Martinsville interest, HOF voting, more mail (cont.)
Your Thursday Hall of Fame article resonates like a Danica Patrick Nationwide race: all babble, no knowledge. You, and other NASCAR know-nothings, rip people for voting less obvious choices than you deem worthy and hold yourself up as an authority. How many NASCAR races have you paid admission to, and when was the first race you attended? Ned Jarrett retired after only a handful of racing years. While racing in the late '50s and early '60's, he competed against many drivers you no doubt rate above him. Of course, he won 14 percent of his career starts [against HOFers Richard and Lee Petty, Junior Johnson, David Pearson, and Bobby Allison] and finished in the top 10 in almost 70 percent of his starts.
Compare that to Darrell Waltrip, who is best remembered as a loud-mouthed, self-aggrandizing boor yelling 'boogity, boogity, boogity' on TV.
The voters got it right. Not electing Jarrett would be like not electing Sandy Koufax because of his short career into the HOF. Voting Waltrip in would be similar to voting a self-promoter like Jose Canseco into the baseball HOF.
As to Yarborough, that's a tough call. I support the Allison decision over Yarborough, and if it's due to Davey and Clifford passing and the grace Bobby demonstrated then and now, well so be it. Any HOF is more than numbers. Cale can wait a year.
-- Ray Horcajo, Crawfordsville, Ind.
Let's go with Yarborough then, since it seems like DW and Ray don't really get along. Here's a man who won three straight titles in the modern era, a mark not equaled for 30 years, and has more victories than anyone except Waltrip, Allison, David Pearson and Richard Petty. His four Daytona 500 victories are also second to Petty, making him just one of three men to win back-to-back. Two thrilling last-lap passes over Buddy Baker, then Darrell Waltrip, helped engage a whole generation of fans in 1983 and '84. His last-lap crash in '79 with Donnie Allison would have given him a fifth 500 trophy, but the post-race fight between the two broadcasted on national television helped accelerate NASCAR's rise into the spotlight.
When compared to Jarrett, although admirable, the numbers (83 to 50, three championships to two) just don't add up. Yes, if Jarrett had extended his career he would have more victories, perhaps up there with Pearson and Petty among the all-time greats. But if I pulled the right Monopoly piece off my chicken nuggets yesterday, I'd be sitting on an island in the Caribbean right now. My point is the Hall of Fame isn't a game of what ifs, but a reward for what was.
Oh, and for the record ... I'm a 21-year fan-turned-professional writer, attended over 100 races and counting. And I'm still in my 20s...
I agree 100 percent that Cale Yarborough probably should have made this second class of the HOF, but I couldn't disagree with you more on DW. I am shocked at how little you understand the nature of this sport.
Let me suggest a little logic here that has nothing to do with statistics.
For one, if DW hadn't bought his way into the Junior Johnson car, he probable wouldn't even be considered for the next 10 HOF classes. What I am saying is if other drivers had been available and not under contract at the time, they would have accomplished just as much if not more than DW.
Men like Bobby Allison, LeeRoy Yarborough, and the great Cale Yarborough didn't have the luxury of stepping into the premier race car at the time. Like Dale Earnhardt and others, they depended on their talents to bring money and attention to their team.
So what I am basically saying is that some of the greats that you are trying to replace with DW accomplished way more with far less resources.
DW will someday make it in, but he is depending on the novice to get him in on his stat sheet. Thank God that there are still enough people voting that know that there is more than a stat sheet.
-- Miller Moore, Greensboro, NC
Miller joins Ray and several others I've seen -- professionals included -- who appear to have a personal vendetta over DW. Look, between "boogity, boogity, boogity" and some clear biases toward cheering for brother Michael and certain drivers through the years, the man hasn't done himself any favors with some sections of the NASCAR community in the broadcast booth. But at the same time, Fox's production has won several awards for its coverage behind the scenes while ratings have exploded during the Waltrip era as an analyst. Some may argue that's in spite of him, but the bottom line is he's a part of that success.
One place you can't argue, Miller, is the statistics. Sure, DW may have been the right man with the right money at the right time for Junior Johnson, but we're playing that "what if" game again instead of what was. And what was for Waltrip in the '80s was pure brilliance, his three championships leading the decade to go along with a Daytona 500 victory, the capper in what would become an 84-win career. Statistically, only three men have more titles (Earnhardt, Richard Petty, and Jimmie Johnson) and no one has more victories in the modern era, from 1972 to the present when the schedule was cut down from nearly 50 races a year to anywhere between 28 and the 36 we have today. Let me restate that fact: not one person beats him in that 38-year category, the most important one in this sport aside from titles.
