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Happy Hour: Smoke all grown up?

Jay Hart
Yahoo Sports

Fans are always asking for drivers to race for wins, not points. So why are some people hating on Kyle Busch for what went down in Daytona?

Let's get to the mailbag:

Smoke vs. Kyle

I consider myself a Kyle Busch fan. That being said I can only hope that when Kyle was walking down pit road that he was only mad at himself. If he put that block on Stewart and expected Smoke to ease off coming to the finish then he has a lot to learn about auto racing!

Darrell Watts

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Kyle still isn't a good loser, but I don't have a problem with his silence. Would I have liked to have heard from him? Abso-freaking-lutely. But let's not forget, dude just finished getting spun out going 190 mph, wound up on the hood of a another car, then got T-boned by another car pushing 190. I know my first stop wouldn't be to do an interview, but to go change my pants.

Jay, what was up with the caution with about 15 laps left at Daytona? On the TNT broadcast, Kyle Busch had just said there's no way this is going to the end. Then all of a sudden a caution. What was it for?

The TNT crew said absolutely nothing about it. I was expecting at least a mystery "debris" explanation. But nothing was said! Was this a "made-for-TV" NASCAR decision to tighten up the rest of the field with the front four who had broken away? I sure hope not.

I want legitimacy, not professional wrestling.

La Mirada, Calif.

The official race report cites debris from Jeff Burton's car as the reason for the caution. I can't dispute it, though it was a striking coincidence that a caution came about the time Kyle Busch said everyone needed one. I'm not condoning phantom debris cautions – and not saying that was one – but if there ever was a time for one it was then. The tires were completely worn out 20 laps into a green-flag run. That particular run was 21 laps, and had the run continued to the completion of the race, the odds are good that someone would have sustained a blown tire, which could have sparked another Big One. Of course, they got the Big One anyway.

Smoke has grown up!!! Watching him on Press Pass after the Coke Zero 400, I saw a responsible owner, driver and businessman. When he climbed out of the car in Victory Lane, that cheesy grin of his was missing. That told me that his remorse for the way the race ended, was genuine. He did what he had to do: Protect his position from an overzealous punk.

By the way, I might note that Smoke has the cajones to face the media, and Crybaby did not. I don't want to see anyone hurt, that's not what our sport is about, but I was loving it, when Smoke got passed him. Kudos to Smoke for his maturation, and progress. Shrub, learn a lesson from the man.

PS: TNT did one hell of a job with this race!!!! I'm not a big fan of their coverage, but they got it right with this one.

Ross Jackson
Longview, Texas

A lot of ground to cover here. First, I loved TNT's split-screen coverage, though I could have done without the introduction of commercials. We accept the fact that the networks need advertisers, but don't insult us by telling us how great they are. We tune in to watch racing, not commercials.

As for Smoke's maturity, I'm not sold yet. I give him props for being sedated in victory lane following Daytona. It was a scary moment, and Smoke showed he does care about the safety of his competitors.

That said, the old Tony is still very much alive.

He threw Goodyear under the bus before the Daytona 500 and continues to show zero respect for those of us in the media. Some of you might think we deserve it, and at times you're definitely right. But a few weeks ago at Sonoma, after a typical interview session that every top driver does several times a weekend, Stewart stepped off the stage, turned to a NASCAR official and, thinking no one could hear him, called all of us "douchebags."

Apparently he didn't like the questions, but then he never does. Earlier this season, I was curious about how he manages all of his businesses – his Cup team, his sprint car team, his race track. Annoyed, for whatever reason, he offered a flip answer, then moved on to the next question. When it wasn't about him, he complained that no one was asking him questions about his business, at which point I jumped in to remind him that's exactly what I had just asked him. He still didn't care.

I don't have anything against Smoke. He's great for the sport and is very generous with his money, giving millions to charity. But I've seen him berate a fan for doing nothing more than asking for an autograph, and I've listened to and been on the receiving end of his insults on multiple occasions. Sometimes he's joking. But sometimes he's just being a jerk, and someone needs to tell him that.

The last lap wreck at Daytona was entirely Kyle Busch's fault. He tried to block, went down the track too far, and then came back up into Stewart who was just holding his line. If Busch hadn't overshot his attempt to block he might have won, and if he had stayed down he probably would have ended up 2nd or 3rd.

Stan Bowers
Peabody, Mass.

