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Happy Hour: Parting shots

Jay Hart
Yahoo Sports

It's Happy Hour again (which is a line from my favorite song by an obscure band I used to listen to called The Housemartins). But I digress.

We'll start this week rolling with a rebuttal from a reader I called out in last week's mailbag:

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Well you called me out in your mailbag so here is my response to you Jay.

First, if you think David Ragan is one spot away from Dale Jr. you are out of your mind! And Hamlin, laughable Jay! Dale Jr. has 18 cup wins Jay, not including 2 shootout wins and I believe four twin 125 wins and an all star win as a rookie! He won the Daytona 500! Hamlin and Ragan have about six wins maybe, Ragan ZERO.

Dale Jr. won 2 times in his rookie year. Why do you not feel like giving him any respect? You say he is going to be the biggest disappointment this year? You did add that you say that because of the expectations, but honestly I do not expect him to win the championship this year. I hope he does, I think he has a chance to do it. Are the odds against him, yes. He did win last year, yeah the one he won was fuel mileage but there were many others that he was in position to win. He wins at Richmond if Hamlin does not stop on the track and allow his butt buddy to wreck him! He past both of those guys on the outside, three wide at Richmond and drove away! Anyway, I just think that some people in the media do not give him the respect for his driving talents, which you know he has Jay!

Rochester, N.Y.

The thing is, Matt, I like Dale Jr. I think he's a pretty regular guy, for not having such a regular life. But Matt, it's not my job to root for anyone, but to offer you guys my perspective. And from my perspective, Dale Jr. is the fourth-best driver on his own team.

And just so the readers know, Matt actually went on for another 400 words, but we've got to get moving.

Ahhh it was about time for the annual "Jr. aint kidding around this year" articles designed to get Jr. Nation all riled up and reading. Of course that will all die down once Jr.'s failures are once again blamed on anyone and everyone but the driver.

J. Clarke
Laguna Niguel, Calif.

Jay – I couldn't agree more with Junior about track owners. We were at Daytona for the "Thunder" and was appalled at the DIS prices for food and beverages. For a burger, fries and coke … $16.00!!! If you wanted a beer… $8.00. With everyone tightening their belts, the track owners need to do there part as well. You are in a position to get this message out to track owners and other media people to put pressure on those people who gouge. Help us poor slobs out, will ya!! Thanx for letting me vent. I hope you can help.

Jim Nigrelli
Bradenton, Fla.

I agree with you, Jim. Some of the tracks have already lowered ticket prices, which is a good thing, and I'm being told the Daytona 500 will be close to sold out.

But the biggest problem still remains lodging. I'm switching hotels this week because my rate goes from $190 to $499 a night. And look, I'm a capitalist, I understand they have to get theirs. But if NASCAR weren't coming to town, those same hotels wouldn't have anyone to gouge. The hotels owe the sport. I think a compromise is the right thing to do. If your normal rate is $59/night, charge $200 on race weekends, but any more than that is just greed.

Kevin Harvick was a ghost for the first half of the season last year, so please explain why he gets such high praise?

Kyle Bohn
Nanaimo, British Columbia

As Ralph Malph used to say, Sit on it, Kyle.

But seriously, you're right, Harvick struggled in the first half of last season, but was a terror in the second half. He finished the season with 13 top 10s in the final 16 races. I'd say that sets him up pretty well going into 2009.

I can't believe how people are busting Jeff Gordon's chops cause he didn't win a race last year. Find me another driver with his stats in the modern era. (Still looking?)

Go Jeff go. We're behind you in Ohio all the way!

John Hoskins
North Canton, Ohio

I think it has something to do with how high Jeff Gordon has set the bar for himself.

Jay, it doesn't look like any one is giving Mark Martin a chance to win the Cup. I agree but what if Rick Hendrick gave Mark Chad Knaus as crew chief. I think he would take that Cup home. What do you think?

Chuck Brankley
Rosemount, Minn.

I'm of the opinion that Martin doesn't have that killer instinct necessary to win enough races, which hurts him, especially in the Chase format. But listening to him after taking the outside spot on the front row in the Daytona 500, when he said he can "taste the blood," I think we might see a different Mark Martin this season, especially if he's in the hunt with a few races to go.

How in the world can Mark Martin be # 6 on your list. He should have retired years ago. Get him a job driving a Bus for old retired folks. His Get Up Go Got up and left and he missed it. Rest of list looks pretty good

Covina, Calif.

Fact: Mark Martin is 50. Fact: Mark Martin can still drive a race car pretty damn well.

Dang, Willie, ageism much?

As far as yahoo's Top 20 rankings go, if you sweep all personal passion for your driver aside (something quite hard to do), I think the list is honest, unbiased, and come season's end I think you'll see, pretty much right on the money. The driver's whom you ranked in the lower half of the top twenty indeed have much to prove, Smoke, included. And those ranked in the lower half of the top 10 will have something to prove as well (i.e. Kenseth, Hamlin, Burton)

As for Jr., well, I think you have him right where he belongs – in the middle of the pack. I agree, to do a Top 20 list with any credence whatsoever, you need to keep it real. Good job in doing so!

By the way, I think I'll take a crack at the order of the remaining top 4. Harvick 3. Busch 2. Edwards (1b) 1. Johnson (1a)

Len Boccassini
Harrisburg, Pa.

Why does NASCAR start the lapped cars on the inside after a caution? This seems unfair to the other drivers (they have to pass lapped cars). Also a lot more dangerous. They should be started in order like the start of the race. And one more thing, some of the drivers should buy a razor, they look like bums.

Roy Hudson
Loyalton, Calif.

Because they don't allow racing back to the line when the yellow flag comes out, NASCAR restarts that way to allow the lapped cars a chance to get back on the lead lap. That said, if you watched the Bud Shootout the other night, you saw double-file restarts that were awesome. I agree, and so does my colleague Ricky Craven, that double-file restarts would be better.

Why doesn't NASCAR go back to basics? After all, the s c in NASCAR stands for "stock car". if they used "stock cars" or 20-30 thousand each instead of 3 million dollar cars. Money would not be a part of their foes. The racing in the 60's and 70's with STOCK CARS was great!!!!! They need to simple down!!!

Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.

The racing may have been more pure 30, 40 years ago, but winners won by laps, not tenths of seconds. Not sure that would fly these days.

Jay, I would like to know what other NASCAR fans think about the 4 car rule that NASCAR has enforced. It seems to me, that with all the car and points rules and changes, this should not be enforced by NASCAR. If a owner can find sponsorship and has the revenue to support a 5th driver why change in this time of the economy. Of course I am talking about Jack Roush and the 26 team of Jamie McMurray. I believe they should eliminate this rule and let Jamie drive with Roush under Jack's wanting to keep the 26 team and not NASCAR rule. Thank you

Rita Bennett
Versailles, Mo.

I actually don't mind the limit. If there weren't one, NASCAR would be dominated by three or four teams (kind of like it is now) only there would be no chance for someone else coming in and challenging the top dogs.

How about ending your Happy Hour column with "A Parting Shot." Maybe it could be a little something to think about. Later.

Dwayne Hargrove
Benbrook, Texas

Nice, Dwayne. And thanks to everyone who offered their suggestion. We'll roll a new one out each week. So, here's the Parting Shot …

Harvick ahead of Jeff Gordon? In these times of economic worry, it's nice to know that we can still get a laugh from you Jay. Thanks.

John Joseph
Los Angeles