The sport is saved. Yay, the new NASCAR rules package that got tested at Kentucky is the panacea that all had hoped for; now, everything is hunky dory. It was the general reaction that emanated from the world, both during and after the Kentucky race.
In a way, that works. The racing on track appeared to be pretty decent, especially in the way that cars could take the lead. And Brad Keselowski, who really may have had the car to beat, consistently drove through the field as his team made miscue after miscue.
So far, so good right? But a question that emerges, aside from asking why there isn’t a more aggressive push to get the aero package implemented for more tracks the rest of the season is this one: how come some of the cars and teams seemingly made no moves all night?
The easy target is that of Hendrick Motorsports. Sure, about the only outcome no one wanted at Kentucky was Jimmie Johnson running away with another win. Mission accomplished; he was pretty much an afterthought for much of the race. At some point, Johnson raced in the top five, but that memory long ago faded and when he was languishing around in the back half of the top 10, it came across as surprising.
Clearly Joe Gibbs Racing had something figured out, and Team Penske as well while Hendrick, Stewart-Haas Racing, Richard Childress Racing and Roush Fenway all floundered. Well, OK, floundering is nothing new for RFR at this juncture. But for the other teams, considering their resources, to provide such little fight seemed interesting.
What that means for the racing when NASCAR returns to the same package, no one knows. The tinkering goes the other way with higher downforce for Michigan and Indy, so that’s a whole different experiment. It makes Darlington the track to determine the aero’s worth – except it doesn’t.
Darlington and Kentucky are similar in the fact that they’re both over a mile, but neither one relates much to any other track. As Kentucky is concrete, there are no other 1.5-mile tracks of the same surface. Meanwhile, Darlington’s egg shape lends itself to no other. So while the racing at Kentucky may have entertained, there’s still a bunch of questions moving forward.
The hope for Darlington is that the rain won’t be the story it was for Kentucky. As Charles Dudley Warner stated, “Everyone complains about the weather, but no one does anything about it.”
At least Kentucky made the best of what they had to offer. Let’s get on with it….
Happiness Is… Loudon. So after a decent show, the NASCAR traveling circus heads to Loudon, a track that does not really inspire people. Boring is one word that’s been used to describe it and that’s probably the one that doesn’t have any expletives or otherwise problematic texts attached to it. Yes, it’s a flat 1-mile track where passing tends to be difficult. Yet isn’t that one of the better qualities? Isn’t one of the goals of racing to see the equipment and driver tested?
Let’s be happy that it’s not one of those cookie-cutter tracks instead. While the on-track action often appears lame, the actuality is that there’s usually a move or two made by someone that goes wrong – and that brings out the angst and idiocy. Maybe that will be the case again. As short tracks seem scarce on the summer schedule, it could be something that’s needed. Maybe Danica Patrick can get back at Dale Earnhardt Jr. Har.
Happiness Is… Milwaukee. Last weekend, IndyCar raced at the Milwaukee Mile and put on a pretty decent show. Sebastien Bourdais won, earning his second victory of the year, and the championship picture began to clear up. That may be the easy story, but the bigger one is that it may have been Indy’s last race there. As the series is in negotiations with Road America, purportedly with a date set, it may be difficult for Indy to visit Wisconsin twice and be able to satisfy attendance desires at both tracks. That’s business.
The sad part is that the Milwaukee Mile is one of the more important parts of American racing history. A former horse track, first built in 1903 it became the first oval in racing. Even the vaunted Indianapolis Motor Speedway didn’t come along for another nine years. Without NASCAR or Indy making trips to the track, there’s a good chance that it could fall by the wayside and become of those things relegated to the dustbin of history. Developers have eyed up the site before. This note isn’t some sort of plea to get the track saved but merely an appreciation for a track that acts as a bedrock for American motorsports. At the very least, the developers better leave a heck of a plaque….
Happiness Is… Iowa. While NASCAR is going in circles in Loudon for the weekend, IndyCar will be in the Corn State doing the same. There aren’t many races left on their schedule which means catch them, catch them while you still can. The truth is that IndyCar at Iowa is rather entertaining, and whether Juan Pablo Montoya extends his points lead or not it’s worth giving a gander to – especially as they’ll be racing on Saturday night, which means they won’t be going against NASCAR. Of course, any visit to Iowa by a series other than Cup is just a reminder that they need to get there at some point in the near future.