Happy Hour: How forthcoming should drivers be about concussions?

17 Oct

Welcome to the latest Happy Hour mailbag! You know how these work: You write us with your best rant/ joke/one-liner at or on Twitter at @jaybusbee, we respond to your messages, everyone goes away with a smile on their face. Let's get to it, shall we?

This past weekend was another fuel mileage race. Ever had a fuel mileage race in real life? I've only run out of gas once. Prom Night. Except that I miscalculated and had already dropped my date off. Shouldn't have been conserving fuel, apparently. And my buddies were more brutal on me for that than any NASCAR media member. Deservedly so.

All right, to your letters!

There was so much praise for Junior for admitting to having a concussion after Talladega. Then Jeff Gordon made his comments that he would hide a concussion if there were 2 races left and he was in contention for the Championship. So many people are commenting about Jeff Gordon's statement saying how stupid and unsafe that would be. What I don't understand is why those same people aren't trashing Junior for actually having and hiding the concussion he got at Kansas during the tire test and then drove in six races afterwards. Junior actually hides a concussion, races for six weeks, get another concussion and finally speaks up after he is out of the Championship. Junior is a HERO! Jeff makes a statement on a hypothetical question and he is scum of the earth. Are people just so willing to trash Gordon for nothing really? Or is it just a case of Dale Junior can do no wrong?

— Eric
Charlotte, NC

When you were a teenager, did you ever stay out late? Hang with that hellraiser your mother warned you about? Take a nip from your dad's liquor cabinet? Go on a prom date with a guy too stupid to check his gas gauge beforehand? And if you did do those things, did you ask your parents for permission first? Hell no, you didn't. It's that classic aphorism: it's easier to get forgiveness than permission. That's exactly what's at work here. Earnhardt was, in a sense, asking for forgiveness, while Gordon was laying out a hypothetical and, while not asking for permission, talking about something that hadn't yet been done. I don't think that there's any inherent anti-Gordon bias, any more than the usual EVERYBODY HATES MY FAVORITE DRIVER WAAAAHHH bias that every fan trots out every season. Gordon was just in a position of strength rather than weakness; kicking Earnhardt when he just got out of his car seems cruel.

Of course, you can bet your Amp that nobody's going to be too thrilled about him getting back in a car after another big wreck without a thorough exam.

Let's continue along these lines, shall we?


Do you think if NASCAR allowed points earned by substitute/fill-in drivers to count towards the championship for the regular driver, it would encourage drivers who have possibly had concussions to be more open getting checked by doctors? If the penalty wasn't as great for coming out of the car for a race or two, I would think it would foster a safer environment for the drivers and their competitors. I realize this isn't ideal for sponsors and us fans, but who really gives a damn about dollars when drivers' safety is the concern.

Levi Douglas
Music City, TN

I think you're dead-on right here. There's such a powerful disincentive to self-report injuries that it's no wonder no one does. If a quarterback gets a concussion, they don't sit the entire team the next week. The one-race mulligan could be an interesting addition, but I like the idea of not lopping points off just because the driver is out for injury. We've got precedent — the "drive-till-you-puke" case when you have a sick driver and a replacement — so why not allow this in very limited, doctor-approved circumstances?


With Dale Jr. out for two or more weeks, it's highly likely an insurance claim either by "Jr's brand" and/or HMS has been filed, that claim being worth almost equal to a Yahoo! sportswriter's weekly salary. It'll unquestionably increase premiums and knowing that insurance companies are always looking to minimize risk. Do you think they'll strongarm drivers, teams and NASCAR into "revisiting" the safety of plate tracks? Why not start with a traveling medical staff like Indy car has? Or what about slowing them down with an inner loop on the back stretch like the Glen's "bus stop"? Three wide stacked ten deep into the bus stop at 195mph. Now that's "bloodthirsty!"

Ricky Bobby

Ricky Bobby. He wakes up in the morning and pens excellence. Or at least a good question. The only way NASCAR is going to make changes here is to bow to pressures greater than itself: sponsors and public opinion. The insurance angle is an interesting one; how much more is it going to cost to run these races, from an insurance perspective? The idea of a traveling medical staff is an absolute necessity; there should be enough trained medical personnel at a track to survey every driver in every wreck, no exceptions. It's not being safety-nannies, it's protecting these guys so that they'll be able to race for many more years on end.

Also, they should slow the cars to 45 mph. Just to be safe.


Can we dispel the myth that Kurt Busch is so talented the he will make a team better just by sitting in the driver's seat? I'm not saying he is not talented, he just doesn't make teams better. Phoenix Racing hired him to improve their finishes. Before hiring Busch they were a mid- to low-twenties owner points team; when he left the team they were a mid- to low-twenties owner points team. Busch's talent is not improving bad teams' it is taking a top flight team to one championship, then in the course of one year using a bad personality to make him not worth the trouble. He and his brother need to find their Darrell Waltrip moment, the realization that all the talent in the world doesn't matter unless you follow it up by being a good person.

