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NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Happiness Is… Handling, Wussiness, and NASCAR’s B-Series

Anyone else underwhelmed by the first round of the Chase, er, playoffs?  

The race drew just a 1.8 rating, which means somewhere in the neighborhood of three million fans tuning in to enjoy the action. On a positive note, that number also put the race as the most-watched sporting event that wasn’t football (Reminder to everyone, football rules the world). Perhaps underwhelmed is the totally wrong word, as the race had everything that the powers-that-be want right now. So let’s look over the checklist really quick, because it looked like the race at Chicagoland hit all of the pertinent boxes in the NASCAR playbook.  

First, drama. There are a number of ways to think about this aspect but there are a few that stand out as prime examples of what provides compelling storylines. Denny Hamlin spins in the first few laps and looks like he won’t be a factor. Jimmie Johnson ruins Kevin Harvick’s day in a tussle in between two championship drivers. Pit-road speeding violations for everyone! Good stuff all around.

Second, restarts. If there’s one thing that NASCAR loves, it’s restarts. Of course, restarts also mean that some kind of pause in the action occurred, which may be tied to another of the the sport’s current loves: debris cautions, the things that seem to pop up in an arbitrary manner, though possibly could be called at any time, yet often shouldn’t be.  

Restarts are the hot topic right now. Did Jeff Gordon jump? Well, did Matt Kenseth at Richmond? But look at all the wonderful stuff that happens on the double-file restarts. That’s right, drivers that otherwise would not have been in contention jump out of nowhere to earn finishes that seem disingenuous to the rest of their day. While that continues to smell fishy, it’s what they want, or else they wouldn’t have the rules written as they do. (Please direct vitriol to: fanfeedback@nascar.com, the official email address for fans to contact NASCAR.)

Third, Cinderella. Hamlin coming back to win from being almost two laps down is quite the story and makes for good copy when the national media throws the story out there. The one question that this column asks is: who is it, other than some fans in southern Virginia, that roots for Hamlin? Wherever you are, congrats.

There’s probably fourth, fifth, sixth and other points to be made, but by now the hope is you get the gist of things.

Happiness Is… Wussiness. The sanctioning body got one of those other things it has loved as of late: a feud between two drivers with a little bit of hot-headedness thrown in for fun. With Harvick shove-punching Johnson, the footage showed that, yes, these drivers do get emotional and that they also don’t know how to or don’t really want to fight. Harvick is a blackbelt in something but didn’t look like he was going to break out any of those special skills. Think back to last year’s Chase, er, playoffs, and we can see that Kenseth isn’t bringing UFC beatdown madness, nor is Gordon or Brad Keselowski. Basically, the drivers get confrontation, push each other around and then they get separated and life goes on and they’ll probably say something boisterous to a reporter or on Twitter but nothing will really come of it; it’s been the same story for a while now.

The governing body plays right along. It has to love the attention brought to the sport when these feuds happen, just like MLB loves bench-clearing brawls and the NHL loves its throw-downs. It’s easy advertising. Thus, there’s no surprise here in the fact that NASCAR announced that everything was copacetic and that no one will be penalized. If anything, it’s thanking Johnson for making things interesting. Still largely ignored is Joey Logano’s role in the on-track incident.  

Happiness Is… Handling. Getting out of the NASCAR world for a moment and jumping to Formula 1, the race this past weekend, the Singapore Grand Prix, brought about some rather interesting results from start to finish. To begin, Mercedes failed to win the pole for the first time in 98… OK, 23 races. One mark away from the record, Mercedes struggled to find speed in the practice sessions and it showed as the two drivers started in fifth and sixth, or what would be considered amazingly slow for the silver arrow team.

During the race, Lewis Hamilton’s car succumbed to gremlins forcing him out and allowing for teammate Nico Rosberg and race winner Sebastian Vettel of Ferrari to make up some ground. It should still be noted that Hamilton’s lead is almost a stout two races wins ahead of those two, so it’s not likely he’s freaking out. However, if Mercedes doesn’t return to the form it’s known, that might change. And that’s the question following Singapore: Was the race a glitch for the team or has Ferrari actually caught them? The bigger question after Singapore is: What the hell was the dude thinking who emerged on track about two-thirds of the way into the race?

Happiness Is… the B-series. Kyle Busch won yet again in the Xfinity Series this past weekend, inspiring another collective yawn from much of the NASCAR fanbase. That Busch battled Kenseth for much of the race shows that the Cup regulars, and even more so with Gibbs drivers, continue to dominate the series. While it’s hard to ignore the fact that Busch banks 74 B-series wins, what’s also dubious are the next names on the list, wins in parentheses: Mark Martin (49), Harvick (46), Carl Edwards (38), Keselowski (33), Jack Ingram (31) and then Kenseth (29). Most of the names on the list continued accumulating heir wins after securing a championship or a solid Cup ride.  

