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NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Happy Hour: Is Jimmie Johnson’s 3-Year Run As Good As Cale Yarborough’s Was?

To say that Cale Yarborough scored better finishes and led more laps than Jimmie Johnson did in their dominant three-year periods, while not an invalid argument, is not entirely a big-picture one. Yarborough raced in an era where multi-car teams did not dominate the NASCAR landscape as they do today. NASCAR was also less popular, paid smaller purses and did not attract the level of competition that it does today.

Happy Hour: Please NASCAR, Not Martinsville Too

Martinsville Speedway isn’t for candy-ass drivers or spectators. And that’s the best thing about the joint. Like Fenway Park, one doesn’t go to Martinsville Speedway expecting the comforts and “amenities” of modern-day event facilities. Racing fans in southwest Virginia don’t go to races to sip lattes and possibly meet celebrities. No one goes to the …

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Happy Hour: Goodyear Mounting an Increasingly Poor Reputation

After the tire explosions at Talladega and with the Cup Series coming to Charlotte, a track that has had its own share of tire problems, it’s an opportunity to expound on what has become an all too well known problem with NASCAR races: inadequate tires. this was before the new car design, which suggests that NASCAR and Goodyear have had increasing tire problems—long before mandating a car with a higher center of gravity, making it much harder on outside tires. The time to say “never again” about a disastrous race happened long before it was obvious that not every issue about the new car was addressed. I won’t argue the point if you disagree, but Charlotte in October 2005 was the worst race I had ever witnessed, not this year’s Brickyard mess.

Happy Hour: What Should Be Done About Multi-Car Teams?

The furor over the dominance of multi-car teams reached its peak in 2005, when half of the Chase field consisted of Jack Roush’s machines. Especially in a season where the immensely popular Dale Earnhardt Jr., driving for a much smaller operation, failed to make the Chase, it seemed unfair to many fans that two powerhouses with twice the ability to practice, test, and learn seemed to dominate the circuit. And so, responding to these complaints, NASCAR announced they would be knocking down the multi-car operations, starting with Jack Roush.

Happy Hour: Should The Fans Stick Around?

The Dover race caused me to do something I hadn’t done for quite some time. I dropped everything I was doing and tuned out the conversations around me, captivated by what was taking place. Probably much to NASCAR’s surprise, the Chase had nothing to do with the great racing. You could argue that the new car played a part – it is visibly much more difficult to pass with it – keeping Greg Biffle, Matt Kenseth and Carl Edwards close to each other for many laps. I won’t speculate further on that. And the close quarters at a shorter track makes the argument against the cookie-cutter speedways’ prevalence in NASCAR, as if it needed to be made. But what was most responsible for such a quality show, one that is the exception rather than the rule?

Happy Hour: From 207 Points Up To 74 Points Down; What’s Wrong With This Picture?

20 laps into the 27th race this season, an enigmatic driver, who had been wiping up the floor with most of the competition for 26 races, had his season more or less destroyed. Eight wins in 26 races meant only that he’s eligible for the title–one faulty sway bar bolt in one race has effectively negated even that. It would have been rough enough to take the slam of a 34th-place finish because of a 50-cent part, but combined with the Big Points Giveaway, that part resulted in a shift of 281 points and seven positions in the standings in one week. Of course it’s not technically over for Kyle Busch. But even as great as he is and has been all season, would you bet on him now?

Happy Hour: Hey Race Fans, It’s Time For NASCAR’s Annual Big Points Giveaway!

Greetings race fans and welcome once again to NASCAR’s Fifth Annual Big Points Giveaway, where we find 11 NASCAR drivers without the points lead and furnish them with a brand-new points total and wipe away those lesser performances! You heard right everyone, every year before the fall race at Loudon, NASCAR celebrates its ongoing Nextel/Sprint sponsorship with our super smash Annual Big Points Giveaway, and 11 lucky drivers are going to be our winners and walk away with hundreds of absolutely, positively free, no-effort-required points, all courtesy of NASCAR! That’s right race fans, your favorite driver might just be a winner after all!

Happy Hour: If Locked in the Chase, Why Race at Richmond?

Let’s ask the question: if a team has clinched a spot in the Chase, might they take a week or even two weeks off to rest the driver, the crew members, and/or the engine builders? The off weeks in the season are almost all in the first half of the year, and the second half has 16 weeks straight of racing (shortened to 12 next season). If they have almost nothing to gain by racing at Richmond except a very slightly possible 10 points, why not consider sitting out?

Happy Hour: The Top-35 Rule is the Symptom, Not the Problem

A lot of folks have a beef about the Top-35 rule. They believe — and I have a hard time arguing against it — that since the word “qualify” means “to demonstrate the required ability in an initial or preliminary contest,” and that is exactly what qualifying should entail. In the past couple seasons of NASCAR’s edict that drivers in the Top 35 in owner points are guaranteed a spot in each weekly contest, broadcasters and journalists frequently speculate on what it means to “get your car in the Top 35” or who is “on the bubble” and who must “qualify on time.” How far we’ve come, indeed… we now spend time at water coolers and websites speculating about drivers who are around 35th in the standings. We didn’t care about that very much in the past, I’m certain. Maybe NASCAR isn’t so dumb after all.

Happy Hour: Tony Stewart & Ryan Newman Should Enjoy the Honeymoon While It Lasts

Tony Stewart and Ryan Newman were all smiles at the press conference announcing Newman’s signing with SHR. They were cracking jokes and were optimistic about the future of their new team, as most athletes are before they begin a new chapter. But soon the party will be over and the reality will set in that Stewart and Newman have committed their careers and their lives over the next few years to a very mediocre (by Sprint Cup standards) racing team who is currently scraping for occasional top-20 finishes and whose other co-owner is in jail.

Happy Hour: A NASCAR Writer’s Midlife Crisis

Fortunately I suffer from no such state of panic. Perhaps it’s because I had been single my entire life until recently and have had the freedom to do most everything I’ve wanted to do. Maybe it’s because I’ve jumped out of a plane before and have no need to do it again. Or because I was always awful with women so I never had to experience the inevitable decline in successful hookups. Or because I started slowly losing hair at a young age and learned to accept growing older as inevitable. I don’t know why, but thus far aging has not been a terribly difficult adjustment. But just in case I did start to think life was passing me by, my loving wife of two months gave me a once-in-a-lifetime 40th birthday gift: eight qualifying laps at the Andretti-Gordon driving school. One thing she knew I hadn’t done is drive a racecar.