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Fanning the Flames: Yahoo’s Boo Boo, Chase Musings, & No, It Ain’t Got a Hemi!

I hit the desk at Athlon Sports today at 7:30 to begin my daily routine: Top off the coffee, flip on the The Morning Show on 104.5 The Zone, fire up the computer and head to Yahoo to check my email and get the day’s headlines.

It was there that I saw the headline I’m talking about, the headline (just above the assumed much more important Condoleezza Rice/Iraq listing and next to the fluff piece about a couple who had made their home in a motel for the last 22 years) that read, “Engine Sabotaged?”

Of course, because you are reading a NASCAR-related site and we here all know of the conspiracy theories flying over a certain lame-duck driver’s under-the-hood-shortcomings, you can guess who this bit of Yahoo sensationalism was centered on.

Thing is, I have no problem with NASCAR being front and center on Yahoo’s homepage; to the contrary, I think it’s great. My problem was with the accompanying blurb, Dale Earnhardt Jr.‘s stepmother derailing his car wouldn’t be surprising” writes a NASCAR columnist. Oh boy. Here we go,

Ironically, when I read AP writer Jenna Fryer’s well-written column summing up Earnhardt’s rough go of things, she never once mentioned any “evil-stepmother” or “sabotage” theories. The informative piece went so far as to debunk any spiteful, I’ll-teach-you-a-thing-or-two assumptions. A good read for the casual fan; nothing earth-shatteringly new for the die-hards.

So now I understand why Junior told the media and fans alike to back off on all the Teresa-bashing.

“I hate to see somebody be crucified on the internet like Teresa has,” Earnhardt told an assembled group of reporters at Bristol. “She’s got a daughter that goes to school that’s got friends and she has to put up with that stuff. It’s just hardcore, man.”

“People have been really, really rude and really way over the line on some of the things that have been said. I know Teresa doesn’t know half of it because she won’t read it and she won’t put up with it. If anybody in their right mind knew that was going on they wouldn’t be around it and deal with it.”

“But it still gets back to Taylor. Nobody deserves that. It ain’t fair.”

Seems Yahoo didn’t get the memo.

It’s headlines like these that ruin reputations, further divide families and basically hurt people.

All in the name of what? Readership? Hits?

Fryer is a respected journalist that can land reads without the “help” of tabloid-esque headlines and misleading hooks. Further, no one needs to glorify an Earnhardt Jr.-related headline. Dude’s so popular, you only have to print “Junior” and everyone in America knows of whom you speak. The cat is in the Elvis and Cher one-name-only stratosphere.

Look, I know how these things work: An AP writer submits a column and the editors run with the headlines from there. Let me be clear in stating that I do not believe the headline and subsequent blurb were Ms. Fryer’s brainchild. My hope is that, in the future, reputable sites will treat NASCAR-related stories and their writers with respect, not as gossip-column fodder.

I guess next time, if I ever return to Yahoo‘s homepage, I’ll opt for the, “Karate Kid Fights Off Intruder with Chainsaw” article and catch Ms. Fryer at USA Today. Ahh, who am I kidding… I’ll just link to her from Jayski.

OK, let’s get it on. I’m feeling frisky today, so these should be fun.

Q: Matt, my question concerns how points are awarded for the Chase playoff. I understand that awarding more points for a win is good for the competition-side of the sport. I wonder why NASCAR does not award even more bonus points to race winners? Do they want just want to keep the field bunched up as much as possible? And why not award the extra points for a win during the regular season, that way the seeding process will have taken care of itself.Patrick Snow

A: Fair questions, all. Believe me, Patrick, we all have questions as to why this confounded system is set up the way it is. It’s said to be the product of a revelation that hit Brian France on his way to breakfast one morning. Seems what they say is true: Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. You should always get your a.m. nourishment before making important decisions.

Anyway, I don’t know why they do not award more bonus points for a win, but they should. Either that or award a bonus to the driver leading after race No. 26. It’s only fair. It appears that your theory on keeping the drivers close, making for a more exciting playoff stretch is most likely the reason drivers are given 10 points per win as opposed to 50. I mean, what’s the point of bunching the field back up if Jimmie Johnson has a 200-point advantage over fourth place at the onset?

As for when they award points (in-season vs. playoff bonus) I can only speculate that in NASCAR’s never-ending desire to be more like the stick-and-ball sports, they figure this is the perfect way to institute a seeding format, which is a more accepted means of post-season ranking.

Q: It’s disturbing to me that the Pettys are rumored to be joining the Gillett Evernham team. This is the last great NASCAR institution that is on the verge of decay. While other teams have come and gone, Petty Enterprises has continued despite the chaos that has surrounded them. Is this something that realistically could happen? What’s next, Petty to Toyota?ย – Jared Hanham

A: One reason Petty Enterprises has continued its run in the sport is its ability to change with the times and, like it or not, this is the way the sport is headed. Strike that, this is where the sport is at. If the Pettys do not adapt they run the risk of being the next TriStar Motorsports.

Fear not, Jared; if and when Petty aligns with GEM, it is believed they would keep the “Petty Enterpises” moniker and continue, through all outward appearances anyway, as is. P.E. already lease engines from Evernham, so the added money, marketing and resources would simply be the natural evolution for the two companies in an ever-changing NASCAR landscape.

Oh, and if Petty goes to Toyota, I’m outta here.

And finally this little gem from someone who I’m guessing is taking a poll:

Q: Just curious. What kind of car do you drive?HemiHead

A: You’ll be disappointed to learn it ain’t a Mopar. ’01 Mustang. She’s my baby and she needs new tires. Donations welcome.

No we’re not the jet set,
We’re the old Chevrolet set,
But ain’t we got love?

For some reason that Tammy & George diddy kept playing in my head while writing the opening piece to this column. Thought I’d share.

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