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Dash to the finish more impactful than who wins

Jay Hart
Yahoo Sports

On Wednesday, I will be bringing my talent to South Beach. Sure some of you will wonder if I'll need to check that bag. I'll keep you posted.

Now, let's get to your emails:

Jay, I enjoy reading your work, you do a heck of a job my man, keep it up. This weekend in motorsports two things happened: Sebestian Vettel and Red Bull Racing (RBR) beat the mighty Ferrari team and Fernando Alonso for the drivers championship (with RBR NOT using team orders with their drivers!), and old man John Force took home championship No. 15 (Force kind of reminded me of another old man in Steve Kinser and the way Kinser celebrated his last Knoxville Nationals win).

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The point here is both of those wins were come from behind in the final race and fans loved it! I'm an F1 geek and can't wait for next year! How do you think the diehard NASCAR fans would take a come from behind championship win for Harvick (especially us diehard Earnhardt fans who realize whose car that really is)?

Jason McDonald
Akwesasne, N.Y.

Of the three drivers still in contention, I think Johnson winning No. 5 carries more cache than either Denny Hamlin or Kevin Harvick winning No. 1. Let's face it, there are more Johnson fans than Hamlin or Harvick fans, and the ambivalent public will find more intrigue in a dynasty than in some guy winning who they've never heard of before.

Sorry fans, Hamlin and Harvick don't carry much name recognition outside of this little world of left turns. Johnson, on the back of his four straight titles, does.

The main thing, however, is to have a close points battle, and thanks to Mike Ford's lack of pit strategy at Phoenix, that's what we've got.

And because the points battle is so close, the finale is not going to be your normal run-of-the-mill, ride-around-in-the-pack race. Johnson and Harvick know they have to lead laps and finish ahead of Hamlin in order to win the title. On the flip side, Hamlin thinks it's going to take a win to win. For him it doesn't, but that's what he thinks.

These three are going to be grinding like you've never seen them grind before. That alone will make for a great show on Sunday. Add on what's at stake and it makes for appointment television.


Well Jay, just a single short comment. Following the conclusion of the race in Phoenix, I've never seen anyone look less a champion than the driver of the 11 car. All the boasting, bragging and tough-guy talk just made him look ineffective and small. J.J. will walk over him for a fifth championship.

Jim Johnston
Albion, Il.

You should have seen the difference between Hamlin walking out of the media center on Sunday and Johnson walking in. Hamlin, as I wrote, looked like he was on his way to a funeral. In contrast, Johnson was as cool as ever.

I think part of that is because Johnson has four titles in the bank and Hamlin is still looking for No. 1. If Hamlin doesn't end up winning this title, it will be because of one reason – nerves.


Lovely title. You are yet another idiot who has no concept of statistics (or common sense for that matter.) What's your sample size with your comment that "No driver has ever come back with two races to go to win the Chase"? How close was the second-place racer in these microscopic sample sizes? Have you ever taken a statistics course?

Ricardo Torres Jr.
Lake Villa, Ill.

Favorite email of the week.

For whatever reason – I'm assuming because he's a Jimmie Johnson fan – Ricardo has taken issue to my saying that no driver has ever come from behind with two races to go to win the Chase. The reason I wrote that is because, well, no driver has ever come from behind with two races to go to win the Chase. Check those crazy-to-understand stats. It's true.

I'm not sure what kind of statistics course I need to take in order to be an authority on that stat. But I could use some help on this one Ricardo: What is the best way to determine the correlation between irrational emails and fanaticism?


Jay: Hamlin doesn't have to win next weekend. All he has to do is finish ahead of Johnson and Harvick.

Peter Bonafonte
Tarrytown, N.Y.

Right you are, Pete. Hey, did you take that stats course Ricardo is talking about?


What about the other guys?

Hey Jay, what is it going to take to get television coverage for the 40 drivers that aren't realistically competing for the championship. I understand that the guys in the Chase are important, but there are tons of talented drivers making great moves that aren't being discussed. It seems the only way drivers not competing for the championship can get TV time for their sponsors is to either wreck, get in a fist fight, or drive a car co-owned by one of the broadcast announcers.

I think if NASCAR wants to bring in new sponsorship then the leadership of the organization should address this issue. It's hard to justify spending millions of dollars on sponsorship of the likes of Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kasey Kahne or Carl Edwards, let alone any of the lesser-known drivers when they are often not even mentioned during the entire broadcast. What is your take?

Dustin Long
Stony Point, N.C.

To answer Dustin Long's question, I had to go to my boy Dustin Long from Landmark Newspapers. Here's what he had to say:

"The TV networks face a delicate situation trying to make every fan happy. Let's be honest, if you don't perform, you don't get as much coverage. That's the way it is in every sport. There's a reason why you're not seeing the Buffalo Bills throughout the nation – because they haven't performed – and why you're more likely to see a much better NFL team on national TV.

