Can you smell the competitive fire? (Getty Images)
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 or on Twitter at @jaybusbee, we respond to your messages, everyone goes away with a smile on their face. Let's get to it, shall we?
Hey Busbee -- you're an idiot. Also, what do you think of what Kurt Busch did on Sunday?
— Jay Busbee
What a witty letter, and I'm sure the writer is devilishly handsome. All right, I cheated a bit and sent myself a letter on this topic, 'cause I'm sorry, but we've already covered the whole Talladega mess ad infinitum and nobody sent me a letter suitable for printing on the KuBu situation.
Anyway, at this point I almost feel sorry for Busch. Almost. I mean, he must be thinking that there's absolutely nothing that he can do that won't be misinterpreted and twisted. Problem is, he still does things that don't even need to be misinterpreted or twisted to look bad, like driving away from safety officials without your helmet on. But Busch hides behind irrelevant phrases like "my competitive fire," trying to tie himself to old-school (to use one of his pet phrases) NASCAR style when, in fact, he's just being a jerk.
Somebody needs to sit Busch down, somebody that he respects, and tell him: the days of acting however he wants without consequences are over. Yes, the rules are different for him now. He gets more media scrutiny, and less rope, than any other driver on the circuit. And the opportunities he's had to make things better, he's squandered, time and time and time again.
Here's the problem: Busch's actions have veered from his words so many times that we don't believe anything he says or does anymore. Example: I was in the press scrum surrounding Busch at Talladega on Sunday. (That's my hand and iPhone there at center left. I was trying to show Kurt the level I'd just reached on Angry Birds Space.) You can't ever know the truth of a guy's mind, but his farewell-hug-tour of his team seemed premeditated and choreographed just for the cameras. Maybe it wasn't, but we immediately suspect it was ... and that's a real problem for Busch going forward.
Hey, I want Kurt Busch in NASCAR, and I want him on a good team. The sport could use more strong personalities like his, and I'm fully aware that strong personalities don't always run exactly the way you want them to. But enough with the blame-everybody-else routine, enough with the self-professed innocence. New team, new chance to create a new image for himself. Good luck — serious, not sarcastic — to both Kurt and Furniture Row.
Your story "Dega delivers..." sounds like you are crediting the fans for the restrictor plate. What gives? Fans don't favor having the plates, never did ... don't blame the fans! Fans don't like to see such big, catastrophic wrecks. If you ask me they should shut down Talladega, period. Or build a nice road course track in the infield.
— Mike Williams
I didn't blame the fans, I simply said their safety was the reason for the change. Like motorcycle helmets and two-beer-per-customer limits at ballgames, it's a way of protecting fans from their own worst instincts. But oh, were there a variety of opinions on this Talladega issue ...
I can't speak for all of us, but I can say among the fans I know, no one watched for or enjoyed the pile-up at Talladega. I'm thinking that "meme" is something akin to unicorns, yeti, and Nessie - a legend. Without question, we're drawn to watch wrecks, and to some extent, they're a part of racing. Yet when a single accident removes 25 cars, something is ghastly wrong. This isn't demolition derby.
This gives me a chance to run one of my favorite videos: the 1960 Daytona 500. Check out the back-in-the-day racing, or fast-forward to the 1:50 mark for a wreck that makes Sunday at Talladega look like a parking-lot fender-bender:
Plate racing is not racing, every driver says so. Even the great Earnhardt Sr. said as much many times. When drivers can go into a race knowing they have no control of their finishing position, knowing their team has no control over the finishing position, it is not racing.
— Christopher Sanford
The luck factor is a huge problem with Talladega, I grant you that. But was it really bad racing? Other opinions differ ...
It was unfortunate that the raced ended in a wreck. However, it was the best race of the season. There were over 30 cars on the lead lap, the winner could have been any of 12 to 15 cars, and the winner was not determined until the end. This is racing, as opposed to the typical boring Sunday drive about when you have less than 10 cars on the lead lap and the winning car was determined after a few laps ... If Sunday's quality of racing continues I will return. I hope NASCAR does something to bring real car racing to all of the tracks so I can become an avid NASCAR fan again.
— Robert J Honold
Restrictor plates at all tracks? Make it so! Anyway, what this race (and my email inbox) showed is that no matter how much we all want to believe our version of what constitutes a good and a bad race, the truth is, there's absolutely no consensus, and there never will be.
Why does Tony Stewart get 22nd-place points when he caused everyone to wreck? What an [body part]. He should get the worst points placement of anyone else on the lead lap in the wreck caused by him. Can you imagine if anyone named Busch would have caused that wreck?
— Old School
Yeah, Tony pretty much skated on that wreck; if anyone else had been involved in it, he'd have ripped them a new [body part]. But no, of course he shouldn't be penalized overmuch, and he shouldn't be paying for anyone else's damage (another popular criticism). This is racing, and it happens. You take the good, you take the bad, you take them both and there you have the facts of 'Dega.
How does NASCAR determine where each car finished in a wreck like this? I thought the field is frozen upon signal of the yellow flag. Being a Dale Jr fan, that should have put him around 6 or 7, but he ended up 20th.
— Joe G.
It's not as simple as freezing the field; NASCAR judged it based on each car's ability to blend back into a theoretical pack. Freezing the field at the moment of caution would have had Stewart in about fourth or fifth, and he was upside down at the time. NASCAR makes a judgment call on where cars should be able to blend back together, not on their exact position on track.
I love that the roots of NASCAR were formed in running 'shine, and there's no way Junior Johnson got away from the revenuers just turning left. Give me a track where these guys are driving like someone is on their tails over a 180 mph parade any day.
— Oscar Hopper
Hell, give me a track where someone IS on their tails. Hide contraband in one car and call the cops, Talladega Nights-style. Driving for your freedom is a lot more inspiring than driving for a snack-food sponsor, am I right?
I'm just curious, when you recently wrote that Bowyer "is the epitome of what the world expects a NASCAR driver to be," what exactly did you mean ?
Did I say that? Yeah, I probably did, what with the use of the word "epitome" and all. Pretentious jerk. Anyway, it was a compliment. Bowyer's an affable dude with a leathery look and an accent that would frighten people on both coasts. Combine those, and you've got your perfect NASCAR driver for non-NASCAR fans.
Regarding Talladega's race attendance on Sunday, one article mentioned: "The main culprit, NASCAR and track officials have said, is the global economic downturn that started in the fall of 2008." Does this mean the infield previously included a contingent of thousands of drunk Europeans and Asians?
The article also mentioned the race competes with college and pro football...though the article failed to mention Coach Satan's team [that would be Alabama; I hope I didn't need to explain that -JB] did not play this past weekend (and, I imagine, Auburn fans might complain that their team did not play this past weekend, either).
— W Connor
This year, for the first time ever, I drove straight from the highway all the way into the track, and that NEVER happens. I wasn't even that early, either. Attendance is a problem that's becoming more serious by the weekend, and NASCAR's going to have to face some hard truths very soon.
And, yeah, the global economy plays a role ... Greece used to run these junkets from Athens to Talladega, and oh lordy, the parties they'd have in the infield.
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 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!