Happy Hour: Is caution-free racing good racing?

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.

This past weekend, I covered UFC 145. And let me tell you, friends, NASCAR and its drivers are flat-out spoiled. We gripe in message boards, comment sections and on Twitter. There, the fans let you know what they're thinking the moment they think it, loudly and lustily. Fighters go 10 seconds without engaging or drawing blood, and the boos rain down from the ceiling. Alas, once the engines are fired at a NASCAR race, no one can hear you boo. Which, in the case of the last couple races, is probably a good thing.

Or not, as our first letter-writer suggests ...

Are you people race fans or not? I keep hearing complaints about the mile and a half tracks and boring races with long green flag runs. First of all, I see nothing boring about 43 late model stock cars doing about 160mph in the turns and getting up to maybe 190 to 200mph before the next set of turns. That is fricken exciting! Sure, a few lead changes, the underdog making a charge from the rear of the pack and some side-by-side racing would make it better but if at the track or at home I'm watching 43 race cars traveling at high speed on a banked oval race track and that is way better than watching a man in yellow pants hit a little ball with a metal club. If you want more, watch an action movie. I'll watch my NASCAR race.

— Roaddog
Chicagoland

[ Related: Jimmie Johnson questions some fans sentiment ]

Aw, come on, was the shot at golf really necessary? And, hell, the Masters had more in-competition injuries than the last two NASCAR races (2 to 0). Look, I get the purist arguments; it's like that old Simpsons episode where Milhouse is flying a remote-control plane and tells Bart and Nelson that "perfectly level flying is the supreme challenge of the scale-model pilot." Yes, but IT IS BORING. What's exciting about green-flag racing, or any racing, for that matter? It's the THREAT of carnage and damage. If there's no threat, there's no compelling reason to watch. Put another way: if what you're interested in is precision and precision alone, what's the difference in watching cars going 40 mph vs. 190?

Bottom line, and let's all be honest here: We may not watch FOR the crashes and the paint-trading, but they're a necessary element of the racing experience. You take them away, and we're watching glorified practice. Be proud of wanting to see twisted metal, friends! Just as long as it's not my favorite driver, the one I'm always biased in favor of, whom everyone knows is ... oh, hey, next letter.

___________________

One thing that irritates the beejeezus out of me with FOX's coverage of NASCAR is their pre-race show.  I like story lines and such, but most of it is pure garbage.  I know you told a reader before that I don't have to watch it, and I don't.  But when I record the race, I do have to go past about an hour and a half of fluff.  At least other networks have a  "Countdown to Green" kind of segment as a separate show so that I only record the race.

Speaking of different NASCAR networks...who would be your dream team of announcers?  Personally, I like Mike Joy as the "lap-by-lap" guy with Wally Dallenbach and Dale Jarrett as analysts.  Dick Berggren, Dr Jerry Punch, and Matt Yocum on pit road.

Gus
Naperville, IL

That's a great question with the Dream Team, and assuming we can't go with announcers from beyond the grave, I like your selections. (Miss ya, Benny.) The rest of you?

As for the prerace: just start fast-forwarding the DVR and stop when the cars are rolling. Or, hell, don't stop. If cars going 200 mph thrill you, then leave the DVR on 5x speed and you'll see cars going A THOUSAND MILES AN HOUR. How do they control 'em at such speeds?

___________________

I'm sure I won't be the first to point this out, but had Jimmie Johnson NOT won his appeal over the C pillar issue at Daytona, and the 25-point penalty had stuck, he'd still be in the top ten now anyway. Not saying he's an absolute lock-in for the Chase, but the cream does tend to rise to the top.

Mike
Ionia, Mich.

I've got a sneaking suspicion that Jimmie Johnson is really going to be a force in Chase time. Everything is setting up just perfectly for him to do one of those "forgot about JJ" runs. So he wins the 2012 Sprint Cup, and everybody loses their mind and says NASCAR is fixed or whatever. Prove me wrong, other 42 drivers. Prove me wrong.

