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Happiness Is… Car Counts, Pocono & ’1′
Drivers love Michigan. But will the fans enjoy it in the same manner?

Happiness Is… Car Counts, Pocono & ’1′

Blah, blah, blah.  Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.

If anyone saw last year’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony, they’ll understand that opening.  As the band Rush accepted its long-awaited entrance to the hall, guitarist Alex Lifeson gave a speech that consisted of just one word — blah — used in an oratory performance that seemed like an actual speech.  Brilliant.

Unfortunately, there’s no great witticism here; blah, blah, blah seems about right for what’s happening in NASCAR right now.  Jimmie Johnson, blah, blah, blah.  Dale Earnhardt, Jr., blah, blah, blah.  Track attendance, blah, blah.  Fox coverage, blah.  Now TNT coverage, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.  Car count, blah, blah.  Penske, blah, blah, Gibbs, blah, Hendrick, oh my, blah, blah, blah, and what the blah is going on with Roush?

It’s strange.  For all of the racing, which on a large scale has been good, there is little in the way of mesmerizing storylines.  Is it possible that the new Chase format is partially to blame, with the regular season now more than ever just a prelude to the playoffs?  It seems that way.  From Daytona onward there’s been a consistent mentioning of the Chase, which makes the actual coverage of what’s going on a little more future-focused than a current commentary.

Kyle Larson, you’ve finished in the top 5 a couple times this season, but whatever, do you have a shot to make the Chase?  Or how about Kevin Harvick — you’re locked in, but can you solve your problems for the Chase?

Maybe rather than blah, blah, blah, Chase, Chase, Chase is more fitting.  On to the smiley stuff.

Happiness Is… Car count.  It’s funny — the drivers all mention how awesomely fantastically wonderful the Michigan track is, a place that encourages multiple grooves and wide open racing.  Yeah, sure. Be realistic: Michigan is rarely the place that provides the most captivating racing.  When Jimmie Johnson running out of gas is one of the highlights (well, to many fans that’s always going to be a top-notch highlight), then feel free to put the race on in the background and do any number of things.

Drivers love Michigan. But will the fans enjoy it in the same manner?

Drivers love Michigan. But will the fans enjoy it in the same manner?

For a place that is frequently the Ambien to life, it’s good to see something positive — car counts for both the Cup and Nationwide races are up.   What that says about things, it’s difficult to determine, but it does mean that the smaller teams want to be at that particular track, and they might not have the big Detroit ties to encourage them like the larger teams.  While this fact may make qualifying more interesting, it’s doubtful it will have much impact on the racing.  Though for a sport that refuses to go the franchise route, it’s a positive sign.  Now about that Truck Series….

Happiness Is… Pocono.  The track continues to deliver some interesting racing lately.  Sure, this time it needed some literal trash to help with the story, but a little bit of luck never hurt.  Watching the swarm of drivers fire off into turn 1 after the drag race down Long Pond Straightaway is, at this point, one of the more interesting moments in NASCAR.

Happiness Is… 1.  NBC Sports Network continues to develop as a new destination for sports and they’re not doing so in a manner that fits within the heavyweight battle between Fox and ESPN.  This past week, the network debuted Kurt Busch: 36, a look at the driver’s attempt to race both the Indianapolis 500 and the Coca-Cola 600.  Phil Allaway will be covering that at some point in the near future, so no need to get into it here.  Sitting there, however, rather unnoticed was a different film: 1

The movie should be given more hype, plain and simple.  It’s an outstanding look at the history of Formula 1 that cobbles together interviews with a lot of drivers, excellent footage and a good narration while not seeming like a shill for the product.  The opening sequence is compelling in a striking fashion and then segues into the topic that dominates much of the early portion of the film: the battle between speed, safety and death.

Though many Frontstretch fans prefer NASCAR to their open-wheel brethren, 1 is worth a look.  It provides a sweeping look at the evolution of the sport.  Watched in conjunction with last year’s film Rush and the documentary Senna, one gains a solid knowledge of how intriguing and ballsy the characters are.  If you can find it on the guide, set the DVR.

Happiness Is… Speed.  It’s doubtful that anyone watching the Pocono race or trying to catch up on F1 or IndyCar had a chance to watch it, but the X Games happened last weekend.  Lo and behold, two NASCAR alums finished on the podium in the Rally X portion, with Scott Speed in first and Nelson Piquet, Jr. finishing third.

Happiness Is… Cup.  Silly Americans.  All you think about is the Sprint Cup, but there’s that other cup thing going on beginning this week: the World Cup.  Sure, soccer/futbol/football is struggling for viewers in the U.S., but the rest of the world is gaga for this stuff.  If you get a chance, when you’re not watching racing, give the U.S. men’s soccer team a look; bookies say they won’t be around long.

Happiness Is… Chad Knaus.  Unless you’re a fan of Johnson, Chad Knaus’ success is pretty easy to dislike.  The crew chief continually makes the right calls and has his driver in a position to win.  His alleged cheating aside, he sure seems to know how to tinker with a car, and he was the maestro at work again this past Sunday, taking Johnson’s slightly beaten ride, making the repairs and then putting Johnson up front.  Heck, the No. 48 even led at one point.

Like him or not, that Knaus dude is pretty good.

Happiness Is… Dads.  May Sunday be a pleasant and enjoyable Father’s Day for those dad types out there.

Happiness Is… Change.  Back when Frontstretch started, the interwebs were run on hand cranks and steam engines.  Sure, the site was hip then, but as trends like the Flappers, the Beats and the hippies died out, the site stayed stuck in its ways, clinging to the promise of yesteryear.

But now, hallelujah!  Welcome to the jump to the 21st century.  We’ll be hanging out with Buck Rogers and racing cars on Mars in no time.  Hope you like the new site.

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.

9 comments

  1. Witamy w wypożyczalni busów 9 osobowych w Piotrkowie Trybunalskim. Polska wypożyczalnia samochodów działa na naszym rynku od 2012 roku. Obsługujemy zarówno kontrahentów indywidualnych, oraz biznes. Zachęcamy do współpracy niezależnie od tego, na jaki okres chcą Państwo wynająć samochód. Oferujemy tak jak najem długoterminowy, jak i krótkoterminowy (np. na weekend).

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  8. Phil Allaway

    I have already critiqued Kurt Busch: 36 in our Newsletter (I wrote about the Director’s Cut version). If anyone wants to see it, our last two weeks of Newsletter archives are available by going to the Newsletter drop-down menu at the top of the screen, clicking on “Newsletter Archives,” then on Thursday’s edition.

    As for “1,” I saw a preview for it when my dad came to visit and brought a copy of the movie Parkland for us to watch. A few days later, I found “1″ at Target for $9.99. I purchased it and have it here in my writing lair. It’s a nice documentary, but quite dark. If you want to check it out, be warned that there is a fairly substantial emphasis on death. Then again, between roughly 1960-1977, death was way too common. Talking about Formula One in that era requires a somewhat morbid approach.

  9. Yes, I think that any excitement the chase creates comes at the expense of the other 26 races. I think the latest incarnation, win and your in, is even worse. It breeds complacency amongst fans once their driver gets a win. Blah, blah, blah indeed.
    (And, for the record, I was not happy with Alex’s speech. You wait all that time for them to be inducted and you get that for a speech.)

    As for the changes to the website I am OK with it. However, if you’ve been paying attention to those of us that comment regularly, we’re not a bunch that embrace change. With that in mind, I hope once everyone gets acclimated, that you don’t make any major overhauls for several years.