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Chase Elliott (Photo: Danny Peters)

Happiness Is: Axioms, Divos & Bowie

We just had an interesting weekend of racing with Formula 1 returning to France, IndyCar racing at Road America in Wisconsin and the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series running rampant near Californiaʻs wine country. That put all three series on road-course specific tracks, and all three seemed to bring about a similar sense of racing.

That is to say, that the road races, aside from their collective starts, offered little in the way of on-track drama. The French Grand Prix gave us the most heated opening, with Sebastian Vettel imagining himself as a dump-truck driver and taking out Valtteri Bottas while also stacking up the field and causing a couple collisions behind him. The five-second penalty that Vettel served was hardly of any worth as compared to the lost positions for Bottas and the mockery he made of the start. But hey, heʻs a Ferrari driver, and they have a different set of rules.

In the states, both IndyCar and NASCAR played friendly. The action for both of these series came more through strategy than any kind of derring-do on the track. Even Scott Dixon, the acknowledged king of saving fuel, could muster little in the way of crafting a different strategy to supplant Josef Newgarden as the leader and eventual winner at Road America.   

At Sonoma Raceway, the bold move came when crew chief Cole Pearn, of the No. 78, faked that he was bringing Martin Truex Jr. in for a pit stop, only to leave him on track while others pitted and Truex switched pit stop strategy. The move, which must be recognized as stellar, showed the thinking manʻs game of racing while depriving fans of seeing Truex and Kevin Harvick actually battle it out for the win.

While Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes, Newgarden and Tim Cindric, and Truex and Pearn should all be celebrated for their race wins, the races themselves were amazingly tame — which seems so sad to write when considering the speeds and skill involved in all three events.  

Oh well. Letʻs get happy.

Happiness Is…Last Place.  Oh, Ricky Bobby. He of the two first names, who in his wondrous testament to philosophy believed in the adage: “If you ainʻt first, youʻre last.” Those in charge of NASCAR had hoped that a revised points system would lead to winning meaning more (has winning ever meant ʻlessʻ?) and would increase competition.

Then thereʻs another driver with two first names who is feeling the pain from the first/last paradigm. Enter Chase Elliott, he of approximately 47 second-places finishes. Elliott added to his second-place total this past weekend at Sonoma in an effort he found to be pleasing. Whatʻs that, he finished fourth? In this case, the fact that he spent so much time eating Truexʻs vapor trails, it felt like second — but yes, it was fourth, but at a track where he says heʻs terrible.  

If thereʻs any driver who could possibly hope for a return to the old points system and the demolition of the Chase, er, the playoffs, it would have to be Elliott. He could easily second-place finish his way to a championship.

The obvious aspect is that Elliott must be finding new levels of frustration. Yes, the cars that Hendrick Motorsports has been putting on the track havenʻt been top-notch. Yes, heʻs a good driver. Yes, he has gotten to a point of needing a win. But also, yes, heʻs a good driver, and itʻs coming. For now, watching the struggle should offer glimpses of potential excellence.

Happiness Is…Divos.  The male conjugated form of the word divas is divos. The root of the word comes from gods but references to people who are supremely talented, something that was often seen on stage. The word has since brought about a certain connotation that brings to mind people who are talented, but also rich, temperamental and out of touch.  

This coming weekend, Formula 1 hits the second of what the series has been calling its Triple Header. It is the first time in F1 that the series has held races on three consecutive weekends, this time in Austria. While the engineers and crew members are the ones who will feel the brunt of lugging equipment, setting up and breaking down, the drivers are the ones that hog the glory. They bask in the attention and become petulant when forced to do too much out of their comfort zone.

So having to race three weekends in a row is almost an injustice in their world. They all must be counting the days to their summer break right now. While itʻs easy to make fun of the world of F1, this three-straight schedule will be incredibly intriguing to watch because the drivers have three opportunities to get on the nerves of another driver — and thatʻs when things are so interesting.  

If the race in France came across as polite, there can only be a buildup of frustration for some drivers, who may get their nerves a little more frazzled in Austria,and could potentially unravel at the British GP. This weekendʻs race is so worth watching for any silliness that may occur, but also to note of any potential build-up of irritation to be excised hereafter.

Happiness Is…Ch-ch-changes.  Itʻs time to move from FOX to NBCSN for NASCAR coverage — mostly. The FOX network will still be the spot for the Camping World Truck Series, but the NASCAR XFINITY Series and Cup both bounce to the peacock for the remainder of the year, as FOX wipes its forehead and looks forward to football.  

The question this go-round is whether or not it really matters. Sure, Dale Earnhardt Jr. will be taking on commentary duties, but is that going to significantly change the ratings or bring some kind of unknown life to the sport? Has the damage already been done by the Waltrips and their incessant need to be heard? If one of the goals is to woo the ʻcovetedʻ male 18-35 demographic, is this what is needed?

Itʻs hard to say anything about any of that. Change for change sake isnʻt necessarily good, but in this case, change seems to be a welcome thing. Hereʻs to fresh voices and fresh views.

About Ava 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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2 comments

  1. NBC’s first race is Chicago…not exactly a barn burner. NBC may hope Jr can polish a turd. But it’s still a turd.

  2. As hard as NBC has been pushing adding Jr. to the mix, it’s as if they think he can single handedly save the ratings. Poor guy, why does everyone put that burden on him? And I’m sure the Jr. haters are already sick of hearing about him, thus fueling their ire. Talk about can’t win!