For being the best day in racing, this past Sunday seemed to be a little bit of a letdown. Monaco. Indy. The 600. These are supposed to be marquee events that not only captivate the indifferent, but ones that are supposed to celebrations of each sport and yet for all their heft the results seemed to bring a collective shoulder shrug.
While the first two races were able to sell themselves as momentous triumphs, NASCAR did its level best to let everyone know that Kyle Busch’s win was his first at Charlotte in a Cup race. That’s pretty cool, as he’s now done something that few have by winning everywhere. As cool as it is though, the four-hour beatdown echoed Martin Truex Jr.’s win from 2016 which also felt less inspiring than just an inevitable conclusion.
It’s not like Sunday was some kind of dark day of motorsport or anything like that, but more of a signal of the difficulties that all three face regarding the challenges of racing. With three different cars, all faced issues of aerodynamic concerns that made passing difficult. These are not new problems but they are the reality of an age where everything on the car is both regulated and hyper-engineered. The racing tends to be closer, but yet no one can pass anyone. Talk about a weird situation.
Let’s Get Happy.
Happiness Is…Journalism. One of the things that make covering sports, in any capacity, interesting and difficult is navigating those relationships that are developed. If one is considered a journalist, there are ethical boundaries that make the job one of potential conflict. Our own Tom Bowles was ensnared in a mild controversy over an outburst he let escape in the press box when Trevor Bayne won the Daytona 500.
Rehashing that story is neither worth the telling, nor the analysis, nor any full commentary but it does serve as a backdrop for the way motorsport is often covered now. It seems that the lines continue to be blurred in a way that Tom Wolfe, Norman Mailer, Hunter Thompson or others would never have predicted with New Journalism, which is supposed to offer the reader something more than a staid kind of reporting.
That’s what made Jenna Fryer’s appearance and hug of Will Power after his victory all the more curious. Have we gotten to a point where we just accept these types of interactions from the media? If so, that’s a bit problematic.
The sport of NASCAR is already a small circle, both in location and numbers, and it makes it difficult to cover. Print something that comes from the inner circle and a reporter risks being ostracized or fed bad info. This kind of censoring is also troubling because it removes so many good stories that ought to be told but gets kept ‘in-house’ to protect the persons, sponsors, teams, and sport.
Maybe, however, we’re on our way to returning to the days of insider scoops, or as Jayski used to say, but no longer does: I’m hearing that….
Happiness Is…Shoey. You know what’s gotten old? The stereotypical burnout that has become a seemingly mandated part of the victory celebration. Though they’ve been with the sport for only about 20 years, they’ve become a staple that is found in almost every Trucks, XFINITY, and Cup series finish.
There are a few alterations to the model. The practice of kissing the bricks at Indianapolis has also become standard fare, and with it has also become a bit of a trite exercise. Then there’s Austin Dillon’s bizarre attempt at a celebration by sliding on his stomach. While it may look all kinds of silly at least he’s trying to do something different.
These little moments are actually what seemed to have made the sport stale at times, just like a schedule that tends to have little in the way of surprises.
This is where drivers should really be trying to set examples of individuality. For that, look no further than Daniel Ricciardo.
The sweetest Shoey of them all – Race winner Daniel Ricciardo of Australia and Red Bull Racing celebrates on the podium during the Monaco Formula One Grand Prix at Circuit de Monaco. (Photo by Dan Istitene/Getty Images) https://t.co/XeIPWlcP0F
— Rob (Robert) Keating (@RobKeating) May 27, 2018
After taking the win in Monaco this past weekend, Ricciardo celebrated with what has become his own unique method. His last three wins have all been toasted in the same way, with the Shoey. Now that’s not to say that NASCAR drivers need to start copying the Australian-born driver, but it wouldn’t hurt if they used his peculiar concept as some kind of inspiration.
This doesn’t mean that drivers should start getting crazy and planning out the most elaborate of fetes, but even the NFL has gone beyond the traditional spiking of the ball. Think of all the possibilities though. A little bit more fun would do the sport well.
Happiness Is…Uppity. There’s a new documentary set to be released soon that should be of some interest to motorsport fans. The film Born Racer will look at the life and career of Scott Dixon, the four-time IndyCar champion. That seems like a fitting story and, really, all of motorsport could stand to have more documentaries made about them as the car has been such a fascinating aspect of culture ever since it was invented. But this section is not about Born Racer or even the McLaren, documentary that is not playing through various outlets.
Nope. While IndyCar made sure to let everyone know that BR would be coming out soon, NASCAR has tried to make sure that Adam Carolla’s film Uppity goes unknown. That’s rather disappointing, especially as the sport keeps trying to sell other stories.
Oh, that’s right, the story of Willy T. Ribbs really isn’t all that inspiring. It’s not a success story. It’s a story of struggle. Of a challenging man trying to challenge a system. There’s yet to be any reviews but word is that Ribbs does not proffer any kind words toward NASCAR – but that shouldn’t be all that surprising considering he did the same thing while trying to break into the sport.
The reason to be happy about Uppity isn’t to go on some kind of diversity tangent or anything of that ilk but rather to be happy that the stories of persons who may be overlooked, actively ignored, or just plain forgotten get told. We’re all richer when there are different angles to how things are told. The sport of NASCAR has done a pretty good job of keeping their narratives simple and direct, and something like Uppity may provide an interesting counterpoint to the usual telling.
The scholar Michel-Rolph Trouillot pushed for the notion that stories should be told from a bottom-up manner, meaning that those in power shouldn’t always be the focus and that the lesser-knowns have something to add and should not be cast aside. Whether Uppity turns out to be any good will be up for debate, but it will certainly provide a different angle.
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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