Welcome to the latest Happy Hour mailbag! You know how these work: You write us with your best rant/ joke/one-liner at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @jaybusbee, we respond to your messages, everyone goes away with a smile on their face.
Today's rant item: NASCAR driver cardboard stand-ups. I was in the local Quick Stop recently, walked around a corner and there was a standup of Kyle Busch leering at me. I jumped for a second — when you write about NASCAR guys for a living, you've got to do a mental inventory to see who you've busted on lately — and then realized that this stand-up was only about five feet tall. Kyle Busch, driving for the Lollipop Guild. If I was a NASCAR driver, I'd demand that all my stand-ups be at least seven feet tall, with glowing red eyes.
Anyway, your letters. We begin with the sound of baby rattles ...
With all the new wives and kids now popping up, are these guys not as hungry as Tony anymore? Where's the "rubbin' is racin" attitude? I know Brad K isn't married, but why doesn't he force Tony into the grass when Tony is dive-bombing the start?
That's actually a good question, and one Tony himself answered before Daytona. Do wives (or, in one case, husbands) and kids cramp your style? Smoke only has pets to take care of, and everybody knows you can leave, like, an open bag of dog food and it'll feed your pup for a week. (Don't do that.) But if you're focused on racing and nothing but racing, yeah, you're going to get better faster.
Let's look at the stats. Since 2001, exactly two champions have been fathers at the time they won: Matt Kenseth in 2003 and Jimmie Johnson in 2010. So is that enough to prove a relationship between diapers and defeat? I'm no statistician, but I'm going to say yes.
As for @Kes not hammering Stewart: bear in mind, friends, that this is a long season. You don't go into your office break-room and hip-check that lady from accounting when she doesn't refill the coffee maker, do you? (Well, if you do it right, you only have to do it once.) Bottom line: it's easy to make an enemy who can really screw your season.
[Also, a note: Pat had about 15 more questions on every topic under the sun crammed into that letter. Relax, friends. Keep your letters short, on one topic, and you've got a much better shot of getting them in. And feel free to write in as much as you want; there's no "one letter per month" restriction here.]
I know that it was really important that Carl Edwards get his face time [after Las Vegas] and interviewing and angry Matt Kenseth is ...wait, Matt never gets mad, so why did Fox decide to not interview Ryan Newman? You mean to tell me he is somehow less exciting than Matt, Carl, and Greg? Really? He had the free Bloomin' Onion to promote! This is not new. He only gets interviewed when he wins or crashes (or there is a rain delay and Robby Gordon's son is busy.)
— Tony in Michigan
Hate to say it, but some drivers just don't give us the best quotes. It's true. Also, here's some behind-the-scenes info: it is absolute insanity in the seconds after a race. You've got cars whipping in from every direction, crew members breaking down equipment, dazed fans nearly getting plowed over, the winner doing burnouts in the distance, and everybody busting their butts as fast as they can to get on a plane and get the hell out of there. There are only a finite number of garage reporters, and they've got to make a quick call: go for the guys who are involved in wrecks, go for the guys who will give a good quote, go for Junior, and then see who's left. Sadly, calm and restrained fourth-place drivers don't make that cut.
Can you tell me why Roush Fenway has such a hard time attracting sponsors in both Cup and Nationwide? They have a guy who tied for the Sprint Championship in 2011, they have a guy who won the Nationwide Championship in 2011, they have another guy who won the Daytona 500 in 2011, and two top-caliber Cup drivers, one who just won the Daytona 500. They get plenty of air time, and all the drivers are good on camera and have respectable private lives. Does Roush want too much money? Does Roush have a bad reputation with sponsors? Is Roush specific about the type of sponsor he wants? Any inside info on why they have such a hard time attracting full-time or even race sponsorships?
— Mike Vorndran
Well, I'm not sure I'd agree with the totality of Roush Fenway having trouble attracting sponsorships; the only trouble Carl Edwards has is figuring a place to fit all the sponsorships he has on his firesuit. And Greg Biffle signed a multi-year deal with 3M last year, so he's all covered. Really, it's Kenseth you're talking about, and the answer is: I don't know. I can't figure it either. I think it really just comes down to driver personas, and while we know Kenseth has a razor-sharp dry wit (mmm, dry razor), that doesn't translate well to the big stage. And while Trevor Bayne did indeed win the Daytona 500, he's got a long way to go and prove his legitimacy.
Bottom line: it's not just about winning, as Kenseth is demonstrating. In other words: start signing up for acting and stand-up comedy classes, drivers!
Jay, I am really having trouble wrapping my head around this one. Maybe you can offer an explanation that makes sense. Last year Kyle Busch hunts down and wrecks a driver while under caution, endangering himself, the guy he wrecked and countless other drivers on the track and gets parked for the weekend. Jimmie Johnson has his car inspected 2 weeks before Daytona, the car never made it into the race, and incurs this type of penalty? It doesn't make any sense to me at all.
I love the mental image of Kyle Busch "hunting down" other drivers like a yellow-suited ninja. And yes, the issue of competing penalties is a matter of dispute. But it's NASCAR! It's all about judgment calls!
To your question: it's my belief that NASCAR has wanted to nail Knaus's hide to the wall for some time now. And it's also my belief that they got a bit jumpy and perhaps went too far with this one "visual" inspection of the C-posts. But hey, we're here now. At least until we find out if that appeal works.
Teams have sponsor problems, the top teams are hogging them all, how to fix, how to fix?
Why don't they just limit all teams to 2 cars? Never mind, that would make too much sense. That would force bigger drivers to smaller teams, eventually those teams would be competitive, and possibly bring the end of one of 4 team owners winning the championship every single year.
We kicked the two-car team idea around once before. You could have a pretty solid set of drivers on the market if you went to two-car teams; I'd think Jeff Gordon, Kasey Kahne and Greg Biffle, among many others, could be out of a ride if NASCAR mandated only two drivers to a team. Homework assignment: make a case for the best two-car team in NASCAR. Go.
And finally, this gut-wrenching spam of sorrow:
I was at a party yesterday, got drunk, couldn't drive the car, somebody gave me a lift on my car, and crossed on the red light! I've just got the pictures, maybe you know him???
I need to find him urgently!
Hmm. Nope. Haven't a clue. Sorry, Thomasa. (Though it would explain a lot ... )
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 email@example.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!