Huston Ladner · Wednesday August 28, 2013
Everybody was back in action this past week: Trucks, Nationwide, F1, Cup, IndyCar. Call it a cornucopia of racing. For all the petrol used, tires worn, and miles raced, it’s sad to note that none of the races came across as memorable (unless you’re in the anti-JJ six-pack crowd). That’s not to say that the races all lacked drama or failed to have a compelling moment or two, but that nothing truly stood out. To wit: Kyle Busch must have an equity stake in International Speedway Corporation as he seemingly owns Bristol; Sebastian Vettel did what he’s been doing, winning again; and Will Power won his third race in four years at Sonoma. See how boring things get – insert smirk here. Ah, but that’s not to say that there weren’t some things to be gleaned. On with it.
Happiness is…Time Off
The IndyCar series has adopted the strategy of ‘less is more’ by having just two races in the past four months. Right; it hasn’t been that bad, but it hasn’t been good either. The IndyCar schedule has been an easy target for criticism for a while now, so it’s time to look at it in a different way. Apparently not having races is a good idea as it seems to get everyone a little wound up.
Marco Andretti returned to form, exhibiting the attitude that has been remarkably missing this season. He found fault with his team, had issues with Power, seemed to think that he was in a stock car and banged around, and yet still finished fourth. Go figure. Then there’s E.J. Viso piloting the new Dallara bumper car. We can just skip Turn 7. But throw in Scott Dixon and his contretemps with Power’s crewman, and it all makes for fascinating entertainment – even if the race dragged on a little too long.
Perhaps the most interesting / tantalizing moment from IndyCar and its return to racing was The Captain himself, Roger Penske, going after Marco Andretti after the race. For an owner whose cars finished first and seventh, and has Helio Castroneves in good shape to finally win a championship, his outrage towards the racing scion came across as striking. It seems the layoff wound up more than just the drivers.
Happiness is…Knowing Where You Stand
The newly minted Fox Sports 1 demonstrated a sense of contempt for its roots during the Truck race last week – and surprisingly, little in the way of criticism could be found. Perhaps it slipped by you too – that being FS1 missing the restart that determined the winner of the race. Or maybe FS1, in its obvious attempt to mirror ESPN, was just doing what the thought the Worldwide Leader would do.
That brings up the ESPN coverage – did anyone else notice how lackadaisical the network was in covering restarts during the Cup race? More than once they cut back to the race just as the cars hit the line for a green flag. Maybe we shouldn’t be surprised.
The news on Monday, that both TNT and ESPN are looking to get out of their NASCAR contracts a year early, is about as difficult to comprehend as an episode of Fast N’ Loud. Sure, no one at the Bristol, Connecticut, headquarters would admit to it, but it wouldn’t be surprising if they’re happy to give less than stellar coverage as a way of leveraging their way out of the last year of the contract.
Already ESPN has switched David Newton from covering NASCAR to now being their beat guy for the Carolina Panthers. Look for the organization to continue shifting resources away from racing. It’s a firm stance of the adage: It’s not you, it’s me. It’s in everyone’s best interest to avoid the awkward last year left on the contracts.
Happiness is…Darlington pt.2
Many fans have clamored that Darlington Raceway, due to the attendance issues at other tracks, deserves a second race date. The other point of contention has been that the Darlington race date needs to be moved back to Labor Day. There’s no need for either of those things.
If anything, the Bristol night race showed that there’s another track where only the top groove works. It used to be that the groove sat at the bottom, but with the re-paving, grinding, and the newer generation of cars, it has moved to the top. It was kind of like reverse Martinsville as cars at the bottom continually lost positions on restarts (more evidence that double-file restarts are a problem). The questionable thing that came from the races is: why don’t the lapped cars move to the bottom rather than clogging the primary lane?
It’s common courtesy in racing to get out of the way of the leaders when you’re out of contention, but in all three races at Bristol slower vehicles messed with the desired racing groove. The positive way to look at all these factors is to see that it all made for a bit of interesting racing.
Happiness is…Two Races Left
That’s right, there’s two races left to determine who will comprise the field that will lose to Jimmie Johnson in the Chase. If anyone thinks that the No. 48’s struggles the past two weeks are cause for concern, well that’s something for him or her to work out later. Though Matt Kenseth earned a fifth win to put him atop the championship standings when things get reset, he’s hardly shown the consistency this season to be a comfortable threat. His teammate, the one without the back problems and who has been known to meltdown during the Chase, has shown rather decent steadiness, and his 11th-place finish at Bristol, in a beat-up car after starting from the back might be an indication he can challenge JJ.
But the bigger happiness is that in two races the field will finally be set and then we can move away from the tedious storyline of who’s going to be part of the 12-driver playoff.
Has Kasey Kahne seen Roadhouse? If not, maybe it’s time. Again, Kahne lost to Kenseth for what seems like the eighth time this season. It seems that he needs to indoctrinate Dalton’s mantra of: I want you to be nice until it’s time to not be nice. Kahne needed his crew chief to let him know it was time to not be nice during the closing laps at Bristol and finally move Kenseth out of the way. Kenseth has to be happy that Kahne raced him clean.
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