Readers sound off on Hallowdega

Jimmie Johnson, Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick are separated by just 38 points

No, there wasn't a Big One at Talladega, but there was plenty of drama between Denny Hamlin falling a lap down, Jimmie Johnson getting no help after Jeff Gordon peeled off in that final push to the front and Kevin Harvick driving around in what looked like a taped-up jalopy.

Plenty to talk about, so let's get to the mailbag:

Who's great?

Jay, Think about and comment on this. We only have 3 great active drivers, with Hamlin a potential 4th. For now, I don't see anyone else even in the wings.

My off-hand criteria are average finish (top 10), average races won (3+), 30+ wins, and having won a championship – counting only full seasons raced.

In order of their averages: Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart.

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Joey Logano's even younger start is appearing to be hurting him. And it may be Kyle Bush may never overcome his overly youthful start. Mark Martin's average finishes are pretty good, but his average wins are poor, and of course he never won a championship. He may be the best guy that never made it.

So anyway, with only 2 drivers that are actively great (Johnson and Stewart), and only one up-and-comer (Hamlin), how can we expect a Chase or championship that is any better than it is?

Lubbock, Texas

Well, you're right – we're certainly not in the heyday of the early 1980s, when the likes of Earnhardt, Petty, Yarborough, Waltrip and Allison were battling it out.

The era we're in now has a few exceptional drivers and a large group of very good but not great drivers. And of the drivers that I would categorize as exceptional, only two – Johnson and Kyle Busch – are still at or approaching their prime.

I'm not ready to put Hamlin in the "exceptional" category. To me, he's no different than Carl Edwards right now. If Hamlin unseats Johnson and then makes another title run or two, then I'll put him up there.

As for Logano, give the kid a little more time. He is getting better, and winning bunches of races before your 23rd birthday – Logano is still only 20 – is something neither Jeff Gordon nor Kyle Busch did.

As for how this impacts the Chase, I do believe it's set up to be more and more competitive. Hamlin and Busch are primed to challenge Johnson on a regular basis, and you can count on one or two other drivers (Edwards, Harvick, Gordon and Stewart) rotating in and out of the contenders mix – which should make for a better championship battle.

Finish at Talladega

Hi Jay – I only caught the end of Talladega, and I have a question. I thought when the caution flag dropped NASCAR froze the field (which they say they did) but then they revert back to the last scoring loop that the drivers passed. Wouldn't this make Harvick the winner? He was leading at the start/finish line, and the next loops including the one when the caution flew. Thanks for clarifying, we 29 fans need all the points we can get. John

John Christie
Liberty Township, Ohio

Here's the explanation from NASCAR: "Officials went back and checked the video, frame by frame, to determine who was in the lead at the time the caution light was illuminated. Bowyer was ahead by the narrowest of margins."

Give NASCAR credit. They didn't make a quick decision just to make a quick decision. They took more than three minutes looking at the video, making sure they made the right call. There's no crying foul on this one.

Chase talk

Jay, If you has a choice, would you rather be 14 points ahead,14 points behind or 38 points behind? Last I looked the 48 was still leading the Chase. I realize the haters are the haters. Let's see if the Nature Boy's wisdom can hold up for three more. Oh and two of those tracks are some of the best for the 48. Win, lose or draw, this is the best Chase by far. A fan's dream. I can't wait for Texas this week.

Buzz C.
The Woodlands, Texas

Wow, someone actually enjoys the drama. What a novel idea.

Buzz, I still give the edge to Johnson – but only because he's the four-time defending champ. Take away history and I believe Hamlin would have the advantage. Here's why: • Hamlin won at Texas earlier this year; Johnson's intermediate-track program, meanwhile, has been suspect all season. Yes, J.J. has managed to score top-five finishes at Kansas, Cali and Charlotte, but he wasn't dominate at any of those places. Advantage: Hamlin.

• Both Johnson and Hamlin are very good at Phoenix. Either could win, but J.J. has won four of the past six there. Advantage: Johnson.

• Johnson hasn't had to show his cards at Homestead-Miami since 2005, and in that race he wrecked while trying to stay on the track even though he had a tire rub. Hamlin, meanwhile, won there a year ago. Advantage: Hamlin.

I'm not totally counting out Kevin Harvick. He could top-five his way to a title. But I think it's going to take a mistake/issue by both Hamlin and Johnson for Harvick to take over the points lead, and I don't see that happening to both of them.

Whoever wins, they are going to have to earn it because we have three drivers battling at the top of their games. What more could you ask for (besides one of those three being Dale Jr.)?

NASCAR wants to reward winning but they have a points system that rewards consistency. Despite losing 150 at New Hampshire Clint Bowyer should have vaulted in the points but only gained 10 points over 2nd place Harvick.

I offer this to NASCAR: 1st place: 300 points 2nd place: 200 points 3rd place: 150 points 4th place: 125 points then you split the remaining points between 5th and 25th. No one under 25th receives points (It works in F1 why not NASCAR!)This would not only eliminate points racing but it would truly reward WINNING!

Harmony, N.C.

Amen, brother. I don't fully agree with how you've broken it down but am completely with you on awarding more points for winning.

I probably should use an alias for this and I'm going to preface it with "I'm a Tony Stewart fan", but after the Martinsville race I feel kind of bad for Jimmie Johnson. The 4-time, possibly 5-time champ is hated by the majority of NASCAR in spite of the fact that the 48 team has been the class of the field in recent history and probably for some time to come.