You can't blame either driver and you definitely can't play Monday-morning quarterback here. Kyle had to read and react while going 190 mph with one of the best drivers ever on his back bumper. I thought Kyle might have been able to hold the lead if he hadn't attempted the second block, but that came after watching several replays. Kyle didn't have that luxury.

This and that

Jay, How much more hypocritical can NASCAR and drivers like Jeff Burton get when they talk about Jeremy Mayfield as if he was a chronic drug abuser? Jeff Burton states that Jeremy Mayfield is putting his life and safety in danger, if Mayfield were allowed to compete. Doesn't Burton realize that every time he sets foot in his Sprint Cup car or his own personal car for that matter, he is placing his life and safety in danger?

What bull poopy!

Not only did the federal judge rule in favor of Mayfield, but NASCAR did not allow an independent lab to do more testing. If Mayfield were indeed an methamphetamine junkie, then there are several tests that NASCAR can order Mayfield to take to positively prove his guilt or innocence. At least Mark Martin (a true gentleman's driver), did not condemn Mayfield before all evidence was revealed. NASCAR's handling of the Mayfield situation is like the Spanish Inquisition. Condemn first and ask questions – NEVER!

LeLinda Bowman
Pasadena, Calif.

I have to side with NASCAR on this one. It's not that they didn't allow an independent test, but rather that they didn't administer one. That's the flaw in NASCAR's system and why the judge lifted Mayfield's suspension. Again, the judge didn't find Mayfield innocent of the charges, but rather ruled that NASCAR needs to provide a second opinion before suspending him.

As for Burton, he's one of the more cerebral drivers in the garage. He doesn't just shoot from the hip. I re-read his comments, and his basic message was that because there isn't an instant drug test, NASCAR is in a difficult position – both in keeping the sport safe, while at the same time not rushing to a judgment, which is a difficult juggling act because there isn't an instant test.

Rather than paraphrase his words, you can read for yourself what he said:

"I think that most people believe in drug testing and I think most people believe in the results of drug testing and when you really start looking into it, there’s very few cases that you can go back and say that the test was inaccurate. The evidence supports that testing normally is right. And by the way, the judge didn’t rule that the testing was wrong. That’s what’s difficult about this thing is that we have to look at the policy and figure out how it can not be questioned again. I don’t know how to do that. Whatever the means were to question it, we have to close that loop.

"At the same time, we have to make sure that you’re assumed innocent and we have to make sure that we’re doing everything in our power to return the proper result. It’s okay to go the extra mile to do that. There was an ‘A’ sample and there was a ‘B’ sample. I don’t know what the extra mile is, but we should assume innocence even after the first test is positive, we should still assume innocence and do the next test. I think that was done, but it’s in question somehow and NASCAR is going to have to look at what is being questioned and why is it being questioned and figure out the best way to close that up because we can’t go through this every time there’s a positive test.”

I don't think Burton was out of bounds at all.

I think that NASCAR has made a HUGE mistake by taking the races off the broadcast channels during the summer. A lot of people (including me) do not get ESPN, Speed, or TNT. I think you'll find with a look at the race- by-race ratings that viewership drops off somewhere between 500,000 and 1 million+ households per week. True, people may just have other things to do in the summer. But how can NASCAR justify shutting out so many viewers for three months when there is little sports competition on TV then trying to ramp things back up with a head-to-head with the NFL? Doesn't sound like very smart marketing to me.

North Carolina

You make a great point, Steven. The TNT broadcasts are averaging about three million fewer viewers – or about a million fewer households – than Fox. Last year, that number was more than four million fewer viewers. From my perspective, NASCAR is a momentum sport, and it hasn't had much of that all season long. Flipping to TNT certainly doesn't help that cause.

For God's sake, would you writers, and also NASCAR TV guys tell me once and for all just why Jeff Gordon just never gets any coverage – it just does not make sense at all, but it is evident he is sure off limits for all you so called know it alls.

Bill Ver Heul
Bakersfield, N.C.

This is our weekly whaaaat! email. Come on, Bill, if you were writing in to complain about, say Marcos Ambrose, I'd say you're right. But you're talking about a guy whose back makes headlines.

Last call …

Jay, You can now quit spending so much time in your columns writing about Junior. He's toast for this season. There are a lot of other drivers that deserve some print.

Bill McConnell
Franklin, Tenn.