Welcome to the latest Happy Hour mailbag! You know how these work: You write us with your best rant/ joke/one-liner at firstname.lastname@example.org (note new address) or on Twitter at @jaybusbee, we respond to your messages, everyone goes away with a smile on their face.
NASCAR is in the middle of its media week, and look, I have to say this: as much as we all complain about NASCAR drivers being vanilla and bland to the media, you have to admit: these guys are more available for more sessions than any other sport anywhere. And most of them will actually treat the process with respect and, dare I say it, a bit of enjoyment in some circumstances. NASCAR fans (and NASCAR media), we get a TON of information straight from the major players. Not all of it, true, and not all of it IS true, but still ... far better than the alternative. (Hey there, NFL.) Anyway, let's start with a guy who, sadly, isn't doing many interviews right now:
I am one of those rare under-30 NASCAR fans and I cheer only young drivers (to the point I actually watch the Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series on a semi-regular basis #Lame). I started liking NASCAR in college. Brian Vickers was one of my go-to guys as he connected with young fans. Watching him win in Michigan was awesome! As the silly season ends, is he doomed to start/park or nothing?
I don't get why no one will pick up Vickers. Nationwide champion, 2x Sprint race winner. Did the Kenseth incidents end his career? I hope not, but it seems like he is a pariah for NASCAR.
— Chris Johnson
Yeah, there's something up with the Vickers thing that we haven't totally isolated yet. David Ragan took the last available regular Sprint Cup seat (at Front Row Motorsports), so yes, it's looking like Vickers will be either a Nationwide driver or a start-and-parker. We've put in an inquiry with Vickers but are yet to hear back; most recently on Twitter he told a fan, "When there is news, we will let you know. Until then- sit tight please." (He's also hawking sake to his 39,000 followers. Hey, you do what you have to do.)
Vickers seems to be another of those guys who desperately needs to prove he's not as bad as his image would suggest. A good, drama-free run in a lower-level car would do just that; his career shouldn't be over, by any means.
In the "way too early to discuss but why not while we wait for Daytona" category, who do you think will, and should, end up in the Hall of Fame next year? I have only a few possible picks with a good chance:
-Rusty Wallace (definite)
-Leonard Wood (likely)
Drivers I'd like to see:
-Alan Kulwicki (and the famous napkin contract)
-Ralph Earnhardt (the original number 8)
I wouldn't mind seeing a broadcaster in there, either. Benny Parsons fits the bill as a driver AND a broadcaster. Thoughts?
— Jeff "Sarge" Smith
All worthy choices. I'd throw in Red Byron (won the first NASCAR championship), Buck Baker (two-time champ) and possibly Wendell Scott (first African-American driver) as potentials as well. Now that we've gotten mostly past the "guaranteed"s and before we get to the next round of must-enters (Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, Tony Stewart), we've got some time on our hands to debate value to the sport. It'll be fun AND educational!
I know during the silly season everyone tries to come up with ways to pass the time, including coming up with a better way to determine the champion.
Under many different scenarios, Tony Stewart would not have won the Sprint Cup title. But he did. And he did so in dominating fashion. From a position where no one gave him a second thought, he won 5 of the 10 chase races. There is no doubt that at the end of the season he was the best driver, sitting in the best car. Even non-NASCAR fans are aware of what he did in the final race.
Stewart is the 2011 Champion and he earned the title.
— Ross Lipman
A bunch of commenters got bent out of shape (commenters reacting irrationally? No!) about the whole multiple-Chase-scenarios of last week. Yes, we know Tony Stewart won. Kicking around multiple scenarios does nothing to diminish his achievements. Relax, everybody, and enjoy kicking a few topics around. We won't be taking Tony's trophy away. Yet.
I keep hearing that the reason the top 35 in points are locked in each week is due to the power of the sponsors. Yet the cars not in the top 35 have sponsors. What makes their sponsors inferior to the ones for the top 35? Kind of makes the whole argument invalid doesn't it? Why doesn't NASCAR just say "The following sponsors are ensured a spot, we don't care who drives it."?
Interesting idea. But let's be honest: a multinational, multibillion-dollar company IS superior to a sponsor who's there for one race only, and because of the simple fact of dollars and cents. If Billy Ray's Sausage Links & Car Insurance can come up with $20 million to sponsor a car for a year, then they get to belly up to the table with the Lowe's and Home Depots of the world. If not? Yeah, there's a bit of a caste system there.
Qualifying should be restricted to only a few select tracks where starting position is crucial to a good finish (i.e. Bristol, Sonoma, Martinsville, etc.). The starting positions for the other races should be set based on the inverse order of the points. The points leader would start dead last, forcing the best drivers to prove every race that they can pass everyone else.
— Rusty Brummett
I'll do you one better: Every place above 43rd in the points gets another 10 pounds added to their car. So the race leader has to drag nearly an extra quarter-ton around the track. Or how about this: Every race, the drivers get to pick the car they want to drive out of the whole field! Or, here's one: the drivers play a giant game of dodgeball in the infield, and winner gets their choice of pit stalls ...
Point being, my friend, we can complicate the hell out of any scenario. Turn 'em loose and let the chips fall where they may is probably the best of all possible plans.
I understand you get all sorts of suggestions for the Chase. So here goes mine. I believe once the Chase is set the only teams that should receive points are the teams in the Chase. What are the other drivers in the race for? The prize money for that race is still in play, and isn't that good enough? Now as for points each race the points go from 12-1 based on the order the Chase drivers finish in. There are 2 points awarded for a win, 1 point for most laps led. If a Chase driver is wrecked early it won't end their chances. The only way to gain points is to finish high, win a race and lead laps. I think this makes more sense than the current state of things.
I'm not even going to ask anyone to run the numbers on this one, because A) Tony Stewart would probably win and B) I think we've bagged our limit on fantasy Chase scenarios. Plus, this one would really hurt the feelings of the non-Chasers, and we don't want that, do we?
Finally, this week in spam:
Bonjour, je suis informaticien depuis 6 ans dans un pays africain. Mon objectif était d'avoir les moyens et les relations en Europe ou en Asie avec une personne qui partage mes ambitions. Ce que je voulais concrètement c'est d'avoir une personne qui se trouve en Europe ou en Asie ou en Amérique comme associé.
Damn straight. I think. Or not. What did I just agree to there? Anybody speak French?
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 email@example.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!