Happy Hour: Mailbag time

Jay Hart
Yahoo! Sports

We're cranking out the mailbag again this year, though with a bit of a facelift.

It's called Happy Hour, and this season I'll be your doting bartender, here to listen to you vent and answer any questions you might have about life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Oh, and NASCAR, too.

So let's get to it:

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How did you leave out Ryan Newman? I know he hasn't performed as well the past few years but he is at least a top 20 driver!

Roger Dunn
Hickman, Kent.

Roger is talking about our Top 20 countdown, and I think he answered his own question. But also keep in mind, our Top 20 countdown is a survey of six people who live and breathe NASCAR. Newman didn't make the cut, though I'll let you in on something – our survey had him at No. 21.

Not a question, but an answer. You ranked Hamlin before Jr.? Do you watch NASCAR?

Sam Taylor
Boone, N.C.

Really, not a question? You sure about that, Sam? As for ranking Hamlin before Junior, see my previous answer.

To me, with your guys' preseason rankings, I feel as though you are not giving Denny Hamlin credit he deserves. Is it only his fans who see his potential? When the announcers are calling the race, "Where did he come from?", do you not see that Denny is able to take a crappy situation like saying going a lap down and come back to finish third. He can drive better than half the drivers out there, but yet you all go after the same HIGH profile drivers. Look at people other than Jimmie, Jeff, Jr., Carl, because us fans see it differently. Denny will surprise you all this season. He'll be a hell of a lot higher than 10th at the end of the season. I'm talking first.

Glendale, Ariz.

I appreciate your passion, Tara, but come on – first? Let's keep it real here. Denny came out of the box fast, but he hasn't matched his rookie performance since.

Unless Donnie Wingo is going to drive for Jamie McMurray, nothing has changed. David Ragan is definitely the better driver and Jack Roush knows David is the future. Watch David's smoke this year.

Al Joye
Manassas, Va.

I hear ya, Al. And I've got Ragan making the Chase this season.

Will they ever keep the Cup drivers out of the Nationwide Series? The racing is better when there are no Cup drivers. I haven't seen that yet but I've seen a few races with a few Cup drivers due to racing in different states that weekend. Keep the Cup drivers in the Cup series! Let the Nationwide drivers duel it out with them when they move up.

Billy Meadors
Dayton, Texas

It's a million-dollar question, Billy, but I don't see it happening anytime soon. Track owners need to sell tickets, and one way to do that for the minor league series is to have major league names to promote. And while it would be nice to have seen Brad Keselowski hoist the trophy last year, he's not putting fannies in the seats.

Jay, your comments regarding Brian France are certainly interesting, especially with respect to the connection with television. One point that you didn't mention, however, was NASCAR's dependence on the automobile industry, as well as the media coverage. The "stick and ball" sports are self supporting, in that their "equipment" is inexpensive, and easily purchased anywhere, and their "supporting series" is the thousands of schools across the U.S. Automobile racing, especially as it has now become, is a very equipment driven, therefore expense driven, industry/sport. Furthermore, you don't have a "go-kart team" in high schools, and a "stock car team" in colleges, to provide the "farm system" of the other sports. Auto racing is fairly unique in its structure, and as the American economy, and most importantly, the auto industry itself, is in trouble, so is NASCAR. To my casual observance, NASCAR wasn't able to garner quite as much TV money as the other sports, and if it did, it certainly didn't trickle it down "through the ranks," in order to sustain itself. This could be a real turning point for the sport.

Lon Boyer
Webster, N.Y.

Dear Mr. Hart: I like your article about Brian France. It was well written and presented both sides of the story. I have been critical myself but this added the perspective I needed to talk about some of NASCAR's leadership intelligently.

Mark Bundy
Alpharetta, Ga.

Had to throw this one in. Need a little boost to the ego every now and then.

You do not know anything about racing. Who got you this job? You are simply never right about anything Jay! Bozo!

Rochester, N.Y.

Just because you say it doesn't make it true, Matt. Come on, if you're gonna bring it, back it up with some evidence.

I think Martin can finally win the championship, however I think to do that, he will have to be more aggressive as a driver and demand more from the crew than he did last year.

Bob Huey
Port Charlotte, Fla.

Martin will certainly be the sentimental favorite this season, but I don't see a title in his future. Top five, maybe, but asking him to beat Jimmie Johnson and Carl Edwards at the top of their game – not going to happen.

That's it for this week's Happy Hour. And I promise I won't be using some lame tag line like "the bar is closed." For that, I'm open to suggestions. Let's hear them.

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