So how could you say Waltrip isn't in the top 10 based on those stats alone, regardless of your opinion of him outside the race track? In my opinion, the answer to that question is you can't. I think it's a real shame that some who might have been personally offended by a man who has insulted them through the years chose to make a statement with this voting process.
On to other topics...
How about starting the Chase guys at the back of the pack each race, lined up by points, and let them race to the front? Isn't that the biggest part of being a good race driver, working the traffic? Kyle Busch might be fast, but he seems to get himself in trouble around other cars. You wouldn't have drivers riding around protecting their points.
-- Jeff Acome, Winchester, Va.
Sorry, Jeff, that's a little too gimmicky for my taste. People don't like the Chase because it's too much of a departure from the norm, so making the rules even crazier, providing the playoff drivers with a distinct disadvantage is apt to make things even worse. I totally feel you on Kyle Busch struggling to run around other cars, though. He just hasn't figured out yet the laws of physics on when you hit another car with your front bumper.
I would like to see the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing race stock cars.
Remember "Win on Sunday, Sell on Monday?" NASCAR needs to race what the nameplates build. If it can't be bought, it can't be brought -- to the track. This would increase fan loyalty to brands and increase interest in who wins. You know, bragging rights at work on Monday when you drive up driving the winning marquee.
-- Ray Mullen, Winterview, Fla.
A question we've heard many times before, but with a nice touch at the end. How awesome would it be if you made a connection with a car you've driving on the street and the one that actually won the race? Impala owners, be honest; how many of you hit the water cooler on Monday and said, "Jamie McMurray won on Saturday night in my car!"
I didn't see very many hands go up.
I guess Kyle Busch was right, there was no debris on track. Do you think they will fine him for his opinion? We didn't see anything picked up by the track crews, they just went through the motions.
-- Art Capo, Daytona Beach, Fla.
Art, guess what? No one at the track saw anything serious getting picked up, either. The culprit of Saturday night's final debris caution at Charlotte was described to me as a wad of duct tape, a convenient way to bunch the field together for a finish that was going to be a natural barn-burner, anyway.
Considering Kyle's sarcastic tone after the race -- he said NASCAR threw the caution because "a mouse ran across the track or something" -- I'm sure he's a little lighter in the pocket. What I'm unsure about is when or if we'll hear about it, as ever since the secret fine incidents were revealed everyone's been tight-lipped on the subject. Turns out these fines may remain a secret after all under the right circumstances.
I'm very new to the sport and enjoy reading your columns. I'm actually trying to understand NASCAR from a fan and investment perspective.
Do you have any other recommended sources I could look to (sites, books, etc.) to learn more about the sport and what's going on?
Also, I'd be interested in your take on what's causing the weak attendance and ratings. Sounds like from your latest mailbag, it's the economy, Jimmie Johnson fatigue, Dale Jr. struggling and a host of other issues. Do any in particular stand out to you? Also, what do you think are the most important changes coming for the 2011 season?
-- Adam Crocker, New York, NY
If you're new, Adam, I recommend anything and everything written by NASCAR's best historian, Greg Fielden. His guide on the history of stock car racing is a must-read for anyone looking to get up to speed on the sport. Racing-reference.info is also a great place for historical results.
NASCAR issues that stand out to me for 2011, in no particular order: ISC profitability (or lack thereof), the financial health of several tracks -- could we see one close?, will Dale Earnhardt Jr. get out of his contract at Hendrick?, when will NASCAR bring the Nationwide car to the Cup Series, a possible early renegotiation of the TV contract (due to ratings that keep declining), whether Danica Patrick jumps to stock cars after all, the lack of new owners and drivers in the sport (and how to get more people involved), and when will Johnson ever be stopped?
That's where my mind is at right now, Adam. But we're still early.
Finally, our out of left field comment for the week...
I have been fowling Carl Edwards since 2005. I did not know what NASA was until I had a chance to meet Carl.
-- Name withheld
Man, who knew how powerful that AFLAC duck could be? Not only is Carl contending for wins every week, but he's helping fans learn about the space program on the side!
'Till next time...
"Really have to thank Scott Speed for allowing me to give him another butt whoopin on madden before quali. Good for the confidence. Owned."
-- @AJDinger tweeting about his new friendship with his former rival at Red Bull Racing. A.J.