The Frontstretch: Happiness Is... Speed TV, Silly Season, Indy, And Championships by Huston Ladner -- Wednesday July 24, 2013

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Happiness Is... Speed TV, Silly Season, Indy, And Championships

Huston Ladner · Wednesday July 24, 2013


Ahh. That’s the sweet relief from a weekend that had almost no racing. We all got to avoid Jimmie Johnson winning another race; to not lambaste the questionable race coverage; to call out the mystifying cautions that change the tenor of a race; to wonder who would make yet another empty threat; and maybe best of all, to just ignore the television a bit. Here here. Never has the 36 race calendar looked so bloated when a break comes during summer and gives everyone a chance to breathe – and actually miss on-track action. But it’s time to get started again. The Camping World Truck series gets things started with its dirt-track experiment at Eldora. That race is sure to enjoy widespread attention. Let’s applaud NASCAR for doing something different, whether it’s great racing or not. Now here’s some other things to be happy about…

Happiness Is…Speed Channel is Dead, Long Live Speed

When Speed announced that it was morphing into Fox Sports 1, many motorsports enthusiasts saw the change as the death of good racing programming. The way that Speed and ESPN have treated racing recently, placing it in the frequent position of afterthought, has done nothing to change many of these sentiments.

And along came the NBC Sports Network, formerly Versus. They’ve held IndyCar rights for the past few years. But last year they made a bold swipe, taking Formula One coverage from Speed. The two open wheel series have been treated well on the network, with extended coverage and excellent telecasts.

Then news came this week that NBCSN had outbid ESPN for the second half of the NASCAR schedule. Add it all up, F1+IndyCar+NASCAR (Nationwide + Cup) = New Speed. In a relatively short amount of time NBCSN has become a home to motorsports in a way that Speed should have been, and in a way that ESPN never cared to. Apparently FOX and ESPN don’t see the same value in these contracts, or more to the point, they’re really just focused on football and baseball. Fans should thank NBCSN for making it the new go-to for racing action.

Happiness Is…Silly Season

There aren’t any top-flight rides open right now. Hendrick, Gibbs, Roush, Waltrip, and Penske seem content with how things are set up for them for next year. Then there’s Childress, who has one seat open and has intimated that they could possibly, maybe create a fourth team. With Vickers off the market, Ryan Newman and Kurt Busch are the biggest names that might be moving to new homes.

So if this Silly Season is so lame, why be happy about it? Because there’s always something peculiar that can happen. When the options appear limited, there’s always a chance that someone is thinking in a way that no one anticipated. How interesting would it be to see Kurt Busch sign with Gibbs and drive a Monster Energy drink backed car? That’d certainly be a bold maneuver. How about Ganassi making a brazen decision to dump one of his drivers in favor of bringing Kyle Larson to Cup? Let’s hope someone does something interesting.

Happiness Is…Indy

The race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway is sure to be something of a failure. The enormous crowds that used to greet NASCAR have waned. The 2008 tire disaster and the recession the country has endured have acted as a two-prong assault to dissuade people from caring about the race. Throw in the fact that passing at the flat track is difficult and the result is that the substance doesn’t match the hype – regardless of the historical implications of racing at the venerable track. To be blunt, it’s likely that the Sunday affair will be lamentable, and Juan Pablo Montoya will probably be in position to win and somehow fail again.

That’s a whole lot of bashing for a column that is supposed to be happy. Sure is, and it could probably go on for a while. But here’s the happy part. As people lose money on the event, they find ways to make things better. There’s no way the track gets changes, but it’s possible that another race with lackluster attendance figures will encourage something like lights to be added. Or maybe everyone realizes that the marriage between lumbering stock cars and the track is not the best fit and it loses its place on the schedule – creating an opportunity for another track, like Iowa, Road America, or Circuit Gilles Villeneuve. Change is good.

Happiness Is…Championships

In every series other than Cup, there are decent battles for the championships. Though Seb Vettel has won just about every race in F1, Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen are keeping close just looking for a slip up. In Trucks, Matt Crafton has almost a one-race lead in points, but has been fortuitous and avoided any DNFs. With half a season to go, the next four drivers are all within 14 points of each other. Regan Smith had gotten out to a one race lead in the points, but has been reeled in and the top five are all within 22 points of each other. And then there’s IndyCar, with Helio Castroneves and Scott Dixon holding tight in the top two spots with but six races to go.

Maybe this year, however, is the one to thank NASCAR for having the Chase (no, no, no!). Jimmie Johnson is 56 points ahead of everyone – quite the difficult margin to be made up when they are running so well. Realize that the driver in 5th, Dale Earnhardt Jr., is 118 points behind – almost two and a half races worth of points. Incredible. Maybe hitting the reset button for those final ten races might help. Or maybe it won’t matter as Johnson cruises home to #sixpack. We need new hashtags.

The Frontstretch Newsletter, back in 2014 gives you more of the daily news, commentary, and racing features from your favorite writers you know and love. Don’t waste another minute – click here to sign up now. We’re here to make sure you stay informed … so make sure you jump on for the ride!

Today on the Frontstretch:
Did You Notice? … Breaking Down A Sprint Cup Season Eight Races In
Beyond the Cockpit: Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. on Growing Up Racing and Owner Loyalties
The Frontstretch Five: Flaws Exposed In the New Chase So Far
NASCAR Writer Power Rankings: Top 15 After Darlington
NASCAR Mailbox: Past Winners Aren’t Winning …. Yet
Open Wheel Wednesday: How Can IndyCar Stand Out?


©2000 - 2008 Huston Ladner and Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!

07/24/2013 08:03 AM

Now all the peeps at BSPN can start giving their TRUE opinion of Nascar like they were doing before BSPN hooked back up with Nascar.

I’m extremely happy that NBC has made this deal…not only to see (hopefully) NEW faces, but to see (hopefully) better coverage.

And it wouldn’t surprise me to see another racings series start to rise to the top…especially after “FIVE TIME!” becomes “SIX TIME!”.

Unfortunately for NBC, Nascar is still Nascar….meaning the tracks and the racing will still be what it is…unless the new deal includes Brian France going away.

Carl D.
07/24/2013 08:40 AM

So Austin Dillon gets Harvick’s old ride and a fourth RCR team goes to either Kurt Busch or Ryan Newman. If Newman gets that ride, and if Penske does add a team, poor Kurt is out of luck. He burned that bridge, though Sam Hornish would probably get that ride anyway. I’d like to see Kurt again driving for a top team, but his options are limited due to past behavior.

So where does Allen Bestwick end up? He’s way too good an announcer to be out of a job. I also like Kyle Petty, Wally Dallenbach, and Brad Daugherty, but I embrace the new NBC coverage as a potential improvement over TNT and ESPN.

Sherri T
07/24/2013 03:36 PM

As long as they don’t bring Webber back I’m okay with it.

07/24/2013 09:06 PM

OMG…please….no more Brad Daugherty!