NASCAR fans always have something to say. Now we're giving a few more of them a place to say it with our "Letters to the Editor" series.

Letters To The Editor: A Reader Forum

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Jared Edgley: Losing 100 Miles From Fontana Race Is A Disappointment

The following is a commentary from Jared Edgley of Southern California:

In 2004, I attended my first NASCAR race and was hooked. I am a 34-year-old caucasian male and I live about 30-45 minutes north of Auto Club Speedway.

The following year, my mom, sister, brother-in law, niece and nephew drove 12 hours from Pocatello, Idaho to attend their first race. After they attended one live, they became hooked and made it a point to come down every fall specifically for the race.

We have not missed a race in the last five years and NASCAR was something we excitedly planned for and talked about all year. When we go, we attend ALL day for ALL three days and usually spend 90 percent of our time hanging out between the garages and pit road so we can get autographs, meet drivers and crews and be close to the cars as they exit and enter the track.

But I am writing today in order to express my disappointment with the recent changes we are seeing at Auto Club Speedway.

First off, how are we supposed to be excited about losing a Chase race and then having our race moved to the end of March? I would compare that date to Game 15 of the Major League Baseball regular schedule. It's completely meaningless.

Even when we had the race in February – right after Daytona – there was still some of the Daytona momentum that would bleed over to the California race.

Second, it was only a few years ago that we annually had a truck race, two Nationwide races (one at night) and two Cup races (one at night). Not to mention one of those was a Chase race.

As I sit here right now, we currently are down to one Nationwide race and one Cup race – and I recently got an e-mail from them saying the Cup race has been shortened from 500 to 400 miles because the fans asked for it.

Really? What fans? We just lost an entire weekend and now we are going to have to wait a year to see them again, but the "fans" spoke and want to see 100 less miles of racing? I could see if we still had two races, sure – make one 500 and the other one 400. But that's not the case anymore.

The final issue I would like to touch on is in regard to ACS no longer having a night race. We no longer have a night race because the "fans" voted last year, and the noon start time was chosen. Why?

Reasons included people not wanting to get home too late, people had babysitters, etc. Come on! Real NASCAR fans would rather see the sparks fly at night then worry about getting home at 11:30 P.M.

Would a place like Bristol get rid of their night race to please a bunch of soccer moms who have no clue about NASCAR?

It's just very frustrating for my family and I. The more we support NASCAR and ACS, the more they seem to take away. We have already declined to renew our season tickets. We will probably figure out a way to go to Vegas or the Phoenix Chase race. It's obvious that ACS has no clue what true NASCAR fans really want.

Jared J. Edgley / Southern California

On Twitter: @ajedgley

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Steve Michalik: What's The 'Right Way' To Advance Through NASCAR Ranks?

The following is a commentary from Steve Michalik of Beaver, Pa.:

On Dec. 13, former F1 driver Nelson Piquet Jr. announced he would be coming to NASCAR on a full-time basis, running behind the wheel of a Kevin Harvick Inc. truck in the Camping World Truck Series.

Like many before him, he will attempt to make the jump from open wheel to stock car racing. Unlike many of his recent predecessors, his transition follows the more traditional path of entering NASCAR through one of the lower national touring series rather than making the jump straight to Nationwide or Cup.

This decision prompted the following Tweet from SB Nation's Jeff Gluck:

"Piquet probably could have gone and brought money to some Nwide team (or maybe even Cup), but he wants to do it the right way. Bravo."

Many NASCAR fans, including myself, thought something similar upon hearing the news. That led me to wonder why many consider entering NASCAR through a lower series as the "right way" to do it.

Is it because it triggers our sense of having to pay our dues before achieving success? Perhaps it is due to this method being the traditional path for those wanting to drive in the Cup series. Maybe it feels like the "right way" because for drivers, NASCAR, sponsors and fans, it is the best way for a driver to come into the sport.

Currently, in order to compete in NASCAR, a driver must apply to and be licensed by an approval committee. The decision is supposed to be based on the driver's on-track record, but in many cases, the amount of money a driver can bring to the sport seems to trump their accomplishments – or lack thereof – behind the wheel.

I propose that the NASCAR licensing policies should be based on experience and a minimum standard of performance in NASCAR-sanctioned stock cars. Any driver, no matter how impressive their resume, should be required to begin their national touring experience in the Truck series. Drivers should have to achieve a certain amount of seat time and a certain level of success in that series before being considered for the Nationwide series.

Once graduating to the Nationwide series, similar criteria would apply before the driver could be considered for a Cup license. For example, if Piquet Jr. finishes over 75 percent of the Truck races in 2011 and has a finishing average better than 20th, he can then be licensed for the Nationwide series in 2012. If he does not meet either one of these criteria, he must remain in the Truck series until he can achieve the requirement in a given season.

This merit/experience-based criteria would have a positive effect for the drivers, as they would be allowed to gain experience without getting in over their heads. Could Sam Hornish have avoided his growing pains and kept a full-time sponsor with two seasons of experience in the lower series? Would Scott Speed have been closer in performance to Juan Pablo Montoya if he had more time to develop before entering Cup?

This process would benefit the struggling lower series of NASCAR as the Truck and Nationwide garages would contain promising young drivers and popular drivers from other racing series that could not simply jump into a Cup ride. If large teams cannot take their groomed drivers and place them straight into a Nationwide or Cup car, they will have to invest time, effort and money in the lower series. The Truck series, for example, would benefit from an influx in money and technology from the likes of Hendrick, Childress, and Gibbs.

