Race Weekend Central

Happiness Is… Saving a Sport

The sport is saved. Yay, the new NASCAR rules package that got tested at Kentucky is the panacea that all had hoped for; now, everything is hunky dory. It was the general reaction that emanated from the world, both during and after the Kentucky race.

In a way, that works. The racing on track appeared to be pretty decent, especially in the way that cars could take the lead. And Brad Keselowski, who really may have had the car to beat, consistently drove through the field as his team made miscue after miscue.

So far, so good right? But a question that emerges, aside from asking why there isn’t a more aggressive push to get the aero package implemented for more tracks the rest of the season is this one: how come some of the cars and teams seemingly made no moves all night?

The easy target is that of Hendrick Motorsports. Sure, about the only outcome no one wanted at Kentucky was Jimmie Johnson running away with another win. Mission accomplished; he was pretty much an afterthought for much of the race.  At some point, Johnson raced in the top five, but that memory long ago faded and when he was languishing around in the back half of the top 10, it came across as surprising.

Clearly Joe Gibbs Racing had something figured out, and Team Penske as well while Hendrick, Stewart-Haas Racing, Richard Childress Racing and Roush Fenway all floundered. Well, OK, floundering is nothing new for RFR at this juncture.  But for the other teams, considering their resources, to provide such little fight seemed interesting.

What that means for the racing when NASCAR returns to the same package, no one knows. The tinkering goes the other way with higher downforce for Michigan and Indy, so that’s a whole different experiment. It makes Darlington the track to determine the aero’s worth – except it doesn’t.

Darlington and Kentucky are similar in the fact that they’re both over a mile, but neither one relates much to any other track.  As Kentucky is concrete, there are no other 1.5-mile tracks of the same surface. Meanwhile, Darlington’s egg shape lends itself to no other. So while the racing at Kentucky may have entertained, there’s still a bunch of questions moving forward.

The hope for Darlington is that the rain won’t be the story it was for Kentucky.  As Charles Dudley Warner stated, “Everyone complains about the weather, but no one does anything about it.”

At least Kentucky made the best of what they had to offer. Let’s get on with it….

Happiness Is… Loudon. So after a decent show, the NASCAR traveling circus heads to Loudon, a track that does not really inspire people. Boring is one word that’s been used to describe it and that’s probably the one that doesn’t have any expletives or otherwise problematic texts attached to it. Yes, it’s a flat 1-mile track where passing tends to be difficult. Yet isn’t that one of the better qualities?  Isn’t one of the goals of racing to see the equipment and driver tested?

Let’s be happy that it’s not one of those cookie-cutter tracks instead. While the on-track action often appears lame, the actuality is that there’s usually a move or two made by someone that goes wrong – and that brings out the angst and idiocy. Maybe that will be the case again. As short tracks seem scarce on the summer schedule, it could be something that’s needed. Maybe Danica Patrick can get back at Dale Earnhardt Jr. Har.

Happiness Is… Milwaukee. Last weekend, IndyCar raced at the Milwaukee Mile and put on a pretty decent show. Sebastien Bourdais won, earning his second victory of the year, and the championship picture began to clear up. That may be the easy story, but the bigger one is that it may have been Indy’s last race there. As the series is in negotiations with Road America, purportedly with a date set, it may be difficult for Indy to visit Wisconsin twice and be able to satisfy attendance desires at both tracks.  That’s business.

The sad part is that the Milwaukee Mile is one of the more important parts of American racing history. A former horse track, first built in 1903 it became the first oval in racing. Even the vaunted Indianapolis Motor Speedway didn’t come along for another nine years. Without NASCAR or Indy making trips to the track, there’s a good chance that it could fall by the wayside and become of those things relegated to the dustbin of history. Developers have eyed up the site before. This note isn’t some sort of plea to get the track saved but merely an appreciation for a track that acts as a bedrock for American motorsports. At the very least, the developers better leave a heck of a plaque….

Happiness Is… Iowa. While NASCAR is going in circles in Loudon for the weekend, IndyCar will be in the Corn State doing the same. There aren’t many races left on their schedule which means catch them, catch them while you still can. The truth is that IndyCar at Iowa is rather entertaining, and whether Juan Pablo Montoya extends his points lead or not it’s worth giving a gander to – especially as they’ll be racing on Saturday night, which means they won’t be going against NASCAR. Of course, any visit to Iowa by a series other than Cup is just a reminder that they need to get there at some point in the near future.