I don't remember Lance Armstrong being hated this much when he was winning his millionth Tour de France. But Junior can lead a race for a few laps in a season and the majority of NASCAR fans go into ecstasy.

I know the reason why, but as I look at talent, consistency, focus and sheer determination, I'm gaining more and more respect for Jimmie Johnson and Chad Knaus. If he does win his fifth … it's going to be a huge occasion in NASCAR history.

Having said all that, I hope Harvick comes from behind and wins the whole thing. Vader still isn't my favorite driver, but I'm in awe of what he's been able to accomplish.

Big Spring, Texas

Everyone on this side of the pond loved Armstrong because he was, first and foremost, an American, and because he dominated a sport in which Americans don't usually excel. Across the pond, however, Lance wasn't universally loved. Case in point: every French rag trying to bring him down for doping.

I guarantee you the large majority of NASCAR fans would be rooting for Johnson if he were to give Formula 1 a try. Heck, they'd even root for Digger.

However, I don't agree with all this talk about Johnson losing being what's best for NASCAR. What's best for NASCAR is having a close championship battle. While Jimmie Johnson may not move the needle like Dale Earnhardt Jr., a championship season by Denny Hamlin or Kevin Harvick isn't going to suddenly create a bunch of NASCAR fans out of thin air. Only a handful of drivers winning a title would have a measurable impact: Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart and, yes, Kyle Busch.

Playoffs in other sports are exciting because if you lose, you go home. I think the Chase should be changed to a similar format. Every week during the Chase, the Chase contenders start the race in order of their ranking. After each race, the driver who finishes last is out. Points are awarded to determine the starting position for next week's race. In Miami, you'll have two drivers competing against each other for the Championship. Whoever finishes first wins.

Jon Bonner
Madison, S.D.

The way the Chase is set up now, you don't get that dramatic feeling you do when watching, say, the NCAA Tournament because there isn't anything concrete to lose on a weekly basis. Yes, Jeff Gordon is unofficially out of the title hunt, but he's not officially done. And while the difference between "officially" and "unofficially" may be semantics, it makes a big deal in terms of "feeling."

This is why I'm now on board with the elimination-format idea.

Here we are in what's shaping up to be a fantastic finish and still we don't have that dramatic, win-or-go-home feeling. It will be there at Homestead-Miami, but why save it all for the end?

I know there is a faction of you who don't like the Chase and despise the idea of an elimination format even more. But I challenge any of you to miss even one race where Jimmie Johnson's spot in the Chase is on the line.

Quarterfinals this week in the NCAA tournament style chase. Pairings are Johnson/Montoya, Hamlin/Kurt Busch, Harvick/Kenseth and Gordon/Edwards. Still seven of the "real chasers," including five of the top six. Hmmm, if you're top seed Johnson, how much fun would race be knowing Montoya just needs to finish ahead of you to move on to next week? And the other pairings are not so bad either. Sure beats only having three drivers with a chance to win it all.

Hillsborough, N.H.

This and that …

Can we please do away with the annoying Lucky Dog already? It's called racing, isn't it? Rewarding someone just because they are the leader of those a lap down is just odd. They're a lap down for a reason and should have to earn it back, not have it handed to them.

Douglassville, Pa.

No – at least that's the word out of Denny Hamlin's camp.

Jay, Can you please tell me why Krazy Kyle got the win at Talladega in the truck race. He went below the double yellow line with plenty of space between him and Aric Amirola. Oh! I know why! He is "The Super Star of Nascar" only Super Stars get a free pass. And Nascar wonders why so many fans are turning away from what was a Great Sport. Thanks for your input.

Harold Sears
Conover, N.C.

Wait, does NASCAR want to see Krazy Kyle win or Jimmie Johnson?

Look, there's the law and there is the spirit of the law.

For example, I got a parking ticket the other day for not having a pass to park on my street after 8 p.m. Thing is, I do have the pass. It was sitting on my dashboard. I'd just forgotten to hang it on my rearview mirror. I challenged the ticket, saying the spirit of the law is to prevent non-residents from parking on the street after 8 p.m. The city agreed and erased the ticket. (I know, minor miracle.)

In the case of Saturday's truck race at Talladega, the law states that you cannot go below the yellow line in order to pass. Well, Busch didn't go below the yellow line in order to pass. He went there (barely, if at all, mind you) because he was out of control. Steering down the track certainly didn't help him. If anything, it hurt him.

Without a doubt, NASCAR made the correct call.

Jay, I can't seem to figure this out. But why does the live race chat system suck so bad? None of my comments seem to get posted, no one sees them. It's kinda frustrating. What do Jay? What do?

T.J. Reily
Tacoma, Wash.

Glad you join us on Sundays, T.J. Here's the thing: Thousands of comments pour in during the course of the chat – hundreds every minute. In other words, a lot more comments don't make it on the chat than do.

Witty comments – and anyone who pays myself or Jay Busbee a compliment – move to the front of the line. Some of the regulars have figured this out, which is why you frequently see some of the same names.

Stick with us, T.J., we'll get you in.

Fantasy land

Here are my Fantasy NASCAR picks for the week:

A Group: Denny Hamlin, Jimmie Johnson
B Group: Jeff Burton, Kevin Harvick, Matt Kenseth, Martin Truex Jr.
C Group: Aric Almirola, Paul Menard

Last call …

The Chase v F1 Jay- Has anyone at NASCAR noticed that there is an interesting points race across the pond in F1?

Matthew Mark
Darnestown, Md.