Fresh off the near-correct dual predictions of winners of last weekend's Nationwide Series and Sprint Cup races at famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway (you can check last Thursday's edition of Track Smack for confirmation), it's time to empty out the mid-summer email bag.
Not all readers appreciate the opinions of yours truly, often expressing themselves as such in comments posted at the end of stories and -- if they're really feeling ambitious -- emails sent directly to you-know-who.
Since I can't always get around to answering each and every one of them, here are a few from the last six months and my belated replies.
Let's start with a couple that took issue with my stated belief that shorter races are generally better -- with a few noted exceptions, such as the Daytona 500, the Coca-Cola 600 and maybe one of the two Talladega races.
C'mon Joe. There are many of us that don't want shorter races. Going to a race can be expensive and you sit in traffic forever getting in and getting out. When you're finally there in your seat OR at home on the couch, you want to see as much racing as possible. I go to 4-6 races a year. You cut the race distance by 20 percent, you better cut my ticket price by 20 percent.
And from another ...
You reference that the shorter races at Pocono are a good thing. We went to Pocono for 15 years in a row, driving from Michigan. The reason we stopped going is because they shortened the race. And the reason the guys we sat with at Pocono stopped going is because they shortened the race. Maybe it doesn't matter that we no longer attend, maybe Pocono doesn't need us to buy tickets or maybe they will now sell more tickets. But for people like us who go to see as much racing as possible, we just stop going to the track.
Finally, I would have thought they would have reduced ticket prices if they shortened races. But that didn't happen, either.
I enjoy your articles. Keep up the good writing.
Sean P., Petoskey, Mich.
I certainly respect all race fans that spend the money and take the time to travel to races. And I certainly respect any emailer kind enough to add the final sentence that Sean P. did here. The answer here could be to provide more bang for the buck through supplemental races added to a weekend schedule. Many tracks already have attempted this -- such as New Hampshire Motor Speedway, which put on a terrific Modified race prior to the Nationwide event just a few weeks ago. Most tracks also have been proactive in reducing at least some ticket prices and offering all kinds of special deals.
But, overall, I'm still with current Cup points leader Dale Earnhardt Jr. and others. I think shortening many events makes for better, more exciting racing overall. And I believe it draws more viewers in for longer stretches on television, or at least will over the long haul. Most Americans have a shortened attention span when it comes to just about everything these days, including major sporting events.
Then again, another hot-button point with emailers earlier this season was when fans and media complained about the lack of cautions during many races, which led to other opinions such as these two ...
I've read your and the other writers' columns about the fans' desire to see wrecks and I think you are missing one aspect of the debate. While there are those fans who truly love to see wrecks for the sake of wrecks, I am sure there are others who, like myself, yearn for more wrecks not for the spectacle of the wreck, but as a result of racing on the edge. One of the columns recently made the statement that these are the best drivers in the world and they are able to take it to the edge and still not wreck. I contend they are taking it near the edge but not to the edge because when you take it to the edge, sometimes you go over.
It reminds me of the first basketball game I played in elementary school. (No, I wasn't any good). After the game I was in the car with my Dad going home and I stated that I was proud that I had played the whole game without making any fouls. I expected that he would be proud of me, too, as he had always taught me to play by the rules and treat others right, so imagine my surprise when he responded, "That means you didn't play hard enough." He went on to explain that if I were playing as hard as I could, there would be times that would lead to a foul. Considering professional sports, I realize that is true. The great players don't rack up fouls one after the other, but they all get called for fouls/penalties.
So, when I see a race with no cautions, I know that some of those drivers weren't really giving it their all. Because if they had, some of them would have gone over that edge.
And this one ...
The best way to make NASCAR races exciting is to put the racing back in the drivers' hands. Take away the spoiler and other downforce gizmos and the driver would have to drive the car. Bring back tires that wear out as they should. Do away with the Lucky Dog; after all, that alters the race and makes the outcome artificial. It's like Dale Jr. said after a race at Talladega, "My grandma could have driven that car." Put the handling back in the drivers' hands.
Trust me, NASCAR is working all the time on trying to make the racing better. It's never as easy as it sounds or looks, and they're rightly never going to sacrifice safety gains for the sake of possibly better results on the competition side.
Having said all that, gizmos is a good and underused word and I want to meet any and all grandmothers who can drive a car at 200-plus miles per hour at Talladega.
Finally, as a long-time coach of youth athletics, yes, you should use up some or all of your allotted fouls in basketball -- but not at the expense of doing anything stupid. And, after the game, a wise father once told me there really is only one question you should ask of your son to ensure preservation of family harmony: "You want to get something to eat?"
With that in mind, perhaps one day soon it's a question I'll get around to asking Kurt Busch and then maybe we'll find a way to get along better. But Kurt surely has his loyal fans out there, and while I also received quite a bit of support from inside and outside of the industry for a column I wrote about Kurt following some of his latest troubles with anger management earlier this season, Kurt's backers had their say, too.
Kurt Busch is a race-car driver, not a teacher. What a stupid story. And yes, the reporters have the right to ask questions because it is their job but what if they suck at their job like him?
And this ...
I noticed you had a disclaimer at the end of your recent article on Kurt Bush (sic).(It read) as follows: "The opinion expressed are solely those of the writer." I am glad you included that and that you are so accurate in that at least. You are just a total jerk that can't help but kick someone who is in your eyes down. You are not the only one that feels that way about Kurt, but you are in a very small minority. ... For you to continually harp on Kurt Bush (sic) just shows how out of touch you are with real racing fans. I am sure that you get a lot of hits on your Kurt articles, but it is not for the reason you think. You are quickly becoming very unpopular with most NASCAR race fans. Also you are building a wedge between media people and racers and their fans. You should just shut up! ... You are just a stick in the eye of real race fans.
Wait a minute. Who is this Kurt Bush guy?
As for the "very small minority" comment, I demand a recount.
Then, there was this email from an obvious math wizard who crunched some numbers to note the true significance of Matt Kenseth pickup up a new sponsor -- Fifth Third Banking -- for the No. 17 car he currently drives for Roush Fenway Racing.
Hate to display my math skills but 5/3rd is 5 divided by 3 which equals 1.7 (rounded to one decimal place. The marketing guys aren't so dumb, I guess.
Bill K., Lakehurst, N.Y.
What? No one told me there would be math. Then again, it turned out all the speculation prior to the announcement about Kenseth changing car numbers actually turned out to be true. He has since announced he will be leaving RFR when his contract runs out at the end of the season.
But by then, I might be having lunch somewhere with "Kurt Bush," perhaps discussing my prowess as a basketball player in elementary school and wondering aloud if shorter races might lead to more drivers living on the edge.