Tuesday , July 22 2014
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Happiness Is… Silly Season, Tweaks & Juan Pablo Montoya

Happiness Is… Silly Season, Tweaks & Juan Pablo Montoya

The Coke Zero 400 is but a distant memory and it is barely a week old.  That race often sits as the wonderful spectacle that marks a sense of the midpoint of the season while marrying itself to the country’s holiday party, particularly with its old name, the Firecracker 400.

Yet this one fell flat.

Yeah, this year has been a difficult one with regards to weather and racing, so much so that the wunderkind Air Titan 2.0 has been unable to mitigate the impact of that thing called nature.  Let’s avoid the frequent use of the word “weather” to infer rain.  Weather happens every moment.  Rain is rain.

The relative immediate reaction towards the race was: OK, that dude just made the (all-that-matters) Chase, but what about those other drivers who still need a win?  It’s like it didn’t matter that an upstart driver won the rain-shortened whatever-it’s-called-this-year Daytona 400 summer race because the focus still shifted back to stalwarts like Matt Kenseth, Tony Stewart and Kasey Kahne.  The big teams. Once again, the big teams and big names are the ones who loom over everything.  Sure, the 400 had the element of being a feel-good story, but it just didn’t seem to have any kind of lasting imprint.

Then the big teams got bigger this week with the announcement of the Race Team Alliance, or the RTA.  Seriously, that’s the best freakin’ acronym they could devise?  RTA. Sure, the name doesn’t really matter, and it alludes to something like SEPTA or BART, public transportation services, but it seems like they could have been more creative.

Other writers here are trying to figure out what the building of this group’s inception means, especially when one of the tenets is the goal of reducing costs. Voice of Vito looked into a bit here, and nailed it with the big issue: TV money.  Sure the current TV contract is signed and delivered, but there’s always ways to renegotiate, and it seems that the teams have finally gotten around to going for the prize that really means something anymore.  After all, live sports are the golden ticket in television anymore.

The first announcements by the RTA are mere saber rattling, and there’s a good chance they’ll be lining up their army in no time.

Let the battle ensue.

Happiness Is… Being Ignored.  Poor Aric Almirola.  He just put his team into the Chase and with that helped pump up the whole organization, not just with being a happy group of people, but also with the extra scratch they will receive by being participants.  Should Marcos Ambrose do his thing at Watkins Glen in a few weeks, the Richard Petty Motorsports clan will have both cars in the playoffs.

Aric Almirola wins the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway on July 5, 2014. (Credit: CIA)

Aric Almirola wins the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway on July 5, 2014. (Credit: CIA)

Yet, there seemed to be little joy in Almirola’s win.  Rain-delayed.  Rain-shortened. Restrictor plate.  Brett Poirer did the unfortunate deed of trying to ensure that Almirola receives a mental asterisk to the win.  Sports needs asterisks like Happiness Is need ampersands.  Does the sport really need that kind of thinking?  Better yet, does anyone think back on say, Jeff Gordon’s rain-shortened Pocono win and categorize it differently? Doubt it.  The win still stays in the books and congrats to Almirola earning his first.

Happiness Is… Silly Season.  Who’s going where?  When will we know?  Are there any hot rumors?

This time of the year used to be really interesting.  Now it’s a dud.  Part of the reason is that there aren’t that many rooms at that inn — well, at least not the five-star accommodations.  But hey, whatever, it doesn’t mean anything because the thing that really matters is where LeBron James is going to sign.  Is it Miami?  Might he actually return to Cleveland?  Oh my, oh my, oh my.  We all need to know now!  Thanks, ESPN, for the minute-by-minute tracking of James and his possibilities.  Sure, the summer can be a dead-ish news cycle, but it feels like ESPN has taken the story of one player to a level above obsession.

Happiness Is… Tweaks.  With Mercedes doing its level best to ensure that the Formula 1 season has only the slight aspect of drama, namely between its two drivers Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg, there was a need for something.  Enter the governing body.  The FIA technical directive announced that FRIC will be banned henceforth.  FRIC — great acronyms all around today — stands for Front and Rear InterConnected suspension, which link the front and rear of the car, help with pitch control and influence ride height.

That aspect is one where Mercedes is alleged to have an advantage, though other drivers feel that this decision likely will have no influence on their dominance.  That may be the case, but it also might be the governing body trying to even things out if possible.

Happiness Is… Juan Pablo Montoya.  Another driver whose story didn’t quite get the attention that it may have deserved was former NASCAR driver Juan Pablo Montoya making a triumphant return in the IndyCar Series by earning the win at Pocono.  Montoya was strong throughout the race and showed that his learning curve on his return to open wheel racing is getting less steep.

Not only did his win show that he still does have some talent, but it also brought him into contention for the IndyCar championship, as he’s only 50-some points behind now.  Sure, he drives for the Penske powerhouse, but he still has to get it done.  His recent success, with excellent drives at the two Houston races and now the win, points to him becoming stronger as the season continues.

That raises the bigger overall question: how good would he have been if he had never moved to NASCAR?

Happiness Is… Numbers.  The Brazil-Germany match was the most-tweeted event ever on Twitter, with 36.5 million mentions.  That’s staggering, though the platform is still somewhat new and the number of users is growing, hence the number could be passed with ease in the next year.

There are two thoughts that come out of this report.  First: wow, Twitter really has become enmeshed in modern culture.  Second, with the World Cup final on Sunday, during the Cup race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway (a track that has its detractors), how disparate are the audience numbers going to be for the two events?

IndyCar has this one right by racing on 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.

4 comments

  1. Congratulations to Juan. A few years ago moving to nascar was they way to go. I dont think that’s true anymore. Drivers see it like the fans.

  2. The RTA threatens to shake up a troubled racing organization and what you take out of it is that the acronym is odd. Insightful. Given your level of insight here is a shocker for you, generally speaking NASCAR fans could not care less about the World Cup. I recall the majority of my college professors as lazy thinkers masquerading as the intelligencia. You would have fit right in.

  3. Happiness is………when that World Cup s**t is over! If you are a race fan, you’re sick of hearing about it.

    Happiness is……..it shouldn’t even be in a racing coulmn to start with!

    • On an Alaska cruise this past weekend. Tried to get the race on one of the several thousand TV’s on board, but 99% were on the World Cup. One of the bartenders managed to get an F1 race for a while. Guess there aren’t enough of us rednecks up there in the north country. We found out via the ticker on the bottom of the screen. Wahoo! Congrats to Aric Almirola and RPM.