Race Weekend Central

Happiness Is… Acting, Thanking & Remembering

This week, NASCAR provides fans with an interesting and peculiar division. It’s almost as if the governing body is playing a game of Yes and No with the schedule. It’s a tantalizing mixture, one that offers nods to the past and the present while also bringing about a beguiling look toward the future. All of that is to say that the tracks where NASCAR is racing this week offer a quizzical look at the sport.

The Camping World Truck Series had its fun at Eldora, the notable dirt track sitting in Ohio. That represented the third time that they’ve visited the Rossburg track and has proven to be rather popular with fans. The packed crowds are likely owed to the fact that the seating capacity is around 18,000, but that’s not a slight on the track or the series. In fact, the novelty of the race is one of its selling points as other truck races seem to draw, well, a good deal less than that.

Born out of the now-defunct Prelude to a Dream (remember that?), NASCAR seized on the opportunity to offer something different for the fans of the sport. While the show has been great, it’s sometimes difficult to tell how good the racing is. But that doesn’t matter. It’s something different and that is appreciated.

About 120 miles away is another track with a fabled history, one you’re probably familiar with: Indianapolis Motor Speedway.  Right behind the Milwaukee Mile in age, this track seemed like a logical place for NASCAR to visit, and the first iterations proved right – at least with regards to ticket sales and interest. The Brickyard 400 became one of the marquee events… until the great tire debacle.

Since that race, everyone but the drivers has seemed turned off by racing at the quad-oval. The racing, other than restarts, tends to lack drama, and the whole event looks like another high-speed parade.

While you can look at both moves as capitalist ideology searching for new means of income, they can also be seen as NASCAR showing a willingness to do something different. When Chicago and Kansas joined the schedule it wasn’t anything new or different but more of the same. Eldora and Indy represent something unique, something that appears infrequently, and because of that they can still bring some attention.

So while NASCAR is messing around with the downforce package and trying to figure out how to make passing something more than idea relating to mulattos in the 19th and 20th centuries, the one thing that still needs a look is the schedule. But no, according to the powers that be, it’s not stagnant and in need of any change. That’s funny, the people posing as bleachers at the tracks sure give the look that the tracks aren’t at capacity.

Happiness Is… Acting. Each of the drivers that drives for one of the monied teams, spends time in front of the camera each week. After practice, qualifying, the race, a crash, the drivers deliver their lines and continue about. And of course then there’s the commercials; Carl Edwards has to lead the way in the unofficial tally of commercial appearances. Then there are the trips the make to the booth or on-track set, where they make sure to mention their sponsors and likely state that the car is good. It’s kind of the same show most of the time which is one of the reasons that every has gotten turned on by their cardboard personalities.

Well, Brad Keselowski took it to the next level by appearing in Sharknado 3. Who knows if any fans watched but it may be the only acting credit by someone in NASCAR, aside from Talladega Nights, since Jeff Gordon cameo’d in Taxi (Everyone surely remembers that hot mess.) Though it’d doubtful, maybe some Sharknado faithful will consider watching some NASCAR. Uh, huh, sure they will. But good for BK for getting out there.

Happiness Is… Thanking. Ticket sales at IMS have been trending downward ever since Goodyear brought a tire that could barely withstand doing more than 10 laps at a time. You can blame the track a bit if you like but it doesn’t matter. What once had been a fantastic crowd now looks rather anemic. Sure, it’s still a profitable endeavor for all parties, but it doesn’t have the same level of attendance.

At the beginning of the year, Happiness Is stated that tracks and the networks should thank Gordon. Because it’s his last season, the resulting fan interest would help both of them out. That hasn’t been quite the case… until Indy. Ticket sales are reported to be 10-15% higher this year and much of that is owed to the fact that it’s his last go round at the track.

The thing to watch is whether that trend will continue through the rest of the season as the series heads to tracks for his last time.

Happiness Is… Remembering. Italian Formula 1 driver Jules Bianchi received an honorable send-off this past Tuesday. The driver had suffered brain injuries at a race last year and never recovered. Many of his contemporaries showed to pay their respects, which shows just how likable a person he was.

In addition, the sporting world laments the loss of a driver who was said to be super talented and moving up in the ranks.  #ForzaJules is no #RIPJules. Just another reminder of the dangers or motorsports – something that could be seen again when two motorcycle drivers lost their lives at Laguna Seca last weekend.

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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Yes, the unique aspects of tracks and their races is something that NASCAR and the track owners ignored when the “boom” times of NASCAR were in play. Oooh, quick, let’s build a bunch of 1.5 mile tracks with the same configuration. That way all kinds of cars can race on them. Except that backfired for a lot of reasons and now the owners are tearing OUT seats rather than being able to fill them up. Heck aero push even affected Richmond and that is a 3/4 mile track and then of course there was the let’s “fix” Bristol. Yeah, the old adage, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” should have been considered, but then again with the COT, maybe it would still have been a problem there.

Very sad news to hear about Jules passing.

I started to watch the truck race at Eldora last night, but when I first tuned in to FS1, there was a soccer game on so I went off to do other things. I thought there were supposed to be heat races on from 7 p.m. on but maybe I read that wrong. At any rate, I started to watch but Mikey’s voice was grating on my nerve endings – not what I want when I’m going to go to sleep – and quite honestly watching it, I couldn’t really tell what was happening. Most of the commentary seemed to be “look at that whole bunch of trucks there racing” and blah blah someone is in the lead and look there’s a spin in the back. I didn’t make it to the end of the first segment.
I gave up and went to sleep.

Gordon has made cameo’s in a couple of films – the one I remember for some reason is Herbie: Fully Loaded, rather than the film you referenced and Brad Paisley’s music video. Here’s hoping that Indy is kind to him – happy to hear they are getting a bump in ticket sales from his farewell season.


