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Happiness Is… Hot Head Stevens, Statistics & Making an Entrance
Darrell Wallace Jr. passes under the checkered flag to claim the Mudsummer Classic Credit: Mike Neff

Happiness Is… Hot Head Stevens, Statistics & Making an Entrance

More weeknight racing, please.

Other Frontstretchers have asserted that nighttime races aren’t as good as the daytime events.  That’s fine, and Sunday afternoons have their place, but maybe not every week, and Wednesday’s truck race showed how likeable mid-week racing can be.

As NASCAR continues to stick its head in the sand about making any schedule changes that might excite the fanbase, weeknight racing seems to be one of the coolest ideas that gets overlooked.  During these summer months, when people are more likely to be outdoors or vacationing, or, you know, enjoying not being parked in front of the TV, weeknight races could be a boon.

But hey, whatever, any changes to the 2015 are purported to be “minor.”  Way to think in progressive terms.  Throwing flak at the schedule just seems dull at this point though.

Happiness Is… Hot Head Stevens

Adam Stevens usually seems like a rather composed individual.  He sits atop the box for the No. 54 car of Joe Gibbs Racing, seemingly having to make few difficult decisions.  Life is good when Kyle Busch is cleaning up in the Nationwide Series.

It looks, however, like Busch may have rubbed off on Stevens, as was seen at last weekend’s race at Chicagoland.

(Ctedit: CIA)

Sam Hornish, Jr. at Michigan International Speedway in June 2014. (Credit: CIA)

The engine of the No. 54 blew on lap 6, and when Stevens visited the car in the garage, the broadcast showed him losing it, storming in, throwing his headset and marching away.  It felt good to see one of these lesser-known crew chiefs show that kind of emotion, even if many fans were all too happy to see the trailer split before the halfway point.  The unfortunate aspect: the driver.  Poor Sam Hornish Jr.  just seems like he can’t catch a break sometimes.

Maybe it’s the sideburns.

Happiness Is… Statistics.  Earlier this week we made mention of the list of the 50 most popular sports programs so far in 2014.  The article, found here, has the Super Bowl in the pole position, which isn’t surprising, and has no NASCAR events, which also isn’t surprising.  What can be gleaned from the list, however, is what it takes to make a dent anymore, and apparently that number starts by leaping over the 12 million viewers mark.  It wasn’t so long ago that the little race known as the Daytona 500 used to hover around the 15 million mark.

Oh, that’s right, this year’s edition got hit by the weather bug that has been hitting race weekends like a NASCAR flu.  Might the first race of the year have been able to make the list had it gone off as scheduled?  Possibly, but that would have had it sitting around the 40th spot on the list, near the Kentucky Derby, the Winter Olympics Closing Ceremony and maybe with the U.S. – Ghana World Cup match.

As far as cracking the top 15, good luck; 12 of those spots are held by football, and have 26 million viewers or more.

Happiness Is… Releasing Information.  The U.S. is playing an interesting game right now with the controversy surrounding Malaysian Airlines Flight 17; it seems they know something about where the rocket came from that shot it down.  They might know what kind of rocket.  Oh, wait, they’re not making any official statements.  They still need to investigate.  The United States and Russia — it seems like old times.

On a smaller scale, NASCAR is engaging in its own Cold War.  The biggest salvo to be lobbed thus far is the article that everyone that pays attention to the sport has checked out at some point by now, the one by Tripp Mickle, that details the cost of running a four-car race team for a weekend.  Believable numbers?  Does it really cost $1.5 million a weekend for that team?

Numbers can be manipulated like any other bit of information, but it’s the timing of this article that makes it seem like a conveniently timed public relations play to get the fans behind the teams — which is made all the easier by Brian France offering his sorry statements and NASCAR, ISC and SMI all hiding behind lawyers in fear of the Race Team Alliance.

So what’s going to be the Bay of Pigs for the sport?

Happiness Is… Making an Entrance.  This week marked the beginning of the season that captivates the American public. That’s right, football season is back.  Yes, finally, we can finally stop paying attention to this motorsports nonsense and get back to what really matters.  How’s your fantasy team look?  Wait, what?!

Veteran receiver Reggie Wayne of the Indianapolis Colts often arrives at training camp making a statement.  He’s shown up in a dump truck, been dropped off by a helicopter, and may have used an UFO at some point, though we’re waiting for confirmation. This year, IndyCar driver Ed Carpenter drove Wayne to camp in a two-seater to bring about a loud announcement that Wayne was ready to return to football.

There’s two funny aspects about this incident.  Firstly: Carpenter is not a road racing kind of guy, so it’s good that all parties showed up safely.  Ha.

Secondly: NASCAR is in town and wasn’t part of this kind of PR stunt.  Sure, the ties between Indianapolis and open-wheel racing are extensive, but wouldn’t this kind of thing have been a great opportunity for NASCAR, who has been struggling at the track of late?

Happiness Is… Home Field Advantage?  There is a clear statistical advantage for teams when they play in their home stadium. Motorsports, like a few other traveling circuses, does not really have such a factor as an influence.  At times, however, there has been some kind of positive affect when a driver races near a hometown or home country.  Is  Jimmie Johnson’s success at Fontana a product of his happiness at being in his home state?

Nico Rosberg used that kind of motivation, accompanied by a helmet celebrating Germany’s World Cup victory, when Formula 1 visited Hockenheim last week.  Broadcasters like to push the notion that extra motivation, like a birthday, can provide a few extra horsepower.  That may be a fine human interest story, and added a happy angle to a series that doesn’t have a huge amount of overall drama (no RTA in F1), but really, Mercedes has been that awesome — as noted by Lewis Hamilton’s ability to drive from 16th to the podium.  So much for the FRIC suspension ban having much of an effect.

With no driver from Belgium represented on the grid this week, it’s likely that Mercedes will continue their cruise of a season.

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.

4 comments

  1. I think the sentiment that nighttime races are worse than day races stems from the fact that many of the night races take an already uninspiring product (a race on a 1.5 mile tracks) and add the elements of night racing (better grip/higher speeds), creating something that is often unwatchable.

  2. I realize that it is not cheap to run a race, but I am kind of questioning some of the numbers. Not sure how he gets the $ 980K for the race cars. Even the explanation doesn’t explain it completely. Also, he gives $ 18K for the Pit Box. I would think that it about full cost for one of those. They don’t buy a new one every race. They should spread that out over several races or years.

  3. The timing of the article about the cost of running a race team was certainly convenient, wasn’t it? But it did somewhat expose the extravagance involved. And that of course leads to the debate about which comes first , the spending to impress the sponsors or the sponsors providing the money for the spending.
    Regardless its here, the PR battle between Nascar and the RTA is just beginning.

  4. Plate racing in general and the Daytona 500 in particular are by design not very interesting racing. If caught up in all the hype, a non race fan decided to check out the 500 chances are he would never watch another race. That may at least contribute to Nascar’s inability to make any most watched list. I live right between two big NFL franchises. Training camp begins in a few days so of course each team has a player arrested within days of each other, one for domestic violence and the other for assaulting a police officer. Ah, the National Felon League. If we could just teach Michael Vick to drive NASCAR popularity would soar.