One of the stories that came to light in the past couple days was that beloved NASCAR czar Brian France – or as many of his legion of followers refer to him, Brain France – is open to the possibility of cutting some of the length of the races on the schedule.
This potential change to some races is not a new idea but has continued to elicit varying opinions. France, in his comments, noted the millennial generation and their short attention spans as one reason that shortening some races would be a good move. While appealing to that market is an understandable focus, it’s doubtful that a race could be hewed down to 140 characters. Kidding, or something, hashbrown somethingwittyortrendyhere.
To the ticket-paying customer, the change represents something akin to being shorted – that is to say the feeling is that having bought a ticket to a race that removing laps in the event somehow cheapens it and should then make for the tickets being cheaper as a result. Fair enough, that’s one way of looking at it. Of course, it also goes back to an old restaurant anecdote: The food here is terrible, and the portions are so tiny. If one of the issues with NASCAR is that the racing has failed to be entertaining, does it matter if there are fewer laps of follow the leader?
A third perspective that should be considered is one of the foundations of the sport: the marriage between driver and machine. Until recently, say the past 10 years, a key component of racing was watching whether both the driver and the car could hold up against the rigors of a race. That’s not quite the issue it once was. The engineers have done a noticeable job of making the engines sound to the point of being almost bulletproof, so now that it’s other areas that are the question marks, like hoses, axles and those four rubber things that connect the car to the ground. In conjunction, the drivers as a group are in better shape now than they ever were before. The sum total of the situation is that endurance is not what it once was.
Whatever, this week the nuttiness of NASCAR heads to the questionable concept of racing known as Talladega. To match the wackiness of it all, Happiness Is will be using a Magic 8-ball to roll through this column. All 8-ball responses given in good faith.
Happiness Is… Most Likely. That’s the result the magic prognosticator gave when asked about Kurt Busch winning last week’s race at Richmond and how the PR machine felt about it. The only interpretation that can be taken from such a response is that NASCAR would Most Likely want to move on as quickly as possible from his victory, attempt to ignore it happened and if possible burn any and all footage so that there’d be no evidence for any lingering discussion. Somehow it feels like the story has already been relegated to an afterthought anyway.
That Busch won is no real surprise, considering how competitive he’s been since his return from his suspension. And NASCAR got away with one when circumstances went in its favor at Auto Club Speedway, when Busch was leading but was kept from victory lane thanks to some the conspicuous caution flags. Now he’s a Chase-bound driver that could possibly stick it to the powers that be in fantastic fashion.
Given that prospect, NASCAR would Most Likely cringe.
Happiness Is… Ask Again Later. Magic 8-ball is spot on with this one, as it hits on two parts of one story. David Ragan is a driver who fell upward this season. Having been set to drive for Front Row Motorsports, Kyle Busch’s injury gave him the chance to drive in the best car of his career, the No. 18. That stint is set to end soon and Ragan will be moving over to another car vacated by a driver with health issues, Brian Vickers.
Ragan will ride out the rest of the season in the No. 55 and continue with his attempt to show that he can be a well-regarded driver. While Ragan is just a few points behind his current teammate Carl Edwards, the question will be whether he’s a long term replacement at Michael Waltrip Racing. That will be something they will have to Ask Again Later.
As for Vickers, does he have any NASCAR career left? Ask Again Later. That MWR is basically sitting him for the rest of the year, though there’s potential for some races, is a benefit to the driver and something that should be done for him to get healthy (much in the same way that Joe Gibbs Racing should shut down Busch for the year, but that’s another topic). Vickers is an affable, seemingly decent person and with his health issues he should be looking toward the broadcast booth or being somewhere up on the box, but drivers are notorious for not knowing when to unhook the wheel and place it on the dash that final time.
Happiness Is… My Sources Say No. Talladega is frequently referred to as some kind of crapshoot, that any car can win – and on a few occasions that has been the case. Of course, playing craps involves using just two dice so that analogy is far too scant to account for 43 lunatics driving in such close proximity at 200 mph. Roulette would make for a better comparison, but that one still has just 37 or 38 markers on the wheel, depending on which country you’re playing. Both analogies, however, represent the notion that racing at Talladega has more to do with fortune than it does with any other metric associated with driving.
One of the selling points for NASCAR through the years has been that anyone can show up and try to qualify and then race. That makes for a good story when underfunded teams measure up against the big teams and their monied operations, and is what makes for Talladega being compelling because it’s one track where it’s easier to do so. But when asked whether one of the smaller outfits would win this coming Sunday, the Magic 8-ball replied: My Sources Say No. Looks like a legit take on things. Even with the assumed wreckfest set to occur at some point during the race, it won’t be enough to take out all of the well-backed cars.
That being noted, the Roush Fenway Racing cars have been so slow this season that they might be a half a lap off the pace, avoid the mess and then race home with the trophy.
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.