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(Photo: Nigel Kinrade/NKP)

Happiness Is: Ratings, Intelligence & That New Car Smell

Hope you enjoyed the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Silly Season, brought to you by the Jackhawk 9000 as it seems like it has almost wrapped.  This aspect of the sport is one that approaches free agency in other sports but doesn’t quite deliver in the same dramatic fashion.  

It would seem if there were to be one area that might bring more intrigue and interest to the sport, it would be with drivers and where the may find their homes.  Instead, the drama over charters has ostensibly taken that role, as seen here, but without much in the way of overall publicity.  How do we bring about driver trades?

Most of the moves thus far have been anticipated or rumored, so there’s nothing striking.  But Matt Kenseth and Kasey Kahne now are the two drivers who will garner the most attention regarding their futures, and that collective shrug of the shoulders would probably suffice as fan reaction to such a matter – even if there are fans of both looking for something to feel good about.  

So that’s that, with one question being whether or not Rick Hendrick would be willing to bring William Byron to the Cup level after just one year in XFINITY even if most evidence supports that it would be a bad idea.  

With Silly Season largely over, we can all go back to watching how Kyle Busch will again find a way to lose a race that was his for the taking.  #Snakebit.  

Let’s get happy.  

Happiness Is…Ratings.  Followers of the Cup series enjoy pointing to the ratings as a signifier of the sport.  We’ll ignore aspects surrounding the ratings and embrace that those in the TV industry take them to be a solid measure of things.  In this regard, the ratings often stand as a barometer for the sport’s health, and has been the case since the mid-aughts, a portending of the sport’s demise.  The sport is not without its problems, as is every sport, but Cup racing is, perhaps, doing a better job of hanging on than it’s being credited with.  

Note that for the past two weekends that the Cup race held the highest rating for a sports program.  Now, for the first of those two weekends, NASCAR faced little in the way of what could be considered competition.  That meant that even the so-so ratings were enough for the race to take the top spot.  This weekend, however, NASCAR faced a bigger ratings test against the British Open.

What makes for an interesting comparison here is that golf has been enduring its own ratings decline since 2009, indicating that it too has been facing difficult times (and yet no one is claiming that sport is dead).  In fact, golf’s slide had been so constant and continual that the final round of the British Open was the first time that the ratings trended up for the sport.  

Yet even with Jordan Spieth doing something golf-amazing, the round logged only a 3.2 rating.  And NASCAR: 3.4.  One perspective may be that one dying sport beat another on a soft weekend in the middle of summer.  But a more positive outlook may be that NASCAR did pretty well and that

Here’s Brad Keselowski thinking: whoa, the Brickyard 400 is over already? (Photo: Russell LaBounty/NKP)

when those in charge avoid going head-to-head against other sports, they can still get some eyes.  That NBC aired the race on their main network likely helped NASCAR as well.  

Happiness Is…Good Decision.  The interminable race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway (that phrase not to be used without the express permission of Ricky Bobby Inc. – sorry, the heat’s getting to us), tested the limits of fan’s willingness to watch the sport.  The drivers in the XFINITY race sure seemed to have a better concept on how to drive a restart than their friends in the Cup series, which we are reminded are the best drivers in the world.  The stack-ups and silliness that tended to follow Cup going green seemed to be an indication of how ready they were to get done or that they had a curfew or something.  

Because of the nuttiness, and rain (once again, rain – not weather), the Cup race featured 19 red flag stoppages (approximate number) and 14 cautions (actual number).  The TV camerapersons had the apertures so wide open that they were actually sucking in light from a different time zone just to make it appear lighter than the track actually was.  So when the race restarted one last time, a sense of finality had already accompanied the proceedings.  

The problem rests with NASCAR’s implementation of the Overtime Line this year.  And for another time, it proved to be a bit of a problem.  If going by the letter of the rules, the race should have enjoyed one more restart as Kasey Kahne had not crossed the line when the caution for Denny Hamlin losing it on the backstretch happened.  

An odd thing here: credit NASCAR trying to find a balance between the overtime line and ending the race.  Did they follow their own rules?  Nope.  Was calling the race the right decision?  Yes.  Having Kahne be so far out in front also seemed to make things easier.  The sport still had to defend its decision this week, though for most people not named Brad Keselowski the move seemed the smart one.  

Happiness Is…New Car Smell.  Last week Formula 1 announced that the sport would implement the Halo cockpit protection device to ensure their drivers enjoyed more safety.  The move comes after recently testing the Shield at Silverstone with Sebastian Vettel and reaching the conclusion that maybe they were not fans of that method.  As the car for the 2017 season was rather different compared to the one from the previous couple years, F1 is showing a continued commitment to updating themselves and improving the product.

On the heels of F1, IndyCar debuted their new car that will race the tracks in 2018 – a sleek, aggressive, ride that does away with some of the tawdry bodywork that is affixed to this year’s version.  The series showed off the car at IMS this week, presumably without red flags left over from NASCAR and the initial reaction has been promising.  Both the F1 and IndyCar announcements just make one pine for a new iteration of car for the Cup series but that is still a ways off.  In the meantime, we can check out their new car smells.  

About Huston Ladner

Huston Ladner

Promoted to editor this season, Huston works through some of the site’s biggest columns while writing one of his own: Happiness Is… (Fridays). “Stranded” on the islands of Hawaii, the aspiring college professor also helps anchor our IndyCar and Formula One racing coverage while coordinating Pace Laps, our multi-series news update (Mondays) each week.

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5 comments

  1. You may want to take a look at the times golf and NA$CAR were shown. I don’t think there was a conflict.

    • I thought the same thing. It’s kind of hard for two sporting events to be going against each other when they’re on at different times on the same network.
      Of course, the same people doing victory laps over this alleged ratings coup are the ones who blamed low ratings for the March product on this sporting event called the NCAA Basketball Tournament that apparently just started in 2017.

  2. Certainly the news from both F1 and Indy was long overdue. The miraculous escape by Felipe Massa, followed by the tragic death of the young Mr. Surtees , certainly highlighted the need for additional driver protection. And the current version of Indycar must be mentioned when discussing ugly race car.

    I see that the European manufacturers are continuing to switch their efforts to Formula E, with Audi and Mercedes joining Jaguar and I believe BMW in that series. Surely more will follow. Will this have an impact on F1? Or maybe the proper question is how much of an impact.

    As far as a new car for Nascar, given the rate at which the automobile world is changing perhaps they don’t want to try and stick up the manufacturers for more money. Maybe not a good time to have them reevaluating their spending on motorsports.

  3. The race was on the way to be a typical Indy race until the two dominate Toyotas got together and eliminated themselves. They raced each other hard on the restart because they knew the one that got out front was going to be the winner if it went green to the finish. They were restarting like it was a green/white/checkered finish.

    How can you put a positive spin on beating golf? The ratings improved because the race last year was on an obscure station that many people don’t get while others are not aware where to find it. I think the ratings next year will be dramatically lower regardless of what station it is on because Jr will not be racing

  4. If they would have thrown the caution before they reached the overtime line, people would grouse and complain about that too. There would not have been time for another restart as darkness loomed. Like all sporting endeavors, NASCAR has it’s share of nuances and judgement calls, why is that so hard for fans to understand and accept? No one is ever happy about anything, ever; it’s tiresome. I’ve really only been a hard core fan for about 4-5 years, since Danica came to Cup, and I am amazed and dismayed at the negativity I see and hear week in and week out. I enjoyed the Indy race, it was ENTERTAINING, and allowing the race to reach the overtime line was a good call IMHO.