Finally, the Cup series would benefit from this process. Every driver behind the wheel would have been seasoned in the lower series. They would have displayed the talent required to compete at the highest level, and the competition at the Cup level wouldn't be watered down by a driver that only qualified to be in Cup because of a built-in sponsor.

This concept is not unprecedented in sports. This would be similar to the practice of requiring players to be 2.5 years removed from high school before they can be eligible for the NFL draft.

I can foresee two major objections. First, in some cases NASCAR would take someone with amazing talent and hold them back for two years in the lower series. This may discourage some talented drivers from making the move to NASCAR.

Second, there are financial issues that will likely stop this plan from ever becoming reality. A sponsor like Go Daddy isn't going to get excited about sponsoring Danica Patrick in the Truck series, which airs to a limited audience on Speed. Nationwide races on ESPN have a much wider audience, and I get the feeling that if the sponsors had their way, Danica would have been in a Cup ride in 2010.

Still, by requiring talented drivers to first participate in the lower series, the overall talent level, prestige and value for sponsors of those series would be improved.

So how about it, NASCAR? You would have a better development system for the drivers, better racing for your fans, a financial shot in the arm for your struggling lower series, greater exposure for sponsors in lower series and drivers entering Cup that are qualified to compete at the highest level.

That looks like a winning situation for everyone.

Steve Michalik / Beaver, Pa.

On Twitter: @stevemichalik

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Cyn Marie Sprinkle: Being A NASCAR Fan Isn't Always Easy

The following is a commentary from Cyn Marie Sprinkle of Canby, Ore.:

I have satellite TV, so I watch all of the races – but watching them alone is torture. You see, watching NASCAR is considered a form of mental illness where I live. We true NASCAR fans are outcasts who must hide our passion for brightly colored stock cars driving at ridiculous speeds, defying death at every turn.

Staying true to my defiant roots, I occasionally wear my black Kyle Busch M&M's jacket out in public. People stare at me and speak in hushed tones about my obvious mental affliction. A couple of weeks ago I wore my jacket to one of the local burger joints. I overheard the young people behind the counter talking about how they would never have the nerve to wear a NASCAR jacket in public. No tips for them that night!

During the NASCAR season, I make the trip to my local Safeway store every Saturday morning and put no more than 15 items in my cart and go through the Express Line where one of my NASCAR buddies waits eagerly to scan my 15 items (or less) while we quietly discuss the upcoming Nationwide and Sprint Cup races.

The K&N Pro Series comes to Portland once a year, but the attendance is not spectacular. Still, it gives stock car fans a chance to hang out with their fellow crazies. It also gives the long suffering spouses a place to commiserate about the unbearably long NASCAR season and how being associated with a fan is the most embarrassing thing they can imagine.

It wasn't always like this. Back in 2005, we could proudly wear jackets and T-shirts and adorn our vehicle with decals and license plate holders proudly declaring our allegiance to our favorite driver. For some reason, that all died.

Maybe the Portland chapter of Junior Nation finally gave up and that was the beginning of the end. Perhaps the kinder, gentler Tony Stewart alienated his true fans.

I know the reason can't be Kyle Busch, because I met a true KB fan at the K&N race in 2008. He was 80 years old and he wanted to give me a hug when he saw my KB hat. His wife refused to acknowledge me since she said NASCAR died when Rusty Wallace retired.

A local bar tried to promote NASCAR on Sundays, offering special deals on food and beverage packages so that true fans could hang out together to watch the races on TV. They quickly went out of business and I believe that establishment is now a parking lot.

Most of us are confined to the inferior television sets in the back bedroom and we are told to "keep it down back there." No watching NASCAR on the big HDTV in the living room. What would the neighbors think?

I had an assistant back in 2008 whose husband was a card-carrying member of Junior Nation. She was not a race fan, but the Monday after Kyle took out Dale Jr. in Richmond, she came in with an axe to grind.

I won't repeat what she said to me, but under any other circumstances it would have been a firing offense. She didn't speak to me for the rest of the week, and I don't believe she ever fully forgave me for what my driver did to Dale Jr.

But it was wonderful! It didn't matter who her husband's favorite driver was – as long as she didn't make that face when I mentioned NASCAR.

I will continue to follow the NASCAR news on Twitter and when the season starts again, I will drop by the SB Nation race chat to hang out with all of the other crazies who love the greatest form of racing on earth.

Cyn Marie Sprinkle / Canby, Ore.

On Twitter: @PDXLeelaB

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Letters To The Editor: A Reader Forum

Many NASCAR fans want to have their say, but don't have their own blog where they can post commentaries. So during the offseason, we're introducing a "Letters to the Editor" section where we can highlight some different voices.

If you'd like to write an essay about a NASCAR topic, we invite you to send your submission to jeffmgluck@gmail.com (please include your full name and city/state in the e-mail). You may be chosen as a featured letter for our offseason series.

This is just like the "Letters to the Editor" in your local newspaper. You can write on any NASCAR-related topic, even if we don't agree with you. One tip: If you want to increase your chances of getting published, try to write about something that is unique or isn't the same thing everyone else is opining on (such as the Chase rules).

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