Race Weekend Central

Happiness Is… Trucks, McNabb, Latecomers & Formula One

Once upon a time, there was a track that featured scintillating racing. She was a lovely track, and people were always fond of her and what she provided. One of the aspects that made the racing so good was how the tires wore out and how the drivers had to figure out how to deal with the issue. The track became a mix of masterful car setups and smart driving, which seems to be the right combination for good racing.

That track still exists, but since being repaved, Darlington Raceway hasn’t returned to her old glory — yet. Why start with the egg-shaped oval? Because of the lamentable reaction from so many after the race at Auto Club Speedway.

For years, the speedway faced all sorts of criticism about how boring the races were. They moved dates around, but nothing changed. Finally, thanks to fan apathy, the speedway lost a date and, later, a reduction in its seating capacity. Now, the two-mile track holds just under 70,000 people — even though, for a two-mile speedway, it might provide some of the best high-speed competition around.

Instead of celebrating a race returning the focus to how a driver should drive the track, much of the response from important types has been how Goodyear once again screwed up and doesn’t know how to make a tire built to give great racing. That’s too bad. Note that a certain driver with seven Darlington wins, one who has the veteran experience to understand tire management was sitting there ready to win in California until the late caution doomed him. Too bad for Jeff Gordon, but good for the fans. The more tracks that race like Auto Club, the better — as long as it doesn’t turn into the Indy fiasco of 2008.

Jeff Gordon seemed set up for a win in California — then came a late caution.

Happiness Is… Trucks. Happiness Is loves to poke fun at how poorly crafted the Camping World Truck Series schedule is put together. But hey, the series is finally back in action this weekend with a trip to the original short track, Martinsville Speedway. For a series that can be easily ignored, it’s about time the drivers started to log some laps again.

What would make things even better is if Martinsville finally put some of those things that are all bright and do that luminosity thing around the track. Hmm, what are those things again? Neon glow sticks? Oh, that’s right: lights! With a 70 percent chance of rain looming for Friday and Saturday, wouldn’t it be great to know that the track had some flexibility and might be able to showcase the trucks at night? But then again, the track would also be a perfect showcase for night racing for the Sprint Cup Series as well. Bummer that this idea still seems to lack the impetus to come to fruition.

Happiness Is… Aero Push. No need for any of that silliness this week on the half-mile track.

Happiness Is… Donovan McNabb. The former NFL quarterback enjoyed the VIP treatment in Fontana, and when asked about his experience, stated that little had changed in his mind as to whether or not NASCAR drivers are athletes. McNabb still doesn’t quite seem to see them as people doing anything more talented than making a run to the Costco or Wawa.

Happiness Is takes a different slant and postulates that McNabb simply fails to see the modern blending of man and machine. Homo sapiens have been racing machines ever since a machine existed that could be raced. The blending of the two has moved forward, as drivers now wrap themselves in near cocoon-like pods and, in essence, become part of the machine. What does that have to do with McNabb?

The flipside is true of those other athletes. Broken leg? Insert steel rod. Bum eyes? Lasik surgery. Pick one of the major sports and there’s more and more evidence that they are incorporating mechanization into their world — Oscar Pistorius’ Olympic attempt is a rather frank example of this point. Man, machine, speed, and power — it’s all toward the cyborg future and NASCAR is ahead of the trend. (See, walkers and biters are so passé, The Walking Dead is sure to take a ratings hit.)

Happiness Is… Latecomers. They’re slow, but they’re still fast. IndyCar may have taken its time to get going, but it’s finally back in action this weekend at St. Petersburg. James Hinchcliffe earned the victory last year, while Scott Dixon is the defending series champion. Blah, blah, blah, x number of turns, 100-something laps, which is something or other miles. Yippee! Oh wait, Happiness Is is also taking care of the preview? “OK, find that here.“https://frontstretch.com/hladner/44915/

The biggest story for this first race of the season: will Courtney Force be in attendance to cheer on boyfriend Graham Rahal? No, that’s not it. Really, the race is worth watching just to see how Juan Pablo Montoya does in his return to open-wheel racing after hitting almost everything possible in NASCAR. The race should get going just around the time that the Cup race ends on Sunday, so if you’re looking to entertain yourself with motorsports all day, you’ve got it.

Happiness Is… F1. Formula One dictator Bernie Ecclestone made sure to rib NASCAR by stating his series is international while NASCAR is domestic, thus downplaying his rival’s worldwide appeal. While Ecclestone can be as big an ass clown as Donovan McNabb, his series does do one thing right: it races in the rain.

This week’s race in Malaysia is forecast to be a wet one, which means that anyone who is up at 2 AM ET can watch the special tires designed for the “wet” to be affixed to the sonorously problematic cars. See, they may race in the rain, but the reaction to the new engines and the noise they produce has endured quite a bit of criticism. Noise or not, the race should prove to be one that enjoys that kind of mix of who can manage tires on either a slick or wet track. Hm, there’s that tire strategy thing again. Happiness Is, indeed.

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About the author

As a writer and editor, Ava anchors the Formula 1 coverage for the site, while working through many of its biggest columns. Ava earned a Masters in Sports Studies at UGA and a PhD in American Studies from UH-Mānoa. Her dissertation Chased Women, NASCAR Dads, and Southern Inhospitality: How NASCAR Exports The South is in the process of becoming a book.

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