The major motorsport shows were all on stage this past weekend as NASCAR, Formula 1 and IndyCar all played around, made some noise and laid some rubber — with a little bit of carnage included. Combined, all three provided an interesting, disparate and engaging display of racing and culture. That seems like a pretty good weekend.
The thing is, all three races featured that unfortunate aspect that be a plague to any event: some of the best drivers were taken out or removed from the race long before it neared its conclusion. The equivalent here seems to be like a starting QB leaving the game in the first quarter or a star pitcher grabbing his arm in the first inning and walking off the mound. Yes, thereʻs still the rest of the competition to be held, but there just feels a little like something is missing.
Sometimes that leads to great stories, like Erik Jones earning his first win, and sometimes it just showcases the gap between the star and the rest of the field. Were the IndyCar and F1 races more like the former than the latter? Well, maybe for IndyCar. In F1, even after Valtteri Bottas took the lead, the race still looked like it was Sebastian Vettelʻs to lose, and thatʻs with Lewis Hamilton making enough of a recovery to be near the front.
What the outcomes of all three races really did was add more intrigue to the championships, though their lasting prowess may be up for debate.
But whatever, it was a full schedule of racing, and if youʻre a fan, the outcomes are only part of the story.
Letʻs get happy.
Happiness Is…18. No, this is not another post about Kyle Busch. Yes, heʻs really good. Yes, heʻs got five wins this season. Yes, many of you donʻt like him. Considering last weekʻs post about Busch went over like a lead balloon, letʻs look at the fact that the Cup schedule is now 18 races old. That means the season is half over. Simple math shows that thereʻs only eight races left until the playoffs (Please, someone, check my math).
With Erik Jones winning at Daytona this past weekend, another spot is locked down for the playoffs. Whatʻs wild about that aspect is that only seven drivers have won this year, and, from a statistical standpoint, two of those winnerʻs could be considered flukes. Of course, flukes are the very nature of restrictor-plate racing.
That also means that spots eight and up have no wins. So what? Well, the names on the Yet-to-Win-This-Season list are kind of surprising. Yes, Hendrick Motorsports is struggling, but Jimmie Johnson and Chad Knaus have usually stolen a win by this juncture in a season. Whatʻs more to Johnsonʻs predicament is that heʻs only 54 points ahead of 17th. That being said, Ricky Stenhouse Jr is that driver in 17th, and it is unlikely that anyone is going to give him any slack the rest of the season, so heʻs probably not making a run for the playoffs — so Johnson should be safe.
One argument here is: so what? The best drivers are winning the races and thatʻs how it should be. True, and no argument. Itʻs more that it seems that the top drivers are lapping the field and everyone else is eating ice cream. Those top drivers have also accumulated enough playoff points that they’ve already advanced to Round 3. But doesn’t a little unpredictability add some fun?
Happiness Is…10. Like the Cup schedule, the Formula 1 schedule has reached its midpoint, sort of. This yearʻs schedule features 21 races, so midway through the German Grand Prix on July 22, will highlight the halfway mark. And how do things stand? This story is pretty f*&ing simple.
Sebastian Vettel is leading the way with Lewis Hamilton in his slipstream. After Hamilton, sits Kimi Raikkonen, and heʻs just about two race wins behind Hamilton. To say that the top two drivers have separated themselves from everyone else is rather obvious. These two have already been getting all the resources that Ferrari and Mercedes can muster and that wonʻt change.
What may make the second-half of the season more intriguing is how both teams use their second drivers as tactical chess pieces on the track to help with either Vettel or Hamilton.
One fascinating story to follow will be to watch how the performance of Red Bull goes. Now that they’ve broken ties with their current engine manufacturer, will Renault continue to work with their every whim? Will they still be giving it all, or will they start turning toward the 2019 season when they need supply only themselves and McLaren with engines? Hey, at least thatʻs a story that doesn’t focus on the frontrunners, right?
Happiness Is…11. OK, so this one doesn’t fit in with the others. The IndyCar series has run 11 races this season … but they have only 6 more to go. Wait. They have only six more? They have only 17 races? Thatʻs not truly a surprise as much as it is a funny recollection.
If any of those three drivers find the wall a couple too many times then thereʻs the prospect that Ryan Hunter-Reay or Will Power could sneak into the proverbial picture. Thatʻs actually what makes this series fascinating — itʻs the fact that this season has been so peculiarly unpredictable that no one really seems to be taking over. Cheers to that.