Saturday , October 25 2014
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Happiness Is… Isle of Man Time Trials, Pocono(?) and Maple Syrup
(Credit: CIA Stock Photography)

Happiness Is… Isle of Man Time Trials, Pocono(?) and Maple Syrup

The season is over; everyone can start testing for next year.

Now that Jimmie Johnson has won the last two races, there’s a prevailing feeling that the team has found their golden horseshoe, is about to go on a tear and that no one stands a chance. It’s quite possible that sentiment is correct.

That would save a lot of teams money, as they won’t have to show up at the track — much like the fans at Dover last weekend. Not sure if everyone caught the article, but Associated Press writer Jenna Fryer posted one with drivers taking selfies (ugh, what a turgid word) with themselves and fans, and in the background, not too long before the race was to begin, empty stands.

That kind of photo shows just what kind of situation the sport is in. Many have lamented FOX’s coverage as one problem of the sport, but if a track located in the corridor of one of the nation’s most populous areas can’t draw much of a crowd, then there’s some more evaluation that needs to be done — because, think about it, if you’re at the track, you’re not listening to the Waltrips.

Jimmie Johnson has won twice. Abandon all hope.

Jimmie Johnson has won twice. Abandon all hope.

Happiness Is… Man. No, this is celebrating The Man, which could be Jimmie Johnson right now, or Aloe Blacc’s oft-played “The Man,” or even the Velvet Underground’s “I’m Waiting for the Man.”

Nope, this spot is for that tiny island hanging out on the south of England, the Isle of Man. What does that place have to do with anything on Frontstretch? Well, compared to what is usually posted here, nothing. But it’s time to give the yearly shout-out to some of the most daring motorsports competitors in the world: the motorcyclists who competed in the Isle of Man Time Trials.

For those of you without the Velocity Channel (you poor souls), the Man races are amazing, with riders hitting almost 200mph on the course, which is comprised of the roadways of the island, and feature winding, hilly and sometimes blind challenges. Those who race there epitomize the very sense of thrill and danger that existed when motorsports first came about. The races are fascinating and unlike almost anything else.

The riders don’t get the attention in the States that they may elsewhere, but the racing is an ode to yesteryear, with little in the way of course or personal safety involved. Does that mean that much of today’s racing is sanitized by safety? No, just that technology has made things smarter and, with that, safer for most other forms of motorsports. .

It is impossible to control all elements in racing, and the sheer concept to go faster than anyone else sometimes has a cost. During the time trials, both Bob Price and Karl Harris, a three-time British Supersport champion, have died on the 37.5-mile course. May they be speeding along in the afterlife.

Happiness Is… Pocono? After the Dover debacle, complete with exploding track, questionable cautions, and Johnson’s (yawn) win, it’s time to move on to Pocono Raceway.

It’s odd that a track that many fans wanted to see dumped altogether now draws better interest than a number of others. Changing the race length to 400 miles started the trend, but the repaving and subsequent improvements have turned it into a much more interesting race.

Of course, with all of that positivity, watch Johnson race out to a 20-second lead and turn the race into a snoozer.

Happiness Is… Unhappiness. For all of you who read this column and pay attention to Formula 1 in some regard — yes, all five of you — you’ll recall that the season started in Australia with the debut of the new V6 engine and a number of other changes. The organizers in Australia lamented the sound that came from the engines, asserting that the noise of F1 cars is a big part of its selling point. Fair enough.

Now retired F1 driver David Coulthard has stated that the drivers are “not happy” driving the 2014 cars and that they don’t have the “true driving experience.” Aw, poor babies. This situation is nearly parallel to when the NASCAR Car of Tomorrow (one of the worst names ever for a vehicle) was released, and when Kyle Busch climbed from his winning ride at Bristol and said that the thing “sucked.”

Happiness Is says that the more aggravated, aggrieved and frustrated that racing can make the drivers, all the better. With all the engineering marvels that exist in modern society, there should be a challenge in driving these things, or else why not just add driver assist, in-car cameras and reading lights?

Happiness Is… Maple Syrup. For those who live close enough to the Canadian border on the East Coast, you’ve got the chance to check out the show that is F1 this weekend. Seeing as how Cup refuses to tinker with its schedule and use the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve track and INDYCAR might not have the money to do so, the Canadian Grand Prix offers an opportunity to catch not only some of the most technically sophisticated cars in the world but also a chance to visit a lovely track setting. And if someone can keep Mercedes out of victory lane, triple bonus.

Happiness Is… INDYCAR Jimmie Johnson is back (though he was never really gone). Mercedes is cruising in F1. Nationwide Series races are a battle between Joe Gibbs and Penske racing (sorry, Roush Fenway Racing and JR Motorsports), while the Camping World Truck Series boils down to whether or not Kyle Busch is racing.

Then there’s Verizon IndyCar, the series with the most unpredictability as to who will win.

The likelihood is that the winner will come from Ganassi, Penske or Andretti, but that’s not quite the same kind of dominance that is being shown in the other racing series and lends itself to actual drama or surprise happening. IndyCar has struggled at Texas Motor Speedway the past couple years, but the good showing at Indianapolis might be optimistically portentous as to how they’ll run this coming Saturday night.

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.