Race Weekend Central

Happiness Is…Ford, Foreign Countries and Getting Paid

It’s time to hammer down on NASCAR’s superficial Topic of the Week, sponsored by Prune Candy.  For this week’s edition, it’s the Joey Logano – Morgan Shepherd incident.  Heard enough about it?  Read enough about it?  Any fan of the sport should be able to check the Yes box on that one.

Much of the redress has been supportive for Shepherd, stating that by NASCAR’s rules he had every right to be out on the track at New Hampshire.  Then there’s the legal aspects, which protect people from age discrimination and further complicates things.

Our intrepid leader at Frontstretch, Tom Bowles, took a different stand and looked at the outdated concept of the 43-car field, or pretty much something to that effect and how it encourages a driver like Shepherd to compete.  Of course, one angle on the issue is that Joey Logano was involved and it seems that no one has really become a Logano fan as yet, which means there’s no outrage.

What has been missing from the conversation is the bigger picture: legitimacy.  Often times the announcers will espouse that the Cup field is comprised of 43 (ignoring you Kentucky, ahem) of the best drivers in the world.  The governing body itself attempts to sell this very concept. However, it’s hard to take this notion seriously when a 72-year-old driver is in the field.

Yes, Morgan Shepherd by all accounts is a good guy, and a good story, and probably a hundred other things for which the adjective good can be used.  But you know what he’s not?  A GREAT driver.  No one is at 72.  The body slows, the muscles weaken; the mind may be sharp but the reflexes are not what they once were.  So it’s hard to believe that the Cup product is really that good when Shepherd is one of its representatives.

And it’s hard to sell fans both diehard and casual on the concept that the sport is genuinely comprised of the best drivers.  But hey, the RTA isn’t looming over the sport in any regard right now.

Brad Keselowski's win at New Hampshire marked Ford's fourth consecutive victory. Credit: CIA
Brad Keselowski’s win at New Hampshire marked Ford’s fourth consecutive victory. Credit: CIA

Happiness Is…Ford.  With Brad Keselowski’s dominating performance at New Hampshire, his second in the last few races, he sure seems to be positioning himself as one of the serious contenders to hoist the championship trophy.  Even better, Team Penske is looking like they’ve got something figured out and may be the best team in the sport, as the previously mentioned Logano is also running well (he was in second before being wrecked by Shepherd).

The better story is that Ford has now won four races in a row: Keselowski at Kentucky, Edwards at Sonoma, Almirola at Daytona, and Kes again at NH.  It has been since the 2001 season that the blue oval has won four races in a row.  That’s staggering.  For those fans who cheer for a manufacturer, rather than a driver, there must be a little bit of elation these past few weeks.

Happiness Is…Foreign Countries.  Congrats to Germany on winning the World Cup.  Now everyone can get happy because that roundball stuff won’t be mentioned anymore. In spite of that, Germany is the locale for one of the major racing events this weekend, as Formula One rips laps at Hockenheim.  Though the F1 season has been a bit frustrating in terms the championship battle, this race has the potential to mark a change.

After the British Grand Prix a couple of weeks ago, the technical side of F1 pushed to outlaw the Front and Rear InterConnected suspension (FRIC) aspect to the cars.  Some in the garage have pointed to that aspect as purportedly being the reason for Mercedes’ dominance.  Whether that is the case or not, the teams must come to agreement on whether all teams use it or all teams do not.  If not, will Mercedes be able to continue their mastery?

Then there’s that great land mass sitting north of the continental U.S., that bastion of sketch comedy, Tim Horton’s, and the people that brought you immemorable things like Strange Brew.  Yes, America’s 53rd state (that’s right, sitting behind Puerto Rico and Guam who can’t vote but still send people to Senate) is the host of this weekend’s IndyCar action, and because they’re so stereotypically ‘nice’, IndyCar gets to do it twice. So if you’re looking for a racing fix, with Cup having the weekend off, look towards Toronto.  If not, take off you hoser.

Happiness Is…Getting Paid.  Lawyers in Charlotte must be thrilled right now.  The newly created Race Team Alliance has already found that the drawbridges have been raised so there’s no way of easily storming the NASCAR, ISC, or SMI castles.  Forget the idea of any kind of open dialogue just to get things going.  Nope, everything will now be handled by lawyers.  The meta-message behind that aspect is that there must be big money involved.  So while the teams fight for their slice of the NASCAR pie, the lawyers will be the ones making out with oodles of billable hours.  So what spot do the fans have in all this?

Happiness Is…Globalization.  Immanuel Wallerstein is one of the forefathers at looking at the complexities of the world and economics. His assertion of world system economics, which analyzes the ties that countries have had with one another through history, is the kind of thinking that led to more contemporary ideas like The World Is Flat.

The reason for touching briefly upon this topic is that Winston cigarettes will now be a British product.  Whether you smoke, don’t smoke, hate smoking, or are indifferent, seeing another traditional American brand move overseas is kind of bizarre, especially one that had such an impact on NASCAR.  Though it’s no different than Budweiser being owned by AB-InBev, a Belgian-Brazilian conglomerate.  Or 7-11 being owned by the Japanese.  Or…yeah, the list goes on.


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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I like Morgan Shepherd, but agree with you that he is too old to race. IMHO NASCAR should drop all of the provisionals and just have the best drivers each weekend.

Unfortunately, NASCAR won’t do that because it knows that there would be a possibility one week of Dale Jr., for example, failing to qualify for the race. There would be a bunch of mad Dale Jr. fans at the race that weekend who paid for their tickets but don’t get to see him drive.

But, on the other hand, there would be a good story for them to cover the next week as Dale Jr. tries to qualify for the next race.


Much better than your usual offerings but enough World Cup. NASCAR fans really do not care.

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