Happy Hour: Problems with Pocono

Jay Hart
Yahoo! Sports

When the checkered flag flew at Pocono, I heard a lot of people talking about what a great race it was. But I wonder, did they forget the first 170 laps?

Let's get to the mailbag:

Lingering issues

The hit Hamlin put on Reutimann was about as blatant as he could get. We knew we'd see some of these moves with the Chase format eventually – teammates helping each other; given that KyBusch was only 14 points behind Reutimann coming in and the 00 looked very strong today, what's a bit of help to get Kyle a bit higher in the standings?

My point here is that NASCAR can't penalize Stremme or Robby Gordon and NOT penalize Joe Gibbs Racing for today's nonsense.

Craig Huegen
Bartelso, Ill.

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I agree with you, Craig, that Hamlin's love tap on Reutimann was a bad deal. Reutimann had a definite top-10 run going up to that point. Now, he's 119 points out of the Chase, with his playoff hopes essentially dashed.

So Hamlin definitely deserves a tongue-lashing.

However, there is a difference between what he did and what Stremme did to Robby Gordon. I don't think Hamlin meant to turn Reutimann; rather, he was just being impatient. Stremme absolutely meant to turn Gordon.

NASCAR can penalize intent, but it can't poor judgment.

Explain to me how a driver goes 3 laps down, starts in 36th place with 13 laps to go, and finishes in the top 15? Don't cars normally have to go into the garage to change out a carburetor and why did NASCAR allow the 48 team to sand off their pit box?

THEY picked the pit box; it wasn't assigned to them. If they didn't like the "paint" on the ground, they should have chosen a different pit box.

When is enough, enough? How many more times is NASCAR going to close their eyes when it comes to the 48 team? It just doesn't seem fair.

Lester Snyder
Effort, Pa.

First off, I always pass through Effort (for all of one minute) on my way to Pocono Raceway. Bummed to see the Effort Diner closed down.

As for Jimmie getting preferential treatment, let me address your points separately:

• The Lucky Dog was not created to help the likes of Jimmie Johnson. In fact, Johnson's usually not in a position to need the free pass.


Jimmie Johhson's crew puts sandpaper on their pit box at Pocono to avoid slipping.


• Crews are always worried about slick pit boxes – which is why, prior to races, crew members can be seen spraying cans of soda all over their pit stalls. This makes the ground sticky, thus giving crew members traction when running around the cars when they pit. Every team does this sort of thing, not just Jimmie Johnson's.

I think it's too bad some fans think Jimmie gets preferential treatment – because you're missing something special. Yes, he needed the Lucky Dog to get back on the lead lap Monday, but how many times have we seen other teams suffer what's deemed a fatal blow and NOT come back. Johnson and the entire 48 crew deserve credit for not giving up, persevering and putting their driver in a position to salvage a decent finish. What we saw Monday was why Johnson is the three-time defending champ and why, I believe, he will win No. 4.

And for the conspiracy theorists out there: What does NASCAR have to gain by choosing Jimmie Johnson as its driver of choice over, say, Dale Earnhardt Jr.?

Ok, the start and parks are getting ridiculous. Now we have Mike Wallace not even showing up with a pit crew. The point of NASCAR races are to race. To me pulling something like Wallace did today was tantamount to ripping off the fans who paid to see 43 cars race and NASCAR which paid Wallace $64,952. All Wallace did was take a site seeing ride around the track for 10 minutes and go home.

Overland Park, Kan.

Per NASCAR rules, drivers have to have a crew in order to race. According to NASCAR, once they "saw there wasn't a crew with the 64 car," they black-flagged him.

Allow me to translate: NASCAR wants a full, 43-car field to start the race, so in order to achieve that, they didn't "see" that Wallace didn't have a crew until after the race started.

I agree with you in principle, Brian. But really, is anyone paying to see that 43rd car?

After watching the Nationwide race at Iowa and Indianapolis Raceway Park the last two weeks, wouldn't it make sense to take one of the boring Pocono or California races and move it to one of these short tracks? How about Pike's Peak?

I know this won't happen due to all the politics involved but wouldn't it be nice if NASCAR would think of the fans? How about the ones sitting at home watching these boring races (or the greater number of fans turning them off).

NASCAR's COT has produced boring racing which they can't fix. Why not change the track selection to create better racing? NASCAR deserves all the criticism they receive.

Paul Switzer
Tinley Park, Ill.

As I've said before, I think if NASCAR had to do it all over again, they would have more short tracks on the schedule. Problem is, the bigger tracks are already built and now we're all stuck with them.

We all know the impetus behind going to the bigger tracks was money, but that doesn't mean NASCAR necessarily knew it was choosing profit at the expense of good racing. That's just how it's turned out.

This and that

Couldn't agree more with you on the whole deal with the fans. It even seems that some fans try to have it both ways sometimes. For example, when the weepers appeared at Fontana last year, NASCAR tried to get the track ready to race again, fans said that it was an effort in futility, then when it rained at Bristol for qualifying last year and it looked like it wouldn't let up, lots of fans complained by saying NASCAR should of waited.

There are plenty of other examples of this as well, from the tracks, to the cars, to the way NASCAR runs the races. NASCAR hasn't made the best decisions, but at the rate things are going, it's not going to just be NASCAR that kills itself, it will be the fans that will help in doing the killing as well.

Scott Steudler
Lancaster, Pa.

I'm one of those who think that wins should get you into the Chase. But my take is a little different (I've thought and re-thought this a few times over the last couple of seasons).

The original obvious reason the field expanded to 12 was because drivers weren't making the 400-point cutoff. So here's how I'd cast the Chase:

Top 10 in points; Drivers within 500 points of the leader; Any driver with one or more wins that has started every race with the same team.

After doing the math on that, generally you'd wind up with 12-14 drivers in the Chase each year under that rule. And it potentially allows racers a couple of mulligans in the first 26 races. Get caught up in the Big One at a plate track? You may still be able to make the Chase.

Typically, there's one or two winners each year who wind up missing the Chase and they're virtually always in the top 15 anyhow.

Also, at reseeding time I'd go with 20 point separation for each place in the standings, with 10 bonus points for each win added to that.

Salem, Mass.

To put in perspective the 400-point window NASCAR originally had as a way to get into the Chase, consider that right now only two drivers are within 400 points of Tony Stewart. And I'm still not keen on giving a playoff spot to every race winner. Brian Vickers deserves a spot in the Chase before Joey Logano.

Last call …

Jay, I have a suggestion. Next time the track needs drying out they should put Rusty Wallace down on the track and give him a microphone. NASCAR could save $thousands by parking the hot air blowers.

Bill McConnell
Franklin, Tenn.

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