It’s that time of year again when NASCAR stays near its home and plays in the backyard. It’s a metaphorical backyard cookout, complete with hot dogs, hamburgers, potato salad, probably someone who whines, and the unsatisfactory feeling that once it ends that you don’t feel either full or at peace with yourself. The food tasted good. The beverages seemed fine. But somehow it didn’t hit the spot.
While there could be any number of analogies made about the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series All-Star Race, the truth is that the event is just flat. It’s the sport celebrating itself, pumping its ego and displaying an attitude of self-aggrandizement. Just what is it that we’re supposed to derive the All-Star race?
If you follow NASCAR then all the drivers are familiar. And yet the drivers all come from the Cup series, ignoring the contributions of XFINITY and Truck series drivers. The All-Star moniker seems perplexing then.
One of the big marketing ploys is that the race features a jackpot of $1 million for the winning driver and is supposed to be something that fans find interesting and that having the drivers race each other for that money will bring added incentive. Puhlease.
Not only do the All-Star drivers seem to be set financially, the fact that fans should care that they make more money is weirdly out of touch with the fanbase. How about lowering ticket prices? Or concessions? Or anything that would make it seem like the sport actually cared about those who care about it? No, instead fans are supposed to root for the rich to get richer.
So yes, the All-Star wackiness will be taking over this weekend and the new rule changes and whatever else, blah blah blah, enjoy the race. At least it should work for background entertainment during a cookout, or perhaps give the Trucks a watch on Friday night, they deserve it.
Let’s get happy.
Happiness Is…Connections. In an era where the world is flat, a descriptor that is meant to illustrate the ease of connections between people across all dynamics – country, terrain, beliefs – it is surprising that there is not more crossover between racers. Occasionally someone like Fernando Alonso will break things down and pull off jumping series, as he did last year by ditching the Monaco GP for the Indianapolis 500.
Former F1 driver Jenson Button, however, is going beyond the normative and showed thus this past week when he posed with a picture of a helmet from Jimmie Johnson.
Who knows if the two have ever met and that’s not really important. What is cool is that the two have connected. Even cooler was the relatively unknown thing that Button is collecting helmets from drivers around the world. As a former F1 driver, he certainly has access and the fact that he’s currently racing in Japan also encourages finding helmets in another region of the world.
Perhaps the best part of Button’s post was the comment about racing Johnson one day. It’s not likely to happen any time soon, but wouldn’t it be cool?
Happiness Is…Innovation. One of the problems with NASCAR, and everyone knows there are many, is the lack of technological innovation. The sandbox that the governing body has created for the teams to play in has gotten so small that it is difficult, near impossible, to tweak a part in a way that is revolutionary. The back windows on the Cup cars have been the attempted place of change this season but that won’t be a continuing trend.
In contrast to NASCAR, Formula 1 always has something bonkers somewhere on the grid. Whether it be an underfunded team trying out a concept that could be a lifesaver, or a wealthy team debuting something that has been tested and toes the lines of the regulations, there is at least one team with something novel on the grid. This past weekend that team was Ferrari.
Seeking to be ahead of the curve, the Italian team debuted mirrors that were attached to the HALO cockpit device ahead of anyone else. Their introduction brought widespread interest and commentary. The primary concern with the new mirrors was that as much as they may have indeed been mirrors, they were just as much an implementation of an aerodynamic device.
Ferrari’s attempt to skirt what the FIA had intended brought a swift reaction and though the team was allowed to use the mirrors in Spain, they will be prohibited for the next race at Monaco. The engineering and creativity put forth, however, was both interesting and surprising. As the regulations surrounding the HALO become more defined this area will still have those seeking to exploit it – and the sport is better for it.
Happiness Is…Dominance. The last driver to have five wins by this point in the season was Jeff Gordon back when the cars had rocks for tires and the crew chief banged on stones to signal to the driver. Kevin Harvick’s season, thus far, has been incredible. To think that even Johnson hadn’t accomplished such a feat during his seven championships says something about how far ahead of the field Harvick is.
So as the series heads to Charlotte to goof off a bit, it should also be time to applaud what the No. 4 team has done. The fact that they look like no one is going to catch them is something that deserves an old tip o’ the cap.