Road course racing has gained in popularity over the past few years. One of the reasons for this shift is that the races have supplanted the smaller tracks as the place for action, or more specifically, the proverbial beatin’ and bangin’ that so many fans enjoy. When Bruton Smith tinkered with Bristol Motor Speedway (over and over again), it lost much of what fans had enjoyed – that drivers often used their cars as they might a battering ram, either to move someone out of the way or to offer a polite retribution for a perceived slight.
The road courses took up the slack. On tracks where there’s tight turns and lines that bunch the drivers together, the opportunity to lay a fender or door to another driver became all the more apparent. All of this fun is the reason that there’s been a swell of support to put a road course into the Chase. Not only would that mean that the Chase would include all kinds of tracks but having a road course would offer the chance for more more messed up sheet metal without a favorite driver necessarily hitting a wall and ended up out of the race.
So what happened this past Sunday?!
By road course standards, the race at Sonoma came off like a dud, a follow-the-leader affair where few drivers really seemed to test the limits of things. What were there, two stalled cars, and how many spins? What happened? Did everyone decide to play nice before the race began? Although it should be noted that Joey Logano might not have gotten the notice.
It was a strange twist for a track that has tended to feature a lot of action and provide for an interesting change-up to all the ovals. Let’s just hope that going forward that things return to normal, otherwise road course races might start having a whiff of Formula 1 about them. Egads!
Happiness Is…Stewart. Tony Stewart has endured a rough few years. After his memorable championship run in 2014, things didn’t just go bad for Stewart, they went catastrophically bad. This last year of his Cup career looked like it may be just a dying ember, fading out with just a wisp of smoke. The statistics favored that he was likely not to win again before his final laps. But then that magical caution arrived and Stewart pulled off a memorable run to close the race at Sonoma. Happiness Is will leave all the conspiracy chatter out of the conversation even if Denny Hamlin looked like he pulled out a red blanket and gave Stewart an ole’ to pass him at the end.
With the win, however, the ember has changed into a fire and Stewart has all the motivation he needs to put together one final fantastic run. While it’s still doubtful that he will rip off five wins in the Chase as he did in 2014, he might still make things interesting. Might. But probably not. That doesn’t really matter, what does is for one of the all time bests to have just one more shot. Cue Lloyd saying, “so you’re telling me there’s a chance.”
Happiness Is…NBC. With the conclusion of the race at Sonoma, the Fox network exited broadcasting Cup events for the rest of the year. That means that NBC takes over this week at Daytona. While Fox enjoys its fair amount of criticism, let’s not forget how NBC got lambasted last year for all of its commercials, and how Steve Letarte is a homer, or blah blah blah. The reality is that we get some new voices and some new views on things.
What we should really hope for is that FOX puts Darrell Waltrip out to pasture during this offseason, or at least move him to the Hollywood Hotel. His boogity schtick is beyond stale at this point. But more importantly, he’s just not quite in touch with the current climate. Though at one point “you picked the wrong time to leave me loose wheel” may have been clever, at this point it’s just old, as are many of his pop culture references. This criticism isn’t meant to put some millennial with thumbs that burn a smart phone down into the booth, but rather to hope that FOX may come to their senses as they have time to ponder a sport that is struggling to keep its audience for which they are a vested partner. Fingers crossed.
Happiness Is…The 4th. At a time when this country is gnashing its teeth and tearing at itself over all kinds of issues, like gun control, bathrooms, the election, immigration, emails, capitalism run amok, and a truckload of other things, perhaps for a moment we can all take a break and enjoy the holiday weekend. America is the great experiment and set up by people who were flawed just like everyone but also pushed for a country that could govern itself, an absolute rarity at the time.
So hey, let’s all chill out this weekend. Enjoy some racing. Eat some hot dogs and hamburgers. Drink your beverage of choice. Watch some fireworks. Or don’t do any of those things – because that is the choice you have as an American. That’s the cool thing about the rights that are meant to exist in this country. And that’s why we celebrate America. Be safe and have fun.