikipedia page. Did you know the dude not only races cars, but he's a champion mountain biker? And he races street luge? And does Brazilian Jiu Jitsu? He's a freaking athletic Renaissance man! Why didn't we take advantage of this treasure when we had him in the Sprint Cup series? If nothing else, why couldn't we have a Jiu Jitsu throwdown in the garage? We missed out on LallyWorld, people! Let's get him back in the series, pronto!

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 happyhournascar@yahoogroups.com. You can find Yahoo! Sports' NASCAR coverage on Facebook right here, and you can follow me on Twitter at @jaybusbee and on Facebook here.  Make sure to tell us where you're from. We'll make you famous!

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