Following an anti-climatic Daytona 500, sounds like you're in desperate need of Happy Hour.
One quick note: Name and hometown, people. Name and hometown.
Now, let's open up the mailbag on all things Daytona and the beginning of the 2009 season:
Join Happy Hour
Imagine canceling the Super Bowl because of rain. Unimaginable right? NASCAR just slipped another two inches down the toilet bowl it is working so hard to flush.
Jay, what the heck happened to the days of bumping up the start of the race to beat out the weather? NASCAR knew weather would be an issue at Daytona yet we were subjected to watching Fox reinvent itself as the Cartoon Network with Digger (seriously, give me a break) and 100 minutes of unnecessary prerace antics. All sports rely on TV networks for their survival yet I think they are so driven by corporate dollars that they could care less about the product on the track. It's really disappointing. If NASCAR and its networks were less greedy and more in tune to the true essence of the sport we would've gotten 200 laps in on Sunday.
I hear ya barking, Jeremy and John. Let me address a couple of things here.
First, in NASCAR's defense, there is nothing anyone can do about rain. I think Mike Helton and the rest of the NASCAR brass made the right call in cancelling it when they did. If they had waited, it would have dragged out for a couple of hours – which hasn't been well received in the past – forcing them to crown the champion of their biggest race in front of who? Viewers at home wouldn't have seen it and a good number of fans would have packed up and gone home.
As for starting the races late, TV dictates a lot and it probably should considering how much the networks invest in broadcast rights. That said, I agree, the big sports are kicking themselves where it hurts by starting events so late. Who's staying up to watch a World Series game end after midnight?
One more point I want to make, one I wish I had made in my post-race column. For those hoping to see a last-lap pass to take the checkered flag, we actually got that. Everyone knew rain was bearing down on Daytona International Speedway, so those final few laps were a dash to front. Matt Kenseth deserves credit for being the one who got there.
Jay, You sure have tried to put a great face on what was a really bad race. NASCAR calling the race was such a big mistake. When you are watching the Super Bowl of racing, it is a real disappointment to see the towel thrown in. It was like NASCAR officials were in a hurry to get home or to the corner bar and ended it prematurely. What a joke. And that isn't the worst of it. The next two races are so boring that "artificial" yellow flags need to be thrown just to bunch up the cars to make things seem interesting. That means for real "stock car" fans that the next "real" race won't be till Atlanta. Well, I can do a few chores around the house for the next couple of weeks.
If it was right to penalize Jason Leffler in the Nationwide race for rough driving … why did Dale Jr. get no penalty in the Daytona 500 when he took out at least 10 cars out of contention that had a chance to win the race and he was not on the lead lap?
According to NASCAR spokesman Ramsey Poston, NASCAR penalized Leffler because they could see him steer his car into Steve Wallace. Dale Earnhardt Jr., Poston said, didn't steer into Brian Vickers, but rather was attempting to maneuver his car back on the track. It may have been a bad move, but NASCAR doesn't penalize drivers for making bad moves.
My take is this: Sure, Vickers blocked Earnhardt, and that may not have been the right thing to do. But Earnhardt could have taken his foot off the gas, given himself plenty of room to blend back into traffic, and nothing would have come of it. But that's not what he did. And as all our mommas have told us at one point, two wrongs don't make a right.
Say what you will Earnhardt fans, but your boy screwed up.
No question just a comment. Earnhardt is a spoiled, egotistical, dirty driver. Just my opinion after watching him race over the years.
Despite what many of you might think, I actually find Earnhardt to be an extremely interesting person, and I don't think he's a dirty driver. I just think he lost his cool for a split second, and when you can't do that when you're doing 190 mph down the backstretch at Daytona.
Well this is actually more of a bitch and moan session for me. I guess a few comments for NASCAR and such. Not NASCAR or anyone else for that matter will care but what the hey …
First what was going on with the pre-show? It was way too long and drawn out. Secondly why is Dale Earnhardt Jr. so untouchable? He clearly caused a mass wreck fest and nothing was done. What has he really done? Nothing. Won a few races a long time ago and that's it. No championships. How far can you really ride the family name?
NASCAR has become a bad joke. They already had the fans' money so why not cancel the race. I have been a fan for 15 years, followed it all, and today it all came to an end. The sport has become nothing but a way to try to make some money. Forget the fans, where is the almighty dollar.
Well enough is enough I guess. I will never ever watch or attend another NASCAR event. Well I hope you have a great day Mr. Hart or at least better than mine was today.
Lucas, my man, you're not alone. But here's my question for disgruntled fans like Lucas: What exactly is it that NASCAR has done that's driven you to this point? I get that the cars don't look like street cars and the drivers are making a ton of money and the races start later and there are a lot of commercials and the competition on the 1.5-mile tracks is pretty boring. But … you liked something about the sport before, and there's no arguing that the competition is tighter today than it was 20-30 years ago. So what is it?
