The Frontstretch: Happiness Is... Red, 5th, Words, People, And Foreign Things by Huston Ladner -- Tuesday October 8, 2013

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Happiness Is... Red, 5th, Words, People, And Foreign Things

Huston Ladner · Tuesday October 8, 2013


Do they make a machine that waves yellow flags? If not, they might have to make one after this past weekend because the people waving them have surely worn out their arms. Between the races at Houston and Kansas, there were roughly 839 caution flags thrown (actual count: 42. There were 16 combined at Houston and 26 combined at Kansas.) But here at Happiness Is, we strive to look at the positives of the situation, and to do so, we revisit our childhood.

Sesame Street was always a good place to learn things while also being entertained. This past weekend clearly intended to introduce everyone to the color Yellow. Now that everyone sees it, knows what it means, and probably has a little disdain for it, it’s time to move on to some other ideas for that would make even Oscar the Grouch giddy.

Happiness Is…Red
We’ve already learned about yellow, but what about red? There were, thankfully, no red flags this past weekend, so while the racing was frequently slowed, it was never stopped. Well at least fans have that on their side. But how about the ol’ Budweiser Chevy finding its way to victory lane? Kevin Harvick shocked everyone, including himself, by winning the pole position. The thing is, pole winners rarely end up winning the race.

Kevin Harvick, who has visited Victory Lane regularly in 2013, seems to have missed the memo that he’s supposed to be a lame duck, and is giving fans another team to root for in the Chase.

Harvick’s win took us all away from what had become a familiar narrative in the 2013 Chase – that being either a Gibbs or Hendrick car earning the big trophy. Sure, Johnson finished a lowly sixth, and Kenseth a flat-out miserable eleventh, but Harvick was still able to shake things up a little bit. Whether or not he can close the gap further could well be found out this coming weekend at Charlotte, where he has won two of the past four races.

Happiness is…Fifth
Finish fifth in Fontana, and regardless of where anyone else winds up, Scott Dixon wins his third championship. Dixon enjoyed a brilliant weekend in Houston, with an average finish of 1.5. From a competition standpoint, it sucks that Helio Castroneves had very much the complete opposite of a weekend as mechanical gremlins ate away at his car and his points lead. Castroneves went from being up 49 points to now being down 25. That’s a 74 point swing in just two races! NASCAR would probably love to see something wild like that happen in the Chase.

Dixon seems to be enjoying an amazing late season run, having won four of the last eight races. That’s a fantastic success rate. After enduring some questionable calls from IndyCar, the frequently under-the-radar driver is now in the best position that he’s been all season, and it seems that things have a way of evening out. But once again, IndyCar will enjoy the championship coming down to the final race (oh, and without that thing called the Chase or whatever it is).

Happiness Is…Words
Remember when one character on Sesame Street would start a word and then another character on the other side of the screen would finish it? C. At. Cat. Well Jeff Gordon and Kurt Busch must have been watching. The two drivers struggled to ever get away from each other from the midpoint on of the Kansas race. They raced one another tough, running side by side at times, and looking like the champions they are. In fact, for a while there it looked like Gordon had been rejuvenated, unwilling to cow-tow to any of Busch’s moves.

And there may have been a little fender rubbing in there too. But Gordon, being the good NASCAR neighbor that he is, was there to greet Busch when he parked his car. If the cars had doors, Gordon likely would have opened it for him. And then the two of them had a happy ch at, chat, about how much fun it is to drive a Cup car and how much they enjoy racing each other. Busch was happy to oblige the media by letting them know that he and Gordon were just giving the fans what they want, that being close-quarters racing. Aww, they’re looking out for people.

Happiness Is…People
People come in all sort of shapes, colors, and sizes. They like to do all kinds of different things. Some like to watch football and drink beer. Some like to watch NASCAR and throw their cigarette butt into a bush that sets the mulch aflame and causes one of the silliest cautions ever. The surprising thing with people is that they tuned in to watch the Kansas race. The numbers for the race were, surprisingly, decent and even an increase over the previous year. Say what?!

It has long been rumored that NASCAR is dying and that soon Brian France and Mike Helton and other demonic powers-that-be will have ground it so finely into the asphalt that the remaining dust will just blow away and historians will be left to ponder just what this NASCAR thing was. Kansas, however, proved otherwise. The Nielsen ratings sat at 2.6, with nearly 4.2 million people tuning into the race. Those may seem like modest numbers, but really, they’re great. Consider the fact that much of the sporting public probably had their eyes on the NFL and the fact that there were at least four better-than-decent games on during the race, and things look almost rosy. Maybe this NASCAR thing has a chance.

Happiness Is…Foreign Things
Fwanch bread. Fwanch fries. Fwanch dressing. Peru. American feelings towards the French are a strange thing but feelings towards Scottsman Dario Franchitti are not. Everyone should be releasing a sigh of relief after his wreck and the safety measure that kept him among us. And similar thoughts should be with those fans who escaped serious injury. Happiness indeed.

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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?


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10/09/2013 10:12 AM

A ‘Better Off Dead’ reference? Well-played, sir…

Kevin in SoCal
10/09/2013 02:17 PM

Happiness is when people finally realize how disgusting smoking is and stop doing it. The fire is just another reason why smoking sucks!

10/09/2013 02:28 PM

Well, I guess it just would not be a race without Jeff G. complaining when somebody actually made him work for it a bit and not just move on over and let him pass.