- Marty Smith, ESPN
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So let me get this straight: Jimmie Johnson got his Kelly Slater on, bit it hard and clipped a wing. Dig it. Hell yeah, Mr. Mister, rock on
I mean, no offense to Greg Biffle, I'm sure his shoulder injury hurts like hell and I'm glad he wasn't injured worse and I hope his recovery is speedy. But when you're 60 years old, sitting around the watering hole telling lies, do you want to recall separating a shoulder in a Goodyear tire test at Vegas or breaking a wrist ripping curl on the 16th hole at Black Diamond?
Maybe that vanilla has some sprinkles on it, after all. Chocolate syrup, possibly. Nuts?
Nuts. All 43 of them are nuts. That applies quite well.
I read your latest column on ESPN.com about the IROC going to Eldora. What kind of cars would they use for that race if it became reality? Would the IROC cars be too big and heavy to run? Would they use dirt late model cars instead?
-- Josh K., Owatonna, Minn.
Nope, they'd still run IROC cars, Josh. Tony Stewart was posed a similar question during lunch in New York, and said they'd merely need to raise the front ends of the current cars a bit to adjust for the dirt surface.
And, for the record, the response to that column leads me to believe that that race would sell out in about five minutes.
With so many teams committed to running the full schedule starting next year, do you think NASCAR would consider raising the number of cars that start each race, or will they just have to live with the possibility of some big-name teams and drivers having the threat of missing races?
-- Tom, Manchester, Conn.
The latter, Tom. I forwarded your question to NASCAR vice president of competition Robin Pemberton on Monday, and he said it's not been discussed and that NASCAR has no intention of adding to its current 43-car fields.
There is certainly concern among teams, however, that 10 to 15 fully funded programs will fail to qualify for the Daytona 500, and that that, in turn, could affect sponsorships in the future. Essentially, it's put up or shut up a scary proposition for those not guaranteed a starting position in the field via the top-35 rule.
And to think, just three years ago we were concerned about field-fillers.
There are reports that Ricky Rudd will race the No. 28 Ford for Robert Yates in 2007. I know you love old-school NASCAR and respect the veterans, but how do you honestly think Rudd will do in '07 in Yates equipment after taking a year off?
-- Daniel, Blacksburg, Va.
I spoke with Robert Yates Racing officials Monday and they chose not to comment on the speculation that Rudd will return in '07. But for the sake of argument over eggnog, let's presume it's accurate, and that ol' Rooster is pecking again.
First of all, I'm glad they'll retain both cars full time. That said, it certainly won't be easy, Daniel. Yates is behind in virtually every area but horsepower. But Rudd would be a score. He's a field general. They need that. David Gilliland would benefit tremendously from that type of mentor.
Twentieth in the final standings with a handful of top-10s would be a fine year.
And Daniel, I'm Giles County proud. Go Hokies.
Who do you think is the best Cup driver without a title? And among those, who has the best shot to win it all next season?
-- Jeremiah, Sioux Rapids, Iowa
I'll go with the obvious choice, Jeremiah Mark Martin. Class is always in session with him. It's unfortunate he never officially won a Cup championship because, to a man, his competitors will tell you he's the epitome of what a NASCAR champion should be clean, fair and up on the wheel like John Foss. (President of the Unicycling Society of America, by the way.)
The best shot at a first-time champion in 2007? Damn, do you want your Big Game Lotto numbers, too? Prognostication in NASCAR is like roulette take a guess, your odds are awful.
It could be Kasey Kahne, could be Denny Hamlin or Kyle Busch or Greg Biffle or Carl Edwards. These days it's impossible. Wish I had put some cash on Hamlin to make the Chase back in Vegas. I vaguely remember his odds that day being at 45-1 to win the race.
My choice? Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Do you think ESPN's exclusive deal with the Busch Series can help the series establish its own identity one day? While Cup Lite might seem to be OK for now, I doubt ESPN would want something considered a watered-down product with all they will be investing. What's your take? Love your work, keep it up!
-- John, Atlanta
I'd like to think ESPN's commitment to the Busch Series would help strengthen its legitimacy separate from the Nextel Cup Series, John, and there's no question that Busch teams, drivers and sponsors will benefit from having a single, established destination point for viewers.
The potential for its popularity to grow is there, given that one network is solely invested in its prosperity. ESPN intends for its Busch Series coverage to be every bit as intense as the Cup broadcast.
That said, NASCAR fans are Nextel Cup fans, and Cup drivers are still the draw. Until that changes, and until Busch Series racing is completely separate from Nextel Cup with its own stars, it will always be an extension of Nextel Cup. And it'll always play second fiddle no matter what.
Speaking of second fiddle, it bewilders me that the toilet paper roll is my son's favorite form of amusement. There must be $2,000 worth of toys strewn about my house, and yet my 13-month-old boy gets the greatest joy from smacking the hell out of the toilet paper roll, thinks it's hysterical.
Second on the list? Throwing Momma's water bottle. Third? Investigating the cat food bowl.
Somewhere down that line lies the Food Lion green rubber ball, his favorite toy by a considerable margin. Ninety-nine cents, max. Makes my Christmas shopping easy, though, I reckon: "Here, son, gotcha a 30-pack of Scott 1,000-sheet rolls, and since you've been such a sweet boy, here's a bonus of Brawny paper towels."
Last week's survey produced a landslide decision that "Christmas Vacation" dominates "A Christmas Story." I'm in Paris right now. Funny story: A gorgeous young lady met me in the lobby of my hotel this morning, walked me to my room and upon arrival offered her hand.
That meant she'd like to hang my coat. I shook her hand.
Countrycomestotown.com, right there, y'all
Keep 'em comin
Marty Smith is a contributor to ESPN's NASCAR coverage. He can be reached at ESPNsider@aol.com.
11dBob Pockrass and John Oreovicz