Race Weekend Central

Happiness Is… FOX, F1, California, and Points

This racing season is off to a fantastic start. Really. Two 12-hour races in Cup. The last three Nationwide races were won by Cup drivers. The Truck Series… wait, do they still race? Even Formula One is rolling hot with derision over its new six-cylinder engine and the lack of noise it produces. And INDYCAR hasn’t even gotten started — what’s taking them so long?! Good times all around then. You betcha.

Tom Bowles usually does a Did You Notice column each week, found here. ForHappiness Is this week, it was Could You Watch? No surprise that the viewership numbers were down for part two of the Cup race; in short-attention-span theater, no one really wants to wait around for hours for anything. But for those of us who were avidly trying to catch the race (for practical purposes), switching it to Fox Sports 1 with little warning left Happiness Is, and probably a number of other people, with aDVR full of Friends re-runs rather than Bristol.

Eh, what does it matter anyway? President Barack Obama has weighed in with what really matters: his bracket for the NCAA basketball tournament. That’s where everyone’s focus is anyway, right? I mean, no one really cared about some dude doing a backflip after he drove his car in circles faster than anyone else in a race that ended with an inadvertent caution. That stuff is lame. College basketball is where it’s at. In fact, Happiness Is hopes that FOX treats the viewers to in-depth interviews at California asking them how their bracket is and how they think Creighton looks for the tournament.

So how’s YOUR bracket? Ugh.

Happiness Is… FOX. It’s been far too easy to pick on how FOX has broadcast the races this season. It seems everyone, including Happiness Is, has assaulted the network in some way. But FOX made things easy on so many people with its late switch to FS1 for the rest of the race. For those of us who don’t sit in front of the TV waiting for a race to resume and instead just let technology help out, the change of channels was problematic. To be clear, Happiness Is has still not seen the majority of the race, as the FOX conglomerate has waited until Friday to offer a re-airing. In an instance such as this one, shouldn’t a re-air have happened on Monday?

A rain delay meant a night race on FOX — that is, FOX Sports 1.
A rain delay meant a night race on FOX — that is, FOX Sports 1.

But hey, Happiness Is is all about the brighter side of things, hence its appreciation for what FOX had done. Thanks to its switching of channels,Happiness Is was able to clear out a whole bunch of DVR space by catching up on stuff that had been ignored and would have been further ignored had time been spent watching Bristol. Even better, with the FOX snafu, many people didn’t have to sit through another Waltrip & Friends NASCAR broadcast. It’s only a matter of time now before a toy train starts showing up at the Hollywood Hotel and one of the Waltrips puts on a cardigan sweater.

Happiness Is… F1. The Formula One racing series has long been considered one of the apogees of the racing world. With its technological marvels, the strong financial backing, hero-like drivers and posh sensibilities, it is a milieu for shaping both automotive innovation and cultural tastes. But all that loveliness seemed to fall by the roadside with the Grand Prix in Australia this past weekend.

Not unlike NASCAR, F1 is tinkering with its product in an effort to keep its stature. And also not unlike NASCAR, its decisions are met with severe criticism. As the series switched to a 1.6-litre V6, the sound associated with the sport has been nullified. In addition, the technological advancements have endured a poor reaction as the series attempts to move into the 21st century and incorporate environmentally friendly aspects in the sport. The energy Recovery System is in many ways an advancement and a nod to developing sustainable auto products. At the same time, well, fans want the brash, loud coolness of what they’re used to.

Sometime ago in the 1980s, NASCAR experimented with using V6 engines in the Busch Series, and the response was full-fledged awful, not unlike the reaction in F1 circles. Racing, however, must evolve — and let’s face it, do drivers really need a 950 hp mega-plant under their hood? There’s already talk of NASCAR looking to implement a turbo-charged V6 for the Gen 7 car. Happiness Is thinks that making an engine that is, at least in some ways, closer to what you drive on the street could be a good thing. Of course, it won’t come to fruition and once again innovation will fall by the wayside. But hey, how’s your bracket?

Happiness Is… California. So on the eastern side of the country, each race has been affected by “weather.” Happiness Is still has an issue with talking heads calling rain weather. Weather happens every freakin’ second. When it rains it’s not weather, it’s freakin’ rain! Anyway, races on the East Coast have been fraught with rain delays this season, but the ones on the other side of the Rockies have been good to go.

Never would Happiness Is have ever considered the Fontana track to be a panacea for some of the Cup racing woes, but that may be the case this weekend. Add decent weather to the fact that last year’s race finished under wild circumstances as Joey Logano and Denny Hamlin bounced off one another, allowing Kyle Busch to scoot by for the win, and it’s possible that the second trip out West may be welcomed. That’s strange thinking for a track that is often considered boring.

Happiness Is… Points. NASCAR tinkered with them last year, going to a more simplistic system. Formula One felt the need to ensure that the last race of the season did not end up as a foregone conclusion by making it count for double. And now INDYCAR has joined the fray. It’s a points revolution, yo!

INDYCAR announced that 500-mile events Indy, Texas, Pocono and Fontana will all be worth double the amount of road courses. One way of thinking about this change is to consider that an oval track specialist needs only to clean up at these tracks to put him/herself in line for the championship. In a second regard, it makes the teams put a serious effort into these events, which should make for better racing. Either way, there’s always that situation where neither of these outcomes are the ones that will appear and that the decision will backfire. For INDYCAR’s sake, fingers crossed that it doesn’t.

Whatever — how’s your bracket? Hope you didn’t have Ohio State in the Final Four.

About the author

As a writer and editor, Ava anchors the Formula 1 coverage for the site, while working through many of its biggest columns. Ava earned a Masters in Sports Studies at UGA and a PhD in American Studies from UH-Mānoa. Her dissertation Chased Women, NASCAR Dads, and Southern Inhospitality: How NASCAR Exports The South is in the process of becoming a book.

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