___________________

The reason NASCAR has become rather boring is simple. Management is trying to appease everyone. Cars are getting loose because the bumpers are uneven between the front and back car? Line them up. Now you can't just bump someone and get them loose, you have to slam them in the rear and risk wrecking just to loosen them up enough to pass. You don't like single lanes at Bristol, Martinsville, etc.? Just put in progressive banking and create a second lane, now the racing is just boring. What was wrong with the way things were? The cars are safer than ever, the SAFER barriers also help protect the drivers, so why not let them fight for a single lane? That was great racing! Safety is paramount, but to race identical cars is just not as interesting.

Dan
Pittsburgh, Pa.

Just so I'm clear ... if NASCAR doesn't pay attention to the fans, it's a soulless monolithic corporation that's lost touch with what made it great. If NASCAR does pay attention to the fans, it's watering down the racing to appease the masses, and it's lost touch with what made it great. As I see it, the only solution is this: everybody back to racing on the beach!

Actually, that's not a bad idea. But Montoya would probably figure a way to set the ocean on fire.

___________________

While I love NASCAR as a whole, I think the lack of competition at the end of a long green run is hurting the sport more than the lack of cautions. Fans would watch a race with their driver in the hunt for the checkered flag. At Kansas, only Hamlin and Truex were up front at the end, but fans of the other drivers want their drivers up there, not just two. Just wondering if the two issues are one and the same.

Matt

They're two sides of the same coin, yeah. Cautions bunch up the field and give the guys who are way back a chance to win, which is why debris that wouldn't have caught a NASCAR official's eye the first 490 miles of a race suddenly looks like the Rock of Gibraltar in the middle of the track in the final 10.

And you hinted at the key element of the entire fan-complaint issue: The Kobe Principle. Allow me to explain. For those of you who don't follow those dreaded stick-and-ball sports, Kobe Bryant is a basketball player for the Los Angeles Lakers basketball club. (No, there are no lakes in Los Angeles. That's another story.) Anyway, a few years back Kobe got himself in a bit of trouble with a woman that was not his wife. And the discussion began: would you want Kobe, one of the greatest players of all time, on your team despite all his personal baggage? (Similar arguments can be posed for Barry Bonds, Michael Vick, anyone who's ever worn a Red Sox uniform, etc.) And the consensus was: hell yes. (Unless our wives or girlfriends were around, in which case we would loudly proclaim that we'd never have scum like Kobe on our team ... and then we'd keep an eye on the trade wires and hope he landed with us.)

Same deal here. I've not seen one single Denny Hamlin or Martin Truex Jr. fan complain about the racing at Kansas, because it broke their way. Not to say that there isn't a problem, but if we have multiple winners each year, that spreads out the rage across ... hey, wait a second ... we've had a ton of winners already this year ... I think we've spotted the conspiracy!

___________________

Can you elaborate on your comments about Tony Stewart's 7th place rank in the Power Rankings? I too have wondered how someone went from dominating the very essence of an intermediate track to riding around in 15th — 25th with no scent of the leaders. Is it really possible to start practicing for the Chase already? And if he falls out of the top ten, whatever wins he does accumulate will not count towards the Chase. Or do you think Smoke cannot be on fire when it is cold and windy?

John Cartwright

Eh, I'm through trying to figure out Tony Stewart. Somebody out there needs to do a Moneyball/sabermetrics cross-reference of Tony Stewart media meltdowns and victories. There's got to be a correlation. Nice Tony doesn't win races! On second thought, let's not do that. He finds out there's a connection between his bad public behavior and his on-track performance, and he'll start roasting media members on a spit. Literally, not just metaphorically, like he does now.

Anyway, he'll be fine. And now, our final letter, discussing NASCAR numerology...

___________________

My favorite place to find car numbers is on shopping carts at the grocery store.
I recently got #88, and although Junior isn't my favorite driver, it did bring a
smile to my face, especially when I went by the cutout of Keselowski in the
beer section and I passed him!

Kathy P.
Mattoon, Il.

Wait, you were able to pass a stock-still cutout of @Kes in an #88 cart? Somebody get Rick Hendrick on the phone; we've got someone who can drive that doggone number at last! (Sorry, Junior Nation. Deal with it.) Anybody else have conversations with the NASCAR cutouts in the grocery store/gas station/wherever, or is it just me? I got into a loud discussion with a Kyle Busch standup at a Quickie Mart. Oh, sure, other people looked at me, especially when I took off my watch, but ... you know what? Let's wrap this here.

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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