Race Weekend Central

Happiness Is… Kyle Busch’s Return, NAPA Know-How & Rain

So for a brief moment there, Kevin Harvick created a bit of a stir when he mentioned that he thought that the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series schedule was stagnant and one of the things holding the sport back. The reaction, from postings and chatter, was that Harvick was both spot on and an idiot. That seems like the typical reaction to just about anything these days. Like for example: Hey, do you want some free money? Response 1: Hell yes, gimme, gimme. Response 2: What the hell makes you think I need free money? Get outta my face.

Back to Harvick’s assertion. With fan numbers continuing to be in question, Harvick brought up one of the very things that could be a problem. For years the schedule has been comprised of, with some exception (North Wilkesboro, Hickory, Las Vegas, Chicagoland and Kansas) the same tracks. Though the annual schedule release is something that brings excitement, it tends to be followed by a yawn as little change is made.

For many sports, the schedule is something that changes drastically on a year-to-year basis. It’s one of the aspects that brings interest. But for team sports, the ones that tend to dominate the sporting landscape, there is also much more in the way of turnover, players, coaches and management. The sport of NASCAR racing doesn’t have that same rate of change. Look at the top drivers and the names all feel familiar, like they’ve been the same for the past 10 years (even if that might not be the case).

So the schedule becomes an easy target, and deservedly so. Harvick’s comments, however, go beyond the schedule and the focus should have been on the notion that there is something stagnant with regards to NASCAR. No one decided to debate that aspect and rather they chose to focus on the race dates. If a driver, an actual participant who is fortunate to drive one of these monstrous machines, is pointing toward something being stale, then there must be something. The question that’s left to answer is: if it’s not the schedule, what is it?

Happiness Is… The Return. It had to happen at some point, so it’s really no surprise, but with the release of goodies with his name and the 600 emblazoned on them, it looks like Kyle Busch will be back in the No. 18 by the end of the month. If his injury sustained at Daytona did anything, it reinforced the need for SAFER barriers everywhere around a track (somehow Jeff Gordon’s ability to hit every non-SAFER wall on the planet wasn’t enough). Almost as if to second the notion, Brad Smith crashed into the SAFER wall at Talladega in the ARCA race last weekend and merely broke his right ankle and sustained ligament damage in his left in a wreck that looked like it could have been catastrophic.

Busch’s return was a foregone conclusion at some point this season – though Happiness Is has suggested sitting out the whole year to recover fully. For fans of the sport, his appearance behind the wheel should be welcomed. For detractors… well, they were probably happy with him shopping for baby strollers with his pregnant wife. Regardless of which camp in which you might set your tent, it is still a good thing that a driver who endured his wreck will still be able to compete.

Happiness Is… Know-How. In another move that surprised exactly no one, NAPA will be accompanying Chase Elliott when he moves to the No. 24 in Cup next year. All parties could have announced this one in the middle of last year and still no one would have been surprised. With NAPA’s penchant for making silly commercials – signature dipstick, you know you’ve made it when you got one of those – get ready to see Elliott’s face more and more. Is Martin Truex Jr. happy or sad that he no longer has to be a part of that nuttiness?

Happiness Is… Nope. Edgar Guest penned the lines, “’Tis better to have tried in vain/Sincerely striving for a goal/Than to have lived upon the plain/An idle and a timid soul.” That’s a rather eloquent way of stating that in trying the species is at its best. So credit Richard Childress & Co. for continuing the good fight against NASCAR’s punishment panel in their effort to further reduce penalties related to bleeding the tires on Ryan Newman’s car at Fontana. The organization made its latest – and final – appeal and was rewarded with… exactly nothing.

That RCR had the initial penalties reduced came across as a bit of a favor, but to think that another appeal would further lessen the damage was a bit overly optimistic. Its efforts to do so supports its sense of innocence, but one might wonder if the team should have been putting more energy into making its cars run faster in a way that doesn’t bring about the NASCAR hammer.

Happiness Is… Rain. Looks like it will be one of those weekends when the DVR will have to work overtime. That also means lots of interviews with drivers and crew chiefs who get to inadvertently play the role of a weather forecaster. Both the Truck and Cup series races are set to deal with precipitation at Kansas going into this weekend. Will it be another scenario where the Cup race moves to the common Sunday start time? On Mother’s Day? In Indiana, the IndyCar Series is looking at much the same situation, with Saturday bringing a soaked track. At least the series won’t be battling the prospect of qualifying on Sunday as that is schedule for the following weekend. All of the scheduling matters little when compared to the fact that Kansas is facing the very potential for tornadoes. Do crew chiefs have a plan for that?

