Happy Hour: A Wild Card Playoff for NASCAR?

Throughout the week you can send us your best questions, jokes, rants and just plain miscellaneous thoughts to happyhourmailbag@yahoo.com or @NickBromberg. We'll post them here, have a good time and everyone's happy. Right? Oh who are we kidding, this is NASCAR. No one is ever happy.

Are you all recovering from Danica Patrick's music video appearance? I'm not sure if that song is ever going to leave my head. It's on a continuous loop, which is has gotten to be like a musical chainsaw slicing through my skull.

Three races down, seven to go. Are you ready for some Chase drama? Thursday was a four-hour test session for the "revolutionary" multi-tread Goodyear tire. However, it was about 20 degrees warmer Thursday than it's expected to be for race day. I'm not an engineer, but I don't expect the tire to wear too much with the cooler temperatures and new racetrack. The famous words of race day may be the same that they've been all season: track position.

On that positive note, let's get on with it.

As a stats nerd, I've been recently struggling with how I should feel about the MLB playoffs. This year, at most, a team would play 20 games in the playoffs, with a record of 12-8 if they were to win the World Series. (That would be Tampa Bay or Pittsburgh, winning the Wild Card game and then each successive series in the most games possible.) That's an eighth of a baseball season and leads to some pretty fluky sample sizes. The Chase right now is over a quarter of the NASCAR schedule. Is it too long for a playoff system? Compared to every other sport's playoff system it is. But what do fans want? Do you want the drama that comes with small sample sizes or the true indications that come with extended trials? Right now, you could say that NASCAR is in the middle of it. Oh, there's a question I should be answering. I think it'd be insanely dramatic, though not necessarily the best way for a driver to get into the Chase.

If you weren't watching the Truck race at Vegas, at times it felt like Talladega with the tapered spacers on the engines and the Vegas banking keeping everyone flat out and close together.

For a substantial schedule shift to happen -- outside of limiting tracks to one race a year -- a lot of tracks would have to reconfigure. NASCAR isn't going to take away races from Charlotte, Atlanta, Texas or Kansas. They'd have to reconfigure.

On these current configurations we have already gotten to the point that with the right setup and combination of tires and pavement, Cup drivers can almost flat out a qualifying lap. So yes, with the advances in downforce and setups, we're closer to that point than we've ever been on these intermediate tracks.

However, that's obviously not sustainable for races, nor do I think it will ever be unless NASCAR becomes very Formula 1ish. And I don't see that happening, unless the Talladega experience can be mimicked under braking in the corners.

More short tracks and road courses? I can definitely see that.

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Hi Nick, I'm curious where some of the good drivers are going to end up since there seems to not be enough spots.

Truex (possibly) leaving MWR, Burton & Harvick leaving RCR, Newman out at SHR, Montoya gone from EGR, Busch out at Furniture Row. Some of those guys have rides, but not all. What happens to guys like Ryan Newman, Mark Martin, Jeff Burton, Martin Truex. If teams keep the current amount of drivers per, than RCR can take 1 (Austin Dillon taking the other), EGR can take 1, and Furniture Row can take 1.

Is there a chance of Roush or Gibbs or Childress expanding to 4 teams? What about Penske or EGR expanding to 3 teams? There are still a lot of good top 25 drivers left in the mix that deserve to drive for a top team. And I still think it's crazy that Waltrip would let Truex go, and keep Vickers on. Nothing against Vickers, but Truex is Chase caliber every season.
- Carl

Newman's deal at Richard Childress Racing has already been announced so he's there. As far as Burton and Martin, they're essentially free agents right now. Right now, it looks like the signs tentatively point to Truex staying with MWR, but he's also going to likely need even a partial season sponsor. Will he get it?

With the Newman announcement and the Burton departure, RCR said it wasn't going to four teams, and Roush and Gibbs haven't given any indication that they'd head in that direction. Plus, it's a little late to make that decision now.

For Vickers, how bad would that be if since NAPA left, MWR decided that Truex was a better option for Aaron's and it tried to get out of his contract? While that may look like the "best case" scenario to some people in terms of driver lineup if the team only had two cars, we're dealing with human beings here. Decency is expected. Also, MWR isn't exactly on a lot of people's good lists right now. Imagine if they did that?

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Joey Logano has now won four straight NNS races at Dover. Why is this such an accomplishment? I know this has been brought up time and time again but should Cup drivers race in NNS or the CWTS? People claim that when they race it brings more people out to the races and better TV ratings. Have any of these people actually tuned into an NNS race with a Cup driver in it? As we have seen, they just run pull out front and run away with the race. How does that bring more eyes to the race when it is almost a certainty that a Cup driver will win? The stand alone races have greater attendance numbers and the racing is much better because the NNS or CWTS regulars are racing against each other for wins, not just to be the highest regular finisher.
My solution, allow Cup drivers the opportunity to be in a maximum of five NNS races and since there are less truck races, they can only start a maximum of three.
-Sean

Five races (and three in the Truck Series) isn't going to happen, at least immediately. I think a logical compromise is 15-20 races for Cup Series drivers and then go from there.

What I think adds another layer of intrigue into the Cup/Nationwide driver debate is the contract status of Sam Hornish. He's currently without a ride for next season, and he could potentially be the Nationwide Series champion. Seems crazy, doesn't it?

It's a good example of sponsorship, especially in the Nationwide Series, as Hornish would have to go to a team with funding or bring his own sponsor, despite the decreased costs of NASCAR's second-tier series.

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