Happiness Is… Jeff Burton. Criticizing the television personalities that help deliver the show of a NASCAR race is a rather easy task. All one needs to do is listen for, oh, about five minutes. Jeff Burton is one of the voices that fans now get to hear as the series switched to its second-half of the season broadcast partner NBC, and he tends to be affable and deliver some good information but, like everyone else, isn’t immune to fan vitriol. Still, let’s acknowledge that being a race announcer may not always be the easiest thing, as there has to be some redundancy that can be frustrating.
So let’s give Burton a hand for trying to ‘flip the script’ during the recent dominance by Martin Truex Jr. at Kentucky this past weekend. For those of you who hadn’t fallen asleep, Truex was running away with the race Formula 1 style, with a 14-second lead. He was so far out in front that he could have been binge watching Sense8 while pacing the field. In such a runaway, the commentators are often left grasping for something interesting to discuss. Leave it to Burton to just give up and state things plainly.
The overall sense of his late-race comments were that sometimes you just have to acknowledge watching a beatdown. He realized there was no drama and seem to throw an ‘atta-boy’ in Truex’s direction, going so far as to state that he wished he’d had a car like that during his career.
These things happen; some Super Bowls are blowouts, some World Series are sweeps, some fights are first round KOs. It’s all part of sport, and it kind of leaves fans with an empty feeling. Burton, however, helped to crystallize the matter and bring a different perspective to it.
Happiness Is… Keselowski. Say what you will about many drivers in the series but 2012 Cup champion Brad Keselowski has no problem speaking whatever it may be that’s rattling in his mind. For the record, Keselowski also seems to enjoy being in front of any camera that is willing to be in his vicinity. This past Saturday, Keselowski got loose, spun and collected Jimmie Johnson in a wreck that took them both out of the race. With the incident came the typical post-accident interview and here’s where Keselowski voiced displeasure over the current car.
“It is time for the sport to design a new car that is worthy of where this sport deserves to be and the show it deserves to put on for its fans,” Keselowski said. “It is a poorly designed race car and it makes racing on tracks like this very difficult to put on the show we want to put on for our fans.”
That seems awfully familiar to what Kyle Busch said about the car when he won Bristol a few years back, though Busch’s comment was more pointed, but we’ll skip that.
Keselowski also complained that the car made it so drivers had to put themselves in difficult positions to make passes and to get the speed they needed. That would seem to raise the question: If it were easy, wouldn’t everyone be doing it, Mr. Keselowski?
Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR Executive VP and a bunch of other stuff, came correct with two points. First, Keselowski was one of the drivers who pushed for the current rules packages to be implemented and has a seat on the driver’s council. Second, the cars are supposed to be hard to drive.
Perhaps Keselowski was just speaking up, or being frustrated after wrecking. Or maybe he’s found the same problem that many fans have: NASCAR still hasn’t figured out a way for drivers who aren’t in clean air to catch up… unless that driver’s name is Kyle Larson, who passed about 200 cars on his way to finishing second after starting last.
Happiness Is… Off Track News. The races at Kentucky may not have been the most spectacular of entertainment. The IndyCar race at Iowa became more interesting when Helio Castroneves took the checkers, his first in three years, but otherwise may not have been riveting. The F1 race at Spa started in fine fashion but Valtteri Bottas and Mercedes masterfully played the race and earned the Finn his second win in a methodological beatdown that lacked any drama. In sum, this past weekend should not have been the advertisement for the best that motorsport can do.
On the flipside, there’s a whole lot of stuff happening off the track that sure seems compelling: Matt Kenseth is currently out of a ride for next season and seems to be having trouble attracting sponsors, which may have been the progenitor for Joe Gibbs Racing announcing Erik Jones’ arrival for next year. Darrell Wallace Jr. finished his stint with Richard Petty Motorsports and is now looking for a home.
In IndyCar, Robin MIller mentioned that Castroneves could be out his ride and driving sports cars for Penske next year, a seemingly strange move to take with the sport’s best known driver. Go figure.
A quick nod to Formula E, where BMW, yes, the German company that NASCAR sometimes courts, announcing that they’ll have a works team in the series. Such a move indicating perhaps where the real interest of the company lies for the future.
The there’s the world of F1, one that plays by a different set of rules. As the series heads to Silverstone for the British Grand Prix this weekend, the organizers of the track have enacted an escape clause to get out of the contract they hold with the governing body, citing losses the past few years. Such a move has thrown future BGPs into jeopardy beginning in 2020, though it may very well be a negotiating tactic.
Regardless, these are just snapshots of the headlines and indicate that a whole lot may be happening off the track that deserves some more attention.