Race Weekend Central

Happiness Is… 483 Points, Ohio & Hungaroring

The feeling after the Brickyard 400 seems to be a hangover without the fun of having drank. It’s like there’s something that should have happened but didn’t and now there’s just the empty blankness of moving on and continuing in some sort of rut. Nothing to take away from Kyle Busch’s win; that dude is on a tear lately. It seems that he’s found one of those video game settings and has something extra that everyone else doesn’t.

Consider that KyBu now has 33 wins in his career and that among active drivers, he’s fourth. That’s kind of surprising for a driver who seems to have become the definition of tempestuous. Then again, almost every megalomaniac success story has some kind of character flaw involved with it.

But Busch isn’t the reason that the Brickyard looked empty.  He’s also not the reason that ratings have leveled. There’s a host of other things you can blame. Tom Bowles, however, purported that the lack of new money was one of those things holding NASCAR back currently. His thinking was that costs need to be lowered or that the sanctioning body needs to pay out on “adjustments” like these tests.

While NASCAR as an organization should cover costs for tests when they’re tinkering around with the rules, it is not going to change the fact that racing is expensive. In Formula 1, the teams receive payments from management at the end of the year but it’s not like those monies are the ones that build and sustain the teams – never minding the fact that if you don’t score points, you don’t get a check.

The reality is, new money isn’t coming to NASCAR. One of the jokes in the sport used to be: How do you make $1 million in NASCAR? Start with $2 million. With economic realities like that, it’s no wonder that there’s no mention of new teams and that the backmarkers stay just that, toiling around in the back of the pack, scraping together just enough money to make races, pay their employees, and hope that the advertisers get some airtime.

If Red Bull, with its gazillions, could not buy its way into the sport and find success, what would make one think that there’d be any reason for anyone else to follow the failed experiment. Sure, Bowles asserted, Joe Gibbs, Roger Penske, Rick Hendrick, and Jack Roush are getting up there in age, but it doesn’t matter. It’s not like any of them are out changing tires or running dyno on an engine. What those men have built are racing corporations that are meant to last (and teams that would be more valuable should franchising or something of that ilk ever come about).

Just look at the fact Rob Kauffman may be jumping from Michael Waltrip Racing to Chip Ganassi Racing.That indicates that even semi-stable organizations have little in the way of foundation as MWR would likely scale back, become a backmarker, or fail without Kauffman. He might even be seen as new-er money at this point, having been with NASCAR for the past eight years, but his team has never matched the success of the bigger ones.

Maybe the whole system needs a change.

Let’s get on with it.

Happiness Is… 483 points. With his win at the Brickyard, Kyle Busch is now just 23 points in arrears of the vaunted 30th position that will put him into the Chase. NASCAR might as well call the situation the Busch Rule as it applies to both he and his brother this year. What KyBu has done is surprising, especially since it took several races after his return to start ripping through the field like a bulldozer.

Now consider the massive points reset that KyBu will enjoy if/when he makes the Chase. He currently sits 483 points behind leader Kevin Harvick, or a little more than the accumulation of winning 10 races. That the Chase brings a reset is part of the fun (supposedly) of the format. However, watching such a margin get wiped away is kind of interesting when compared to the stick ‘n’ ball sports that NASCAR has ostensibly copied. It brings about the question: Is the driver a sole factor or is it a team sport and should all the points from the No. 18 have counted throughout the season? If it’s the former, than it’s hard to argue for Busch; if the latter, all good.

Happiness Is… Ohio. This weekend IndyCar will be racing at Mid-Ohio, a track where Scott Dixon has five wins in eight appearances. The road course is decent, but doesn’t seem to inspire everyone. With those points being noted, it’s worth it to tune in (or DVR it) and not just because it’s got to be better than watching the Cup race at Pocono. At least you’ll be able to identify your favorite driver; one fun quirk for the race is that the cars will debut LED numbers on their side in an effort for fans to keep better track of them.

The series is on their backstretch and making its way to the checkers. After Mid-Ohio, it’s on to Pocono and then Sonoma for the championship finale. While Juan Pablo Montoya has led from the get-go this season, his margin of error took a big hit at Iowa, allowing Graham Rahal, Dixon, Helio Castroneves and Will Power to get a little bit of inspiration. Though Montoya’s lead is decent enough, 40-some points up, all it takes is another slip-up to produce a true championship chase.

Happiness Is… Hungaroring. Before the sun had risen on the East Coast, the best race of the day had already occurred last Sunday. The Hungarian Grand Prix proved to be wildly entertaining; from the aborted start, to the front row of Mercedes cocking it up, to watching Ferrari score its second win of the year. That most of the field seemed to be driving, as Lucius would say, like pissed off teenagers, just made the race more compelling. Though the results brought no shake-up in the points, the event was the best of the season and confirmed that sometimes anything really can happen. Just think: Fernando Alonso earned fifth is his woeful McLaren! Amazing. Too bad that F1 is now on the three-week summer break.

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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IMHO Kyle Busch and the other Buschwackers (or whatever they are called today) are part of the issue that no new teams are coming into the sport. It is very expensive to compete at the top level and these guys would start out in either the Truck Series or Xfinity Series.

Unfortunately, Kyle and the other Cup guys racing in these series are taking the positions in the starting grid and taking sponsors that might be out helping the “little guy” compete in those series with an eye to eventually moving up to the Cup series with their team.

Used to be, you had drivers in the what was then known as the Busch Series who were stars in their own right. Nowadays, you don’t hear of the drivers because the Cup guys are racing in these series and taking all of the wins, money and news.

Carl D.

I agree that’s at least part of the problem. Add in declining ratings and attendance, boring races, and most importantly, incompetent management, and you have a recipe for failure.


Plenty of people, relatively speaking, that have the money to finance a team. But why would you? Each manufacturer has chosen to have one prime team to funnel stuff thru. Similar to what Ford did with Holman-Moody back in the day. Everybody else comes second. So if you are determined to be involved,it makes much more sense to invest in an existing team than try to build one. Same thing that you see in the business news all the time.


First off you’re spot on, the F1 race was the event of the weekend. Goes to show that , on the occasions that they get it it right, there is no doubt why F1 is the pinnacle of motor sport.

As far as the business of Nascar, it seems to me, admittedly a decided minority view, that this where the drama of Nascar is played out. Certainly Hendrick and Childress built their teams from relatively modest beginnings, Gibbs and Roush not so much. Although Hendricks and Gibbs have more in common than any of the others. But could they do it again? Long term contracts and rampant commercialism would make it dubious at best. IMHO franchising wouldn’t really make the teams more valuable. The current business model makes it virtually impossible for a new team to get anywhere so why try? Instead invest in one of the existing teams. So where is the added value, other than a quarentee, much like the Top 35 rule, in franchising?


It seems now that some sort of franchising is on its way in. The NASCAR business model just doesn’t work anymore. Costs are too high and sponsorships too few. Franchises with a guaranteed split of TV $$ would give new owners the confidence to buy in. The owners are their worst enemies too. It seems any attempt to save them money just ends up in them spending it elsewhere. Maybe some sort of franchising is the answer.

Carl D.

Franchising may help but it won’t put fans in front of the television or in the seats at racetracks. Without fans, the business model fails no matter what it’s structure looks like. Sports franchises are only as healthy as the sport itself.


The reason the Brickyard looked empty was because it was empty. Empty just like last week, the week before, next week and the week after. Stock cars replaced by spec cars that can’t pass being piloted by identical bland young men have led to ever dwindling fan interest. A mid week rules change or a manipulation caution here and there are unlikely to have much effect.

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