Tom Bowles
Wednesday March 24th, 2010

After just 93 races, the "great wing experiment" in NASCAR has reached an end. And you know what I have to say about it all?

Good riddance.

Ditched in favor of the traditional spoiler, starting at Martinsville this weekend, these ugly contraptions that were a Car of Tomorrow staple will be remembered for three things:

• Dominance by one car and team (Jimmie Johnson won a series-leading 22 events during this period, a staggering 23.6 percent)

• Sending multiple cars up in the air (Ryan Newman, Joey Logano, Carl Edwards and Brad Keselowski all had dangerous flips, endangering their lives and fans in the stands)

• Making the cars look like some kind of reject from a 10th grade science fair on the future of automobiles.

You might notice zero positives in that list. Well, it's because I have yet to find one. So if you can enlighten me on why this now-worthless piece of sheet metal was good for the sport, or simply have a question/comment for the mailbag, don't forget how to reach me! It's or NASCARBowles on Twitter.

We'll start with a question/comment that's perfect for this time in the year...

Each season, I hear how race teams need to get out to a good start, since making up points later in the season is harder. The reason it's harder is that, well, you aren't as good. Like it or not, over the course of a half season or so (or less), a team's points position is quite indicative of how good it is. You can argue about a position or two, and we do at Chase time, but in general, the points system ranks the teams fairly well. All of which means that a team that's 19th in June is probably only about the 19th-best team, and will, in fact, have a very hard time making up points to get into the Chase. -- Rick Hadley, Georgetown, Mass.

Let's first talk about getting off to a good start. I took a look at the top 12 drivers five races into each year of NASCAR's playoff format, and then examined how many of them actually went on to make the Chase. The results are startling:

2004: 8 of 10 2005: 7 of 10 2006: 7 of 10 2007: 10 of 12 2008: 8 of 12 2009: 7 of 12

Those numbers add up to a startling 71.2 percent of drivers in the top 12 this early in the season going on to make the playoffs. So if there are 31 drivers outside of the top 12 right now, 26 of them know that their chances of making the Chase are on life support.

But at the same time, just because a driver struggles through four or five races doesn't mean he can't rebound. Take a look at Ryan Newman last year: through five races, he was 27th in the standings, but climbed to fifth by race 13. Matt Kenseth has also made some notorious comebacks, charging from 22nd halfway through a season to sneak into the top 10 and make the Chase by Richmond.

So all hope is not lost. But with so many other big names also sitting just outside the top 12 (Carl Edwards -- 13th, Mark Martin -- 16th), it's clear something's gotta give - even though chances are guys like Paul Menard (currently ninth) will fall out over time. So for a bombshell name missing this season's Chase, I'd go with Denny Hamlin. That team has yet to score a top 10 finish and looks nothing like the one supposed to challenge Johnson for the season title.

I realized Brad Keselowski possessed serious intelligence in your previous interview. Any driver (from any discipline) who articulately compares on-track action and decisions to a political debate on Capitol Hill is obviously a deep and thoughtful person. In complete honesty, I slightly had him pegged as another good old boy with razor sharp reactions and big attachments. Also, me thinks Carl Edwards doth protest too much. I have felt for awhile that he was slightly a bully off and on the track while flashing the pearly whites for the sponsors and acting like Mr. Innocent. If you're going to be a bad @ss, just admit it and be it.

I grew up in England watching Formula 1 and have watched it ever since. I'm 46 and have lived in the U.S. for 15 years. Interestingly, I'm just about done with open-wheel racing here and around the world. Formula 1 has steadily descended into a snoozefest of the highest level while being a snake pit that the Borgias would be proud of. If it didn't have the glamour quotient, it would have nothing. IndyCar racing has almost zero appeal for me. A lot of the street tracks look Mickey Mouse, and the fact that America's premier open-wheel series has almost no American drivers is a crime. -- David Valentine, Palatine, IL

Lots to get through here. Let's start with Edwards: that's exactly what Kevin Harvick was referring to when he called him "fake" on Twitter and followed it up with this zinger: "You can't be the nice guy; you can't be the bad guy, and you can't be the bully. So... that is just how I feel about that." Edwards' response was to call Harvick a "bad person" while trying to sweep his remarks under the rug and move on.

My take? I think it's hard to typecast Edwards as anything in the public eye because the snapshots are few and far between. As we saw with Tiger Woods, be careful how you judge an athlete, because we often don't have the whole picture in front of us. Because Edwards jets off to Missouri in between race weekends, he's often not as visible and doesn't roll his private life out on the red carpet for everyone to see. That leaves individual snapshots of what we see in five-second moments at the track; so when you look at it that way, I'm not sure we can typecast Edwards as anything.

As for IndyCar and Formula 1: I agree. There's so much "woe is me" talk in NASCAR these days, and believe me, there's plenty to be concerned about. But stock cars still boast the closest racing competition in the world today. The last two F-1 and IndyCar races had a total of nine lead changes combined; Bristol on Sunday had 29. What ails those series is a topic for another day, but rest assured, no matter how big a ratings decline NASCAR suffers, it's in light years better the other two series.

I hate green-white-checker finishes. This removes any chance of a fair finish. I would like to see, when under 20 laps, do not count them under caution. It would be more fair and a hell of a lot more interesting... or just stop until the track is clear. -- Jimmy, Lewisburg, Pa.

I agree that the GWC may need to be tweaked a bit over time. It's been a hot topic around the garage area the last few weeks after several drivers lost a ton of positions in a frantic Atlanta finish. There, it took two double-file restarts to get the job done, one of which resulted in a wreck that took out a half-dozen cars.

But your plan not to count caution laps still wouldn't remove that danger. Heck, if the cars keep wrecking with two laps to go, none of those laps would count and we could end up with nine or 10 "GWC-like" attempts! I think the answer to drivers' concerns may be to make the GWC single-file with 10 laps or fewer to go. Sure, it's a little less exciting, but Kurt Busch has a point: whatever line you're put in for the restart will dictate whether you gain or lose position at the finish. There's just not enough time to make up any spots you'll lose. It's out of the driver's hands, and it's not fair to see your final spot in the running order depend on luck more than anything else.

Could you please tell me on what side are the Eurys related to Dale, Jr. as I thought they were on Dale Sr.'s side. -- Connie Moore, Springfield, VT

That's actually a common misconception. Dale Jr. and Tony Jr. are related through their mothers, as they have the same maternal grandfather: Robert Gee, a longtime fabricator who also doubled as Rick Hendrick's neighbor back in the day. Just another way in which the ties between Hendrick and Earnhardt go far and beyond driving a race car.

Tweet of the Week: "I could use jimmies horseshoe.. but im not going up there to go get it!" -- @dennyhamlin, joking after another rough performance at Bristol left him 0-for-5 in top 10 finishes to start off 2010. Among the other things that Hamlin revealed in his Twitter postings: he'll have a new haircut at Martinsville that he hopes will change his luck.

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