This week, NASCAR provides fans with an interesting and peculiar division. It’s almost as if the governing body is playing a game of Yes and No with the schedule. It’s a tantalizing mixture, one that offers nods to the past and the present while also bringing about a beguiling look toward the future. All of that is to say that the tracks where NASCAR is racing this week offer a quizzical look at the sport.
The Camping World Truck Series had its fun at Eldora, the notable dirt track sitting in Ohio. That represented the third time that they’ve visited the Rossburg track and has proven to be rather popular with fans. The packed crowds are likely owed to the fact that the seating capacity is around 18,000, but that’s not a slight on the track or the series. In fact, the novelty of the race is one of its selling points as other truck races seem to draw, well, a good deal less than that.
Born out of the now-defunct Prelude to a Dream (remember that?), NASCAR seized on the opportunity to offer something different for the fans of the sport. While the show has been great, it’s sometimes difficult to tell how good the racing is. But that doesn’t matter. It’s something different and that is appreciated.
About 120 miles away is another track with a fabled history, one you’re probably familiar with: Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Right behind the Milwaukee Mile in age, this track seemed like a logical place for NASCAR to visit, and the first iterations proved right – at least with regards to ticket sales and interest. The Brickyard 400 became one of the marquee events… until the great tire debacle.
Since that race, everyone but the drivers has seemed turned off by racing at the quad-oval. The racing, other than restarts, tends to lack drama, and the whole event looks like another high-speed parade.
While you can look at both moves as capitalist ideology searching for new means of income, they can also be seen as NASCAR showing a willingness to do something different. When Chicago and Kansas joined the schedule it wasn’t anything new or different but more of the same. Eldora and Indy represent something unique, something that appears infrequently, and because of that they can still bring some attention.
So while NASCAR is messing around with the downforce package and trying to figure out how to make passing something more than idea relating to mulattos in the 19th and 20th centuries, the one thing that still needs a look is the schedule. But no, according to the powers that be, it’s not stagnant and in need of any change. That’s funny, the people posing as bleachers at the tracks sure give the look that the tracks aren’t at capacity.
Happiness Is… Acting. Each of the drivers that drives for one of the monied teams, spends time in front of the camera each week. After practice, qualifying, the race, a crash, the drivers deliver their lines and continue about. And of course then there’s the commercials; Carl Edwards has to lead the way in the unofficial tally of commercial appearances. Then there are the trips the make to the booth or on-track set, where they make sure to mention their sponsors and likely state that the car is good. It’s kind of the same show most of the time which is one of the reasons that every has gotten turned on by their cardboard personalities.
Well, Brad Keselowski took it to the next level by appearing in Sharknado 3. Who knows if any fans watched but it may be the only acting credit by someone in NASCAR, aside from Talladega Nights, since Jeff Gordon cameo’d in Taxi (Everyone surely remembers that hot mess.) Though it’d doubtful, maybe some Sharknado faithful will consider watching some NASCAR. Uh, huh, sure they will. But good for BK for getting out there.
Happiness Is… Thanking. Ticket sales at IMS have been trending downward ever since Goodyear brought a tire that could barely withstand doing more than 10 laps at a time. You can blame the track a bit if you like but it doesn’t matter. What once had been a fantastic crowd now looks rather anemic. Sure, it’s still a profitable endeavor for all parties, but it doesn’t have the same level of attendance.
At the beginning of the year, Happiness Is stated that tracks and the networks should thank Gordon. Because it’s his last season, the resulting fan interest would help both of them out. That hasn’t been quite the case… until Indy. Ticket sales are reported to be 10-15% higher this year and much of that is owed to the fact that it’s his last go round at the track.
The thing to watch is whether that trend will continue through the rest of the season as the series heads to tracks for his last time.
Happiness Is… Remembering. Italian Formula 1 driver Jules Bianchi received an honorable send-off this past Tuesday. The driver had suffered brain injuries at a race last year and never recovered. Many of his contemporaries showed to pay their respects, which shows just how likable a person he was.
In addition, the sporting world laments the loss of a driver who was said to be super talented and moving up in the ranks. #ForzaJules is no #RIPJules. Just another reminder of the dangers or motorsports – something that could be seen again when two motorcycle drivers lost their lives at Laguna Seca last weekend.
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.