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Happy Hour: Why don’t drivers take a race off before the Chase begins?

This has nothing to do with this article, but we're running out of time to use McKayla. (Via @draven31)

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 or on Twitter at @jaybusbee, we respond to your messages, everyone goes away with a smile on their face.

So I was covering the PGA Championship at Kiawah Island, S.C. this past weekend, and there were these huge traffic jams coming out of the tournament, mainly because there was only one two-lane road to get tens of thousands of people off the island. Seriously, this made the Kentucky debacle of last year look like a 3am highway. We were in a freaking bus. We should've just pulled a Keselowski and plowed right on through the rest of the cars.

Anyway, your letters, starting with a question of sit-or-start...

Will we ever see a driver take the last race before the Chase off? Jimmie Johnson, Tony Stewart and Brad Keselowski all have 3 wins, and if they keep running like they are then even if they skip the last race before the Chase they're not going to drop out of the Top 10 and still start near the top with the bonus points. So why not take a page from football and give your guy and/or crew the week off? Put a development driver in the car for the week and still get ad time for your sponsor.

— Ben

First thing I thought was, "damn! Why hasn't anybody done that?" Then, in a rare move, I kept on thinking and discovered a few flaws. You're right, the 11 spot is so far back that right now, anyone in the top nine could take the last week off. But you've got to consider whether rest is really what's needed; crews and drivers would probably prefer to keep the momentum going and the timing down pat. There's the classic question in stick-and-ball sports of whether it's better to make the playoffs early and rest, or make the playoffs last-minute and carry in momentum. As Tony Stewart proved last year, you can squeak in and still do OK.

Plus, let's consider the sponsors. I don't think Lowe's or Office Depot would be thrilled about spending one race's sponsor coin on Joe Schmoe rolling their car around in the 30s. And wrecked equipment in NASCAR costs considerably more than wrecked pads and helmets in football. My take: there are just too many possible negatives for the relatively minor benefit of getting everybody a week off. Any crew members out there want to offer a different opinion?

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I've noticed recently that in the past few seasons there have not been any "standout" rookies. Earnhardt Jr., Kenseth, Stewart, McMurray, Johnson, Newman ... these drivers challenged and even got wins in their rookie seasons. It seems like all the new rookies run towards the back of the pack and they hardly challenge for wins. I want to know why this is. Are the veterans just that good? Do the upcomers just not have all that much talent? Am I crazy for thinking this way?

— Nick
Huntingburg, Ind.

Nobody's ever crazy for thinking ANY way in this space, Nick. But I would think that your first question hits on it: the veterans are that good. Plus, we've seen a consolidation of teams in the last few years; there's the superteams and the indies, with very few in the middle. (I'd put Waltrip, Petty and Penske in that "middle," and two of those three are very close to breaking through to the top echelon.)

Careers in NASCAR last for-freakin'-ever, and that's the main impediment to rookies getting work. Consider this: In fantasy football, there was a time not so long ago when you'd push your mother aside to draft running back LaDainian Tomlinson. Now? The guy's out of the league. But the most recent year he was at his best was in 2007. If you look at that year in NASCAR, every single driver in the top 20 is still running full seasons to this day. Every driver in the Chase from that year with the exception of Jeff Burton is either in or close to the Chase this year. There's just no turnover, and the shrinking team sizes mean fewer seats available in the best equipment.

Is, say, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. a better driver than [insert non-Chase-making driver here]? Yes, almost certainly. But Unnamed Non-Chase Driver has a contract and a reputation with both teams and sponsors, and that's tough for a rookie to get past. It'll happen; there are five or six drivers who are nearing their sunsets as fulltime drivers, but it won't happen as soon as the youngsters would surely like.

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I cannot believe that they are touting this "great finish" at Watkins Glen. Yes, it was an exciting finish, but that is never, let me reiterate, NEVER worth the dangerous situation NASCAR allowed to persist on the track. I would bet money that the families of the countless drivers killed in motorsports over the years didn't think that was a great finish. If they were cutting a driver from his car would ESPN still have avoided the elephant in the room during the post race coverage?

— Darrell "Furiousd" Watts
Yeah I know how ironic my handle is right now

I absolutely get what you're saying, and NASCAR has set itself up for this kind of criticism by throwing caution flags for gnat crap in Turn 3. Thing is, where do we draw the line? If NASCAR throws the flag, it ticks off the "NASCAR is fixing races/safety is boring" crowd, and if it doesn't, you've got a whole different group who are, so to speak, furious. There will never, ever be a solution that pleases everyone in a close race like this. NASCAR should hew to the side of safety, of course...so we should all be glad this didn't play out as badly as it could have.

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Dang it, Brad, stop making me like you! If you aren't careful, you might become one of my favorite drivers. Seriously though, Brad K. actually gave me goosebumps after the Watkins Glen race. First, he went over and shook hands with members of Marcos' crew. How often do you see that kind of sportsmanship in NASCAR? Then during his post-race interview he was gracious and praised Ambrose's performance and racing style at a time when adrenaline is still running high and far too many (admittedly, not all) drivers come across as whiny and negative. Thanks Brad, for such a classy performance.

— Julie M
Las Vegas Baby!

Keselowski's been doing all the right things PR-wise for awhile now. And, just like everything else in NASCAR, how you feel about what he does depends on how you feel about him in the first place. Is he sincere or putting on a show? Good sportsman or cheap-shot artist? We go with the former in both cases. Regardless, to paraphrase Will Ferrell in "Blades of Glory" and a certain Jay-Z/Kanye song, he's provocative. Gets the people goin'.

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If I was to pick a bottom 5 drivers whom I dislike, Kyle Busch would head the list. For all his skill in an individual race, he has never shown he can focus on winning the cup. He is arrogant, hypocritical - hey you get the idea, I don't like the guy. But he got a raw deal this week. After too many races with a phantom yellow, we get a phantom green. Are the guys who make these calls for NASCAR moonlighting as judges for Olympic gymnastics? Kyle should have this win.

— Dean
Centerton, Ark.

Kyle Busch would like to punch you. And then thank you. And then he'd either punch you or thank you. No telling how that would go.

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Jay, Jay, Jay. The fact you were listening to a radio station that would play "Call Me Maybe" is grounds for dismissal. You maroon, you even put it in writing.

— Matt Rardon
Kalispell, Mont.

Look, I was kind of tired, and I wasn't really thinking all that straight, and so I asked this friend of mine to work the radio station, and, well, next thing I knew it was all "Hey, I just met you," and … wow, that's a crappy excuse. Sorry.

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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