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Fanning the Flames: The Hall of Fame, The Chase & Jeremy Mayfield’s Big Win

I was just putting the finishing touches on this column when word came to me that Jeremy Mayfield’s indefinite suspension had been lifted by U.S. District Court Judge Graham Mullen in Charlotte. The injunction, which NASCAR spokesman Ramsey Poston said the sanctioning body would not appeal, would allow Mayfield to participate in this weekend’s Coke Zero 400 as an owner, driver or both.

Mayfield will be in Daytona for the weekend’s festivities but will not compete, as the team would have to have a car at the track by 8:00 a.m. or Mayfield would have to find another ride, which has not happened.

I have to admit, I’m frankly shocked by the news. I mean, NASCAR got beat in a court of law? Screw that Richmond ’04 victory, Jeremy, that’s you’re biggest and most unlikely win yet! NASCAR is like the NFL, it just doesn’t lose in court.

His car chief, Stephen McCain, isn’t shocked, though. I talked to him just after the word broke and he was both relieved and vindicated.

“It’s a lot of stress off our shoulders. I knew he was innocent the whole time and it looks like justice prevails again.”

McCain hopes to be back at the track with Mayfield behind the wheel soon, but he couldn’t put a timeline on it.

“If he gets a sponsor puts together, I hope for us to get back racing pretty quick.”

So an unexpected turn of events gets us started off today.

Q: Hello Matt. Since the Talladega ending has died down, I have not heard if NASCAR made any changes or amendments to the yellow-line rule at Daytona and Talladega. Why not change the rules in the middle of the game once again, right? So, any changes coming or have any been made? – CBass, Oklahoma

A: Nope. Apparently since we skirted disaster at Talladega, NASCAR figures it’ll be another 20 years until it has to worry about a car getting into the catchfencing again.

Actually, I don’t think the yellow-line rule is the crux of the problem on the plate tracks, although I’ve always thought the guys have a natural out-of-bounds line; it’s called the grass.

The yellow-line rule was initially implemented as a reaction to drivers (unsuccessfully) blending back into traffic as they approached the high-banked turns on the plate tracks. However, every action has unintended and unforeseen consequences, and in this instance those consequences are drivers throwing monster blocks on one another, a la Brian Vickers vs. Dale Earnhardt Jr. in the ’09 Daytona 500. We all remember how that turned out, right?

My take: Drop the yellow-line rule, rope off the first 50 rows of seats, raise the catchfencing from 16 to 21 feet, extend the overhang from three to six feet and for Pete’s sake, if the checkers are in the air, anything goes!

Q: Why do I keep hearing from the so called “experts” that the Chase field is set? I’ve read and heard that these guys think the current lineup is the one that will get in. I mean, hello, David Reutimann and Kasey Kahne are knocking on the door!

Do the so called “experts” take this stance because they are in the garage area weekly and don’t want to take a side or rock the boat? I know Frontstretch can give it to me straight! What do you think Matt? We still have a good battle on our hands don’t we?

Thanks for all the work you all put in every week! I really enjoy your must-read site! – Marshall Pierce

A: Thanks for the flattering words, Marshall. I think we have an awesome fight for the last few Chase spots, better than any over the last few years. In crunching the numbers I’ve found that positions sixth through 16th are separated by less than 200 points. That’s 11 drivers – 11! – fighting for seven spots, and believe me, I haven’t discounted any of them.

Kahne finds himself a single point out of 12th; Reutimann is 12 out; Clint Bowyer is only 94 back; and Jeff Burton is 108 back. That’s nothing, man.

So to answer your questions, yes, I think we still have one helluva fight on our hands and no, I don’t believe the top 12 will look the same after Richmond as it does today. And I think you’ve hit on something about media members that are part of the circus prognosticating on a Chase lineup: It’s easier to just say, “Looks good now!” as opposed to upsetting the guy you’re trying to set up an interview with on Saturday afternoon.

Q: What’s your opinion on who gets in the Hall of Fame? I agree that Richard Petty, Bill France Sr. and Dale Earnhardt Sr. are in without a doubt. Then I think Cale Yarborough and Bill France Jr. ahead of Junior Johnson, Darrell Waltrip, Bobby Allison and Lee Petty. – Janie Inge, Illinois

A: Yeah, Petty, Earnhardt and France are no-brainers. The remaining two are legitimately up for debate between five, maybe seven guys. If I were filling out a card (and I’m not), those last two blanks would read David Pearson and Junior Johnson. And here’s my reasoning:

I spoke with Richard Petty a couple months back and he told me Pearson was the toughest competitor he’d faced in all his years running the circuit.

“As far as the winning part of it, and trying to beat him as far as winning races over him, Pearson was the toughest,” Petty explained. “Pearson was not the toughest driver – you have to go back to Yarborough or an Allison to get just tough, you know what I mean, as far as just manhandling the wheel and doing whatever needed to be done.

“But the racing finesse and stuff, I always felt like Pearson was just a little bit… it was easier for him. He didn’t have to work at it. He was just a natural.”

That’s high enough praise from the foremost authority for me. Plus, the 105 wins and three championships are pretty compelling.

I’d take Junior because I think he (with a little help from Tom Wolfe) did more to raise NASCAR’s awareness to the masses than anyone before him. He embodied what NASCAR was from its birth up through the late ’80s. His combination of a successful driving career (50 wins) and as an owner (132 wins, six championships) is basically unmatched. Also, and maybe most importantly, he brought Winston and T. Wayne Robertson to the sport, which is so high on the importance scale, I’m not sure it can be measured.

And for our finale today, I’d like to throw it over to Butch from Port Charlotte, Florida, whose thoughts may not be solely his own, but his point is loud and clear. Sort of. A little. Well, somewhat. Ah hell, take it away, Butch….

Q: I’d like to offer my observations about the Mayfield fiasco. In all fairness this quote comes from Clinton Fein in an article titled, “BS 2.0, Discontent Happens” on annoy.com. So therefore, if the shoe fits…

“For every deed, a million analyses; for every sentence, a million deconstructions. Blogs begetting blogs, begetting social networks, begetting conversations and commentaries. Comments about comments for comments, responses for responses about responses. Words tripping over words to embellish words about words. Sentences about sentences, broken down into keywords and efficiently re-tagged into categories and subjects to be re-purposed and rehashed and replayed and redeployed. An over-bloated, over-tagged, over-stuffed, over-sub-categorized, over-rated, over-extended, over-hyped, overload of over-analyzed, over-distributed, over-offered, over-done overstatement – over and over and over again.”

Disclaimer: This in no way implies nor denies guilt on the part of Mayfield or NASCAR. – Butch, Port Charlotte, Fla.

And with that, I’m over-and-out.

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