Race Weekend Central

Happiness Is… A Wild Week

The past Sprint Cup race at Texas Motor Speedway proved to be a myriad of things, and in NASCAR that’s usually a euphemism for saying that good and bad stuff happened.  Most of the column’s this week have already touched upon many of the concerns.  Matt McLaughlin highlighted the rain issue, one that is bound to happen.  The later start time due to the inclement weather could only hurt ratings, especially on the Eastern time zone, where a larger percentage of the fans are.  

No doubt the less than stellar ratings also brought a collective harumph, as noted by Jason Schultz.  The funny thing that continues to exist regarding the ratings is that there’s still a solid core audience tuning in, as Sports Business Journal reports that between 7 and 8 million continue to watch.  Though Tom Bowles may have noted that the vaunted 18-34 crowd may not have clicked over in vast numbers, neither article mentions social media outlets.  

So far, most of the commentary has ostensibly been geared toward a negative perspective.  Maybe that has to do with Kyle Busch winning yet again.  At this point no one other than Busch has won a race since April began, which would be considered impressive until some of those wins bring about the issue of when, how often or whether Cup drivers should even be allowed to participate in lower series races.  But hey, he did at least win two Cup races during that span.

Happiness Is, however, likes to look at the positives, which seems to be an ongoing act of futility.  The race at Texas may have been a bit of a yawner – especially considering that it seemed that only Carl Edwards, Martin Truex Jr., Matt Kenseth or Busch was allowed to lead.  Much of that is owed to the fact that Joe Gibbs Racing and Toyota seem to have something figured out that others don’t right now.

But consider that the race ran green from the last debris caution.  Cole Pearn is one of the smarter crew chiefs, but his decision not to pit Truex is ultimately what lost the race.  And he, like everyone else paying attention, must have planned/anticipated/knew that another caution would be coming – because, isn’t that how things have been done the past few years?

2016 Texas I CUP Martin Truex Jr Kyle Busch racing John Harrelson NKP
Cole Pearn would probably like to have that one back (credit: John Harrelson – NKP)

However, the caution never came.  Who would have made a bet on that occurrence?  Bunching of the field for late-race drama is de facto practice at Texas.  Instead, Busch cruised home for the win.  Sure, some critics might point that Busch is some kind of golden boy right now, but that would be laughable considering he made sure to get on NASCAR’s bad side at California.

So hooray, in staying with the trend of less cautions this year, NASCAR again let the racers race.  The question will be: will this trend continue?

Happiness Is… Bristol.  Once upon a time, the races at Bristol were some of the most sought-after tickets, and provided some of the more interesting spectacles.  Then they started messing with the track.  Then NASCAR started messing with the cars.  For a while, Bristol became less of a show of racing and more of instruction manual on how to screw up a good thing.

Is Bristol back?  No.  But a lot of things in NASCAR aren’t coming back either, like open-face helmets or smoking in the pits.  But perhaps this year’s iteration will be one of the better ones in a while.  With the changes to the car, there’s a hope that things might go for the better.  Considering that the track now races like a miniature version of a speedway, with the top groove the better way around, maybe we just need to look for a reverse of what Bristol used to be, bottom is top, top is bottom, it’s a crazy mixed-up world.  

Happiness Is… Free Speech.  The invocation given by Duck Dynasty’s Phil Robertson has gotten a lot of attention.  His speech where he mentioned putting a “Jesus man” in the White House also hit upon feelings of the Texas community, declaring that Texas had gotten to where it was because of the Bible and guns.  That Robertson is quite the conservative is one thing, that he fails at being politically correct in any kind of way is another.  The thing is, with his company’s sponsorship of the race, he bought his way to the platform, so no matter what you think about his views or comments, he had purchased his opportunity to say what he liked.

Now, for NASCAR, Robertson’s remarks do little to shed itself of the constructed image that many people who don’t follow the sport have about its fans.  Making the comment about the guns shows an insensitivity to the native people who were killed or pushed off their land while also failing to recognize the contentiousness of the issue in the current climate.  None of this is news.

The reality is, Robertson enjoyed his right to say whatever he wanted.  Who knows, perhaps he didn’t go far enough.  But it is best to remember that free speech does not mean that one is free from being criticized.  

Happiness Is… Open Wheel.  To fill out your racing weekend, or take space on your DVR, there’s some other racing this weekend.  The IndyCar series will be playing around on the streets of Long Beach.  While the series’ return to Phoenix may not have been as inspiring as some may have hoped, heading back to Long Beach should be a more worthwhile event.  Sure, passing is difficult but the track is rather unforgiving and if a driver makes a mistake…This race has marked the calendar since 1975, and though it may not hold the prestige of the Indianapolis 500, it has become a festive weekend and a crown jewel event.

Across the Pacific, Formula 1 will be racing in Shanghai.  Will Fernando Alonso be back in his McLaren?  His evaluation is on Thursday.  But the  bigger question will surround Lewis Hamilton and whether or not he can get the start to a race that has eluded him so far in 2016.  For American interest, will Haas F1 continue their amazing start with Romain Grosjean?  

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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just curious, where does the Sports Business Journal derive its numbers from?


…and Kyle winning “yet again”. As far as I can count with the limited season this far in Cup, Kyle has won 1 race. Why are his kiddie series overtime drive lumped into the Cup? He has 1 race in Cup. The series that counts. Is the media talking about those other 1 win drivers? Why not? This lumping the kiddie series inflating his “greatness” is just pitiful. Shameful and disgusting. And he and the attention lovin’ wifey, have no shame and think they earned it and it is their due. Pathetic.

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