It is a stretch to blame Indy for declining fan interest. They were not just rearranging the furniture when they took 41,000 seats out at Charlotte. I’m thinking generic cars that can’t pass just might have a little bit to do with fans on Sunday heeding the call, “Gentlemen start your mowers.”


JohnQ, yes, it is not just because Indy and the tire debacle. There were a lot of factors at play, the change in the car, then there was that pesky thing called a recession and by the time people had $ to go to races again, many of them had been watching on TV and realized that, well, maybe there was a better way to spend their $ than going to a race.

I mowed last night! LOL Sunday will be a day of weeding.


Speaking of thanking and giving back, did anyone notice that Kyle Busch gave Christopher Bell his winning ride last night at Eldora as well as last year’s winner Bubba Wallace? KBM started three drivers at Eldora, which meant building trucks especially for that event out of his own pocket. Kyle has helped more young drivers get their start with KBM trucks than any driver currently in Cup and he certainly funds it with the sponsorship money he collects by driving in trucks and Xfinity, plus his earnings in those two series. Think Daniel Suarez and Erik Jones, too, while you’re at it. Neither of those was “discovered” by Joe Gibbs. No driver has given back more to the sport than Kyle yet the haters refuse see the difference between personality and character.


I’m not sure that the existing second tier teams that Depend on winnings to survive really view him as a Saint or particularly care what he does with the money he drains from the series.


To say that he is funding his support is a bit of a stretch. This is a business, plain and simple. You can be assured that if he is parting with any money it is offset by some form of tax break or credit.

Bill B

Yeah he’s a real humanitarian. From here on he shall be referred to as Saint Kyle.


Mr. Martin, not everyone is going to be enamoured with your favorite driver. Deal with it! And personality is very important, not only with fans, but with the people who fork over big bucks to finance the team. They have a reputation to maintain, hence the reason for very vanilla drivers these days. And I hate to break it to you, personality and character are pretty much the same. How did you feel about Carl Edwards? There are people who refused to buy Scotts products, or set foot inside an Office Depot store when they sponsored Edwards. Personally, I refuse to set foot in a Lowes store. Too, if you think Gibbs isn’t helping Kyle out with his truck team, you are dreaming.


There is another person on the internet always trying to sell “Kyle” to us poor misguided souls, that just don’t understand his “sainted” ways. It is sad indeed. Kyle is not the only one who “helps” drivers, the man you mentioned with disgust in other articles on this website finances his own truck team too, and is very responsible a some very fine young talent and getting them their due and earned exposure, you have zero objectivity. Get your head out of Kyle’s arse, it is embarrassing.


ha, I know what you mean about the Lowe’s stores. As much as I didn’t like Tony Stewart, I’d shop at Home Depot before I’d shop at Lowe’s.

Personality influences a lot of things – sponsorship, the organization they drive for. Personally I always thought Gibbs had the most dysfunctional bunch of drivers in one organization that anyone could ask for.


I agree Jerseygirl, given Joe’s background he seems to always want to make someone better, covert them, not give up on them, believe they are not the basket/head case the majority of people see his drivers to be. He seems to like the drama, must remind him of his football days. He never seemed to have put his foot down and so often should have. I view it as a weakness, but that is me. He is only motivated to act by how much his sponsors push, and the Romper Room at HIS company continues…


Reading about Jules reminded me of Butch Lindley.


One of the reasons I became a fan of Nascar was because every week they would go to a different, unique track on the schedule. It used to be a very diverse schedule and something to look forward to every week. Now with the racing as poor as it is, and going to the same configuration virtually every week, the excitement of “next week” is gone. Then again, watching races to see who won THAT week, was what people tuned in for, and they weren’t beating us over the head starting in February with who was going to win some contrived championship at the end of the year.

Formula I should be ashamed of themselves. Jules life was lost unnecessarily due to the stupidity of that day. Who thinks a crane on the track during live racing was a good idea?

Gina, qualifying was on FS2 and then they switched to FS1 for the race. And what business does M. Waltrip have in the booth for a dirt race. He was so unprepared, it showed badly. He knew nothing about the 2 kids out front and all he could pretty much do was overhype the race and tell everyone over and over AND OVER what a great job Tony Stewart and his staff did with the race track. And FOX’s obsession with gadgets reared its ugly head once again. Good racing going on, but instead FOX goes to bumper cam, roof cam, and in car cam so we can see none of it. Its time all 3 of those things be put out to pasture. The horrible TV coverage is driving fans away as much as the poor racing.


Steve, thanks for that explanation of where the qualifying was – I guess I missed that when I was reading the info about the race schedule. I don’t have FS2 and am not remotely interested in paying for it.

Since I don’t like Mikey, I always consider him just useless baggage in the booth but its nice to know that it wasn’t just my bias that was influencing my lack of interest in what he was babbling about. Yes, better camera work & commentating would have helped. Mike Joy used to call the PXP for the Prelude and he did a great job.

Like you, each race used to be unique and everyone talked about that race – now they only talk about how the race affects each person for the chase. (sigh)


I was very disappointed that Mike Joy was not in the booth to call this race. I guess they thought that their regular truck crew should do the broadcast, but having people in the booth that know nothing about dirt racing hurt the broadcast in my opinion. This is FOX though after all. They have never been accused much lately of making good decisions.


I was, too. The regular truck crew is one of the reasons why I don’t tune in for those races.

Yeah I’ve had little to no respect since the ownership’s response to fan’s complaints about the coverage was “tough”. Sometimes I think some of these companies forget that people have choices in the way they spend their money.

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