Race Weekend Central

Happiness Is… Jimmie Johnson, Road Courses & More Road Courses

Angriness Is, brother to Happiness Is, sent a text after the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series’ Michigan race last weekend that summed up everything in a more succinct fashion than us purported wordsmiths could: “What did fathers do to deserve that f*^#ing race?” Yup.  As entertainment, races are supposed to be some form of escape and provide, on some level, enjoyment and their best a sense of catharsis.  But Michigan once again provided little or none of those things.  If NASCAR ever gets the balls to cut races from the schedule, killing one of the Michigan stops is a must-do.  Does it really matter if the cars hit some obscene speed number, doing something like 215 mph, if the racing fails to be compelling?  That NASCAR will be back there in two months doesn’t help matters. Of course, NASCAR would never do such a move because of the track’s proximity to auto powers’ headquarters, and to drop one would be a bold and potentially problematic move.  That means that there’ll be two races there, like usual. Maybe, however, fathers can thank NASCAR.  By continuing to put Michigan on Father’s Day, they can already assume that Hendrick Motorsports will win, that it won’t be worth watching and that they can go out and find better things to do. Happiness Is… Jimmie Johnson.  Whew.  Everyone can relax now, because Jimmie Johnson got rid of the horrible stigma of having never won at Michigan.  Relief. Now holding 69 cup victories, Johnson is only 131 behind Richard Petty.  How come no one is talking about his chance of matching the number? What’s really lost in the discussion is a different issue.  Many fans bemoan Kyle Busch winning regularly in the Truck and Nationwide series, crying that he’s beating up on those lower-tier drivers.  Well, when is someone going to start complaining about Jimmie Johnson beating up on the Cup regulars?  It’s about time ol’ six-something moved on to tougher competition. Happiness Is… Road Courses.  Yes, yes, yes.  For a number of years, fans felt about road courses the way many people do about President’s Day.  Unless you have the day off, it’s just another day and time to move to the next one. But something has changed in the past few years.  The two races, Sonoma and Watkins Glen, have evolved into being one of the better shows on the schedule. The races have it all. Differing strategies. Right turns.  Driver performance.  Left turns.  Strange cautions.  Right turns.  Less reliance on horsepower.  Right turns.  The oft-desired beatin’ n bangin’.  Oh, and those things called right turns.

So why the hoopla and move to running road courses now, even in Nationwide? Take a look: a bit more picturesque than Kansas.
So why the hoopla and move to running road courses now, even in Nationwide? Take a look: a bit more picturesque than Kansas.  (Credit: CIA)

One of the reasons that the races may have gotten better is the death of the road course ringers, as that Tom Bowles guy discussed.  Now that the field is basically comprised of full-time drivers, there’s more investment by to do well.  The road course also represents one of those supposed wild card races where a driver who might not excel on the ovals, Marcos Ambrose, ahem, has the chance to earn a victory that would put him in the Chase. Happiness Is… More Road Courses.  Not to be outdone by its big brother, the Nationwide Series will also be testing its drivers by making them go both left and right this weekend as they visit Road America.  The past few years, this race has been both interesting and a mess.  The racing, when it happens, can be stellar, but it is often undone by cautions, and more cautions, and then another caution. OK, it may not be that bad, but it seems like there’s been a couple times when the last 10 laps represented more of a demolition derby than an actual race where drivers were supposed to demonstrate their skill at piloting a racecar.  With Ron Fellows and Jacques Villeneuve not on the entry list, maybe that will change. Side note: The race will be on ABC, which is somewhat surprising because that network is the same one sometimes broadcasting that little kickball event, the World Cup. Happiness Is… Saying No.  Nope, this one isn’t about Nancy Reagan’s drug program mantra, Just Say No, or avoiding that extra helping of whatever it is that maybe you don’t need.  Happiness Is doesn’t preach on those things.  Instead, a tip o’ the cap to Carl Edwards, who last weekend told Richard Childress that he’d prefer not to join his organization at Richard Childress Racing. This move announces two things that everyone pretty much knew already.  First, Edwards is likely a goner at Roush Fenway Racing and is checking out every option.  Happiness Is is still a bit confused by the idea that Joe Gibbs Racing could be a destination, as Edwards and Matt Kenseth were not exactly happy teammates together, but the notion still gets discussed — almost as an inevitability. The second thing Edwards did was point out that 1) RCR is about on the same plane as RFR and that he’s looking for more; and 2) it’s possible that no one is really pinching themselves to be teammates with the Dillon boys. Happiness Is… Michael Schumacher.  Reports are that Michael Schumacher has come out of his coma and was transported to a different facility for further recovery and rehab.  There have been few details other than the road to recovery will be long, but positive vibes to one of racing’s greats.

Happy Harvick was pretty tight-lipped following this past weekend at Michigan after another win slipped away.
Happy Harvick was pretty tight-lipped following this past weekend at Michigan after another win slipped away.

Happiness Is…”Happy.”  Kevin Harvick got the nickname Happy at some point.  (So that makes SHR the home of Happy, Smoke and Outlaw.  Princess Sparkle Pony seems to get applied to Danica Patrick but Happiness Is has yet to see that above her door.)  How Harvick got the moniker isn’t important, but it is frequently used in conjunction with him. After Michigan, however, Harvick was anything but and showed his displeasure by avoiding a post-race interview and pretty much acting like the post-race press conference was a war-crimes trial and avoided saying anything beyond 31 words. Un-Happy Harvick was clearly frustrated at losing to Johnson.  Great!  It’s good to see this side to the drivers rather than getting the usual “my Toyo-chev-ford was good today; we just couldn’t get up there. I just want to thank my sponsors, Mello-Yello and Jackhawk Knives, and the fans for coming out,” before they walk away. It’s also good to see a driver who might be as frustrated as the fans at Johnson winning yet again.

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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Bill B

I’d love to see a race moved from Michigan to a road course.
Where else could Edwards go that would be above RFR other tha JGR?
I think Danica should have Princess Sparkle Pony above her door. That would be awesome. LOL


Where else could Edwards go that would be above RFR other than JGR, you ask?
How about MWR?
Yes, it’s only a 2-car team now, but with the right driver who can attract sponsorship, they can easily rebound back to where they once were before “Spin-Gate”, a solid 3-car team with tremendous upside.


I’ll type it s l o w for you. Jimmy is a top tier driver beating up on top tier drivers, sometimes that is just the way it goes, part of the game. Kyle is a top tier driver beating up on 2nd and 3rd tier drivers. That is not part of the game in ANY other sport aside from NASCAR. And, it is mind numbingly dull enough that people have stopped watching. I never cease to be amazed by how tame the NASCAR press is. If something like this was going on in any other sport the writers would be howling. I’m beginning to think none of you can talk except when sitting on Brian France’s lap with his hand up your backside.


Good article. Very funny.

somebodys brother

I will t y p e s l o w a l s o. No I won’t thats silly. If all the drivers are top tier then why is the 48 holding a clinic every season ? The same clinic Kyle puts on in the lower series. It was a valid point, besides, this is the interweb, relax. You can’t take this seriously. Except for the guy who said ” what the _____ did fathers do to deserve that race”. That guy is a genius.


Of course you are right, none of it is really important. I enjoy complaining about it for exactly that reason. Who wins, who loses, who cares. It is just entertainment. It is a great diversion from all those things that do matter that one cannot do a damn thing about. And to be honest I am much more amused than annoyed by just how bland the NASCAR press can be.

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