The Frontstretch: Happiness Is... Racing, Racing, Racing by Huston Ladner -- Wednesday May 22, 2013

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Happiness Is... Racing, Racing, Racing

Huston Ladner · Wednesday May 22, 2013


Last week was a mixed bag of NASCAR stuff. The passing of Dick Trickle came as a shock and generated quite the response. And then there is the ongoing feud in the Truck Series over a purportedly stolen hauler. Then there was that All Star race. Or something. The other prominent racing series were a bit more quiet, with F1 having the weekend off in preparation for Monaco, and IndyCar seeing their usual bump day drama thwarted by a 34th car that just could not get going. So for everything that happened, here are some thoughts.

Happiness Is…Dick Trickle

The outpouring of remembrances and thoughts for Trick has been a revelation. For a driver who entered the “big leagues” late and who never found enormous success, the response is a showcase of the NASCAR community at its best. Carl Edwards went so far as to have Trickle’s name above his race car’s door in the All-Star race. That so many people spoke so glowingly of the former driver was a testament to his positive attitude and its apparent reach.

What is important to see about Trickle is that he was the type of driver that the series was built on—blue collar racers. The stars may get the press, the private planes, and all those things, but having drivers in the field like him was, and in some regards still is, the backbone of NASCAR’s big show. Though it seems more difficult to eke out a career as Trickle once did, he persevered and made a good go of it. Fond thoughts indeed. Rest in peace Mr. Trickle.

Happiness Is…V8 Supercars

For those enthusiasts looking for a bit of racing this past Sunday, speed showed the Australian V8 Supercars in action on the Circuit of the Americas (COTA). Though I’m not following the series in any in-depth manner, the racing still looked good – aside from Red Bull Racing having a grip on the top spots (hmm, kind of like F1?). But there were some things that were, well, kind of a throwback.

Remember when Jack Daniel’s was still a NASCAR sponsor? They’ve moved on to V8 Supercars.

For starters, the cars, well, looked like street cars. Sure, they were still hopped up 650hp speedsters, but the body aspects looked like what one could buy. And furthermore, they had working lights front and back. And in the NASCAR world of ‘boys have at it’ the V8 series does something interesting with the waving of the Sportsmanship Flag for any rough driving. Two flags gets a driver the black flag. How gentlemanly! Yet this aspect didn’t preclude the racing from being good – and it showed how once again, some of the best ‘stock car’ racing is now found on road courses.

One further note. Rick Kelly could be spotted driving the Jack Daniel’s car. One of the promos during the race came from Jim Beam. So that’s where the sponsorship that used to be in NASCAR has gone. In an era when the governing body of NASCAR is poaching sponsors from the teams – notice the recent announcement that Sherwin Williams is now the official paint of NASCAR (say what?!) – it was interesting to see some familiar ones that left NASCAR appear on the Supercars.

Happiness Is…Kyle Busch

Oh boy, not more Kyle fawning. Yup, and deal with it. OK, so many have voiced displeasure with Kyle dropping to the ‘minor leagues’ and beating up the competition. But maybe some perspective needs to be taken from what he’s doing. For the past couple weeks, Busch has been, flat out, one of the best drivers on the planet.

He’s won two of four races he’s entered. In the two he didn’t win, he led a ton of laps and still finished in the top 10. A cut tire killed his chances at Darlington. The All-Star race wasn’t lost by Busch. His team was beaten by one that was just simply better than his (and a tip of the cap to Chad Knaus once again showing he’s the best in the business by shaking up his pit crew). Clean air has always been the rule of the cookie cutter tracks, and once Jimmie Johnson had it, Busch didn’t have a chance.

Busch comes off as a driver that needs to drive all the time. Sitting around seems to get the best of him. Sure, his forays into the Trucks and Nationwide series come with their own caveats, but in a way, respect has to be given to the fact that he’s stilling getting the job done. He’s winning in everything he races, and at times he makes it look easy. The true test, of course, still comes from measuring himself against the Cup regulars – and though he’s up there with the best, he still has yet to close out a Cup year like a person with his talent should. But maybe this year is different.

Happiness Is…Racing, Racing, Racing

It’s already been mentioned by lots of other people, but this weekend, or really, this Sunday, May 26th, is the best racing day of the year. Monaco. Indianapolis. Charlotte. 1,267 miles of racing. All historic tracks. All marquee events. Will the racing live up to the hype? Probably not; that’s just way too difficult to have happen, but that doesn’t lessen the enjoyment of the day.

Though IndyCar’s Bump Day was a bit of a bust, the qualifying has still been excellent and speeds are up a little bit. Has the race regained its importance across the globe? Hard to say, but viewership numbers were up last year and there’s no reason to think this one will be any different, and the race just may be the best of the day. It doesn’t matter, between F1, IndyCar, and NASCAR there’s enough to just sit back and enjoy all the sweat, petrol, rubber, and speed. That seems like a good way to start moving into summer.

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