Welcome to the latest Happy Hour mailbag! You know how these work: You write us with your best rant/ joke/one-liner at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @jaybusbee, we respond to your messages, everyone goes away with a smile on their face.
Admit it. You felt just the tiniest bit good for Dale Earnhardt Jr. on Sunday. Even if you hate the guy, you have to feel for him. And oh, Junior Nation: you have every right to rub it in our faces ... for a week.
And now, your letters. Guess what the topic is!
Congrats to Dale Jr. on his win. He becomes the second driver (Joey Logano) this year to snap a multi-year winless streak. This brings me to wonder if any other drivers with long dry spells can break out this year. The list of active drivers that have gone 2+ years without a win are:
Jamie McMurray - 56 races
Juan Montoya - 65 races
David Reutimann - 66 races
Mark Martin - 93 races
Jeff Burton - 128 races
Casey Mears - 177 races
Martin Truex Jr - 182 races
Joe Nemechek - 267 races
Bobby Labonte - 303 races
— John Davis
Great list there. Some of those surprised me a bit. It's really been 128 races since Burton won? Anyway, let's break it down. Of these guys, the only ones you'd seriously say are theoretically at the peak of their skills are McMurray, Montoya and Reutimann. Nemechek isn't going to win a race; he needs to start finishing them first. Labonte, Mears and Reutimann lack the equipment. Martin just doesn't seem to be able to finish. Burton has been on a long, long slide.
So that leaves Truex and the Ganassi boys. Both McMurray and Montoya have been a total mess for about the last three years. So I'm thinking Truex is the one most likely to break out and get that win. Of course, rain could throw all that into chaos. Expect these guys to stay out in anything short of a hurricane. And you? Which of these drivers do you project as the best bet to win next?
Junior has been really consistent and being very careful on his positions. Do we now consider him a title contender? He has the makings of one this year. I say he could be depending on winning more. but would like your opinion on it.
— Matt P.
My opinion is that he's absolutely a title contender. Think of it this way: ironically, for a guy derided for so long as unable to escape the accolades of his name, he's now unable to escape the derision attached to it. If it were anybody, and I mean anybody, else with Junior's numbers this year, we'd be talking about him as a championship contender. But since it's Junior, we're waiting for the other shoe to drop ... and for him to run over his bare foot. I don't think he's a lock yet for the Cup; I'd put Johnson and Kenseth ahead of him, at least. But he's going to be in the Chase, he's going to have bonus points, and that's good news for Junior fans indeed.
Everyone has noticed that whenever a car gets out ahead of the pack by 2 or 3 seconds, then holds that lead the mysterious "debris caution" comes out. We've all talked about it, for good or bad it's really hard to deny that it happens. Junior was out in front by 4 seconds near the end of the race.... he was maintaining the lead.... Where was the flag?
In a weird way, it almost proves the damn things exist. ;-)
— Tim Palmer
Weeeeellll ... yes and no. There's an old line in the law about absence of evidence not being the same thing as evidence of absence. In other words, just because they didn't throw a caution flag this time doesn't mean the others weren't legit. (Stop laughing!) We've had several long-green-flag finishes this year, so this isn't entirely a surprise. But yes, short of a thermonuclear warhead going off in Turn 3, this race was going under green to the finish.
Jay… we need some investigative reporting here. Who was the hottie Dale Jr. kissed in victory lane? Inquiring NASCAR fans HAVE to know?
— No Name Given
Well, I don't know that I'd call Jimmie Johnson a hottie, but ... oh, you mean the girl. That was Junior's girlfriend. She does exist. We've covered her in these pages before. But we're finding out all this new info about Junior now! One day, we'll look back on the days when he was a goofy loser with some nostalgia, won't we?
What's wrong with NASCAR? Denny Hamlin asking his crew chief, "How hard do you want me to go for this win" with about 7 laps to go at Pocono should tell everyone clearly enough. The emphasis on winning races simply does not exist. I hate to single out Denny, but TNT broadcasting the driver-crew chief conversation should let everyone know where the priorities of the drivers are at.
— Lee Anderson
Fort Worth, TX
Yep, no two ways about it: points racing is the way of the future. Unless, of course, NASCAR were to jack up the points for winning/placing top 10 and/or reduce the penalty for finishing so low. Other than that, smart points racing is going to dominate.
What on earth is wrong with Tony Eury Jr? He complained after the NNS race that the drivers weren't respecting Danica Patrick because "they hate losing to a girl." Far be it from me to point this out, but she hasn't beaten anybody. She has not once contended for a win yet. I watched the race and saw everything I usually see. Sure, in her second spin Austin Dillon took the air off her spoiler, but I think Tony Jr is just frustrated that she doesn't know how to do that to anybody else. There is a lot to learn about these cars aerodynamically and I think she is doing fine in her progression. But come on, Tony Jr - don't give her excuses like that!
I get what you're saying, but technically speaking, every time she doesn't finish dead last, she IS beating somebody. That said, I would be surprised if Patrick didn't cringe a bit at those comments. The last thing she wants is to be judged as, is as a "girl racer." You're right, she doesn't need those excuses, and if she'd made them herself, she'd have been blasted. Anyway, there's an easy solution: start trading some paint and winning some races, Danica.
About Junior's victory at Michigan all I have is this to say, Jay: Please cover golf more often. You clearly have been the jinx all along.
Jeff "The Real Slim Sarge" Smith
Seeing as how I was covering the US Open the last time Junior won, there might be something to that. Hey, 88: call me. I'm more than willing to play sick on weekends you need a win.
And on that note, we're out. 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 email@example.com. You can find Yahoo! Sports' NASCAR coverage on Facebook right here, and you can follow me on Twitter at @jaybusbee and on Facebook here. Make sure to tell us where you're from. We'll make you famous!