Race Weekend Central

Happiness Is…Thursday Night Racing, Sand, and Houston

Happiness Is usually prattles on about some kind of something or other to open each column.  It’s an opportunity to hit on something that might not fit into the usual points.  This week there’s none of that fluffy crap to get things going.  It’s just the good ol’ stuff that brings about a smirk.  Let’s roll.

Happiness Is…Thursdays.  Thursdays are not rare, they happen every week.  They are both the promise of the weekend and a reminder of things to close out the weekdays.  They’re full of drink specials and other things to distract and yet they’re still just an ordinary day.  The one thing that Thursdays don’t tend to have is NASCAR racing.  This Thursday was different.

Thank the Trucks series for racing on a Thursday and shaking things up a bit.  Happiness Is has long believed that having NASCAR race on the weekdays is a brilliant idea – and an even better one for the Trucks, which often get left behind the other two series.  One of the continued confounding aspects of the Trucks is the schedule, even though nearly a million people watch each race.  Why not just set it up so that they race on Thursday nights, allowing them to avoid competing with any other series and establishing a sense of consistency?

Happiness Is…Sand.  Sand usually implies the beach, and if you’re at the beach, good for you.  If you’re not at the beach and you’re thinking about sand, you’re probably wishing that you were at the beach and avoiding things like work.  Bummer.  If you happen to be near Daytona and enjoying the sand in advance of the Firecracker 400, well good for you.

While the beach can be wonderful, sand can also be one of those problematic things.  Or if you’re Mike Helton, sand is a place where you bury your head.  Helton is an easy target anymore.  He says little that is provocative, decides nothing that is groundbreaking, and moves so cautiously that you’d think that he walks on bubble-wrap and is afraid to pop any of it.

It’s no surprise then that Helton, in a recent two-part interview stated anything that might be worth noting – except how conservative NASCAR is.  To wit, Helton in addressing the concept of a road course in the Chase, something for which fans have been clamoring, stated that it is not something the organization is currently seeking.  Hmm, no surprise there.  See, what fans want is one thing, but there’s no way that ISC or Speedway Motorsports Inc. would allow it.  First, that would mean taking a date away from one of their beloved tracks, and second, neither ISC or SMI own another road course.  But hey, keep giving the fans what they want, right Mike?

Happiness Is…Escaping.  While this spot would be a good one to continue with the idea of  vacationing and getting away and all that, escaping here is for the U.S. Men’s soccer team.  Sure, you might be like a lot of Americans and ignore the world’s most popular sport for most of your days, but even with the loss to Germany, the U.S. moved on and continued their quest to show that they are one of the better sides out there.

Happiness Is…Houston.  OK, Houston is not exactly a place that screams tourist destination in the mold of other commonly sought places.  It’s a fine city in the way that there are a number of other fine cities out there.

One week after taking on the high banks of Texas Motor Speedway, the Verizon IndyCar Series heads southward to the streets of Houston.
One week after taking on the high banks of Texas Motor Speedway, the Verizon IndyCar Series heads southward to the streets of Houston.

This weekend Houston hosts IndyCar duals, with a race on both Saturday and Sunday.  The three-week break for IndyCar came at a strange time, but once they get back at it this weekend, they roll for the following three with no stops.  Seeing as they’re not directly competing with NASCAR on with the Houston races, give them a look, the track provided some solid racing and crazy action last year.

Happiness Is…Health.  Have you blood pressure checked lately?  Been to the dentist?  How’s the diet?  Getting enough exercise?  Health is amonster of a thing with so many components to make it relative moving target – and that’s just our own bodies.  So when the health of a sport becomes a topic, it can be an equally massive project to ascertain its status.

A quick check on NASCAR provides a rather gloomy, mid-life-need-to-make-some-changes picture.  It’s not a crisis, needing a sweet new motorcycle, and a silly new haircut, but it could use some changes.  Consider: ESPN, the worldwide mega-machine, cancelled NASCAR Now.  There’s nothing surprising about this move but it does show that the monster cares quite a good deal less about NASCAR as a sport now.  Next, Home Depot is leaving the sport.  Not only does their departure take away from the natural HD v Lowe’s rivalry, but it would also seem to signal that HD does not believe that they are reaching their target group via the sport.  A final example would be the fact that there are just 42 cars on the entry list for the Cup race at Kentucky.  Not sure when the last time Cup raced with less than a full field but it’s amazing that there’s not a 43rd car looking to cash an easy check.

Happiness Is…Oh well.  In the F1 world, another one that has been somewhat quiet, there was a hope of writing about something other than Mercedes dominating.  Didn’t happen.  Though Williams-Mercedes (a different team) took the top two qualifying positions at the last race, the results were the same for the season.  Mercedes is on cruise control, and due to the fact that the teams are unable to tinker with this season’s engine, there is little in the way of change coming.

An interesting note: F1 will now have standing re-starts whenever a safety car is deployed.  The standing starts have long been one of the most amazing and possibly catastrophic aspects of the sport and now to have the prospect of incurring them more than once a race is wild.  Is it possible the sport is trying to manufacture excitement much in the way that other series have done recently?

Happiness Is…Hot.  Whether you’re at the track, wandering around, at the beach, or in the mountains, be sure to stay hydrated.  It’s hot out there.

Also check out: Five Things to Watch: NASCAR gettin’ bumpy in Kentucky by Matt Taliaferro 

About the author

Ava Lader headshot photo

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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A million people watch every truck race! Where did you get that number? Sounds like someone, maybe at NASCAR, pulled it out of an orifice and fed it to a lazy press. A million people won’t watch all the truck races last year, this year and next year combined. Have you looked at the stands lately? Exclude moms and girlfriends and you could not enpanel a jury with what is left. Unless DENIALCAR makes some changes the All Toyota Cup Vanity Truck Series is dead. Non competitive one brand racing, a concept whose time never came. PS: generally speaking people on a NASCAR site are about as interested in soccer as they are University of Whocares inter mural water polo.


Number was a schoche off. Sports Business Journal reports that the Truck race broadcasts AVERAGE 730,000 viewers. The stands may be empty but some people still tune in.
And collegiate intramural water polo is a rising sport.

somebodys brother

I watched the soccer game on Thursday. Sunday it had a 10 share. Higher than any race I’ve seen since Daytona I believe. Oh if you missed the point it was that I watch racing and watched soccer. Saw the truck race too!

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