Race Weekend Central

Happiness Is… NASCAR Legitimacy?

Well here we go. NHRA was off last weekend. Tony Schumacher has Top Fuel just about wrapped up with a 134 point lead.  In Europe, F1 enjoyed an off weekend after Mercedes walked away with the constructors’ title in Sochi. That series is now a two man race between Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg. Grand National racing was off too – does anyone even think of NASCAR’s B-division in those terms anymore?  ( We don’t know what to call it but it seemed better when it was named after beer.) That left the Cup series on centerstage on Sunday. And, for a change, it did not disappoint. Talledega, the largest track on the circuit in full force.

(Photo: CIA Stock Photography)
Talladega may have brought in terrible ratings, compared to past years for NASCAR but it still was the most-watched event in the 2014 Chase for the championship. (Photo: CIA Stock Photography)

Let’s look at one thing, however, that makes the concept of NASCAR’s playoffs a bit problematic, as exemplified by Kyle Busch’s ouster.  See, the big difference is that in other playoffs, it’s just two teams going at it.  But in Cup, it’s not just those in the Chase, it’s also the rest of the field still logging laps and trying to look good for their sponsors or something.  So it’s one thing if a Chase driver knocks another one around, but when it’s someone sitting outside of the playoffs who ruins things, it just seems to mess with the whole legitimacy of the thing.

But then again, the Chase is not about legitimacy.  It’s about entertainment.  It’s about the hopefulness of a lower-seed driving his way into Homestead with a chance to win, looking at you Ryan Newman.  It’s about the possibility of dramatic moments and on the flipside, cue: And the agony of defeat.  (Ah, that poor ski jumper, forever immortalized on ABC Sports).

If this whole thing is about entertainment, then NASCAR finally got one of those moments that it has certainly craved and has eluded the sport thus far.  Talladega may not be great racing in some people’s minds, but it certainly was worth watching, even if the TV numbers were once again down.  And it might be the race that truly crystalizes the demise of a dynasty, while …whatever, it’s not time to try to pontificate and offer some kind of historical analysis on something that’s yet to happen.  This week’s column brought to you in part by Someone’s Brother.

Let’s get things going.

Happiness is… Drama,  Boom, Confetti!  You needed to lead a lap. Yep, got that. You needed to lead the most laps. OK, got that one too. You needed a friend at the end to push you to the win to make the next round. Oops, missed that one.  Calling all cars, on the lookout for a golden horseshoe missing from the No. 48 car.  Jimmie Johnson could not put it together after being the dominant car for most of the race. That’s kind of surprising, the one driver everyone recognizes as being clutch, seemed to miss the moment for a change.  No one can say he didn’t drive that car as hard as he could leading 84 laps. There will not be a 7th championship this year, but he did his best to keep them honest. Is this the end of the dynamic duo?  Really, how does this question keep coming up?  Didn’t he just win a championship last year?  Doesn’t seem like it’s the end just yet.  But the cookie does crumble one crumb at a time.

Happiness is… Brad Keselowski. That’s it. That’s all that needs to be stated. Everthing is better when he’s around. If he did not make the chase it just would be less entertaining. Remember last year when he failed to make the Chase?  Things seemed kind of tame or boring.  Only Kes can take on half of the garage in a Royal Rumble one week and then stick himself in victory lane the next. You don’t have to like him. You don’t have to respect him as a person.  He’s that kind of character as both his driving and personality is polarizing. But he’s Mr Doorhandle-to-doorhandle, wheel to wheel. At times, he’s the old adage of checkers or wreckers. Type “Brad Keselowski used sheetmetal” into ebay. There’s half a car on there every week. Even the passenger door from the winning car was destroyed by Jamie MacMurray – and even that didn’t stop him from the win and moving on. It went down to the last feet of the last lap. Game 7 moment. That’s what we were promised. And Kes and Talladega delivered.

Happiness is… An Earnhardt at Talladega. When the 88 took the lead of the race the crowd went wild. There was hope he could pull it off. He was driving that thing in the proverbial sense, like he stole it. You could see the desperation in his lane switching moves. You looked at the lap counter – how many more left? Can he do it? Reminded me of the Wrangler 3 Grand National car winning at Daytona, with Junior honoring his dad’s winning car . Reminded me of Kenny Wallace pushing his dad to his last win. Nothing more exciting than an Earnhardt leading at ‘dega.  Sure, it wasn’t meant to be, but at this point, is Dale Jr. a driver that everyone can pull for, even just a little?  Sure feels like it.

Happiness is…The Chase. Anyone realize all the Chase races have been won by a chaser? Winning really does matter. Win and your in and they have. Over and over again. The talking heads have warned me that Kyle Larson is going to spoil the party but has not happened yet. There were probably some people hoping that  every race would be won by a non-chaser or the same chaser would win all of them.  Nope, different guy every week. If this was a movie, that’s how the script should be written.  Can the pattern keep going at Martinsville?

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.

Sign up for the Frontstretch Newsletter

A daily email update (Monday through Friday) providing racing news, commentary, features, and information from Frontstretch.com
We hate spam. Your email address will not be sold or shared with anyone else.

Share this article

1 Comment
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
read this post here

I just want to tell you that I am newbie to weblog and absolutely savored your web blog. Most likely I’m want to bookmark your website . You really have incredible posts. Appreciate it for sharing with us your website page.

Sign up for the Frontstretch Newsletter

A daily email update (Monday through Friday) providing racing news, commentary, features, and information from Frontstretch.com