Happy Hour: Shortening races, and the Junior-bashing begins

Welcome to the latest Happy Hour mailbag! You know how these work: you write us at nascarmail@yahoogroups.com or on Twitter at @jaybusbee, we respond to your messages, everyone goes away with a smile on their face. Today, we're talking shorter races, Junior and Kyle love, and NASCAR relegation. Away we go!

I truly thought NASCAR would shorten the races (this offseason); this still drives me crazy. I can understand if they can't shorten the season due to the deals they have with the tracks, but is shortening a race that much of a problem? What is your take on this? I think most people, other than NASCAR brass, want the races shortened. Is it a problem with some sort of contract with the tracks?


Like the name there, sir. That always gets you moved to the front of the line. That said, I definitely agree with you that shortening races is a great idea. Keep a few their established length - Daytona, the Coca-Cola 600, and so on - but for the rest of 'em, lop off 15-20 percent. The problem, of course, is that fewer laps means fewer opportunities to broadcast ads (yes, I know that breaks your heart), which will have a definitive impact on the bottom line. The tracks wouldn't lose revenue from shortening the races, except for that fifth beer and eighth hot dog, which you really shouldn't have anyway.

How many wins will Dale Earnhardt Jr. get this year? Wait, don't answer me, that's a rhetorical question.

Seattle, Washington

Oh, Jari, I sure hope there are plenty of Jaris in Seattle for your sake. It's also a good thing you're a long way from North Carolina. But to answer your question: I do think Junior will get a win this year. It'll be at one of his comfort tracks, like Daytona or Talladega, but I think it'll happen. For the anti-Junior contingent, you'll note that I said "a" win.

More fun follows!

I am a born Southerner and a lifelong Ford fan. I would even pull for Geoff Bodine, Lord forgive me, driving a Ford to beat Bill Elliott driving another brand. And I would not pull for my own mother in a Toyota. Over the years I have had almost as much fun pulling against Junior Johnson, Petty, Waltrip, Earnhardt and Pretty Boy as I have when my driver wins. But how can you not like Jimmie Johnson? Maybe he needs to trip an old lady or something.

Pete McClung
Greenville, N.C.

If Jimmie Johnson started tripping old ladies, he'd instantly be so good at it that the ladies would just give up and dive when he came walking up the street. And if Junior started tripping old ladies, fans would say the old ladies deserved it.

Why is NASCAR the only sport that lets all the teams compete in the playoffs/Chase? Why not run 31 races and then the top twelve + two wildcards or fan faves run the final five races for the cup? We don't see 32 teams in the NFL playoffs, nor do we see all NBA teams, baseball teams, or hockey teams. Just the ones that belong there by their end-of-season records. Why not try it?

John M. Lilly
Matthews, NC

Two reasons. One, sponsors wouldn't be thrilled about their guy getting ushered to an early exit. More importantly, the races would be awful. Twelve cars spread out along Talladega? It'd look like qualifying laps. I get what you're going for, but logistical and financial matters trump competitive ones.

If 2011's new point system had been used in 2010's season, how would the standings ended up?

Mike R. Searcy

That is an outstanding question, and one I simply do not have time to figure out at this exact moment. But if one of you fine folks would like to take on that challenge, I'd be happy to present your results right here for the world to see. Impress your friends! That's almost as good as money, right? Oh, and I bet Johnson will still win.

Was the swap of the Hendrick 48 and 24 pit crews that occurred at the Texas race made permanent or will the crews be back with their original crew chiefs this season? The 48 pit crew had problems throughout the season, not just the Texas race, which seemed to revolve around the tire changers dropping nuts or not tightening them enough. Will Chad Knaus or Steve Letarte be replacing one or both tire changers to get their pit crew back on track (pun intended)?

George in VA

Ow, that pun physically hurt. To answer your question: yes and no. The 48 pit crew, along with the 88, will be drawn from a pool of potential crew members that will include one full pit crew on the "bench," so to speak. In other words, there'll be three crews for the two teams to draw from. And considering how quick Knaus is on the trigger, those tire changers and the like had better be on their best behavior.

Jay, as I have said before, I can't understand why people think Kyle is such a good driver. He could not even win with a Hendrick car in Cup ... He might be a nice person, I don't know, I have never met him, but it's for sure he is too wild to be in Cup races.

Johnny Finley

I think 15 Cup wins, two Chase berths and one whisper-thin miss in the last three seasons would seem to indicate that he's a decent enough driver. If he's able to get that infamous "wild" side under control, he'll eliminate everyone's doubts about his ability to drive.

Next, a little fan mail, presented exactly as sent:

Ummmm I think we have the wrong Jay here. Where the hell is Jay Hart?! I will no longer follow the Mailbag/Happy Hour if its in the hands of Busbee. His skills and comments are terrible and he's a amateur blogger at best. Anyone can write like Busbee. This sucks.

I'm seriously regretting I taught my mom how to use a computer now.

I've heard tell that since you sleep at the track, it's perfectly acceptable to rock your Dale Jr. Jammy pants. You technically have not left the "house" in them. One other reason is Jr. fans know that they will be leaving early to catch a nap.

—Ted B

Boy, the Junior haters are in midseason form already. Let me hear you, Junior Nation!

We conclude with a way to put a little more heat on underperforming drivers:

I think NASCAR needs to do what the PGA is doing by using the Nationwide series to build talent, not as a place for top drivers to make more cash. Those top drivers would receive an automatic ride the following season and drivers who don't make the cut would move down. (Hello, Elliott Sadler.) This would keep the drivers and the teams more competitive and the fans would see driving to win, not just to win money. Many of the drivers are too used to motor coaches and private jets and if they thought those things could disappear I think they would push harder, driver better and work with their teams to perform.

Steve aka @MyPintOfView

It's not dissimilar to soccer-style relegation, where good teams get promoted to the highest league and weak teams get the boot to the lower leagues. It's a sound thought, pure meritocracy - rewards for driving well, punishment for driving poorly. The problem with this idea is that NASCAR doesn't control who can and can't drive in their series (Jeremy Mayfield excepted, of course). If someone's willing to put a driver in a seat, and said driver is qualified and licensed to drive for NASCAR, there's no way to stop it. That's why [driver name redacted because he'll find me in Daytona this week and chase me with a crowbar] still has a ride.

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 nascarmail@yahoogroups.com, or hit us up on Twitter at @jaybusbee. We'll make you famous!

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