Your column regarding the Kenseth victory sounded like sour grapes. Most restrictor plate races are won by whoever gets the push at the end. Kenseth ran very well all day coming from 43rd to running top five most of the day. He helped push Kyle to the lead early on. He was in second place before the Junior-induced wreck. He made a great move to avoid the wreck. Kenseth is a former champion who has won a bunch of races, and although it's disappointing it ended under caution, I think he deserves a little more respect than your column gave him.
Props given above, Jeff. And for those who haven't seen Kenseth skirting the Big One Jeff's talking about, I've watched it several times and have no clue how Kenseth got through that unscathed.
Jay, great article on Jeff Gordon but don't forget the "*" next to that number 4. Under the same points system as Richard and Dale, not to mention the first four, Jeff has six.
Grand Rapids, Mich.
Ray Evernham said last week at Daytona that if NASCAR were still using the old system, he would 100-percent guarantee Jeff Gordon would win this year's title. That said, the old system is just that – the old system. If Richard Petty raced in an era of 36 races a season, he wouldn't have 200 wins. Things evolve. It's time to stop wondering how many titles Gordon would have won if the old system were still in place.
Actually Jay, as of right now, Jeff Gordon is the fourth-best driver on his own team. Why does every one ignore how poorly he ran last year?
If by poorly you mean 13 top fives, 19 top 10s and a seventh-place finish in the standings, then yeah, Jeff Gordon ran poorly last year. There's no argument here, the ranking at Hendrick Motorsports goes like this: Jimmie Johnson, Gordon, Mark Martin, Earnhardt Jr.
If NASCAR is going to limit the amount of teams an owner can have to four, why doesn't NASCAR limit the amount of tracks an owner can own also? Currently two corporations, Speedway Motorsports and International Speedway Corporation, own close to all the tracks. The price they charge for concessions is outrageous to say the least!! Also these two corporations have closed down North Wilkesboro and North Carolina and moved the races to other locations!!
San Jose, Ill.
I love this letter, mostly because it makes way too much sense. And where the heck is San Jose, Ill.? I'm an Illinois boy and have never heard of it.
"If your normal rate is $59/night, charge $200 on race weekends, but any more than that is just greed." Jay: Please explain how charging $200/night for a $59/night room would not be price gouging and greed.
I'll let the next reader explain this one …
Anyone who can't grasp reason that hotels charge more on NASCAR weekends has never tried to go to the beach in July, to New England during leaf season or skiing over the Christmas break.
It's not "gouging." It's simple supply and demand. Demand goes higher than the supply and the price goes up. The price of hotel rooms on NASCAR weekends will drop only when demand goes down. This isn't even economics 101 – it's economics kindergarten.
M. B. Voelker
I fall somewhere in the middle on this one. I'm all for hotel owners getting theirs, as M.B. explains, but those same hotel owners owe everything to NASCAR. If the races go away, so does their business.
My biggest beef isn't just that they charge so much; it's that they charge so much for people to stay in absolute dumps. I walked into my hotel room in Daytona Beach, took one whiff and asked the manager, who was with me, if it was a smoking room. He said it wasn't.
I understand that there has been an excess of whining going around in the NASCAR world regarding high prices, not that $20 meals and $8 beers aren't something to get rowdy about. However, I have been to six different tracks and all of them allow you to bring a cooler that you can pack with food and – gasp – even alcohol!
This isn't like the movie theater where you sneak goodies in with your big purse. If more fans would take advantage of this option, they wouldn't have such a hole in their pockets.
Let's also not forget the hospitality of those in the camp grounds! It's about impossible to enter one sober and hungry and exit with the same conditions!
Fort Wayne, Ind.
Know what I love about NASCAR races? Clear back packs. (For those who don't know, clear back packs allow security to see what you're bringing into the race without emptying out your entire bag.) Where else do you see those?
Last call …
Jay, with the season about to get under way, I submit to you with all 8-cylinders firing, my "Crystal Ball Awards 2009":
"Most Likely to Dethrone King Johnson" Award: Carl Edwards
"Always a Bridesmaid, Never the Bride … But Closer than Ever" Award: Kevin Harvick
"Welcome to the Big Dance" Award: Mark Martin
"Where Have You Gone, Mrs. Robinson?" Award: Matt Kenseth, Clint Bowyer
"Oh, So You Didn't Expect to See Me Where?" Award: Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart
"But We Was Doing So Well Until the Last 80 Miles" Award: Dale Earnhardt Jr.
"Pocono/Martinsville Doesn't a Season Make" Award: Denny Hamlin
"Welcome to the Double-Digit Win/Non-Champ Club" Award: Kyle Busch
"If You Think I Needed Anger Management Last Year …" Award: Kurt Busch
"This Year's Dart without Feathers" Award: Joe Nemechek
"If I Get In, Watch Out" Award: AJ Allmendinger
"Sure I'm Out Here, Look Close." Award: Jeff Burton
"Put My Head on a Platter" Award: Tony Eury Jr.
"Water Always Seeks Its Own Level" Award: Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Check back in November, Jay.