Race Weekend Central

Happiness Is … A Packed Weekend In April

There was a full slate of racing last weekend: Nationwide, Cup, F1, Trucks. It was more than enough of a gamut to give gearheads their fill. The stories have been punched out, so now it’s time to go through some of the highlights that make motorsports so much fun right before the next weekend sneaks up upon us. Without further hubbub…

Happiness is… night racing.
Short tracks claim that when Nationwide or Cup run on weekend nights that their attendance dwindles. Got it. But there’s something to be said for racing at night and for encouraging more of it from the national series. To start, and this may seem banal, but the cars just look cooler. For all of the reshaping that has taken place in the past couple years, these two series now feature cars that ‘resemble’ something like everyday cars. Resemble is used loosely. Under the lights the cars shine and all of the work that goes into styling them becomes evident.

Then there’s the racing itself. Aside from watching sparks fly, or fire looking more striking, racing at night seems to bring a different sense of intensity. Whether this notion is real or not, it doesn’t matter. More races should be held at night. Think about Martinsville at night – now that’d be worthwhile.

Happiness is… Eye Doctor Appointments
Ron Hornaday Jr. brought out one of the best excuses that’s been uttered in a long time. Late in the Trucks race, he and Darrel Wallace Jr. were going at it. Wallace ran Hornaday up high in one of the corners which apparently bothered the former champion to no end. The result: under caution, Hornaday, having a serious issue that a different Jr. could be ahead of him, put Wallace into the fence. Day over for the young driver.

And what did Hornaday say in post-race interviews? Aside from the typical I-didn’t-mean-to-wreck him hogwash, he let out the beautiful: “I didn’t know it was a caution.” Say what?! Right, so he had slowed to pace laps speed and held it for over a lap for no reason? Um, even worse, so, um, he didn’t see all those flashing yellow lights around the track? Maybe the youth movement that’s happening in the truck series is getting to Ol’ Ron. Or maybe it’s time for an eye appointment.

Happiness is… Tire Wear
Let’s just forget about the races at Texas. No, seriously, they were totally forgettable. Not even sure what happened. Just kidding. But how about looking at the F1 and Truck races as racing highlights. The reason: tire degradation.

For the truck race, most drivers were on similar strategies. But when the yellow flag graced the track late in the race different tactics emerged. Joey Logano, who had been enduring a middling day, charged from the back and nearly stole the checkers from Kyle Larson (another one of those youngsters with whom Hornaday probably has a problem).

In F1, where drivers must use both soft and hard compound tires (or tyres for European readers), teams took differing strategies from the onset. Jenson Button, with a so-so starting spot, started on the hards and ran a two-stop race that netted him a 5th place finish. Sebastian Vettel’s team also played a different game, and settled for 4th, though not without Vettel doing his best to pass Lewis Hamilton on the final lap. It didn’t seem to matter what compound Fernando Alonso used, no one was catching him.

Happiness is…Tragic Irony
The National Rifle Association sponsored the Cup race at Texas. The winner can enjoy the opportunity to shoot pistols as part of the ceremony in victory lane. Gun control is a hot topic. Many NASCAR fans are NRA members. Of course, many are not. Throw it all together and NASCAR found itself situated in the middle of a tense situation that only brings enough spin to make everyone dizzy.

So what happens at the race at Texas? A man, Kirk Franklin, shoots himself in the head, killing himself, after getting into a confrontation in the infield. A policewoman at the scene noted that alcohol may have been a factor. This kind of event is exactly what NASCAR needed to evade, and yet, it’s fodder for the whole topic again. Of course, someone is going to come out and blame it on alcohol – and there’ll be some kind of backlash whatever so on etcetera. The real culprit, naturally, is stupidity.

Happiness is…Video Evidence
Got a boring race? Well spice it up, with Cautions! Cautions, they’re beautiful, fun, and bright, shiny, and yellow. Throw one today! Those in the race control booth felt more than obliged to throw a few unneeded cautions in Texas. Was Kyle Busch driving away from everyone in the Nationwide race? Sure was. That can be fixed – yay, a caution, for debris.

debris |dəˈbrē; ˌdā-|
scattered fragments, typically of something wrecked or destroyed

Nary a scattered fragment was shown.

And the Cup race. Oh boy. Not only were 2 ‘debris’ cautions held, with no video evidence of what caused the person with his or her finger on the button that lights up all those fancy caution lights but then there was the maddening Mark Martin caution. Whoa, better throw a caution, Martin just got way loose coming out of turn 4 – nevermind that he had plenty of space and righted the car with the casual ease of someone that’s been doing this racing thing a while.

It’s wild to watch the disparity between Cup and F1 races and notice that 3400 pound stock cars are afraid to drive over a piece of sheet metal, but F1 drivers, in cars that weigh half as much, frequently turn laps through scattered pieces of carbon fiber and other track litterings.

But let’s end with Mark Martin on this issue. He quipped a while back that Cup drivers used to drivers used to race over parts like alternators with no cautions. Sure that might not be a good idea these days, but without him, we might not be reminded of the things that once were.

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