Trading Paint: Junior and more

Jerry Bonkowski
Yahoo! Sports

The Junior Nation is up in arms again – not for my criticizing their heartthrob, but the fact he's 41st in the Nextel Cup standings after this season's first two races.

We talk about Junior, but we also use this issue of Trading Paint to clear out our mailbag on lots of other subjects.

Game on (my answers are in italics):

SLOW START ("Power outage" Feb. 27, 2007)

It may not be a big deal that Junior is so far back in the points as far as the Chase is concerned, but it certainly is in the short term. DEI's owner points only get him in three more races. If he isn't running 35th or better when that runs out, then Junior will have to start getting in on time. Imagine the headache for NASCAR if the very face of NASCAR doesn't qualify for a race.

Jeff Reeb
Memphis, Tenn.

Do you think you can follow up and let us know exactly what happened to DEI's engines? Rods, cylinders, detonation, etc.?

Chuck Marik
Plainfield, Ill.

DEI would never reveal its weakness in the engine department to another team, let alone the media. All I can say is major changes and improvements better happen real quick, lest it be a long season for DEI.

I have been a Dale Earnhardt Jr. fan from the beginning. I really think that Junior's chances of winning a championship are fading fast. Not because of these first races, but if you look at all the young drivers that are doing a lot better than Dale is now, they are good drivers and they have great equipment. Then you have all the veterans that want it, too. It's too bad because he is the fan favorite, no doubt, and I would like to see him in there winning.

Glenn Cooper
Arcade, N.Y.

Well, according to approximately 5,006 print, radio, net and TV reporters and analysts in attendance at Daytona and Fontana, being as far down in the points as far as the No. 8 car and driver are at this time is catastrophic! One of the media giants muttered under her breath, "His chances of making the Chase now are about the same as our having an ice-skating session on Hellfire Lake. Or will the Junior nation invoke a special blessing from Pope Brian and the angels in heaven?

Arthur Trim
Conyers, Ga.

Maybe Junior soon will get the call from on-high at NASCAR HQ in Daytona pretty soon.

After Dale Jr. finishes 21st in points this year, do you think they will expand the Chase to the top 25 drivers next year?

Scott Ferguson
Morris, Ill.

Would you expect anything less? Or how about an automatic Dale Jr. qualifying exemption? Works for me.


You barely touched the surface when you discussed the Car formerly known as the Car of Tomorrow. For example, it will be the Car of Today at some tracks while still the Car of Tomorrow at others. Unless they actually change their mind and roll it out to the entire schedule in 2008, next year it will the Car of Today at some tracks, the Car of Tomorrow at others (until Today finally comes and the green flag is dropped) and the Car of The Day After Tomorrow for those tracks that won't get it until 2009. Is it just me or have we all suddenly entered an extended bit from the movie "Airplane" with Leslie Neilson playing the part of Mike Helton?

Kurt Ullman

God, I have a headache all of a sudden. Well, at least you didn't call me Shirley.

I was watching the national news just a little bit ago and heard a couple of Washington state representatives (Larry Seaquist and House Speaker Frank Chopp) make some very rude comments toward fans and generally the people in the South. What is wrong with these people? I can understand having an opinion on something, but to make verbal attacks on people who enjoy the sport is totally uncalled for! They have put a black eye on the state and the people who voted to put them in office. I've sent my email; I encourage others to do the same.

Michael Crowder

While I agree that verbal attacks are uncalled for, Michael, let's look at the other side of the coin. It's been made pretty clear by most state politicians and the voting public in much of Washington state over the last three years that they simply just don't want NASCAR in their state. Yet the sanctioning body continues to try and shove its way down the throats of Washington state politicians and voters. How many different sites has NASCAR been interested in that have been subsequently shot down? I think we're up to, what, four now? Is NASCAR that thick-headed that it doesn't get the message by now that it's simply not wanted? Would you like a track in your backyard that you didn't want or ask for? Honestly, I think the sanctioning body would have a better chance of selling its plan in Oregon, particularly the Portland area, which has expressed some interest in the past, only to be pretty much ignored by NASCAR.

The way NASCAR applies its rules to different drivers and the way it closes close its eyes to some infractions makes me want to go back to dirt tracking and forget NASCAR.

Robert Beane
Lenoir, N.C.

The COT and safer walls are noting but crap. If I wanted to watch a bumper car race, I would go to my local carnival. These guys are paid millions of dollars a year to drive around a bumper car track. Last weekend's race is a prime example of that. What ever happened to the real "Back In the Day?" Drivers get hurt, drivers die! NASCAR is now a kiddie sport. It (stinks) big time. I've been watching since 1974. No more! I don't care what you do to the sport, there is no more thrill and no more excitement! NASCAR is for wussies.

Jim McConnell
Merlin, Ore.

Yep, we need more dead drivers to bring back real excitement, don't we?

After Dale Jr. finishes 21st in points this year, do you think they will expand the Chase to the top 25 drivers next year?

Scott Ferguson
Morris, Ill.

Would you expect anything less? Or how about an automatic Dale Jr. qualifying exemption? Works for me.

Jerry, how many race events will feature the Car of Tomorrow this season?

Tom Martin

Tom, there will be 16 COT races this year, starting with Bristol later this month.

Why would NASCAR choose a 500-mile race like California to test unleaded fuel, when a 500-mile race is already hard on engines? Makes no sense to me.

Denise McGlone
Eastpointe, Mich.

Because they got a good deal at Fontana Sunoco?

Was anything more fitting than Sammy Hagar's song at the beginning of the Nextel prerace show ("I Can't Drive 55")? It should have been slightly modified to go, "I Can't Drive, I'm No 55."

Terrill Lamb
Gautier, Miss.

NASCAR qualifying rules are crap! They should qualify like NHRA does, where the fastest and quickest qualify to race on race day, no mulligans, no gimmies, no provisionals, etc.

James Mays
Helendale, Calif.

Jerry, this qualifying idea of yours, to have a qualifying race, is an awesome idea. The thing is, manufacturers and sponsors still get their name in front of an audience, and who doesn't love another chance to see a race? In a way, it's even better for Toyota and the sponsors of these back-marker teams, since there would be less competition on the track for attention! Plus, wouldn't TV and radio, not to mention NASCAR, just love another chance to make more money?

Mark Stevenson
Waterloo, Iowa

Jerry, I know that Mark Martin says he will run a limited Cup season this year. But in your opinion, do you think he might run a full schedule if he finishes consistently in the top 10 for the next few weeks and sees he has a chance to get into the 2007 Chase?

Jackie Smith
Lubbock, Texas

Mark (no pun intended) my word: If Martin is still atop the points after Phoenix in April, team owner Bobby Ginn will make Mark an offer he can't refuse to run the entire season.

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