Race Weekend Central

Happiness Is… One Still Left To Go

Sayonara NASCAR season.  In many ways, you’ll be missed.  You’ll be missed for the weekly habit.  You’ll be missed for the ongoing drama, manufactured or not.  You’ll be missed for the weekly dose of horsepower, speed, and silliness.  You’ll be missed for the variance, because one week could be fantastic and the next a dud, or vice versa, or neither.  You’ll be missed because you’re like a bad ex, one that maybe you should stay away from but continually return to.  You’ll be missed because, being the sport with the longest season, we’re just used to having you around.  And most of all, you’ll be missed for all the fan reactions, because you’re a sport that seems to elicit some of the most vocal and critical fans, and passion is a good thing — doesn’t it mean that someone cares?

But that’s it.  We all get a mellowing out period for a bit, a chance to tune our engines and make sure our tires are inflated for a new season, with new rules and who knows what nuttiness.  That’s all part of the fun.

(Credit: CIA Stock Photography)
By the season finale, NASCAR fans seemed to embrace the 2014 iteration of the Chase. Well… at least this one did. (Credit: CIA Stock Photography)

For the most part, the new Chase worked.  Or something like that.  The driver holding the big trophy (seriously, what’s the name of that thing, because we know the Borg-Warner, the Astor Cup, the Harley J. Earl but there’s no memorable name with the Cup championship prize) seemed to deserve to be drowning in joy with his teammates in 80 cases of Budweiser.  (Happiness Is gets celebrating, but really, who can drink that much Budweiser.  Hashbrown: epic hangover.  How about a few shots?)  So things worked out, even if maybe two of the other drivers for the championship race should have been different.

The TV numbers, up.  Track attendance at the last few races, up.  Cultural relevance, yet to be determined.  On the whole, the season seemed to go pretty well, even if the Chase now seems to mitigate the importance of each race, because now, rather than celebrating the win, driver and team celebrate that they’re Chase eligible, which seems a little deflating at times.  Oh well.

Congrats to Kevin Harvick, it’s not like he hasn’t been sniffing around the big trophy for a while.

Let’s get happy.

Happiness Is…Happy.  Kevin Harvick’s story has been well documented, or told, or videographed, or whatever, so anyone who follows the sport knows that he’s done a few things in a car that didn’t suck.  His championship win now puts him in solid territory as one of those drivers that can be called better than decent.  The wound up spirit of the media would ask whether he can repeat next year (no, it’s a crapshoot) or whether he’s like super-duper awesome and is just what NASCAR needed or something, but really, let’s just take a breath and let him be champion.

Happiness Is…Jeff Gordon.  Gordon almost stunk up the show.  My conspiracy notes say that NASCAR told him when to pit so that he wouldn’t be battling with Denny Hamlin, Ryan Newman, and Harvick when the laps were closing in on zero.  With Gordon out of the way, after leading 161 laps, no one could debate what might have been.  But conspiracy theories are always fun.  Just like thinking that sport believes in meritocracy and that Chad Knaus hates loopholes.

Gordon, however, should be taken seriously for the idea he mentioned after Homestead and one that should have been implemented in the first version of the Chase.  In a championship when someone other than a Chase driver can affect the outcome of things, it’s time to have those going for the championship running on their own points system.  This idea isn’t a new one but it’s certainly time to give it real chance of being implemented.

Happiness Is…Logano.  When Logano exited his ride on Sunday after finishing somewhere between not first and last, he appeared dejected.  And that’s great!  First, let’s recognize that he’s still a young driver, and if this year was any indication, he might have a future in the sport.  Second, that kind of feeling is the one that fuel he and his team to overcome the mistakes that kept them from winning it all this year.  He’s still got time and it’s good to see the fire from him — though there’s a good chance that he was even more aggrieved that the driver who won it all was the one he said something about his wife wearing the firesuit after a little Pocono dustup.

Happiness Is…Homestead.  Having been silly enough to watch all three races from the championship weekend from Homestead, there’s one thing that can be stated: More.  Homestead has gotten a bad rep for some reason but between the weathered surface and the progressive banking this track provides some of the best racing — especially for the much-derided 1.5 mile tracks.  All three races featured side-by-side racing, with each going down to tight finishes.  All the late cautions broke up a decent race for the Cup series but Homestead is Exhibit 1 for more tracks with progressive banking.

Happiness Is…One Left.  Sure, NASCAR may have finished, but there’s still one race left for a major series in the 2014 series.  This coming weekend, Formula 1 will venture to Abu Dhabi for its finale with the pinky-out crowd.  Not sure if anyone had been paying attention but Bernie Ecclestone managed to once again piss off a whole bunch of people by stating that F1 doesn’t need young fans and that things like Twitter, Instablahblah, and Facesomethingorother are really not needed for his sport and that…whoa, tuned out, sorry Bernie.  At this point, these remarks just seem like Bernie being Bernie, which is amazing and awful at the same time.

The leadership concerns aside, there’s a race to be held.  Last few years this race meant almost nothing, but with double points being awarded (F1’s version of the Chase?) the importance of the race has grown and it might be compelling.  Or Lewis Hamilton will drive away with it and that will be that.  But hey, there’s still one last major race.  Enjoy if you can.


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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Don in CT

The new chase worked? What the hell have you been smoking?

Bill B

I agree with you Don but it kind of did work. It turned the sport into a contrived spectacle. How could it not be close when you keep resetting the points? The championship now has a restrictor plate.

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