The Frontstretch: Happiness Is... Unhappiness, Iowa, And A Break by Huston Ladner -- Wednesday July 17, 2013

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Happiness Is... Unhappiness, Iowa, And A Break

Huston Ladner · Wednesday July 17, 2013


You know what every race featured this past weekend? Late-race cautions. Hooray! Or something. The Nationwide series started the trend, and then made sure to go through all three of the Green-White-Checkers attempts. The IndyCar race followed the lead and too had a late-race caution. The Truck series racing that night followed suit and had a re-start within the last ten laps. Not to be outdone, Cup drivers ensured that a late caution (one of like a kajillion at New Hampshire) would bunch up the field and turn the race into a spring for the checkered flag. And then, to finish off the sweep of the weekend, IndyCar closed for their double in Toronto with the race ending under yellow. That close seemed to be fitting.

So what does the rash of yellows mean? Well, aside from all those during the Cup race, it seems like there’s the confluence of a number of factors. It’s hot. It’s the midpoint of the season. And the drivers have all been racing around each other, accumulating a list of all the slights that have occurred during the season. Much like how there’s a sense of being forgiving early in a race and less so as it progresses, the trend during the season is the same. It seems like it’s the time for taking and for making bold moves. The downside to these races is that the sprints often skew the results for cars that were racing well. The late race cautions will be an interesting trend to watch over the next few events.

There’s so much great racing already at Iowa Speedway…would a Cup race actually take away from the other series?

Happiness Is…Unhappiness
Finally. It’s taken only half of the season to get some unhappiness going at the tracks. Elliot Sadler and Regan Smith, two of the top Nationwide championship contenders, got into it at New Hampshire and started chirping. Two drivers that have seemingly always had problems with each other, Dario Franchitti and Will Power, renewed their chippiness in Toronto. Austin Dillon had issue with Erik Jones not letting him pass at the Iowa trucks race – how dare he race him! Then there was Cup with Ryan Newman and Kyle Busch mouthing off and getting petulant. Let’s not forget Kevin Harvick getting all egomaniacal and dumping Marcos Ambrose for having the audacity to be on the same track as him. Jeez.

Driver feuds have long been a part of the sport and in the contemporary setting of sanitized motorsports, spats are often eradicated before they can become something substantial. It’s too bad. A little bit of animosity would go a long way towards showing the passion and frustration that these people have. It would also help make for a more entertaining product. How about getting some on-track message sending? Too often it’s all about “good points days” and keeping mistakes to minimum, rather than going all out. A little bit of anger could actually bring some happiness.

Happiness Is…Iowa
The track in Newton, Iowa, has already held Nationwide, IndyCar, and Truck series events this summer. The fan presence has been strong at all events, which illustrates that it is a good market for motorsports. The fact that the racing at the track has been, in a relative way, excellent, contributes the positives surrounding holding an event there. It hasn’t matter what kind of auto has run there, there are constant side-by-side battles, the speeds are good, and the finishes tend to be close. All in all, the Iowa track is should be one of the templates if another track is ever built, especially in the Western states. It’s no surprise that fans frequently mention wanting Iowa to be on the Cup schedule.

The concern here is that motorsports organizations might be oversaturating the market. It’s likely that the ticket prices for all of the races held there are a good deal lower than Cup tickets would be, making the races semi-affordable entertainment. Though it’s likely a long shot that Cup would race there, it’s a good possibility that it might hurt the attendance at the other races. There’s been no mention of Cup seriously contemplating adding the track to the schedule, and for as slow as NASCAR moves in making any kind of decision that shakes anything up, even if they did decide to add Iowa, it probably wouldn’t happen until 2024 or some year like that. So it’s good to be content watching everyone else race at the track, and put out a good product, and keep the circus that is Cup out of show. The only problem is that Cup could use more tracks like it.

Happiness Is…An Off Weekend
So let’s look forward to the upcoming weekend. The Truck series is getting set for the much anticipated dirt track race at Eldora. That one will be a Wednesday night affair on July 24. The Cup series takes its usual summer break before going to the fabled Brickyard. Then there’s IndyCar which is encouraging everyone to go on vacation and forget about them by taking a three week hiatus. Even Formula One is avoiding taking to the track this weekend. That leaves only the Nationwide Series in action.

This weekend seems like one of those rare opportunities as a fan to check out. And one must also question NASCAR’s decision to run the Nationwide stand-alone event at Chicago, a track that the Cup series will visit in about six weeks. Why not just let everyone have to weekend off? Though there are fewer races in Nationwide, it seems like a great time for everyone involved in motorsports, fans, crews, drivers, even the press, to let out a sigh, re-energize, and get ready for the rest of the season. Works for everyone else, it seems.

Get out and enjoy the break.

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Today on the Frontstretch:
NASCAR Easter Eggs: A Few Off-Week Nuggets to Chew On
Five Points To Ponder: NASCAR’s Take-A-Breath Moment
Truckin’ Thursdays: Top Five All-Time Truck Series Drivers
Going By the Numbers: A Week Without Racing Can Bring Relief But Kill Momentum


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Michael in SoCal
07/17/2013 10:59 AM

I cannot for the life of me figure out why Nascar would have a standalone Nationwide race at Chicagoland, in the middle of July, just six weeks before the Cup series is there for the start of the Chase. The stands are going to be empty.

07/17/2013 11:54 AM

The 48 car is so good…they may increase their points lead this weekend.