Happy Hour: Hail Marys for wins; punishment for profit

Welcome to the latest Happy Hour mailbag! You know how these work: you write us at nascarmail@yahoogroups.com or on Twitter at @jaybusbee, we respond to your messages, everyone goes away with a smile on their face. Today, we’re talking penalties, power rankings, points end-runs and more. Away we go!

So many were saying the new points system would penalize drivers for a bad race. But after Daytona Jimmie and Jeff G were hurting bad. Now after this week they are both in the top 12, so maybe things even out and one bad day will not kill your season.

— Dale Glebe

One bad day won’t kill your season. Two bad days? Now you’re in trouble. Note how Jeff Burton, David Reutimann and Brian Vickers are all already more than 50 points down, just two races in. As we noted earlier this week, Kyle could skip the entire Vegas race and still be leading those cats.

What this is going to mean is a change of strategy for some drivers, maybe even as soon as April. Two wins will almost certainly get you into the Chase with a wild-card spot, so at what point do guys like Burton and Vickers start going for wins? Do they begin devising fuel-mileage contingency plans for Michigan? Do they set up scenarios for when springtime rain starts to roll in? You can’t afford to wait until July to start throwing Hail Marys to get those wins. So we may see some all-or-nothing gambles before long.

Just read the article on Waltrip’s truck being penalized for a spoiler issue. What are the odds that the crew chiefs/teams/drivers will be more likely to push the envelope to gain an illegal advantage if points penalties are not an issue since no points are being collected? It would seem that winning would easily trump a "small" monetary fine if the long term consequences are not felt by the loss of points. The points deduction has always seemed to be a much bigger issue to the teams than the monetary fine, probation or even suspension. If all I was facing was a $25,000, $50,000 fine for illegal parts, etc., I would rather have the win and the purse difference than any concern over a fine.

— Johnny Moses

You’re a devious-minded fellow, Johnny. I like that. The main disincentive is the repeat-offender issue; I’m betting NASCAR can tell the difference between a one-time "whoops! what happened to my spoiler?" and a concerted effort to push the envelope for more data. There’s the old line about how if you’re not cheating, you’re not trying, but even that has its limits, and even a "broken" spoiler can’t outrun a black flag.
On the other hand, you may have just written yourself into a job with Michael Waltrip Racing.

More follows.

How do you figure out the power rankings from week to week? Are these rankings just for the Sprint Cup or are they for all three series? I only see Sprint Cup names so my guess is that they are Sprint Cup only. Please explain to me how Kyle Busch finished the race second and led 23 laps and Jeff Gordon who won the race and led 6 times the laps as Kyle did [very long justification trimmed for clarity]. Does everybody just hate Jeff or am I missing something to all this? Please take some time and explain to me why so I know for next week’s rankings.

Matthew Jacob

Our power rankings are a source of much consternation to people who feel their driver is ranked too low (also known as "everybody.") So herewith, the methodology for the power rankings. I use one of the following methods:

1. I’ve created a hypercomplex statistical matrix tracking everything from loop data to crew chiefs’ horoscopes, and from that I derive a series of analyses of drivers’ performance that I map against the New York Stock Exchange and the Hollywood box office returns for that week.

2. I pick the first number I see on whatever dollar bills I have in my wallet on race morning.

3. I simply cross-reference how well a driver is doing at this moment with how well he’s expected to do, at this point and in the immediate future.

4. I feed die-casts of each driver’s car to my dog, and the order in which he throws them back up constitutes the rankings.

Your choice.

Hi Jim, on that final restart Sunday at Phoenix when Rowdy blew away Tony Stewart, who was the rocket scientist on the #14 team that called for a 2 tire stop?

Bart Busch

Jim? Who’s Jim? It’s JAY. Anyway, here’s Smoke’s postrace quote: "Once that caution came out we were done. The two tires gave us good track position, but we took them under green and once that caution came out there at the end, any advantage we had was gone." So there you go. I’m betting that was cleaned up a bit, since he called the tires "[profane]ing pieces of [profane]" during the race.