Consider this: since 2007, only one time has the driver who won the championship also driven the car that won the owners’ championship. That’s kind of crazy. What this hodgepodge of information indicates is that the series has no idea about its own identity. Is it a playground for everyone? Is it supposed to be the strict spot for young drivers to hone their skills? If it needs the Cup drivers to keep things solvent, then where is all the new contract money going? NASCAR’s attempt to limit Cup driver participation has been a rule with no fangs and needs imaginative reworking. The good news, however, is that the next Xfinity race, at Kentucky this weekend, doesn’t feature the usual cadre of moonlighting Cup participants. Enjoy.

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17 thoughts on “Happiness Is… Handling, Wussiness, and NASCAR’s B-Series”

  1. I am so sick of “fanboys” and no I don’t mean this author telling us about Harvick’s supposed martial arts prowess. I say bull. Do you think for one minute in the absurd scheme of things that JJ (as a few of the Harvick supporters said), would be beaten by Harvick. Ahem..bull s he et.

    My experience of day to day life with a serious practitioner of this art form for decades, who views the “arts” as a way of life is very different from Harvick’s actions. One doesn’t do it for the attention, one does it for the inner calling. It is not to be shared or bragged about, whether you or good or spectacular. No matter how many “black” belts you have or what ever beginner belt you have. To me, the way Harvick conducts himself is total opposite of him getting the meaning of the “arts” if he is involved as his “fanboys” say. I usually find the serious practitioners actions the exact opposite of what Harvick does, pissed off to the nth degree or not they don’t act the way he does. My two cents. And I am not blaming him for being upset this week, he should be. There has been years of instances where his emotions got the best of him, the mental aspect of the arts which anybody studying the arts should put first and foremost seems to escape him, which defeats everything. IMO of course.

    Glad the rating sucked, hope it continues. And Logano’s “role” , the incident is ignored as it should be. The tap, the wiggle happened and after that was irrelevant, the was race on and what happened between those two was their doings. Jimmie being the Champ righted his ship instantly and moved on. Logano did not tell those two to make contact with him clearly behind the mess. Logano did not drive the 48 or the 4 car. Logano was not their spotters. Logano also did not tell Harvick to ride around in a car that was on his last leg. So please stop the Logano garbage. Is it a sin for a Chevy to be mad at a Chevy? Or is there a written rule to blame the closest non Chevy? Two ‘Champs” got together, I am pretty sure they did it themselves. Come on NASCAR fans, getting seriously in the danger zone of the blame game, besides where it belongs. I have seen some doozies but this seems pretty cut and dry, except for some Chevy lovers. Most know the deal however, thank goodness.

    I fin

  2. The Mercedes performance at Singapore was the surprise of the weekend. Hard to believe that they would be so far off the pace. The pace not only of the Ferrari’s but also the Red Bull’s. Some suggest the heat could have been a factor, as it was in Malaysia earlier in the year. But there they dominated qualifying, yet the Ferrari used its tires better during the race. It will be interesting to see do they return to form in Japan this weekend.

    Most watched sporting event other than football? Really? Remember the days when some people were saying that Nascar would soon rival the NFL in popularity? Didn’t exactly work out that way did it?

    • Most people could see that was never going to happen and that it was a peak to a huge uptick in the sports popularity at the time. Then Brian got his hands on everything and it went into the crapper and is continuing to swirl the drain under his ahem “leadership”. He does seem to be a master at convincing people like NBC to spend a pantload of money on his dying sport, though.

  3. What a mess! The Cup with a lusty 1.8 rating, Xfinicup Practice and Camping World Toyota Series probably too low to be measured. How can anyone associated with NASCLONE continue to deny that the organization is in serious trouble. And the topic of discussion, slap fights between prissy millionaires, WWE Sissy Division. Unbelievable.

    • john q – i don’t even know when or where the truck race was televised cause of the rain that happened last friday in chicago area. didn’t cuppers line up by practice speeds?

      • Janice, the Cup drives did line up according to their practice speeds. The problem was that a driver for a part-time team Ryan Blaney and the Wood Brothers) was 9th fastest in the determining practice session, but, because they are part time, when the rains washed out qualifying, the Wood Brothers were sent home, while a team that was 46th fastest, and more than 11-miles-per-hour slower, got to race. No, it really wasn’t fair to the Woods, as they were fast. But, the rules are what they are, and the Woods and Blaney got shafted, while Timmy Hill got to run a few laps, then park it.

  4. The whole double file restart controversy is ridiculous. There is no merit to having a leader only double file restart in the first place. Restart controversy is simply an unintended consequence of a sell out of integrity for drama, BZFs business model. The only difference between the start of a race and a double file restart at the end of a race is a song and a prayer. It reduces most of the race to a qualifying event with a short feature race at the end. This controversy is similar to K. Bush’s eligibility to the chase. It is so ridiculous I doesn’t even merit a logical argument.

    • harvick’s khi business manages some mme (whatever that wrestlers are that perform in octogon cage). maybe that’s where the martial arts comment is coming from.

    • No Sal, I got it just right. Every time that idiot goes off on one of his hissy fits his few fanboys start to say that he has “martial arts” experience, and the poor slob who pissed him off is lucky Kevin didn’t unload his wisdom of the
      arts on them, kinda sick of hearing and seeing it and had to vent. As I said it had nothing to do with what Huston wrote.

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