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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Well you mentioned it, but it really is the 800 pound gorilla in the corner. It isn’t JUST the schedule that’s stagnant, it is the overall “sport”. I use that word loosely to describe what NASCAR has become since over those same 10 years it has become less a sporting event each weekend but more “entertainment”. Of course that also assumes that fans find what is currently taking place on the track each week entertaining.

Based on the attendance and ratings, I’d say that many people who used to be die hard fans have left. Of course at various times, pretty much every fan who says anything that isn’t 100% positive about NASCAR has heard someone – either another fan or a NASCAR media whatever – tell them, “if you don’t like it, you can leave”. Be careful what you wish for, sometimes you get it. It is a strange thing to me that NASCAR and it’s “management” would far rather drive fans away than listen to the commentary and yes, critical comments from the owners and drivers (because I just can’t believe that they have been completely silent even though NASCAR has fined them into public silence) as well as the fans and FIX some of the ongoing problems, like the aero push issue that results in so much of the follow the leader racing. Nah, NASCAR would rather tell people that they are “listening” when what they do is cherry pick what they want to hear so that it fits their view of the world. Hey, as long as the $ keeps coming in, I’m sure they will pat themselves on the back and think how great it all is, but they could do better.

When the great and powerful Brian took over, the stands were full, there were waiting lists for tickets at many of the tracks and people were excited to go see a race or watch it on TV. Now, multiple years into his reign, the tracks are removing seats, you can get a ticket to pretty much any race you might want to go to and speaking for myself, I watch an entire race on TV only if it fits into my schedule or if is is bad weather. I have had phone calls from various tracks over the past month, asking me to call them because they have good “deals” to offer. You know what, that’s still no sale, the ticket would need to be free and they would need to reimburse me for my travel costs at this point to get me to actually spend my weekend at a race.

It’s a sad statement because we used to have a great time going to races, but I’m no longer willing to waste my money and vacation time.

Tim S.

Well said, Gina. You and I had an exchange about the schedule on another article, and you mentioned how the “happy with” phrase comes up. And sure enough, following Harvick’s comment about the stagnant schedule, here comes that O’Donnell guy who says “we’re happy with the schedule we have.” Of course they are. Their money comes from TV now in an era where networks have an insatiable desire for programming to fill their 400 channels. As long as they focus on their “storylines” and get nearly a billion dollars a year no matter what happens at the track, everything is fine.


You both have about covered it. More and more I believe that I like what NASCAR could be and less and less what it is. Even though I do a lot of it I’m growing tired of hearing myself complain. It seems pointless. NASCAR is what it is. Autocratic and fan deaf, unconcerned with what the average fan wants, take it or leave it seems to be the operating philosophy. I read a fascinating article on a business site earlier this week concerning the increasing choice of fans to “leave it”.


Tim S, yes, Steve OD just like the other NASCAR mouthpieces are so predictable that it goes beyond boring to the ridiculous instead. I thought of you when I read his response — yeah yeah of course NASAR is “happy with”.

I found the announcement that they “may” hold off on the 2016 rule changes and run this set of rules another year pretty amusing, too. It sounded as though they got some pretty heavy negative feedback from the owners & the drivers. I can’t say I’m thrilled with the racing this 2015 car has produced but changing the car every single year is just a waste of $.

John Q, I know, I think the same thing, that complaining doesn’t get me anything but it does make me feel better to talk to the other posters here and to realize that maybe I’m not the only one who is disappointed. The upshot for me is that I’ve lost something that I used to have so much passion about and it bothers me.

If I really enjoyed the “sport”, I’d find another driver to support when Gordon exits the 24 car in November, but I don’t and I won’t. In the words of Arnold, it will be hasta la vista, NASCAR.


gina – you hit the nail on the head. one time ‘dega called me cause i hadn’t renewed my seats. they asked me what they could do to encourage me to attend, i told them, free tickets, infield access, driver access, helicopter ride to and from track (i live 1.25 hrs from ‘dega). i think the guy thought i was kidding. haven’t been back in years. it’s not worth the money for the ticket (which now falls into the $135/butt seat range). cheaper to watch on tv at home, no sunburn, no drunks who have been there for a week to worry about hitting me on the road, no lines at the ladies room, no $5 hotdogs. i miss it, but it’s not like it was 15 yrs ago.

personally, i haven’t “had a driver” since 2/18/2001. just not the same anymore. na$car forgot about me a while ago. sooner or later they’ll miss my hard earned money.

with the allstar race and charlotte activities, i use to always head to charlotte for 2 weekends in may. nope, not anymore. traffic, prices and just the poor quality of the product has done it.


I would love to know (ok, maybe not) how NASCAR was able to sucker Fox and NBC into this TV deal.


Or Xfinity to air events with virtually free fall viewership.


maybe they have compromising photographs of someone? LOL maybe Sony will become NASCAR’s title sponsor. They had lots of dirty laundry get out.

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