Happy Hour: Which big name won’t make the Chase in ’12?

Welcome to the latest Happy Hour mailbag! You know how these work: You write us with your best rant/ joke/one-liner at happyhournascar@yahoogroups.com or on Twitter at @jaybusbee, we respond to your messages, everyone goes away with a smile on their face.

I was on jury duty for the first part of this week. If you've never had jury duty, it's this weird air in the room while you're waiting to be picked. NOBODY wants to be picked. And if they do, the lawyers don't want 'em. I was the LAST GUY PICKED. I was in the back row, and I was counting as they named jurors, and my heart soared as they got to the twelfth guy two rows up...and then BOOM, they jumped right to me. I felt exactly like Tom Brady felt when he learned that I drafted him for my godawful fantasy football team. (Or so I would assume.) And guess what? Since I was the last one picked, I was the ALTERNATE, which means I sat through the whole trial but didn't get to go have the late-night fight in the jury room over guilt or innocence. Very, very unsatisfying.

Anyway, your letters. All writers are guilty until proven innocent.

OK, maybe Jimmie Johnson isn't finished. But someone big will NOT make the Chase. It could be Jimmie "Vader" Johnson, or it could be Smoke, Matt "Flatline" Kenseth (can we really call him that anymore?), Gordon (Jeff, not Robby, as if I need to say that), Kyle Busch, or even Junior, who is STILL better than Kyle Busch as per my previous assertions!

Yeah, I know, I'm going out on a limb here.

Jeff "Sarge" Smith
Statesboro, Ga.

One thing that nobody pointed out last year was just how stacked the Chase was. I mean, you had almost every single major driver (with the possible exception of Kasey Kahne, depending on how you classify him) in the hunt for the Cup. That's some first-rate Chase-rigging by NASCAR right there. While I don't know that we'll see that again, there's definitely a divide between the haves and have-nots, and by "have" I mean "have the ability to not screw themselves out of a Chase spot over the course of a season."

Of your picks, at first blush I'd say Gordon is the most likely to miss the Chase; he's a feast-or-famine driver lately, and I could see him going on a long, dry run. Kenseth has the Daytona win to fall back on, and all the other drivers (yes, even you-know-who) seem to have what it takes to hang close week in and week out. Now, Gordon fans, get those emails ready.

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Don't know about you but I missed the tandem racing at Daytona. More lead changes, more opportunities for another Trevor Bayne-type winner. I felt that this year's race took a step back rather than forward. It had its moments, like rain, jet-fuel fire, and such, but having three or four teams going side-by-side off turn 4 with everyone having a chance to win to me is more exciting than ten cars all in a row, with maybe a couple having a chance. I'm probably in the minority but a race with a lot of lead changes (70+ last year), odd-man couples and all made for a more exciting race.

Gary

That sound you hear is NASCAR executives hammering their skulls against their desks. "Why are they never happy? They! Are! Never! Happy!"

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No way should Jimmie the pill be in the top 12. If he is there then Jeff Gordon belongs there. Picking a cheater over the others is wrong.

Marlene Parrish

Marlene, of course, refers to the latest Power Rankings, in which I ranked Jimmie Johnson higher than Jeff Gordon. Once again, people, the Power Rankings are based on both performance and potential, results and expected staying power, and are a matter of opinion rather than ... aw, screw it, here's a handy form letter:

The Handy 2012 Power Rankings Whine Complaint Letter

"Hey Busbee, you _______. How could you rank ______ behind _____ and ______? Don't you know that if it wasn't for __[irrelevant incident]__ he wouldn't have had such a bad finish at _______ ? Why do you hold that against him, huh? This isn't even scientific! Aren't you journalists supposed to be unbiased? Put _____ back up where he belongs and stop trying to kiss up to ___[any other driver than my favorite]____ .

PS Junior rules / sucks (circle one).

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Like 90% of people (I'd like to think) my main entertainment when not watching Juan attack our jets (dryers) is short track racing. Is there any way NASCAR could ever take a field of cars looking to qualify, break them up into heat-type races like they do on All StartNight and have them qualify by racing in? The method to the madness is you will get more underfunded teams giving it a shot, so more cars at the track. And qualifying, which turns out in the end to be useless at most tracks, is based on where you finished in your "heat". In reality, the TV time may be more predictable (or shorter, which I think is a main issue with the 500's), sponsors still don't lose out on "car time", and the main point...it's IDENTIFIABLE to even casual race fans.

