Race Weekend Central

Happiness Is…Pocono, Feuds & The Weekend

One of the things this column attempts to do is to point out reasons to be happy about what is going on in racing.  At times this seems like a difficult task; notably when a race is a dud or NASCAR makes another decision that seems either nonsensical or contradictory.  That other racing series like IndyCar or Formula 1 also have their issues makes finding the joy in racing even more difficult at times.

Consider, then, that the Isle of Man Time Trials have been happening for the past couple weeks.  For the uninitiated, the TTs as they’re commonly known, are a group of motorcycle races on the Isle of Man just off the coast of England.  The track measures just over 37 miles in length and runs the gamut of conditions – through small towns, across the countryside, and is littered with high speed straights as well as tight turns.  The roads are the equivalent of a street course, which adds a little more to the challenge.  

The thing is with motorcycle racing – and Happiness Is does not claim to follow the sport in any earnest capacity – is that the racing is about as dangerous as it can get.  There are few barriers, and even fewer with any safety protection, and the riders themselves are wearing just their leathers.

It’s no surprise then that fatalities occur.  Watching just the coverage of the first two days of races, the announcers had mentioned the deaths of two riders.  They did not say anything about the previous week’s practice sessions.  In the most simplest of ways, these drivers put their lives on the line – for their own glory, for their own satisfaction, and, in part, for our entertainment.

This opening takes things back to this past weekend at Pocono.  This track seems to bring out some of the worst with regard to crashes.  The angular turns means that losing it seems to hurt more and it’s amazing that no one has been seriously injured at the track in a number of years.  

So while we may have our gripes about the sport, it’s always refreshing to embrace how things have changed for the better sometimes.

Let’s get happy.

Happiness Is…Pocono.  For a number of years, the races at Pocono seemed to be some of the most boring on the slate.  With the length of the track, the low-banked turns, and the oddity of the layout, cars would get strung out and then, well, many people saw the long green-flag runs as a way to time their naps.  That the races lasted almost all day, owing to the fact that they were 500 miles, it was difficult to get excited by the two annual visits.  Throw in the fact that there’s likely to be a rain induced caution mucking things up and the picture grows less rosy.

The last few years, however, the races have become some of the better ones of the year.  It seems downright peculiar.  But watching the drivers use the draft, or noticing how teams have employed better strategies has helped.  That the races have been shortened has also ostensibly added to the intensity.  

Sure, a lot of the NASCAR public may have missed Monday’s race, or had to DVR it and hope not to discover the result before getting to watch, but this one once again seemed rather interesting – even if the coverage felt uneven.  

The key, however, is that the track is different, and if there’s anything that can be gleaned by Pocono’s (re)surge(nce), it is that a unique track makes things better.  

2016 Pocono I CUP Brad Keselowski pit stop Nigel Kinrade NKP
Was Brad Keselowski listening to the Fox broadcast while driving? Seems so, as his feud with Jeff Gordon comes back to life (credit: Nigel Kinrade – NKP)

Happiness Is…Feuds.  Yay, Brad Keselowski and Jeff Gordon are at it again.  Gordon’s retirement failed to soften any of the acrimony that the two developed from the Texas race back in 2014.  Keselowski questioned Gordon being in the booth after some of Gordon’s comments this past race.  That’s fair enough, as Gordon’s ties to the sport, or more specifically Hendrick Motorsports, are quite strong even though he’s no longer driving.  

This whole thing, however, just brings more silly drama to the NASCAR world, which is something that the media like to embrace because it gives another story to follow – or more importantly, it just gives them a story.  That the sport seems devoid of them at times is either a testament to the fact that no one is looking at the right things, is afraid to dig into things, or an overall staleness.  Hence personalities and personal disagreements have become much of the backbone of reporting.  But here, having a driver and a commentator feud is something else, and may be a good thing.  

The best part of Keselowski’s comments were him calling Gordon someone that is inbred to the sport.  The problem here is that Keselowski isn’t wrong.  What’s worse is that it’s almost impossible to find any recent ex-drivers or crew chiefs that can provide solid insight who do not have such ties.  So where does this feud go when the Fox portion of the season is over?  

Happiness Is…Full Weekend. Solid weekend coming up.  The XFINITY and Cup series will be playing around at Michigan.  Hop across the Great Lakes and the Formula 1 circus will be taking to the track for the Canadian Grand Prix.  And to top it off, the Truck and IndyCar series will both be racing at Texas Motor Speedway.  It’s almost a reason to hope for some rain to avoid chores or whatnot.  At the very least, it’s time to make sure there’s room on the DVR if hoping to be able to skip through the commercials while watching.  Enjoy your 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.

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kb

How about the days of old (oh the horrors) where the booth isn’t about the egotistical personalities, but what driving is going on. You know… the 66 car passed the 77..oh look the 32 is in the wall..the 41 is going into the garage, looks like he blew an engine. And silence, lots of silence. The race playing out, the sound of the crowd, the sound of the engines. Generic but effective. This bias bs and interjection of THEMSELVES, have them mistakenly thinking they are the show. As witnessed by Jeff’s and Mikey’s statements very recently. I find it insulting. I know, I know, if and when I do watch the mute button is always at hand. But that really isn’t the point, correct?

kb

..Another over zealous one, itching at even turn to tell us his greatness and with diarrhea of the mouth is Steve Letarte. Somebody please give his holier than thou and bias bs a muzzle. I keep seeing when I watch and hear him a HMS check dangled off camera, like the old buzzard in the State Farm commercial. Whores all of them. My two and worthless cents of course.

Bill B

Funny how the more biased a person is the more biases they see in others. I would say that the degree of bias you see in another’s point of view is a reflection of the degree of bias in yourself.

spot1

Bill B, you’re talking to a brick wall there.

DoninAjax

Every ex-driver expert analyst (which eliminates DW) had or has a connection to a race team, from Ned Jarrett and Neil Bonnett to the present clowns. The difference is the good ones (eliminating the Waltrips and others) didn’t let it affect the telecast. Those were the days my friends that had to end.

Does anyone else wonder if the prediction in Back To The Future about the Cubs was off by a year? There are more important things to worry about.

How many more years til DW’s contract is up? (besides too many)

Bill B

Or maybe back when NASCAR first started being televised EVERY WEEK, before it became something we take for granted, fans were so thankful that they were willing to overlook any biases instead of trying to dissect every word for real or imagined biased comments because they were just so happy to be able to see the races live.
It also appears there is some built in bias today as to who even gets covered/air time during the race if the rumors about those who pay for advertising get preferential treatment and those who don’t only get coverage when they are relevant in the race. This type of bias has less to do with who the commentators are than who is pulling the commentators strings. You know, DW may not even want to say BBB anymore but he has to because his boss insists he does. Maybe, maybe not but it’s something to think about.

DoninAjax

It seems to me that it’s decided before the race who they will cover during the race and anyone else doesn’t matter. If Landon Cassill got the lead they’ll still cover Kyle and Jimmie and (God help us) the Dale Jr. Performance Report. They will follow the script even though it always turns in a movie comedy with DW as the head clown.

Broken Arrow

This whole Keselowski-fueled “debate” is absurd. You cannot have both real-life experience AND unbiased coverage in the booth. Everybody comes in with his/her own bias. Even the revered analysts of old, like Benny Parsons, had their favorites, but time clouds everyone’s memories. Just move on folks, nothing to see here. Kez is just PO’ed that he got caught cheating.

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