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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Judging by what Brian said, saving NA$CAR isn’t in the near future. But the Hendrick fleet is safe. And Emperor Brian can keep on counting his money while NA$CAR burns.

So Loudon is boring. Tell that to the fans who watch the Modified races there. Maybe it’s not the track. Maybe it’s the cars and drivers. Let the Cup drivers race in Modifieds.


Cup used to be a great show at Loudon and I used to thoroughly enjoyed my weekends spent there during the Fall races. Then the COT reared its ugly head and then the races became nap time for the paying spectators. That’s when I stopped going and I now refuse to spend any money on Nascar again until the product improves. Yesterday didn’t look much better with the bogus cautions and lack of passing. Still waiting for Nascar to get these cars off the ground and allowing these crew chiefs more flexibility with setups, even on tracks like Loudon. Many people have mentioned this as a solution, and they are good ones, but Nascar continues to keep their heads in the sand. That’s fine though. I will continue to keep my money on my pocket and continue to be just a casual fan.


Agreed, Steve. the only way to get the attention of people who are only interested in $ is when it is no longer coming in. I read somewhere a couple of years ago about the heavy losses in the souvenir business. I figure that is one of the reasons why NASCAR did away with the individual driver trailers now. Of course less people in attendance also means less people to spend $ at the trailers. Now there will be a “NASCAR store” at the track with generic stuff.


One has to wonder what was the driving force behind the, apparent, rush to dramatically change the rules in the middle of the season. Was it that some of the “stakeholders” were getting nervous? Hopefully at some point we will find out.
Good point about the difference amongst the teams. Was it that JGR and Penske did a much better job, or, did the rest of the mega teams decide not to waste resources on a one off? Suppose at Darlington we will see the answer to that one.
As to saving the sport, I doubt that it moved the needle much if at all. The general public, particularly the younger people, still don’t care. But what more can be done, I dont know.


Could be that the younger fans NASCAR has been trying to attract are, for whatever reason, just not interested. In the mean time, the traditional fan base perceiving that NASCAR is not that interested in them has increasingly taken the hint and gone away. Personally, I’ve decided that I love stock car racing. I’ve always been impressed with what people are capable of wringing out of the family Ford. Less so with what a team of zillionaires and paid engineers can get out of a special purpose race car that bears no relationship whatsoever to a production vehicle. So, NASCAR tinkering with them week to week is not going to change the fact that stock car racing has ceased to exist. I’m the only person I know that still watches and I’ve only watched a few times so far this season.


Dunno, man. With just 3000 fans showing up to see what turned out to be an exciting but controversial Indy Car race in the nation’s biggest metropolis, it’s hard to imagine that they could draw any fewer to two dates in Wisconsin closer to the series spiritual home. Maybe it they could get Cheap Trick to reunite and do the “Hello Wisconsin” thing popularized on That 70s Show pre-race the music fans would stick around for the race? Donna driving the Vista Cruiser as a pace car? It would seen open wheel racing is circling the drain despite all that valuable input from the Boston Consulting group.


MPM — are they really consultants or just venture capitalists? I watch Indycar races once in a while. I would really like to know if any of the channels cover the rally car races. I used to really enjoy them when Speed covered all kinds or racing. That was before they went to the “lifestyle” programming — although I have never understood who it was they were attempting to appeal to – other than destroying the interest of the people who liked to watch all kinds of racing.


While I thought the race at Kentucky was better than it has been and was more entertaining to watch than most of the races at the 1.5 mile tracks have been, it’s a little early to say that this will “save” NASCAR. I was shocked to see changes made to the rules since Brian and his minions seem quite content to let it burn down around their ears. After all Steve O’D made it clear in his statements that the fans are the least group of interests that NASCAR is concerned about, well, why should the fans spend any of their $ on it?

As far as NH, well, I’ve been to NASCAR races there a couple of times and although it is a very pretty track in a nice part of NH, the racing hasn’t been all that exciting and I don’t expect to see anything different this weekend. As DoninAjax pointed out, the modifieds put on a much better race to watch.


Sorry, I have to correct the author, but Kentucky isn’t concrete, it’s asphalt. A part of me hopes the “high-drag” package fails spectacularly at Indy to kill Brian France’s obsession with trying to create Indy 500 style drafting with stock cars. I’m interested to see what the “low-downforce” package does at Darlington, but that track is really a one-groove “hard to pass at” track. I really want to see it at a place like Charlotte or Kansas, 1.5 mile tracks with newer asphalt. That’s where the racing suffers the most from areo issues.


It would be interesting to see how it would work at Darlington if they were running during the day, rather than at night.

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