Why do Chase drivers get most of the coverage? They often are running at the front most of the time where the camera is more likely to be focused. That doesn't mean that networks should ignore what happens deeper in the pack, but, again, let's be honest, come Homestead, the cameras are going to be focused on the title contenders because that's going to be the major story that day. Is it fair? Maybe not. Then again, who said sports was always fair?"


Kyle's bird, Gordon's shove

In the aftermath of the NFL "Wardrobe malfunction," will the FCC and NASCAR change the way races are televised to prevent the "Kyle Busch"-like issues from being televised live? Could it be that there are too many cameras in the face of the drivers, and they have no place to vent?

Bill
Tustin, Calif.

That's the exact point Wally Dallenbach brought up last week. One of the great things about NASCAR is the access fans have to drivers during the race. Not only can you see what they're doing inside their cars, you can listen to them over the radio if you have a scanner.

To me, this is a privilege, not a right, and if NASCAR is going to fine/penalize drivers for what's seen and/or heard via scanners and in-car cameras, then as a driver and/or team owner I'm going to take away these privileges.

Let's hope it never comes to this.


Jay, I got to tell you that I don't really accept apologies made via a statement released by PR people. Kyle Busch apologized for flipping off a NASCAR official by a statement. Come on. Get in front of a camera and apologize for what you did. This happens all the time in sports and it makes me believe someone's PR people wrote this thing, showed it to the driver and he said OK, do it. What's your take?

Mark
Sturgeon Bay, Wisc.

I value an apology released via statement about as much as I do a politician telling me, well, anything. You know they don't really mean what they say, and the reason we know it is because no one sincerely talks like that.

For once I'd like to hear a politician come right out and say, "We don't have enough money, and that's because we spend too much and too many of you expect to get more than you give."

In Busch's defense, the apology came via a statement came because the penalty came in the middle of the week when the media wasn't around to convey his message. When asked about it at Phoenix last Friday, he said, "I think for myself there is a fire that has helped me win the races that I've been able to win, but it's also cost me in some other times – which was the instance last weekend which was inappropriate and childish – what have you. I made a mistake. I regret the mistake that I made last week.

"Obviously I haven't learned exactly everything that I've wanted to learn yet about being able to control my emotions, or what have you. So, there's a better way to do things. And I haven't quite conquered that."

Aside from the "what have yous," I'd say that's a fair apology.


If Kyle Busch was fined and placed on probation for flipping off an official (a symbolic but harmless act), why was Jeff Gordon not penalized for assaulting another competitor on the track?

Gail
Greenfield, Wisc.

It's called nuance, and I for one am glad NASCAR gets this.

If you're a stickler for the rules – you know, one of those persons who drives the speed limit in the left lane because no one should be passing you anyway – then sure, Gordon should have been popped.

But I'm in a different camp on this one, one where if someone puts you in the wall, you have every right to let them know that it's not OK.

While I don't like that Kyle Busch got found out by his in-car camera, flipping off an official for enforcing a penalty is a lot different than shoving a competitor who just wrecked you. The former is blatant disrespect, the latter is sticking up for yourself, and I'm all for sticking up for yourself.


Why can't more drivers be like Jeff Burton? On national TV, he plainly admitted, in no uncertain terms, that the wreck between he and Jeff Gordon was entirely his fault. How many times do you watch an incident, get both drivers take, and find neither is what you just watched on TV? Nobody wants to own up when they do wrong. I respect Jeff Burton for doing that. And I'm a Gordon fan. My only wish is that Jeff Gordon get up in Steve Letarte's face, like he did to Burton, over the parade of crappy race cars that week in and week out he seems to adjust out of contention. I enjoy your column. Keep up the good work.

Cary Smith
Irwin, Pa.

Burton's a man's man, that's why. And I just hope that if he does run for office someday, he doesn't change.


This and that …

Carl Edwards congratulating Brad Keselowski? Aric Almirola congratulating Todd Bodine on their championships? LOL – what the heck is wrong with NASCAR drivers anymore?

I was runner-up in State championship football once which was the worst feeling ever. "Oh but it's OK cuz I finished second maybe I'll get noticed somewhere else." Give me a break. I used to like watching the CWTS and NNS.

Andy
Iowa City, Iowa

That's called sportsmanship, Andy, and you see it in every sport, mostly notably in every single NHL playoff series.

But I do hear what you're saying. The drivers are too buddy-buddy to make for much drama. As I said to some colleagues at Phoenix, things would be a lot different if Jeff Gordon had to go back and pay for and fix his own car after Jeff Burton wrecked him.


Fantasy land &hellip

Here are my Fantasy NASCAR picks for the week:

A Group: Greg Biffle, Denny Hamlin
B Group: Matt Kenseth, Joey Logano, Jamie McMurray, Ryan Newman
C Group: Aric Almirola, Sam Hornish Jr.


Last call …

If there had been an elimination format this season, and NASCAR, in all it's wisdom, chose to cut the field to two cars for the final race, the points leader, Denny Hamlin, would have been eliminated due to his placing lower then Harvick and Johnson. Why do I get this feeling that that's exactly what NASCAR is planning for next year?

Dave Garnett
Lufkin, Texas

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