The Frontstretch: Happiness Is... Surprise Endings by Huston Ladner -- Wednesday June 5, 2013

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Happiness Is... Surprise Endings

Huston Ladner · Wednesday June 5, 2013

 

The sky is falling. Jimmie Johnson got robbed / lost at Dover. Kyle Busch beat up schoolchildren and earned top 10s in all three races at Dover. Brad Keselowski’s car failed post-race inspection. Ryan Newman needlessly punted David Gilliland, ending both of their days. The stands looked empty. Everything is wrong with the sport. That’s the overall snapshot, eh? Maybe, maybe not, but really, for all the ails, things are looking pretty good. And even the IndyCars enjoyed a weekend of decent racing. So let’s be giddy and enjoy the better things, like the fact that the FOX portion of the schedule is over. On to…

Happiness Is… Jumping the Restart

NASCAR made the call that Jimmie Johnson jumped the late restart, which meant a drive-through penalty and mitigated a day when Johnson had been driving to victory. Any kind of debate about the restart can be left to those that want to get into the topic, but there are a couple other things to think about here. First, Johnson was again about to win. Ho-hum, we’ve seen that story before. But second, maybe Johnson is the reason for the empty seats at Dover.

Jimmie Johnson got the black flag on Sunday, but has he turned off Dover fans by taking the checkers too many times?

The fact that Johnson has won seven times at Dover might make for lousy viewing. Though the TV numbers were essentially flat, the stands looked barren. Is it possible that fans of Dover are just tired of watching the same guy dominate the track? His near-victory on Sunday, coupled with another that slipped away last year due to a pit miscue, means that Johnson could be up to nine Dover victories. If fans already feel they know the outcome, what’s the point in going to the event? Of course, some measure must be paid to how well he races there – it seems that Johnson now owns Dover the way he once did Charlotte.

Happiness Is… The Isle of Man TTs

We here at The Frontstretch don’t devote much time to motorcycle racing. To be blunt, we don’t devote ANY time to motorcycle racing. So here’s a minor blip. Those who have the Velocity channel were treated to the Isle of Man TTs this past weekend – races where different classes of motorcycles race the island’s roads. For all of Jeff Gordon’s efforts to get SAFER barriers everywhere at the tracks, the riders at the TTs show an incredible bravery (or nuttiness).

The Isle of Man TTs are akin to the Indianapolis 500 of motorcycle racing. It began in 1907 and has continued to be run in some way or another now since. Over the life of the event, 260 riders have died, and this year claimed another, with a Japanese rider getting killed in practice. If you watch any of the action, however, you’d not be surprised. These riders are the true daredevils in motorsports and race at speeds and on roads that are just inherently dangerous. Kudos to them for continuing to take on the challenging course – all for the world’s entertainment.

Happiness Is… Cross-Promotion

On Saturday, ESPN broadcast the Nationwide race. Midway through the race the IndyCar duals in Detroit began on ABC and presented by ESPN. So what? Well, during the Nationwide race, the network frequently aired commercials for the IndyCar race on Sunday but conveniently ignored the race that they were currently showing. Consider this aspect to be confusing – and it showcases the issue with IndyCar’s television package.

Why not mention to fans that the IndyCar race is on – it is, after all, on the same family of networks? It’s not like ESPN never mentions that other things are airing on their channels while an event is happening. It seems, however, that ESPN’s sole focus was on attracting eyes to IndyCar only at the expense of FOX on Sunday. While that notion makes sense, it is problematic in that ESPN advertised but ONE race of the Duals, which kind of goes against the whole concept of the fact that there are two races. Perhaps ESPN felt that racing fans all knew that race one of the duals was on Saturday. Or maybe they don’t care. It just seems that there’s a bit of short-sightedness being displayed by the monolith of sports.

Happiness Is… Little Guys

Mike Conway. Simon Pagenaud. Sticking with the IndyCar series for a bit longer, something occurred there which is a rarity for most motorsports competition anymore – underfunded teams won the races. Anytime NASCAR, IndyCar, or F1 goes green, there are expectations that the elite teams will once again win. But Mike Conway, driving for Dale Coyne Racing, craftily won the first race and Simon Pagenaud, of Schmidt Hamilton Motorsports, played strategy and won the second.

It’s a pleasant surprise to see these two drivers win and shows an overall level of parity in the series. The funny thing is that there’s a weird aspect to Conway’s win: he’s not racing full time. Thus Conway’s win is much like a road course ringer winning a Sprint Cup race – it’s interesting but it’s also kind of a novelty. Pagenaud’s win, on the flip side, puts him fifth in the standings and a respectable 29 points back. That concept is much like the whole weekend in Detroit, a yin and yang of everything. One race passed tamely by, the other a wreck-fest, with points shuffling all about. Though AJ Allmendinger, who crashed on lap one of both races, might have an argument, maybe some of the most intriguing racing right now is in IndyCar – and the ratings were actually up a notch. Kind of startling.

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tom
06/05/2013 09:27 AM
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It isn’t (simply) that fans don’t want to watch Johnson win again, it is that there isn’t enough racing throughout the race, period. How many passes for the lead does Dover typically have? How many times do drivers go side by side for more than a single corner? Other than the first two laps following the start or restart, all we get is single file racing with an occasional pass that means something.

Towards the end of the race Sunday, we were treated to the rare spectacle of Johnson, Montoya and a third driver (Harvick?) battling for position for a number of laps. It was fun to watch, but it also illustrated that it was the exception at way too many tracks, rather than the rule.

GinaV24
06/05/2013 04:20 PM
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Tom, you are absolutely right – it is not only Johnson’s dominance but the fact that the racing at Dover for at least the past 5 years has been ho-hum. We were at the track on Sunday – during a good portion of the race, I was wishing I WAS at home so I could be doing something ELSE, rather than wasting my day, which is what it felt like. On top of that, the heat was exceptionally unpleasant and whatever “improved” security Dover had in place was a disaster for the fans. Totally inefficient and a level of poor planning to get the fans thru the gates was of a magnitude that should NOT have happened. Before I ever got to my seat I was angry, frustrated and hot. During the race I was hot, bored and not really enjoying my day.Pretty much the entire time I was wondering why I had spent the money & time. Oh yeah, this was supposed to be fun! Right, I must have missed the memo.

it was nice to have a “surprise” ending, but after taking into consideration all of the inconvenience we experienced, the money, time and level of boredom, I won’t be going back. This fall, Johnson will probably dominate again, but I’ll do something else with that time on Sunday.