Hey Jim [JAY! -JB], were you surprised at how Jeff Gordon was talking about how much a win over Kyle Busch meant to him and how he regards Kyle and Jimmie as his two greatest rivals?

— Rafael Amaro

Not a bit. Like we said last week, Kyle Busch is, pound-for-pound, the best driver in the sport. And as we must do with everyone from Kurt Cobain to Kanye West, don’t confuse the annoying public persona with the level of talent. The drivers recognize just how strong a driver Kyle is, and they realize that if and when Kyle gets his head together, Jimmie’s reign will be over.

Jay, it is now my goal after writing to the mail bag for the past 2 seasons to have a letter make it to the page.

Sorry. Didn’t happen this time. Ha! Kidding. Here’s the rest.

Everyone seems to think NASCAR is fixed … But here is my statement or question, if NASCAR was fixing the races why would they fix them for the most hated drivers? Don’t you think NASCAR would fix it so Junior could win, thus bringing back all the fans? If the Daytona 500 was fixed wouldn’t they want Junior to win instead of wreck out in the end?

Wes Rose

Don’t muddle up a good conspiracy theory with common sense, sir! Of course, the conspiracy theorists’ rejoinder to that is that they put everything in place for Junior to win, and he still manages to screw it up. (Quiet down, Junior Nation, I’m not saying that.)

Look, it’s simple: if it makes you feel better to think that NASCAR is fixed by a secret cabal of money-grubbing overlords who pull all our strings like puppet masters, go right ahead. But when your guy ends up winning, we don’t want to see you trumpeting his name and wearing his colors. Because it’s a fixed victory, right?

The 2X2 racing was great; it added excitement. You never really knew if they were going to catch someone and wreck or just push their "partner" into a wreck. Let’s restrictor-plate some of the ‘cookie cutters’ tracks to bunch them up and get rid of the boredom.

Also, wrecks after 20 laps to go should freeze laps at that count. Added interest on fuel, and not so much Green, White, Checker, especially where it takes so long to get up to true racing like Daytona.

Elgin, IL

This may be the first letter in recorded history asking for more restrictor plates. Huh. Clip and save this one for posterity.

Also, I get what you’re saying about the laps, but I think the GWC takes care of that well enough. I think having as many cars as possible finish the race under green is exactly what you want, not a will-he-or-won’t-he-run-out fuel mileage drama. Good idea, though.

I got a question… when I look at the current standings, it always shows the "winnings" from the race or races… so, is there anyway to know how much of that goes to the actual driver or is it up to the individual contracts?

Tim Palmer
Covington, GA

It’s not only up to the individual contracts, it’s also determined by an arcane system of sponsor incentives, bonuses and other gerrymandering. And many of these drivers don’t even know themselves what they’re entitled to; at the media days at Daytona earlier this year, Ryan Newman and Tony Stewart didn’t even know how long Newman’s contract ran. (Or that’s the story they stuck to, anyway.) Basically, I think of it this way: anyone who’s able to fly a plane to his place of business is probably in fairly decent shape.

Why do the NASCAR announcers and officials continue to refer to Rick Hendrick as "Mr. Hendrick" but they refer to Roger Penske, Jack Roush, and Richard Childress by their full names. [Potentially libelous accusations deleted.] I’m sick and tired of the perpetual butt-smooching by these announcers.

Stanley, NC

I’d offer a comment, but Mr. Hendrick wouldn’t like that. Would you, Mr. Hendrick? … no, he’s shaking his head no. In related news, Mr. Hendrick has just purchased Stanley, N.C., and is currently going through government records. Keep your head down, Jeff.

Thanks to all our writers this week. You want in? Fire up the computer and hit us with whatever’s on your mind, NASCAR-wise, at nascarmail@yahoogroups.com, or hit us up on Twitter at @jaybusbee. We’ll make you famous!

Happy Hour: Hail Marys for wins; punishment for profit

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