The Frontstretch: Happiness Is... Championships, Tests, Intelligence, And BV by Huston Ladner -- Wednesday October 16, 2013

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Happiness Is... Championships, Tests, Intelligence, And BV

Huston Ladner · Wednesday October 16, 2013


All of the good stories from this past weekend have been nailed. Let’s quickly hit the list. Probably the easiest one to attack is the last caution in the Cup race for the debris that was never shown. Was Jimmie Johnson cruising to what looked like another victory? Yep. So, of course, it’s a conspiracy that NASCAR wanted to fix the race to keep things tight in the Chase. Eh, believe what you may. The real fault is with ESPN, who — after abruptly going to commercial when the yellow was thrown — never bothered to show anything regarding the debris. That just seems lazy.

Want another conspiracy? It’s NASCAR; we’ve got oodles. How about the organization shafting Darlington Raceway in their diabolical plan to eliminate the track from the schedule? It’s disappointing, to be sure, as the track had taken on the Mother’s Day weekend and made it their own. The schedule is now one of the biggest problems that NASCAR decision-makers deal with – although they don’t seem to deal with it as much as just make the most minor of adjustments. It seems like it’s time for fresh eyes on the whole deal.

Matt Kenseth sits atop the standings by a mere four points, and the closer battle for the championship is definitely something to be happy about.

But hey, those are all old topics. Let’s lighten things up and see what we can smile about.

Happiness Is… The Championship

With five races to go, the top 5 drivers in the points have somewhat distanced themselves from the other eight. Kevin Harvick has replaced Kyle Busch as the driver outside the duo of Johnson and Matt Kenseth who could sneak in and challenge them. And it’s not like Jeff Gordon and Busch are meekly driving around, lost on the track with a cylinder that’s dropped. Those two have continued to have a stout Chase.

That almost would make it seem like NASCAR’s postseason is working. Whether or not it is, and fans will surely let their thoughts be known on that one, the points standings are tight — and that’s a good thing. Most pundits are pointing towards Talladega as the race that can shake things up. There’s a good chance of that happening. This Chase, however, has shown that almost any track can change the complexion of the running order – though Kenseth, Johnson, and Harvick have skated through with relative ease. Like it or not, as long as these five remain that close, people will continue to watch.

Happiness Is… The Other Championship

With Dario Franchitti having been released from the hospital following his scary crash in the second race at Houston, fans can now watch the IndyCar finale with a sense of enjoyment. Scott Dixon leads Helio Castroneves by 25 points going into the final race, but that doesn’t mean the championship is decided. Fontana has proven to be a difficult track at times for Indy drivers and the race is one of the longer ones of the season.

Though Dixon needs to finish fifth to win the Astor Cup, regardless of what Castroneves does, that’s still not the easiest thing to do. Though Dixon is comfortable on ovals, Castroneves seems to excel when driving them. It wouldn’t be surprising to see this one go down to the final laps. Of course, for those who are looking for a little drama, it’d be good if those gremlins that attacked Castroneves’ cars in Houston stayed in Houston.

Happiness Is… Testing

Most of us would rather do without tests. Spelling tests. Math tests. Short answer quizzes. The SAT, GRE, LSAT, MCAT… the acronym list goes on a while. But for a change, we can appreciate tests. And why is that? Well, because NASCAR is attempting to fix the oft-recited aero-push problem. The organization held tests this week at Charlotte to look at the issue and to see what changes may help the racing product.

NASCAR may be a bit lost with some things, but one of the areas that they have tinkered with for the past 15 years are the cars. We can all forget about the flying brick known as the Car of Tomorrow, but it’s important to recognize that they’re definitely safer. The fact that they continue to attempt to try to fix the aero aspects to improve the competition is a sign that, at the very least, someone is trying. Will the tests yield the results that fans are looking for? We don’t know yet, as they haven’t been graded. But let’s hope they’re not being scored on a curve.

Happiness Is… Getting Smart

It should be noted that NASCAR, along with announcing the schedule, threw a bit of smart, and overdue, change out there. Holy Moly, Margaret! Who is paying this writer? All of this NASCAR love is almost sickening. That’s one way of looking at things, but improvements, even the small ones, are still improvements, and NASCAR let it be known that one of its little projects that has certainly drawn scorn here will be available nationally. That’s right; coming soon to a track near you is the Air Titan!

That this track-drying system wasn’t at every track this year has already been discussed. Now that it will be on-the-ready, all parties involved in a race weekend will enjoy its benefits. Because it has been so lightly used, the Air Titan has not been able to show its true track-drying prowess. It’s still a nifty bit of ingenuity, and though no one will wish for rain on a raceday, it will be good to see the thing in action, so that, ya know, the drivers can get back to action.

Happiness Is… Brian Vickers

Oh, that poor dude. With a blood clot found in his leg, his NASCAR season is now over. Having gone through this scenario before, he’s probably better prepared for it now. And one could imagine that he’s got things in perspective, recognizing that his life is more important than driving a car for sport. Nonetheless, here’s to a speedy recovery and to Vickers coming back strong next year.

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