Keith Acquard
Bennington, NY

Well put. Kurt will continue to get chances, and it's continually up to him to prove he can handle all of the demands of modern-day NASCAR, which means putting on a good face for sponsors and fans. He'll continue to have his defenders and his detractors until that moment when he wins a championship, then saves a kitten from getting squished on the track. Hey, it could happen.


We all know why Regan Smith's engine failed Saturday night. It was an experimental engine that Hendrick wanted to test for reliability. If they didn't tell Dale Jr about the engine swap and the engine failed, that would preserve Dale Jr.'s ego in knowing that he would have been out of the Chase anyways regardless of his decision to step out of the car. I'm sure they had a very good idea that the engine would fail at
some point in the race.

Mack Wingfield

Well, it makes as much sense as the "NASCAR is biased against [my driver] and that's why they [threw/didn't throw] that yellow flag."

I'm no engineer, but I'm not thinking that the Chase is the best place to start with an experimental engine.


I've been attending five or six races and camping every year for many years. I am about to drop to one or maybe two because most of the tracks prices are getting totally outrageous and the campsites are now so small we can hardly park our tow vehicles with our RV's.

Bristol, RI

I feel for you, Don. The cost for a NASCAR weekend now is phenomenal. And there's no easy answer; NASCAR needs to be appealing to the wide base of fans over the local race attendees if it's going to survive, but it can't ignore those local fans. Tracks need to remain inventive and innovative with pricing structures, and everybody needs to go after price-gouging hotel owners with a pointed stick.

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 . 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!

Tags: , Happy, , mileage, ,
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Henrik Zetterberg takes flight for Switzerland as NHLPA fights on

08 Oct

Henrik Zetterberg of the Detroit Red Wings has been one of the most active players on the NHLPA negotiating team (at least in public) and a player that had been treating a European departure as a unfavorable option for the last month.

On Monday, EV Zug in Switzerland announced that Zetterberg had signed for the duration of the lockout. Uh-oh.

From Helene St. James of the Freep:

Zetterberg, who turns 32 on Tuesday, said as late as last week that he wasn't eager to go anywhere. During the lockout in 2004-05, he played for his old club in Sweden. But that wasn't an option this time around because he has $50 million left on his contract, requiring heavy insurance.

He said he'd only consider a place in Europe where neither the insurance nor the taxes would be devastating. He found the answer with Zug, home to Red Wings signee Damien Brunner and Montreal Canadiens defenseman Raphael Diaz.

Well, at the very least, Season 2 of Fake Henrik Zetterberg will to increase its travel budget.

JJ from Winging It looks at the bright side:

It's hard to argue with this. Zetterberg has been very active for the NHLPA's player negotiating committee. The fact that he's planning to head overseas now doesn't bode well for negotiations. The bright side is that he'll get time to get acquainted with new Red Wings signing Damien Brunner. It will be interesting to see the dynamic of the two, as both are known for a propensity to shoot the puck.

Zetterberg's decision is a little discomforting.

Like Danny Briere of the Philadelphia Flyers, he's a player that didn't want to take the European option, seemingly casting it as a last resort. Now, they've both left in the span of a week.

Like Briere, Zetterberg has been staunchly supportive of the players in their battle against the owners — despite that "PEACE" shirt from the New York presser. From Nick Cotsonika, back on Sept. 13:

"We have to take this fight," Zetterberg said. "It's not just for the guys who are playing now. It's for the guys that are not playing in the league, the guys coming in, all the guys that's done this before. Now it's our turn to kind of fight for the next generation. You have to make that fight. Whatever it takes, it will take."

Even if it takes going to Europe.

From a players' perspective, this is yet another key name leaving for Europe, another harbinger of doom that portends that the lockout will be lengthy.

But ask those sympathetic to the NHL, and they'll wonder if the players are simply following marching orders from Donald Fehr -- a show of solidarity and a negotiating tactic.

No matter your feelings, one thing's certain: The NHL and the NHLPA are both waiting on Sidney Crosby's decision for Europe. Because that's when the traditional sports media in the U.S. takes notice, and the Canadian media goes apoplectic.

Tags: Damien Brunner, , , Henrik Zetterberg, , , NHLPA, , , Red Wings, Wings
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With some of the big names signing in the KHL, Alex Ovechkin is still on the market. Some of us thought that today, Alex Ovechkin's 27th birthday, he would get a nice present in the form of a contract in the KHL.

But nothing has happened yet.

Just recently, his alma mater Dynamo Moscow was making strange noises about not bringing him on board for the lockout. And that's after the club employed Ovechkin as its "official advisor" a couple of years ago even though it is tough to say if the relationship is still ongoing.

