Feliz Cinco de Mayo! That seemed like a festive way to start the column because we here at Happiness Is headquarters look to things that bring joy – even if many people don’t know what the reason is for celebrating the day. On the flipside, Mother’s Day is a bit easier to figure out. If only everything worked out that way.
But hey, let’s discuss NASCAR and their days that matter. Yesterday was penalty day and Jimmie Johnson earned himself another detention where he has to write “my car will conform to templates and lasers” 50 times on the blackboard and then he can go out and play. There were some other names but they didn’t even have to see the principal so that’s no big deal.
Today, however, in the spirit of celebration is Schedule Day, as NASCAR unveils what tracks get what dates. There’s been about as much anticipation for the schedule’s release as there has been for an outbreak of Zika. Maybe the excitement hasn’t been that bad, but the fact that it’s coming out so early would seem to indicate that little will change for next year.
Kevin Harvick notably mentioned how the schedule was one of the aspects of NASCAR that he would like to shake up to bring some change and interest to the sport. It seems that he had the adage “familiarity breeds contempt” in mind when he questioned the schedule. Rather than taking his words as an invitation to discussion, Harvick was shut down and the idea wafted into the ether.
The question remains: does having a schedule that rarely changes from year to year good for the sport?
Right now the powers-that-be say yes. But perhaps that’s not the case. Sure, you can’t realistically race Pocono in March, but there still can be some tinkering and adjustments made – and maybe the addition of a road course. Wouldn’t that be a happy thought. Oh well.
Happy Mother’s Day!
Happiness Is…Rearview Mirror. What happened at Talladega did not seem to represent racing; a spectacle, yes, but racing, that is certainly debatable. Much of the coverage from the race has focused on the accidents, safety, Dale Earnhardt Jr, and the overall cost. That Kyle Busch came out and said that he’d rather be at home than race Talladega shows, perhaps, that the disdain for a race where the outcome has little to do with skill is one that problematic. But none of this stuff feels new.
The coverage feels like stuff everyone has seen before. Does the plate package need to be tweaked? Sure does, but the series keeps putting band-aids on bullet wounds rather than committing to thorough revamping of how to race at Daytona and Talladega. The costs associated with change rank as one of the big reasons for the lack of a serious alteration but if the tally from a race like Talladega is around $10 million spread over the field then it seems that maybe there’s some money out there to do something smart.
Of course smart is not one of the descriptors that often gets associated with Brian France and the leaders in Daytona. Maybe a race like this past one will encourage some contemplative rethinking of things. Or maybe it won’t. Regardless, it’s good to have Talladega in the rearview and that no one got seriously injured.
Happiness Is…Dislike. As the Trucks and Cup head to Kansas, we’re reminded of the late-race incident between Matt Kenseth and Joey Logano. No doubt the billboards in the area will use that dust-up as a selling point for the race, as will FOX. Let’s ignore the notion that any kind of similar incident is as likely as the Cleveland Browns winning the Super Bowl next February. But that doesn’t belie the fact that there’s something that just keeps going with Kenseth-Logano.
First Kansas, then Martinsville, and now Talladega? Kenseth seemed more than perturbed that Logano through an ill-fated black on him but the reality is that the non-incident had little to do with how the race turned out for either of them. Kenseth felt that Logano running him off the track is what kept him back in the pack and put him in a position to be wrecked out. You could argue that he’s right but there’s too many variables to make the argument anything other than specious.
But the feud now is encouraged to fester. At this point, however, it seems that Logano has become Kenseth’s pop-off valve. Flat tire? Logano did it. Bad qualifying effort? Joey’s fault. Slow pit stop? Damn Joey #$%^&[email protected] Logano. For two drivers frustrated by their early season results, having a target allows for displacement of the aggravation. Not an uncommon psychological principle. But for the rest of us, this silliness is just another subplot in the long NASCAR season. Enjoy.
Happiness Is…Being Out There. In Formula 1, Bernie Ecclestone attempts to rule the roost. His power over the more recent history has waned but he’s still out there, attending nearly every race, making his presence known even as he is often disliked. The reaction that Ecclestone garners is much like the one that Brian France enjoys. They’re both heads of motorsport racing entities who are battling various perceptions as the numbers surrounding their sport give a glimpse of the seeming apocalypse (for how long has the sky been falling?).
The big difference is that Ecclestone is a figure who remains in the public eye. Everyone knows he’s there and he frequently talks to the press. In contrast, France seems to hide away in Castle Daytona and offers his thoughts sporadically and like papal edicts. Perhaps the fact that France recently attended a driver’s council meeting is a step in the right direction. But what would be good for France to do is to actually go to more races and show that he’s attentive to the sport that he heads. To some, his lack of presence is just another sign that he’s out of touch and doesn’t care. He can turn such a thing around just by spending a little more time at the tracks – it would go a long way.