Happiness Is… The Morning After
For motorsports fans, Memorial Day comes on like a bar pick-up at 2 AM. You’re feeling giddy. There’s nothing but promise and excitement. And then the next morning comes along, sobriety shows up, and you wonder if things were as good as you might remember. That’s Monaco, Indy, and Charlotte in an unpoetic recap. So let’s ignore the negatives from what transpired and hit on the better parts.
Happiness Is… Small Cameras
The CamCat camera fiasco at Charlotte actually brings notice to something that often gets overlooked. Frontstretch reviews race broadcasts each week, examining the coverage and venting frustration. But over the past 20 years, the overall production quality has been made increasingly interesting, and much of that is due to the cameras now employed. There’s the standard shots. But then there’s: in track, on track, in car, helmet cam, etc. All of these angles serve to bring the viewer closer to the event. With the CamCat, however, we saw that the technology can become part of the event and that’s no good.
One of the best camera-work aspects was the on-car cameras at Monaco. Without that view, the F1 cars looked as they were enjoying a Sunday parade (even if they sort of were). But once aboard a car, viewers could see the difficulty in driving the track, with high speeds and blind turns. Not sure that facet has been broadcast better. The same could be said with the on-car cameras at Indy, for example with J.R. Hildebrand wrecked beside James Hinchcliffe. Having the footage available to show Hildebrand just lose it, at speed, and in HD, was excellent.
Happiness Is… History
Sorry Coca Cola 600, you were an interesting race, but aside from maintaining its position as the longest race on the schedule, it would be hard to call it remarkable. The somewhat surprise winner of Kevin Harvick brought some interest and has to be considered better than watching Jimmie Johnson win again at Charlotte. But the other two races of the day brought the more memorable moments.
Nico Rosberg won Monaco 30 years after his father, Keke, had done so. That’s pretty sweet. Seeing family names in the record books is always a kind of enjoyable thing (though some might argue that this is evidence that racing, like many industries, is closed off to outsiders). The fact that Rosberg won the race on a round even number almost makes the accomplishment seem particularly fateful.
And then there’s Tony Kanaan. The fans at a track have not universally cheered a particular driver winning since probably 1998 and Dale Earnhardt at the Daytona 500. Aside from the dejected second-place finisher, Carlos Munoz, even the drivers lauded Kanaan’s victory. Rare indeed. Sure the win might not transcend the sport, but for a series in need of some feel-good moments, IndyCar certainly got one on Sunday.
Happiness Is… Ending Under Caution
There was some clamor and whatnot about the Indy 500 finishing under caution. Not sure from where the vitriol came, but apparently those that had a problem with the finish are not Kanaan fans. The truth is, ending under yellow was not only the right call for the race but is the right call for any race. Aww, but the green-white-checkered finish is so entertaining and it’s so…blah, meh, yeck. In truth, the GWC is rubbish.
David Smith, from Motorsports Analytics, crunched the numbers on the double-file restarts that are part of the GWC ending, and found that specific cars are screwed before the green flag flies. Ultimately, the preferred racing groove determines how much of the top ten will shake out, rather than how good a car / driver is, and that single-file restarts would better indicate where drivers ‘deserved’ to end up. OK, so maybe the GWC is not total rubbish, if you consider two laps of racing to be a true representation of a race, but the double-file restarts certainly are.
Happiness Is… Staying Where You Are
There’s been a lot of positive press about AJ Allmendinger’s return to open wheel racing. His seventh-place finish at Indy is a relative confirmation of all these stories. Of course, his ‘comeback’ and ‘redemption’ from his substance abuse failings in NASCAR also add depth to the narrative. At this point, it’s common to state that he needs to stay in IndyCar and resume a career that seemed, at times, way off the pace.
The better story is Kevin Harvick. For years it seemed like he was looking to end his relationship with Richard Childress. He winked and flirted at other teams the previous two times he renewed with Childress but didn’t make the break. But this time, he finally did. But is it really the smart move? At Childress he’s the alpha, which he won’t be at Stewart-Haas. And for all his threats to leave RCR, he’s still had a pretty good career there, with big wins and some strong championship finishes. Is the move to SHR really going to be the one that puts him over the top? The move looks more and more like a strange rebound with every race.
Happiness Is… More Racing
While F1 takes a break to jump to Canada for its grand prix there on June 9th, NASCAR and IndyCar roll on. Sure, next weekend may not bring the hype and excitement that this past one did, but maybe it’s good to get the overkill out of the way. IndyCar is offering up its confusing and yet-to-be-seen dual-race weekend, while NASCAR heads to Dover for one of those stalwart kind of events. The curious thing to watch, aside from the racing, will be fan response. The Indy 500’s ratings were down, and the Coca Cola 600’s flat. There’s good racing going on, and a lot of people are missing it.
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