Gleb Chistyakov, his Russian agent, said:"CSKA and Dynamo Moscow have interest in us. The negotiations are still ongoing.  And there's nothing concrete that can be disclosed to the newswire."

But one thing is clear: Ovechkin thinks the NHL lockout may take an entire year and if it does, he will spend that year in the KHL.

Said Ovechkin, exclusively to Pavel Lysenkov and Sovietsky Sport: "If the League [NHL] continues to insist on their [demands], then it will take a full year. That's because we are not going to cave in.  Then I will spend the entire season in the KHL. It's an absolute reality."

Where in the KHL would Ovechkin play? Said Matveev:

"First of all, there's a difficult question with insurance.  For players of Ovechkin's level it is about $100k per month.  The insurance company must be established, approved by the NHLPA.  Secondly, of course, there's the contract's substance."

How important it is to play with established players:

"Of course Ovechkin wants to play with good teammates.  But it is not the deciding factor.  I think that the clubs still don't know who they will sign.  Who will tell you now that Datsyuk, Semin and Ovechkin will be on the same team?"

Chistyakov added that he hopes the negotiations won't take long

It's worth remembering that Sergei Fedorov, who played with Ovechkin in Washington, is currently CSKA's general manager.

But the KHL's president says Dynamo has a "moral right" to Ovechkin.

Ovechkin has avoided questions about his future. "I am not yet ready to answer this question," Ovechkin told Dmitry Ponomarenko of Sovetsky Sport. "But I think that you will know everything in a few days. It will all be officially announced."

At the same time, the Washington Capitals captain said that he is yet to decide where he will play.

It is very possible, even more likely than not, that Ovechkin will indeed join CSKA. It is also possible he will be reunited with his old friend from Washington, Alexander Semin there, who also has not yet made up his mind about his lockout future.

And there are more whispers — completely unconfirmed — that Pavel Datsyuk may center that line.

Ovechkin also declined to tell who he is skating and practicing with, citing possible rumors. "I don't want to answer that question, otherwise rumors will start floating around. I will only say that I am not going to drag out the negotiations," he told SovSport. "For me personally the sooner I start the season the better. I fully understand that it will be difficult to adjust at first."

(Ed. Note: A previous version of this post listed Valery Matveev as Ovechkin's Russian agent, as per Izvestiya newspaper. His Russian agent is Gleb Chistyakov.)

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Tour Report: Frustration turns to hope for Watney (PGA Tour)

24 Aug
By Mike McAllister, PGATOUR.COM FARMINGDALE, N.Y. — Nick Watney had just missed the cut at the Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide Insurance in early June. He had failed to break 70 in his latest 12 rounds on the PGA TOUR, a perplexing stretch given that just the year before, he had averaged 69.52 for the [...]
Tags: FARMINGDALE, , , , , Mike McAllister, Nationwide Insurance, , , ,
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Canadiens’ Markov files $1.2 million lawsuit against insurance broker over dishonest policy

22 Aug

Andrei Markov can't catch a break. If it wasn't already frustrating enough that knee problems have caused him to miss most of the past three years, the Montreal Canadiens' defenceman also recently realized he'd been ripped off on an insurance policy sale.

Now he's suing. Markov filed a suit this week against insurance broker Erik Niskanen and Great West Life for being dishonest about a policy he was sold in 2007.

Really dishonest, according to the suit. Markov was led to believe his family would get money they wouldn't, that he could get back money he couldn't, and that Niskanen was even allowed to sell him insurance, which he wasn't. (Markov may as well have been buying a policy from Matt Niskanen.)

From La Presse, translated:

Mr. Niskanen also led Markov to believe that his wife and children would receive a bonus of $28 million if he died, which was false. Also false was the assertion that the money invested in the insurance policy could be recovered without penalty at any time. This clause, however, is essential if an athlete should be required to relocate outside Canada after a trade. Moreover, according to the claim filed in court, Erik Niskanen did not even have the right to sell insurance in Quebec. To circumvent this, he would have registered the defenseman, who lives in Candiac, QC, under false addresses in Ontario.

William Johnston, who manages Markov's affairs, alleges in the lawsuit that the broker took advantage of the poor English of his client and his limited knowledge of the world of finance and insurance to hide critical information. It would explain why it would have taken the player more than three years before realizing that he overpaid for the wrong product.

The suit makes the exploitation of the language barrier a central issue. "Markov, whose mother tongue is Russian, has received all the explanations in English or through an interpreter who has no training to sell insurance," it reads.

But now Markov is aware that he's been Glengarry Glen Ross'd, and he wants his money back. Over the last five years, that adds up to a whopping $1.2 million.

Follow Harrison Mooney on Twitter at @HarrisonMooney

Tags: Andrei Markov, break, English, Erik Niskanen, Great, , insurance broker, insurance policy, Matt Niskanen., , , Presse,
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