Paul

First and foremost, there's the sponsor-protection issue. Home Depot is having enough of a problem writing checks for a driver who keeps missing the Chase; you think they're going to stick around if he starts missing races? There's also a more immediate concern: While heat races would be amazing for the casual fan to watch, they cost a TON for the teams to run. Now, that's not a big deal for a major team, but if you're a start-and-park, a 40-lap heat race is going to pretty much sap your week's budget in terms of tires, fuel, et cetera. Plus, factor in the possibility that you could have wrecks that decimate your fleet, and suddenly running around a track all by yourself starts to sound more enticing. Sorry, Paul.

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Race 2 is over and actually the RPM rides have looked pretty good, especially Marcos Ambrose. Marcos had engine failure with less than 20 laps left at Phoenix, but could have  been at least second since Kevin Harvick sputtered out. But still several other cars did worse in the 2 Sprint races and yet RPM is given no credit by any of the sports outlets. Does the super teams demand that much attention that that's the only place writers go to?

Stanley Dunkley

The super teams feed us better and get us pedicures. Oh, wait, I was supposed to keep that quiet.

Look, everybody thinks that the other drivers are getting more love than their guys. We get that. But here's the thing: Almirola and Ambrose are both sitting in 20th place right now. (Weird fact: they both have exactly 43 points. Creeeeepy!) Let's not yet worry about bias; if Ambrose continues his run, he'll get the e-ink he deserves. Aussie! Aussie! Aussie! Oi!

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More often than not, Matt Kenseth seems to wind up with the last pit stall in any given race. The benefits seem obvious: the stall is easier to find during pit stops and he doesn't have to navigate traffic to get there. Drivers select their stalls in a draft order set by qualifying results, and we all know Kenseth hasn't always been the best qualifier. This makes me wonder why we don't see more drivers pick the last stall before Kenseth gets his opportunity. Is it because the cons outweigh the pros (you have to reduce speed in a hurry to get there and deal with traffic after exiting)? Or do you think other drivers merely defer to a past champion who seems to command respect in the garage?

Steve Buck
Lexington, Kent.

Ain't nobody deferring to nobody in that garage. Well, except for Richard Petty. And maybe Miss Sprint Cup. But no, chances are that's just Matt's preferred location. If you can't get one of the stalls right next to the track entrance/exit, where there's no one in front of you to block you in, you go with what makes you happy.

I bet Matt's one of those guys that parks as soon as he gets to a crowded mall. Doesn't even bother doing one drive up-and-down the rows just to see if he gets lucky. Park and move on, that's our Flatline.

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Now that Kyle Busch is driving with M&M's on the car, how long do you think it will take M&M's to really forgive him? Case in point — on the M&M race team site, they show the crew, the car, the race schedule, and no picture or bio of Rowdy! Maybe he needs to make friends with the new M&M!

Darla Redifer
Riverside, Calif.

This rumor was actually debunked last year; Busch was never on the M&M's site. So far, the boy's been a model citizen. And he's been the punch line to a few good jokes, like this one:

On ABC's "Happy Endings" on February 29, we were treated to the following exchange:

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"Dude, what's that smell?"
"My Busch.... the new fragrance from Kyle Busch".

Hilarious.

We know Jeff Gordon and Dale Jr have had colognes, and there's the obvious "Smoke" scent reference, but what other driver could, especially one so possibly non-PG13ish?

Joshua

Man. You are just trying to get me fired here, aren't you? I'm not biting. I'll let you guys work this one up. Though I imagine "Montoya" would smell of burning jet fuel, "Joey" would smell of baby powder, and "Mark" would smell of joint ointment. Your choices, friends?

And on that note, we're out. Thanks to all our writers this week. You want in? Fire up the computer and hit us with whatever's on your mind, NASCAR-wise, at happyhournascar@yahoogroups.com. You can find Yahoo! Sports' NASCAR coverage on Facebook right here, and you can follow me on Twitter at @jaybusbee and on Facebook here.  Make sure to tell us where you're from. We'll make you famous!

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